Do You Care Where Your Meat Comes From?
Firstly, if you have just come across my website, before you read this article it would make more sense to read this first:
Read: How Often Should We Be Eating Meat?
I am a firm believer that we should be eating a lot less meat (I go for three meatless days per week) but the meat we do eat needs to be as high quality as possible – from sustainable, ethical and grass-fed farms.
In this blog I am going to address my thoughts on the quality of meat that we consume and where it comes from as well as my beliefs on some of the controversial topics surrounding the ethics and health reasons for eating/not eating meat. If you read my blogs regularly, you will know that I am not afraid of going against the grain with my views
(Read: Why Breakfast is NOT The most important meal of the day!)
but I always try to write with balance and objectivity. I will also be talking about my experience with Field and Flower – a grass fed, free range meat delivery service.
The Health Argument
I believe that healthy, happy animals produce some of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat and though some of the sustainability and ethical arguments for Veganism are strong, the health argument is less convincing.
There has been a lot of fear put out by the media around some of the research undertaken on the consumption of red meat. To date as far as I can find, all the observational studies that have been undertaken looking at red meat consumption (that don’t actually prove causation anyway), have been done on consumption of industrial/feedlot/intensive meat. There is a big difference between extensive grass-fed meat, and intensive grain fed meat.
Grass fed meat contains a higher amount of omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), it’s also higher in B vitamins, beta carotene, Vitamin E, Vitamin K and trace elements such as magnesium, calcium and selenium.
There is also a general consensus amongst the scientific and medical community that dietary cholesterol has little to no effect on blood cholesterol (2)
Grass-fed has such a great micronutrient profile for one reason – grass-fed animals get more nutritious food as they aren’t munching on soy, corn or other grains, they’re eating a wide variety of (often wild) grasses, clovers, rushes, shrubs, and herbs, each with its own nutrient profile. It’s what these animals evolved to eat. Intensive farms on the other hand feed their animals corn and other grains to fatten them up quicker, but since this diet is largely alien to these animals, this often means they are more likely to get sick, therefore requiring antibiotics, the dangers of which has been discussed in the mainstream media of late.
Meat is not inherently unhealthy, especially if it’s from an animal that has been reared properly its entire life.
Vegans are absolutely right when they say that a plant-based diet can be incredibly healthy and could cure many of the diet related diseases that are causing havoc on our health care system.
However this is because most people eat a diet that is very high in processed foods and sugar, so of course eating fresh vegetables cooked from scratch is a better option.
The Sustainabily Argument
The sustainability question is also not as clear cut as you might think. Plant foods that are raised with heavy use of fossil fuel based fertilizers, cultivated with fossil fuel run equipment, heavily processed, and transported long distances can have a significantly negative impact on the environment, whereas local pastured meat produced according to sustainable practices can enhance the environment through improvements to soil and water quality.
Grass fed beef requires half the energy input as grain-fed beef and produces significantly less greenhouse gases. (1)
There is also the issue that some grazing land is not suitable for any other type of farming, so rearing animals on the land is the only way to convert grass into food. The upland regions in Wales and Scotland are a good example of this.
It’s clear that the recent development of industrial farming is doing damage to our health and the environment and this includes the intensive monocultures of arable production too. But a return to more sustainable methods of farming like that practiced by Field and Flower combined with mixed arable and small-scale farming has the potential to produce more food per acre than industrial farming, and provide environmental, social and economic benefits to the world as well.
Currently industrial farms measure yields of one crop (monocrop) to the detriment of everything else, which is incredibly taxing on the environment and if something goes wrong is catastrophic for the farmer. Having no diversity means degradation of the land, this is compensated by using more fertilisers and pesticides.
That is as far as I am going to go on my views in relation to Veganism, I believe it can be an incredibly beneficial way of life for many people, but there is no one size fits all when it comes to diet. What works for one person, could have the opposite effects in another.
I believe that we should be eating a lot less meat and supporting the producers that take pride in what they do. Not just in the quality of the product, but every aspect of the animal’s life all the way up until it is taken to the abattoir.
I grew up picking up meat from local farms, having a relationship with the farmer and learning about how animals should be reared.
I am someone that understands more than most that the food I am eating, came from something that lived and breathed. Part of the issue with meat consumption today is that there is a massive disconnect between the consumer and producer. People don’t want to know that the food they are eating came from a living thing.
This can lead to bad farming practices because there isn’t enough interest from the consumer.
In the U.K we are fortunate to have some of the strictest farming standards in the world, but even here some of the quality assurance certifications are incredibly loose. Did you know that for a chicken to be certified “Free Range” you can have up to 10,000 chickens in one space, and just because they have access to an outside area it does not mean that they go outside.
When I moved to London I wasn’t able to make the trip to local farms, so naturally my meat consumption decreased. Quite soon after I wrote the How Often Should We Be Eating Meat? article, I was introduced to Field & Flower.
Field & Flower specialise in delivering the finest cuts of grass fed, free range meat directly from British farms to your door.
I was very excited to try the service and a little apprehensive (what seems too good to be true, often is!). I didn’t think that the meat would be as good as the meat I had grown up eating, but I was pretty sure it was going to be better than anything you can get from the supermarket.
I was pleasantly surprised, the quality, freshness and taste of the meat is incredible! Plus it’s so convenient, I get a delivery twice per month with my favourite cuts.
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I really care about supporting producers that do things properly, so I went down to the Field and Flower farm down in Somerset.
I had a great discussion with James Flower who is the co-founder of Field and Flower and he is of course, a farmer himself.
When you shop at supermarkets you aren’t able to ask the farmer any questions or see the food you are eating, so I made a video so you guys can see for yourself exactly what happens at a Field & Flower farm.
Part 2 of the video will be released next week.
You Have a Responsibility
Hopefully you have learned something about how farming should be done. This is something I care about deeply, and I believe that everyone that eats meat should care just as much.
If you eat meat you have a responsibility to care about where the meat comes from and if the animals have suffered their entire lives. You can have a positive impact on the well fair of animals just by ensuring that the meat you buy is coming from sources that truly value and care for their animals!