Wednesday, March 16, 2005

More Food for Thought

About a month ago, I posted my own wrestlings of conscience about the morality of eating meat. I said at the time (and still believe) that the most compelling argument for me is the economic / environmental one, to the effect that meat-eating may be very resource-wasteful. In response to this post, I received some very thoughtful comments from Smallholder, pointing to me to several of his own posts on the topic and to further quite interesting information. He makes the very convincing point that the economic / environmental considerations point not against meat-eating entirely, but against a particularly wasteful kind of farming, the large-scale industrial farming that is becoming increasingly dominant in the US. Smallholder makes good arguments that if farmed appropriately, animals can be an efficient, environmental, globally conscious and healthy part of our food consumption. I'm now persuaded that the moral food choice is to eat meat less often, and to be selective about buying meat from farmers with good sustainable farming practices. This means free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, and open-pasture pork. These farming techniques have numerous benefits, including more humane treatment of the animals, more efficient use of food resources (because range-fed animals are not "taking food away" from hungry people elsewhere in the world), more sustainable and environmental use of the land, and healthier food for us (for instance, grass-fed beef is substantially leaner). The ideal source for this are smaller local farms practicing these techniques, such as Tawanda Beef or Lindner Bison here in California. A good resource for learning more and finding sources of pastured meat is Fortunately, enough people are starting to pay attention to this that a market is developing. Niman Ranch is a great example of a larger-scale consolidator / distributor of pastured beef (grain-finished), pork, and lamb, whose products can be found in markets such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Markets. Both of those also carry free-range chicken and cage-free eggs. Even better, Trader Joe's also carries kosher chicken. As part of the kashrus compliance, kosher chickens are raised free-range, fed only grain (no animal products), killed humanely, and brined! (We used to brine our chickens before grilling until we realized we could purchase pre-brined kosher chickens!) So now we'll be doing our part to support sustainable farming.

1 comment:

Walter Jeffries said...

I strongly agree that it is the method of raising (grain fed, intensive petro use, stockyards) that is the issue, not the meat itself. We raise sheep, pigs, chickens and ducks on mountain pastures. You can't crop a lot o stuff here - the animals really are a best use. They turn brush and grass into something that is very edible. They are capable of living off just the pasture. I am fortunate to be able to get free excess milk and cheese to boost their diets - food stuffs that would otherwise be landfilled (!!!) if it wasn't fed to the animals. Again they turn it into high value food. Both of these are not resource-wasteful methods of raising of meat but rather a very conservation oriented methods.

On top of all that, the resulting meat tastes better. How good can it get!