Is there such a thing as Compassionately Raised Meats and Poultry?

Do you think about the sources of the meat and poultry you are eating? Are you aware that natural, organic and free range are in many cases hype? The term “Free Range” is absolutely unregulated for eggs, beef or any food, except live poultry. The meat industry and animal welfare advocates disagree over free range meat.

The benefits associated with raising free range livestock continue to attract consumers in increasing numbers. Free range means that animals have access to open outdoor areas. The animals are not supposed to be raised in cages. However, in many cases this is not occurring. As a technical term “free range” can mean that a door in a structure must be open for a specific period of time. Free range labeling does not guarantee that animals are actually roaming free. Free range does not mean organic and all that the label “organic” entails. To find livestock that has been raised with compassion – have been allowed to free range graze and to raise their young in a healthy and humane manner – one must look for more than “free range” on a label. Fortunately, there are grocers that are committed to selling only compassionately-raised meats, dairy and poultry. Unfortunately, there are not that many who do and consumers need to be educated about what free range means.

Modern agribusiness’s meat industry treats livestock as commodities. Giant feedlots encourage pollution and crowded, unsanitary conditions. Industrial food harms the farmers and animals that produce our food. Farming with pesticides has been proven to cause cancer and birth defects in farm workers. Factory farming makes animals sick and feeble through being raised in unhealthy conditions.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, animals raised on factory farms are fed plastics, same species meat and animal waste. Agri-business and factory farming has created a crisis and loss of family owned farms. There is a a terrible void in society, when profit is more important than the well being of both the farm worker and the consumer.

Pesticide poisoning is a common problem amongst farm workers. The World Health Organization estimates that pesticide poisoning affects 3 million farm workers each year, and about 18,000 of them die from its effects. Farmers are exposed to far larger amounts of toxic chemicals than consumers as a result of their work. Farmers must spray kilograms of these pesticides on their crops, and sometimes they labor in the fields doused with these chemicals. As a result,. Workers end up inhaling and ingesting massive doses, which can result in cancer, birth defects and neurological diseases. Even in America, there are reports of farm workers giving birth to seriously deformed children missing limbs or organs.

Much of our food is being imported from developing nations where pesticide poisoning is rampant. Produce at the supermarket often comes from developing nations like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and China. In these nations, labor is cheaper and food regulations are lax. If we don’t demand pesticide-free food – it could cause a farmer to develop leukemia or Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. These pesticides are also harmful to the consumer, too.

Industrial farming also encourages senseless animal cruelty…to maximize profit per square acre, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) were introduced.In this system, thousands of animals are crowded into small feedlots, where they are fed unnatural diets and never given the chance to exercise. Growth hormones are injected to speed animal development, thereby producing the most amount of meat in the shortest amount of time. The animals are over-whelmed with the foul odor of manure and often succumb to illnesses that result from over-crowding large populations of animals in tiny, filthy enclosures. Antibiotics are routinely administered to prevent death. CAFOs continue to exist because of their ’operational efficiency,’ and until we think twice about this industrial food system…which will continue, until we demand compassionately raised meats and poultry based on free farm and certified humane labels.

We need to acknowledge that eating unhealthy animals creates illnesses in our bodies…as well as in the bodies of all the farm workers who are producing our food. There is a better way, when you make sure that you are purchasing naturally-raised meat, produced from cows, chickens, sheep and pigs that are allowed to graze on grass and roam free. For produce, choose organically-grown vegetables and fruits produced without pesticides.

Organics: Put simply organic crops and meats must be raised without sewage sludge, pesticides, ionizing radiation, genetically modified organisms and man-made fertilizers. Healthy food stems from natural farming practices. Unhealthy food which has little value is widespread today and is responsible for massive sickness in this country. The source of the food you are eating needs to be important to you.

Localvores and localtarians: Just as a “carnivore” eats only meat, a “localvore” and a “localtarian” eats food raised locally. This supports local farmers, ensures fresh food, reduces food miles and means healthier eating.

What is “New Green Cuisine”? It is recipes that use delicious local, organic, natural, fresh, unprocessed foods raised sustainably and humanely with as little impact on the environment as possible.

There was a question asked by the Humane Society…If you took a guess, would you say that caged chickens in the egg industry are never able to : (A) Spread their wings; ( Walk around; ( C ) Lay eggs in a nest; or (D) All of the above. The answer per the Humane Society of the United States was D. More than 90 percent of the nation’s egg laying hens live in so-called “battery-cages” and never touch the ground or go outdoors. Meanwhile, HSUS says, six million breeding pigs and a million calves raised for veal spend practically their whole lives in crates too small for the animals to turn around. In short, the mental picture of a country farm with rolling hills dotted with happy farm animals most likely does not exist today.

Well, Whole Foods Market has decided to come up with standards to create a line of meats bearing an “animal compassionate” label meaning farmers raised the animals humanely. Its not the first animal-welfare label out there. There’s also the “certified humane” label administered by Humane Farm Animal Care and the “free farmed” label overseen by the American Humane Association. And the Animal Welfare Institute issues the label Animal Welfare Approved.”

All aim for humane lives for farm animals, though each program is different. Examples, The New York Times pointed out that the Animal Welfare Institute and the “free farmed” label let pigs have nose rings to prevent them from tearing up the ground, when they root around, but the other programs forbid nose rings. At the Animal Institute posts a comparison chart showing how it is the most favorable program.

The nonprofit watchdog group Consumers Union so far has examined only the “certified humane” label. Which it deemed a “highly meaningful label that indicates that meat, dairy and egg products came from animals that were treated humanely,” according to its eco-oriented website, The “certified humane” label has several requirements. Among examples: Livestock must have access to clean and sufficient food and water.; they must have sufficient room to move naturally; and their environment must not endanger their health.

In the end, the vast majority of livestock don’t fall under any of these humane-labeling programs, and you may achieve your goal of buying humanely raised meats via other routes – by buying from farmer’s markets or small local farms. Another way, quiz co-ops about what they know about how their meats were produced.

To find out where to buy “Certified Humane” foods, go To find AnimalWelfareApproved foods go To find “Free Farmed” producers, go to:

Also check out the film or book “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser for an interesting commentary on the fast food industry. Another book which is available through Amazon is The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. If you go you will be able to download the first chapter of this book.

I read some of the reviews of Michael Pollan’s book and it left me with the feeling that there isn’t too much one can do to eat right. In 1973 I went totally vegetarian. I stopped eating all meat, fish and poultry for 13 years. I never went back to eating beef, pork, veal, crab, lobster and most fish. I eat sardines and Alaskan Salmon occasionally. We ordered an organic free-range turkey for Thanksgiving. However, I know that the only real benefit for the planet, would be for people to eat animal products, rarely, if at all. It is a costly proposition, when it takes anywhere from 7 lbs to 16 lbs of plant food to create 1 lb of meat. It also takes 2400 gallons of water. It would be far better for the planet, if everyone consumed far less animal products.

When I became a vegetarian, everyone tried to scare me with negative information. I got into the best condition of my life, as a vegetarian. I also got into running and did my first marathon in 1981 at the age of 47 years. It was far easier to keep my weight down and who knows, I may go back to being a total vegetarian in the future.

If you could take a look at: From Farm to Fridge, it might be an eye opening experience. It made me glad that I don’t eat beef or pork. I was appalled, when I saw how the baby pigs, chicks, calves and other farm animals were treated. It was hard to understand how humans could be so heartless towards innocent animals.

I hope that you find this information of interest and that it will help you make better choices.

Healthfully Yours,

Barbara Charis

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