Not all meat is created equal. Some comes from humanely-treated animals who graze on pasture, have access to fresh air and open space, and are free to engage in normal animal behaviors. But most meat in America is produced VERY differently. Sadly, most meat – at least 80% – comes from animals raised on feedlots, which means cramped quarters, rampant disease, and routine antibiotic use.
Why does this matter?
Beyond the obvious animal rights aspects, feedlots wreak havoc on the environment, make your food less safe and less healthy, and make antibiotic use in humans increasingly less effective.
Why do meat farmers use antibiotics?
Occasional antibiotic use is not the problem — in fact all farmers need to use antibiotics on occasion when they have a sick animal. The issue at hand is the widespread use of routine antibiotics to keep animals growing faster and to prevent them from getting sick in crowded, unsanitary conditions. In a setting where animals’ needs are being met, and where they are being treated humanely, routine antibiotics are not necessary.
Why should I buy antibiotic-free meat?
For a few reasons, as stated by Healthy Child Healthy World:
- To keep antibiotics effective for fighting disease
- To invest in a healthy food for your family
- To “vote with your dollar” – because every time you buy organic or antibiotic-free meat, you’re supporting a cause and helping to increase access to these products
What else can I do?
- Eat mostly at home. It’s hard to know the source of your food when you eat out, and most meat and poultry served in restaurants – even fancy ones – is not organic or antibiotic-free.
- Buy organic. Organic meat is more expensive, but it’s worth the extra cost. Organic standards prohibit routine antibiotic use.
- Shop at natural foods stores. All of the meat at Whole Foods is antibiotic-free, and many other natural foods stores (but not Trader Joe’s!) have plenty of organic and antibiotic-free options. Make sure to read labels.
- Sign this petition asking Trader Joe’s to source antibiotic & hormone-free meat.
- Eat meat less often. Vegetarian meals are the easiest way to avoid poor quality meat. Make some of your meals vegetarian, and consider ordering vegetarian when you eat out.
Information for this post inspired by the recent article from Healthy Child Healthy World.
Photo above shows the cows on the Choiniere Family farm, located in Highgate Vermont. Choiniere farm is a small, family run organic dairy farm whose owners, Guy and Beth, take pride in knowing every cow’s name and paying close attention to soil health and how it relates to the health of the cows, their milk, and the planet. Their dairy products are sold through the Organic Valley CROPP cooperative.