It makes a difference if your meat comes from a happy animal.
Have you ever sat down and thought about where your meat comes from? It’s easy and convenient to go to the store and pick up steaks or pork chops for dinner, but have you considered how it got to the store?
If not, that’s fine. You’re one of many who hasn’t really considered how your meat was raised and processed. However, if you’re hoping to eat and live healthy and sustainably, then it’s important to know where your meat came from. There are several questions to ask about your meat to know whether it came from healthy, happy animals.
How Much Space Were They Allowed?
When it comes to animal production, the goal of most factory farms is to produce a lot of animals so that they can turn a profit. Chicken, pigs and dairy cows are often crammed into tight spaces, where they suffer from disease and injuries. Meat cows have it slightly better because the first part of their lives is spent in the pasture, but once they reach a certain weight, they are shipped to feedlots, where they are crowded in with thousands of other cows.
One of the issues with shoving animals together in small spaces is heat stress. Cows without sufficient space or care can suffer from heat stress, which can lead to disease, reproduction issues and even death. Chickens and pigs can also suffer from heat stress.
Being confined in small spaces and crowded by others means that these animals live in their own waste products. This causes illness and unhealthy conditions, which requires the use of antibiotics to reduce sickness, since it can spread easily through the population. The animals often fight with and bite one another because of boredom, frustration or while trying to establish dominance. To keep chickens from harming each other when confined in small spaces, their beaks are often clipped.
Healthy Animals Get To Roam
If you want meat from a healthy, happy animal, you’ll need to examine the label. Just because it says “cage-free” or “free range,” that doesn’t necessarily mean they had the chance to go outside. The animals can still be crammed into large warehouses and be “cage-free.” To be “free-range,” they only have to have the opportunity to go outside, but that doesn’t mean they actually go outside.
If you want to ensure that your animal lived a truly cage-free, free-range life, you need to look for “pastured” on the label. This means that the animal spent their days outside, probably enjoying a natural diet. This will make them healthier and happier, which will make you healthier and happier.
What Are They Fed?
Animals that are allowed to eat food that closely matches their natural diet will be happier and healthier. However, when it comes to factory farms, they are often fed diets of cheap feed. Chickens are often fed genetically modified corn and soybeans, which varies greatly from their normal diet of insects, worms, grass and seeds. Pigs in factory farms could potentially be fed diseased animals, animal waste, plastic or unhealthy amounts of grain, in addition to other “foods” that aren’t part of their natural diets.
Again, cows have it better, but not much. Even though they get to graze for the first part of their lives, feedlots like to reduce costs by supplementing the cows’ feed with grains, sugar beet waste or other cheap feeds.
Healthy Animals Get To Eat A Natural Diet
Almost all animals that are raised on factory farms are given doses of antibiotics and hormones. This keeps them healthy and helps them grow at an accelerated rate. This, of course, means that when you consume them, you are also getting those doses of antibiotics and hormones in your diet. If the animal has been labelled as “pastured,” then you can assume that they haven’t been given ridiculous amounts of drugs, which is healthier for everyone.
How Do You Find Healthy, Happy Meat?
Pastured animals have more essential vitamins and minerals than their factory-farmed counterparts, which means they are healthier for us to ingest. If there’s a downside to finding happy, healthy meat, it’s cost and availability. Factory farms are able to cut corners and feed animals cheaply, and they pass those savings on to the consumer. However, we pay for that convenience in other ways.
To find pastured animals, look for local farmers and ranchers or specialty stores that carry this kind of meat. It’ll be more expensive than regular meat, but the taste, environmental benefits and health benefits are well worth it. Plus, you’ll be supporting the local economy.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.
Read Emily’s last article here – ‘What Makes Seafood Sustainable And Healthy?‘