Providing good guidance on consciously consuming meat is a tricky thing.
We know that this is a controversial and emotional subject.
And there's no way we can cover every nuance of it. But we'll spend the week on ways to align meat eating with personal values, and end with an interview with a wellness coach who can shed some light on nutritional values as well!
A large percentage of the people who blog, comment, or voice opinions on the subject of 'to meat or not to meat' are unlikely to change their minds about what they believe to be true and just (and in the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I don’t eat meat.) Vegans are defined as people who choose not to eat or use animal products - a large percentage of vegans tend to see meat consumption as murder. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those who claim they don’t care at all about the welfare of the animals they eat - and then there's everyone in between.
Most people who don’t eat meat do so for one of three reasons: (1) compassion for thinking, feeling creatures, (2) decreasing their environmental impact/footprint, or (3) heath reasons. I personally don’t eat meat for the first reason. That said, I can remember what a grilled medium-rare rib-eye steak, king crab, or an all beef kosher dog tastes like … and they all tasted really good. At some point, however, I determined that minimizing pain was more important to me than flavor.
Meat and Tradition
Meat and meat dishes are integral to food related gatherings in many cultures and communities throughout the world - so many holiday traditions surround a specific type of meat (turkey for Thanksgiving, corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day, 4th of July BBQ - the list goes on). Absolutism is easy to digest as a concept, but most of the time it's not feasible - it's difficult to go cold turkey on meat even if you've decided that's what you want to do. For those interested in scaling back and being more intentional about their meat consumption, we've researched some ways that you can get aligned with your values.
General Guidelines for selecting meat
The first general rule of thumb for selecting meat products is that if you buy from a grocery store and the label doesn’t specify what company provided the meat or any certifications other than its USDA quality level (Prime, Choice, Select, etc.), you can pretty much assume the worst from a conscious consumerism standpoint. The meat was most likely grown in conditions that minimally satisfy regulatory requirements where animals are kept in terrible, filthy conditions and have miserable lives until they are finally slaughtered.
Labels like Certified Grassfed, USDA Organic, or Certified Humane may provide greater insights into the conditions an animal may have lived or its carbon footprint. If you shop from a trusted butcher, farmer, or rancher, they can give you a first hand account of the living conditions of the animals, what the animals are fed, and if they have any specific guiding values. You will also be supporting local businesses and your community.