Wednesday, April 14, 2010

To meat or not to meat

"Beef containing harmful pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and heavy metals is being sold to the public because federal agencies have failed to set limits for the contaminants or adequately test for them, a federal audit finds... Even when the inspection service does identify a lot of beef with high levels of pesticide or antibiotics, it often is powerless to stop the distribution of that meat because there is no legal limit for those contaminants." Full USA Today article here

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.


Aimee said...

This is also my solution. We buy grass raised beef from my neighbor across the road and we raise our own pork and chevon (young goat). I have yet to wean myself from mass produced chicken but we are minimizing it.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

A good source for grass-fed products is They maintain a listing of producers by state that are truly grass-fed. Producers who raise animals with grain (which may include corn, soy, peanut or cottonseed meals) feeding and send their young stock to feedlots for finishing are not allowed on the list.

Congratulations of finding a clean meat source!

Wendy said...

We found a similar solution, but we don't eat cows that were raised to be beef. Our beef is from (former) dairy cows. It's mostly pature-raised and is totally antibiotic and hormone-free (because the distributors who buy their milk do a rigorous testing to make sure the milk isn't "tainted" with these substances - if it's not in the milk, it's not in the meat ;). The meat is increadibly lean with none of that "marbling" we, Americans, believe means it's better meat (it's not), and I often have to add a bit of olive oil to the pan if I'm frying the meat so that it doesn't stick.

We also raise our own chickens, buy part of a pig each year from a local producer, and will occasionally have "wild caught" meat.

All of our meat is processed at a local butcher, and we actually have to go there and pick it up ourselves. So, we pay the farmer for the meat, and we pay the butcher a fee to cut it up. It's a good arrangement ;).

We opted not to give up meat, but there was no way, after knowing about CAFOs that I could justify buying grocery-store meat. I haven't in several years, and we've come to the point that if we can't find it locally or raise it ourselves, we don't eat it.

I don't, for even a single day, regret that decision ;).

Sharlene T. said...

It takes a little searching but there really are quite a few local grown beef, chicken, etc., meat sources in most states. It's just a matter of locating the closest one and using that as your source. You can check with a lot of smaller butcher shops as the where their meat comes from and then try to get some extra thrown in for your family. Most are happy to share. Great article.

Sharlene T. said...

I've awarded you the Sunshine Blog Award because I find your blog so inspiring and uplifting. I just want everyone to read it! The catch is, you'll have to visit me to get it.

JOC said...

Living in the country in the far south of Tasmania in Australia, we have been fortunate to buy our meat from our friend the farmer. My freezer is now full of what we call "Happy Cow" as we know that even on the day of going to the abbatoir nearby it all happens with care and consideration. And you can certainly taste the difference.

mherzog said...

Here's a good video on meat:

DebbieDo said...

So happy that you found such a wonderful resource!! We have raised our own beef cows for years and I feel really blessed to be able to give these cows such a happy, "cow-y" life!
I hope more and more Americans decide to by locally raised, grass fed beef that are lovingly raised and cared for; however, I know more than one family who won't give up "store-bought" meat simply because they don't like the taste of grass-fed meat!

Patrick said...

meat: no treat for those you eat :-)