Friday, June 27, 2014

Should you eat animal products?

If you follow the popular media you might be feeling guilty about eating meat, even dairy products, for a number of reasons.  There's a few things you should know about eating meat...



(By the way, I haven't written this post to attack vegetarians, I just thought you all might find this information useful, what you eat is your choice, but I hope that it is an informed choice).

Meat and climate change

Meat and your heart health

Michael Pollan follows a steer from farm to feedlot

Meat and animal welfare
The animals that we eat are domesticated, that means that they can no longer survive in the wild, just like your pet dog or cat, they rely on humans to help them find food, water and shelter.  Farmers spend their days tending to these animals.  If they weren't expecting to sell them, they wouldn't want to spend that time caring for them, and those animals would not exist.  However, that is not to say that we don't owe these animals a quality of life.  I find confined animal feeding disgusting and completely inappropriate.  Chickens should not be kept in cages or barns, pigs should not be kept in barns and small pens, cattle should not be kept in feedlots, all these animals should have access to pasture and freedom to range.  If we make the choice to eat meat, we must take responsibility for how our meat is raised.  If you can't raise and kill the animal yourself, then you should know how it was raised and killed, and be happy that the animal lived a good life and had "one bad day", as Joel Salatin says.

Bettertarians
The Meat and Livestock Association of Australia (to which we pay fees every time we sell animals through a saleyard and are therefore members) has recently come up with a campaign to promote meat eating. They have devised a huge marketing campaign around the word "bettertarian", with tag line "Eat with understanding. Make better choices. Feel better.".  If you check out the associated website you can watch several videos about the concept, and follow three non-farmers who won a competition to visit a farm.

I am torn.

I like the idea of bettertarian, I think that's a good philosophy, we should be trying to find out where our food comes from and make the best choice using that information.  But I find it a little misleading that the word "sustainability" is mentioned repeatedly in the videos to describe a farm that is not organic.  Using chemicals is not sustainable.  We use chemicals occasionally when we can't see a suitable alternative, but we recognise that it is not a long-term solution.  Also the farm that they show in the videos is a beef and lamb operation, they do not discuss feedlotting at all, are we to assume that this farm is finishing beef on pasture?  Because that is not representative of the bulk of the beef industry.  This just feels like a marketing campaign to trick consumers, not to educate them, and that is disappointing.  It is also disappointing that farmers continue to raise meat in ways that they are not completely comfortable with explaining publicly.  Farmers should be proud of what they do, and yet we continue to use confined feeding operations because consumers are demanding CHEAP rather than QUALITY food.

How can you find out more?
Since I've been spending more time in Brisbane and talking to people at work, I realise that people in the city compared to people in more rural areas, are pretty clueless about where their food comes from.  Its a good start that you're reading my blog, and there are a few other good sources of information about HOW to find out more:

Arabella Forge's Frugavore: How to Grow Organic, Buy Local, Waste Nothing, and Eat Well - my review here

Jennifer McGruther's The Nourished Kitchen  (also her blog Nourished Kitchen) - my review here

To be absolutely sure that you're buying ethically-raised, sustainable meat, you must either speak to the farmer personally, or buy certified organic.  It is more expensive, because they don't raise as many animals in one place and they have to be audited, but that's how you know that its good food.  I wrote about it here.  In Australia, look for the bud logo of Australian Certified Organic.

I would also encourage you to try to visit a farm, either a farm stay or a day visit, so that you can learn even more.  Two blogger farms that I would love to visit are:
Kim's Little Black Cow Blog - they have a farmstay int he Hunter Valley and do day tours
And Purple Pear Organics with Mark and Kate, who are also in the Hunter Valley, and also do day tours around their permaculture farm.  

I'm sure there are many more, not in the Hunter Valley!  Please share links below if you can recommend any farms to visit.

So what do you think about eating meat?  eating organic?  and visiting farms?  Do you know what you're eating?  Do you care?

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for mentioning our farm , Liz. I think we must have been sending mental messages to one another today because my post is very much about this ....just wondering who we are as farmers and the confusion/judgement in labels.
    An excellent post.

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  2. I’ve gone of meat for several years while living in The Netherlands, where most livestock is raised in feedlots. After eating meat I would feel bloated and miserable.
    I started again eating little bits of meat when a Green (organic) Butcher opened up in our neighbourhood. I gave it another try because the vegetarian choices available for busy city living came with some many E-numbers and unpronounceable ingredients, which couldn’t be good for you either. The “green” meat bought there did nourish me.
    Now I live in an area where many people have a couple of head of cattle, no huge operations, just to keep the grass low and to make some extra pocket money besides their day job. My local butcher does deal only with local famers and these part-timers and also offers private kills. His shop is small the cuts available ever changing, but I won’t go anywhere else. I use a diverse range of cuts for cooking and the bones to make stock. There is more to a cow then steak after all… There is a local guy selling free range pork on the markets, so that is also back on the menu. Just like locally caught fish from the fish shop. Just real free-range chicken (I don't trust supermarkets) is hard to find and is rarely ever bought any more.
    We hope to have a couple head of cattle and some meat chickens grazing in a couple of years on our 25 acres, when the dam and the extra fences are in, and be able to fill up the freezer with our own meat. But until then this works out great for us and the local community.

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  3. I'm 63 and have been a vegetarian for 40 odd years - mostly because I never liked meat, except for bacon, pork, and ham. But if I didn't eat any other meat it seemed wrong to eat pigs when they were (back then any way) the most likely to be a health risk, and also, the worst kept animals, other than chickens.

    I have no problem with other people (such as my husband) eating meat as long as I don't have to handle or cook it. However, I agree totally with what you have said. Know how it's grown, know how the animals are treated on the farm, know how they are killed - both for the animals' sake, and for your own.

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  4. The day that we watched "Food, Inc" a few years ago, we became vegetarians.
    We just couldn't. Nor could I imagine anyone, who honestly understands that the meat that they buy in a chain grocery store comes from CFL's & exactly what that means, eating factory-farmed 'meat' anyway.
    Now, we're out of the city and can actually go right to our neighbors/farmers to get fresh, free-range, organic, sustainable meat, eggs, and milk. We only eat meat 2-3 times a week, and it is always as a side dish, instead of the main course.

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  5. I am a vegetarian but do not advocate that this is for everyone. I just don't like eating meat. But I do feel that a diet with a reduced meat intake would be better for our health and the health of the planet. My very own opinion, not based on any research really. And of course if you do wish to eat meat our choice of where we source that meat is of upmost importance.And thankyou for mentioning our farm in this post Liz.

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  6. total carnivore and dont feel bad about it. that being said - since we raise and butcher our own we haven't bought meat at the store (except for salami or smoked kielbasa etc) for years. store meat freaks me out - we dont like the additives, we think the quality is poor, and it's wildly expensive.

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  7. Yes! There is another book you might be interested in called, "The Big Fat Surprise." We actually eat very few grains (which your body recognizes as sugar.) Great post.

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  8. Thanks for this article - I appreciate that you are helping to get people to think about where their food comes from. One thing, though, that might be relevant to some of your readers. Certified Organic in the US does not have the highest standards for animal welfare. Last I checked, they still allowed debeaking, required access to pasture was minimal, etc. Animal Welfare Approved has much higher standards. So people really need to research what the various certification programs require, if they want to understand how the meat they buy was actually raised.

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  9. Thanks for all the thoughtful comments, sounds like some very carefully considered food choices.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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