What’s in the meat?

For omnivores, our diet consists in part of meat. But do we really know what goes into our meat?

Factory Farming
Much of the meat we eat today is raised on a factory farm. These farms often house large numbers of animals in very confined spaces. These spaces often allow little room for the animals to move and offer little access to sunlight or fresh air. In many cases these animals are so confined they can’t turn around.

In order to adapt these animals to the farm, they are often mutilated. Chickens and turkeys have their beaks cut off (de-beaking) and cows and pigs often have their tails cut off (docking).

How the Environment Affects the Meat
1. Antibiotics. Animals are often given low doses of antibiotics to ward off diseases. Disease spreads quickly in confined, unsanitary spaces, so antibiotics are given to keep sickness at bay. Hormones and antibiotics are also given to promote faster growth.
2. Waste. A large amount of waste is produced by the large amount of animals, but it is not always treated properly. Lagoons that hold the waste can contaminate groundwater. Some manure is sprayed on crops, but often to excess. This can cause excess manure to run off into surface waters.
3. What they eat. Animals are healthiest when they eat certain foods. For example, cows are meant to digest grass. Pigs can digest grass, grain, corn, soy, and other plants. Chickens and turkeys can eat plants, bugs, and worms. Many factory farms feed their animals the cheapest food including lots of grain, meat from other animals, bits of feathers, hair, skin, hooves, blood, and manure. Much of the grain fed to cattle is conventionally grown; that is, it is genetically modified and contains high levels of pesticides. Cows can only survive on grain for so long without becoming sick. Likewise, hogs need food with more nutrients, like turnips or kale. Factory farms raise them mainly on corn and soy. Industrial poultry farms are known to add antibiotics and additives to their feed and water. This can even include Arsenic!

What to Look For When Buying Meat
1. Try to buy 100% grass-fed (or grass-finished) beef. Grass-fed beef is leaner and higher in omega-3s and vitamin E. Grass-fed dairy products have five times the CLA than grain-fed cattle. These cattle also have a much higher quality of life.
2. Look for free-range chickens. These chickens have 28% fewer calories. Eggs from these chickens have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A, and 400% more omega-3s.
3. Look for USDA certified organic meat. Organic meat cannot include added antibiotics. Animals raised organic also cannot be fed animal byproducts or growth hormones and must have access to the outdoors.
4. Buy from local farms. This way, you can ask all the questions you need to about how the animals were raised.

Response: How do you feel about the treatment of animals and how they are fed?

King Corn documentary
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Sustainable Table
The Meatrix


1 Comment

  1. Denai said,

    October 14, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I am NOW grossed out by BEEF after listening to that part of the CD in The OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA…. UGH, I am soooo glad that we get our meat local, by local farmers… Sad to say though, NOT only grass feed…. that will be our next big feat!
    Thanks for sharing this great blog! I can’t wait to come back and read more!

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