The Meat We Eat

Just about anyone who pays attention to the sources of the food they eat is well aware of the horrors of the meat industry. Industrialized agriculture has brought with it the use of artificial hormones in order to maximize output and antibiotics to remedy the diseases associated with the livestock’s living conditions. Besides the artificial additives to our food, factory farms are infamous for their mistreatment of animals and unethical slaughtering practices. The ecological impacts of “conventional” meat production have also become more conspicuous than ever.

As a response to these issues, many consumers turn to buying organic meat. It is often assumed that because the meat carries the official USDA label, the ecological, health and animal treatment problems disappear from their food choices. However, simply using this label to make your choices at the supermarket is not enough. As notes,

“Keep in mind that even if a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA Organic label is voluntary. At the same time, not everyone goes through the rigorous process of becoming certified, especially smaller farming operations. When shopping at a farmers’ market, for example, don’t hesitate to ask the vendors how your food was grown”

If your main concern is keeping hormones and antibiotics out of your body, USDA-approved organic meat is a decent alternative. However, organic meat production has little to do with the ethical, humane treatment of the animals. According to,

“Although some of the animals will receive a better standard of living from being free to roam pastures, their death will be anything but natural. When it is time for the animal to be slaughtered the organic status of the animal is completely disregarded as the animal is beaten, mistreated and killed just like animals on factory farms.”

The environmental improvements of organic meat, particularly beef, are minimal at best. While a grass-fed cow will certainly produce much less methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) than one raised on corn, the amounts are anything but negligible. Additionally, the natural resource cost of raising cows organically may be even higher than in factory farms. Raising a cow on grass uses much more water, as more land is needed to feed each cow.

Organic beef sourced from South America is also becoming more commonplace in the American market. It is no secret that a primary reason for deforestation in the Amazon is to keep up with cattle production. Now imagine how much more pasture space is needed to accommodate the needs of organic cattle. This alone displaces many of the good intentions of the organic label.

Unfortunately, the truth is that when it comes to eating ethically sourced food, meat and other animals products are difficult to fit into the definition. Short of switching to vegan lifestyle, you must investigate individual farms and slaughterhouses to find out the best way to indulge in animal proteins. When it comes to meat, the organic label is simply not enough.

Check out these farms that produce meat as ethically as possible:


Another Label for Cage-Free: American Humane Certified?

In 2009, The American Humane Association (AHA) stepped in, yet again, to attempt clarification on humane conditions of poultry processing. The cage-free category has seen some improvement, regardless of it’s non-legal status in the eyes of the USDA. As of recently, cage-free has seen what is called to be an industry improvement in that a growing majority of “cage-free” producing companies are American Humane Certified. While the word “humane” is still subjective, we can take a look at what the AHA considers humane in a list of their site guidelines. Their website contains downloadable standard checklists for producers of all livestock, looking to apply for certification. The standards still allow culling and beak-trimming in regard to poultry but with specific means deemed more humane. I checked over the list myself, and couldn’t with good conscience really say I understood, the industry jargon or even threshold of meaning, to say that this is a road to improvement. As with most things lacking consistency or soul, regulatory standards can best improve conditions in the way they are upheld and defended, not how they are written.  It’s within our country’s opportunistic nature to weave our own interpretation around the words we’re given to abide by. In all fairness, the AHA has a positive track record with improving the conditions of humans and animals, and this is an important point. Although it is important to believe in opening dialog regarding what is misleading to the public.  Here are the AHA standards:

Where To Get Free-Range Chicken and Eggs via NYC!!

The last time we discussed animal welfare and chickens, we discussed the differences and similarities between cage-free/free-range/conventional poultry producers.  It can be overwhelming to trace your eggs and chicken fillets back to their processing facility. If you live in New York State as I do, New York City specifically, it’s not that hard for us to have access to small farms with pretty impressive humane practices.  I would like to take a moment and name a few farms very open to showing their practices by welcoming visitors as well as offering their goods in the city’s farmer’s markets. Please comment on your experiences with them if any.  If there is a high demand, we can create a database that can cover various states.  This site is for everyone so share if you have something to say!

Some awesome farms:

Arcadian Pastures – Sloansville, NY
Amantai Farm – Breinigsville, PA
B&Y Farms – Spencer, NY
Feather Ridge Farm – Elizaville, NY
Fish Kill Farms – Hopewell Junction, NY
The Garden of Spices – Greenwich, NY
Grady’s Farm – Hudson Valley
Grazin’ Angus Acres – Ghent, NY
Hawthorne Valley Farm – Ghent, NY
Knoll Krest Farms – Clinton Corners, NY
Ledge Rock Farm – Medusa, NY
Nectar Hills Farm – Schenevus, NY
Northshire Farms – West Winfield, NY
Quattro’s Game Farm – Pleasant Valley, NY
Raghoo Farms – Fort Plain, NY
Red Heifer Farm – Whitehall, NY
Tamarack Hollow Farm – Burlington, VT
Tello’s Green Farm – Redhook and Coxsackie, New York
Violet Hill Farm – Livingston Manor, NY
Wildcraft Farms – Swan Lake, NY

If you don’t see one here that you know provides free-range poultry and eggs, let us know.  Just because you don’t see it here doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong.  We all (including you) decide for ourselves what we stand behind and share the knowledge when we can.