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Ethical Meat Standards Need to Be about More than Just the Animals

Most discussions around the ethics of meat center on the animal—raising, processing, carbon footprints, and packaging—while so often neglecting the people behind that process. Even Whole Foods’ widely popular quality meat standards focus on everything but the farmer and the workers.

If we are to reimagine the way we eat meat, and do so in a way that’s truly humane, we must apply ethical standards to all aspects of food production and acknowledge what is required to meet them.

The People

As COVID-19 laid bare, inhumane conditions in large meatpacking plants extend to employees. Forced to stand elbow to elbow in a pandemic, line workers fell ill in record numbers. Sick workers without benefits had to choose between infecting their colleagues or forfeiting their already low pay. Plants shut down one after another, halting the food production that people relied on, while leaving both sick and healthy workers without the means to survive. Meanwhile, big meat companies looked to replace jobs with automation, rather than address animal and employee abuse.

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Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat – Review

Sacred Cow:  The Case for (Better) Meat by Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf is a book (and forthcoming film) challenging what has become conventional wisdom:  that regardless of how it is raised, beef is bad for the planet.  It takes a holistic and science-based view of the issues associated with meat and forms them into a coherent argument that regeneratively-grazed animals are important for our diets and the planet.  As they put it: “It’s not the cow.  It’s the how”.   Disclosure:  Rodgers is a registered dietitian and nutritionist who owns an organic vegetable farm and raises some livestock.  Wolf is the best-selling author of  the book The Paleo Solution.

Sacred Cow examines the issue in three parts:  nutrition, environment, and ethics.  The book covers a lot of ground.  There is no way I can adequately summarize everything, so I will focus primarily on the environment section, which I think will be of most interest to Resilience readers.

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Move Over, Organic And Natural Foods. We Live In A Grassfed Era Now.

Author: Geoff Williams

Grass-fed is the new organic.

That is, just as the organic food industry took off, so, too have grass-fed-raised foods. It’s apparently at least a $2.5 billion industry, and growing, according to, well, the grassfed industry. Right now, as I write this, The 2016 Grassfed Exchange Conference is being held in Perry, Georgia — this is its eighth annual conference — and of course, there is an American Grassfed Association. In other words, there is some sort of grass-fed movement, and if you’re like me, you’ve noticed more and more restaurants touting its grass-fed beef, or groceries pushing its grass-fed dairy products. You can buy grass-fed eggs (which generally means that the chickens laying the eggs are free roaming and can eat grass if they want, but, sure, given chickens generally don’t eat grass), and, of course, there’s grass-fed milk, yogurt, butter… You can even buy grass-fed macaroni and cheese.

As with organic foods, grass-fed foods are also apparently the healthier way to go, and also like the word organic, not to mention, natural, there’s a lot of confusion over exactly what grassfed means.

So if you’re new to the grass-fed phenomenon, let’s walk through this…

First, the spelling. Is it grassfed, grass-fed or grass fed? You’ll see a variety of spellings everywhere, but I’m going to take a cue from the Associated Press’s articles and will go with the hyphenated version.

If you’re eating grass-fed beef or drinking grass-fed milk, what does that mean? The cow you’re dining on, or drinking from, had a diet of grass. After all, we may not like the stuff, but cows sure do, and if you’re going to think about where your hamburger or glass of milk was before it wound up in your meal, you’d probably prefer to picture a cow on a sloping grassy field chewing happily under a bright blue shy, rather than being in a small pen in some factory farm, being fed some formula to fatten them up.

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