Over the past year, I’ve done a lot of research on my food and where it comes from. I’ve watched documentaries such as Food, Inc., Cowspiracy, Earthlings, and Forks Over Knives and witnessed the atrocities of the factory farm. (Seriously… viewer discretion is advised). I even tried going vegan for a bit (and didn’t last long) but realized that my body runs best on a LOWER carbohydrate diet…. Which is difficult to do in veganism. I felt like crap, and felt kind of alienated from friends and family and my husband.
Yet, I couldn’t get the images of these animals out of my mind. It was truly awful. But…. Am I opposed to eating meat? Honestly…. No. We have been for millions of years, and I do feel best including some animal products in my diet. Am I opposed to the unethical, outright abuse of animals? Of course!
Now, the vegan community might rip me to shreds for even suggesting something other than veganism when it comes to ethics, but I do believe there are other choices. I think if you feel great on a vegan diet, then that is a wonderful thing! It takes a lot of commitment, and I am honestly happy for those who are thriving.
But what about the huge population that isn’t vegan, but still gives a sh*t about their food?
I believe there is a such a thing as ethical eating.
Ethical Eating: Meat
It’s the elephant in the room: how can killing an animal be ethical? Again: we have been eating meat for a looooong time, and I believe it does have a place in our diet if one chooses. HOWEVER, there are ways to ensure that your meats didn’t come from an abusive factory farm – and in fact, these meats are a LOT better for you, beyond the ethical piece of it. If you’re a hunter who hunts for food & uses the whole animal, I don’t really have a problem with that, either. **Again, this is all personal!**
So… how do you choose foods that are a bit more humane than a factory farm?
Organic: This generally means that there are no hormones/antibiotics used, and the animal’s foods cannot be GMO or be grown with pesticides or chemicals. Don’t our animal friends deserve to not eat chemical garbage, too?
Grass-fed: Whenever possible, find grass-fed beef. This is the natural diet of cows. Grains can do some funky stuff to both human and animal physiology. Also, natural diet = happier cows!
Antibiotic/hormone free: This should be covered under organic, but it’s good to double check. We already overuse antibiotics, so if I can do something to limit that, I sure will! Also… I don’t know about you, but I deal with enough hormone issues, so no thanks.
Nitrate/nitrite free: This is more for processed meat products like bacon or salami which should be limited in consumption anyway, but if you do consume these, avoid nitrites, which can increase cancer risks.
Free-range: This usually applies to poultry and eggs. Your best bet is to get eggs from somewhere local (like your friend’s chickens) and spend a few extra dollars to ensure you’re getting happy chickens/eggs!
Sustainably sourced/raised: This is critical for seafood. Many fishing practices don’t take the environment into play and are wiping out areas of our ocean and changing habitats. Make sure the seafood you consume is fished in a way your great great great grandchildren can enjoy, too!
Humanely Raised: This is a big one, but honestly can be somewhat hard to find. Check your health food stores, farmers markets, or a Whole Foods. I’m not gonna lie: this can get pricey. However, it’s an investment in your health, the environment, and the welfare of animals. The designation is pretty hard to achieve; in fact, for beef cattle alone, there are 53 pages of requirements for the designation. Personally my husband and I have agreed to eat LESS meat but high quality meat – most Americans consume far too much meat anyway! If you want to learn more about what it means to be humanely raised, check out www.certifiedhumane.org
But does it really make a difference?
Honestly, I don’t know – but I think it definitely could if more people bought their animal products like this. The way the food industry is set up right now, most people are throwing their money at factory farms. Vegans boycott animal products, which limits the amount of money these companies take in, which is an amazing thing to do.
However, I have chosen to use my dollars to support the humane, healthy treatment of animals. I think that if all of us started doing this, then the profits of factory farms would drop, and they would be forced to change their ways (hopefully!). To be honest, I think this is a lot more feasible for people than veganism – or at least it’s a great place to start.
But it’s so expensive! How on earth do I get started?!
I’ve already admitted that this way of eating can stretch your wallet. To be blunt, you cannot consume meat the way you are used to if you are going to choose this path. However in the long run, you (like me) will probably end up SAVING money. Animal products are generally the most expensive grocery items.
You have to commit to eating smaller portions of meats. It’s that simple. Find somewhere that has cheap produce (farmers markets, fruit and veggie stands, Trader Joe’s, grow your own) and really load up on it in your meals. Even though you are eating less meat, you should NOT be eating less in general. In fact, it’s healthy to eat MORE when you’re eating this way! Bulk up with as much produce as you like!
Watch for coupons and discounts on high quality meats. Chat with your local farmers or butchers, and become a regular at your local farmer’s markets. Some places allow you to buy in bulk and get a good savings, so grab a couple of friends and buy together and split.
I know that changing your lifestyle and your diet is intimidating, especially when money is tight. Start slow. You don’t have to overhaul everything at once. Just switch to one or two products a week or month that have the above labels, and eventually you will get there!
Want help getting started, need more direction, or have other concerns? Be sure to book a free Discovery Call with me, and we’ll create your roadmap to success!