Why I Eat Meat

MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2013

As a health nut, people are often surprised to hear I’m a meat eater.

I suppose I’ve never really associated eating healthy with being vegetarian. My biggest belief is in eating what’s right for my body, and those choices are going to be different for every different body. Eating meat works for me from a health standpoint. Usually.

There are philosophical reasons people chose not to eat meat. Although philosophy and health don’t always go hand in hand, the way an animal is treated goes a long way in the quality of the meat. Animal health is often a subject of interest and debate since many diseases can transfer to us.

Food that was raised carefully, however, isn’t as likely to have the health issues we associate with meat. Consider our own bodies. If we eat well and exercise, dealing efficiently with stress, getting fresh air and adequate medical attention, we can remain essentially healthy. Fresh air and sunshine was once a prescription for health – and it often still is. How can we expect animals that spend their lives eating an unnatural diet in overcrowded pens or cages with no fresh air or sunshine to maintain a state of health worthy of our dinner tables? Studies have found that pasture raised cows are less likely to become infected with E. Coli than those fed diets high in corn and soy.

I believe that a well-kept animal is not only a happy one, but a healthy one that will produce the healthiest food for our bodies.

When I was a kid I spent part of my summers on my father’s small farm. He had a flock of chickens that were my responsibility to care for. I turned them out into the pasture in the mornings, collected the eggs, and helped round them into the barn each evening. Some Sundays my father would butcher a couple of hens for dinner.

To me the process seemed natural. In fact, a chicken losing its head with a swift blow of a blade seemed much more humane than the very natural occurrence of being caught by a fox. These chickens lived good lives, were clean and healthy, got fresh air and ate well. Most of them were happily nesting in the barn by time we were ready to round them up for the night.

Certified Humane® (CH) is an animal care organization with a long and very strict list of guidelines that participating farmers must follow. CH animals must have been raised from birth through the time of slaughter in natural, humane conditions. They are required to spend most of their time outdoors, and must have sheltered areas with continuous outdoor access. They eat a healthy diet of quality feed specific to their species’ requirements. Even the conditions of their slaughter are specific and carefully mapped out to ensure that the process is not stressful or unnecessarily painful.

Although an animal doesn’t have to be raised organically to be Certified Humane, in my opinion the health of any humanely raised animal meets, if not exceeds the quality of food raised organically, but not necessarily humanely.

Today I buy my meat in bulk from a local farmer that raises his own cows, pigs and chickens for eggs. I see these animals each week when I pick up my CSA share, or when I drive past the farm. I can keep tabs them to make sure that they’re happy and healthy. They eat the farm’s produce, same I do, and I can ask my farmer about their life, living, and slaughter conditions at any time.

The more I write about food, the less I want to eat the same things I’ve been eating my whole life. Local, conscious farming practices, and diligent homework on my part is what keep me eating the food I know my family needs and loves. Even meat.