About ten years ago, I stopped eating meat (except fish) because of:
1) the cruelty of the factory-farming system,
2) the health problems associated with the standard American diet,
3) the social problems with factory-farmed meat - increased prevalence of certain types of deadly e.coli, reduced efficacy of antibiotics, and conditions of the factory workers,
4) the carbon / methane emissions and water intensity of raising and shipping beef,
5) the ecological problems of raising the (primarily genetically modified) corn /soy, including clearing of rainforests and use of petro-chemically based fertilizers and pesticides, to feed the beef; and
6) the gigantic manure lagoons /water pollution from the CAFOs.
My husband stayed an omnivore, but he is aware of the ethical implications of eating meat.
So after my husband and I watched Food, Inc, we decided to find a source of sustainable meat for my husband and son to eat. We found Rose Ranch, and the proprietor, Vicki, invited me to visit the ranch and observe the living conditions of the animals. After that trip, it seems that buying meat from Rose Ranch Jones is about as guilt free as it gets.
As Joel Salatin says, the cattle at Rose Ranch Jones are allowed to fully express their "cow-ness." The cows are 100% pasture-raised, with no corn supplements, in an area large enough so that it won't be degraded by overgrazing. The cows/steers aren't fed routine antibiotics, hormones or other crap like cow brains. Because of their diet, the beef from these cattle is higher in many nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, etc. The animals are "processed" (euphemistically speaking) at a local processor - not shipped days away to a slaughterhouse in a truck without food or water as is done in the factory farming system. And, to top it all off, Rose Ranch is only about 10 miles from my house. Basically, the RR method addresses the vast majority of my concerns with eating beef.
So, after ten years of not eating meat (except fish), I have started to occassionally eat meat again. I've eaten RR meat five or six times since we bought a side of their beef in January. I've started calling myself a Roseranchetarian (ha, ha), since I have only eaten meat from their ranch. After being a "pescetarian" for so long, I prefer vegetarian meals, but on balance, it seems that an occasional grass-fed beef meal won't hurt me.
The majority of Americans haven't changed their meat-eating habits after thirty years of available information on the unhealthy, polluting, unsustainable CAFO operations - but maybe, if they had another option besides eating meat vs. not eating meat (i.e. eating healthy, sustainably raised meat), we could create more change in the system. Since my husband and his family are going to eat meat anyway, maybe I can help support that change by buying beef from a local, sustainable, humane ranch.
Although I didn't ask, I imagine that the cow that became our beef probably would have prefered to live out it's natural lifespan - but at least it lived a sunshine-filled, stress-free, free-ranging, natural-food life. I'm happy that we could support ranchers who are creating an alternate to the confined-animal operation model that is degrading our planet's resources, treating animals so cruelly, and sending contaminated meat to our kids.