Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy Meats

People who know me know that I don't eat meat.  No cows, pigs, chickens, fish, anything.  But before I took the veggie-only plunge, I was limiting myself to only eating what I called "happy meat" -- or meat that came from animals who had good lives before they were harvested.  After learning about the horrible treatment that animals receive when they are raised by the big food producers, I could not, in good conscience, continue to support those industries and turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals and people who work in these industries.  Yes...the people suffer too!  So a I began to limit my meat consumption to only those animals that had happy lives.  I hope this is something that most people could get on board with, especially if they are educated about the conditions of these production facilities.  (Want to read a book that will completely freak you out?  Try: "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows" by Melanie Joy, Ph.D.)

Today I read that Whole Foods has adopted the Five Step Animal Welfare Rating system created by the Global Animal Partnership.  Just the brief summary of this ratings system was heartening -- it allows us as consumers to know exactly how the animals were treated before they reached our tables.  And by purchasing meats that have the highest ratings, we are supporting the ethical treatment of animals.  Bonus and double bonus! 

Then I read the actual standards required to get the top ratings and I loved this system even more.  The ratings look not only at how the animals are treated during their lives (appropriate type and amount of feed to meet nutritional requirements, provided with comfortable resting places, etc), but it requires the farms to educate their employees about ethical animal treatment, prohibits farms from raising genetically engineered or modified animals, prohibits the use of therapeutic antibiotics (vet usage is permitted but constrained), and requires farms to provide environments for the animals that allow them to act according to their natural instincts.  Even some of the lower ratings levels require attention to these issues.  And the lowest rating of a 1 still requires that, for example, the chickens are kept out of cages in noncrowded areas.  It's kind of scary that this is the lowest rating level -- I don't even want to think about how low the ratings would be at places like Tyson or Cargill.  So thank you, Whole Foods, for adopting this system and giving consumers more knowledge about what we are eating!

Five Step Animal Welfare Rating
As a side note that will likely be addressed a lot during the course of this blog -- why should we support the ethical treatment of animals?  Well -- why not?  It doesn't sound that crazy.  Who wouldn't want to give this cutie little pig a happy life?

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