It isn’t surprising that only 24% of American adults strongly trust information about where their food comes from. However, given how big agribusiness operates, almost a quarter of American adults might be misplacing that trust.
Greenwashing happens, and you can see it in every aisle of the grocery store. But finding ethically sourced meat can be especially tricky, because the regulations for labels like organic, cruelty-free, grass-fed, and so on are broad.
In fact, many large industrial operations barely change their methods, and get these labels only to appeal to consumers with certain values.
For example, when you buy grass-fed beef at the grocery store, feedlots and inhumane harvesting could be involved. When you buy organic meat, the environmental footprint may be bigger than ethically sourced meat without the organic label.
So how do you make sure you know what you’re getting? An ethical producer might use marketing labels like organic or cruelty-free, but it will be more than a sticker on the package.
At Seven Sons, we’re committed to ethical, sustainable practices, and we’re transparent in how we do things. We share information on our website, answer questions, show off our animals, and welcome visitors to our farm.
Here are the rules we follow.
For us, ethical animal agriculture is clear and specific:
Animals are raised in a way that allows them to express their natural behaviors with constant access to a similar environment to the one they would find in the wild.
This means that our animals spend most of their lives (if not their entire lives) on pasture. Our laying hens live and move through our pastures, scratching and wandering through the grass throughout the day.
Our hogs give birth outdoors or on an open floor in a purpose-built shelter, and spend their days rooting, playing, and bathing in mud out on a paddock.
Our ruminant animals (cows, sheep, bison) never receive grain, and live out their lives in the sunshine, moving from one section of pasture to another in a way that mimics their natural behaviors.
That standard of care also extends to our workers and the butchers we partner with, ensuring that the animals we raise experience minimal stress from the beginning of life to the end.
People seek out ethically sourced meat for many reasons, from environmental considerations to a desire to make sure the food they feed their family is healthy. The good news is that if you spend some time researching, you can find ethical meat suppliers and buy with confidence.
You’ll know you’re making the best choice for the environment, the animals, your family, and even the people producing your food.
Unlike the treatment animals receive in a CAFO or other industrial operations, ethical and sustainable animal practices improve the quality of life of the animals themselves. Studies show over and over again that animals raised on pasture have a better quality of life, with less stress and illness.
Whether it’s poultry, pigs, or ruminants, raising animals in a more natural environment improves the environment. Regenerative grazing practices mean that animals like cattle and bison stimulate greater carbon sequestration by pasture grasses, and even help keep water supplies clean.
The meat tastes better and is of higher quality when it comes from animals that live the most natural life possible. Because animals raised on regenerative pastures spend their lives grazing food that’s natural to them, and they live longer, the resulting meat has more flavor and better texture.
Studies indicate that the methods of raising meat animals make a big difference in flavor, and that’s especially true for ruminants like cattle, bison, and sheep.
Buying from ethical meat suppliers doesn’t just give you a better eating experience. Ethical meat production results in healthier meat! Pasture-raised chicken and pork both show higher proportions of omega-3 fatty acids, and higher levels of vitamins and minerals than their conventionally-raised counterparts. The same is true for 100% grass-fed beef.
By buying ethically produced meat, you can support farmers in your area. Most of the meat you buy at the supermarket comes from farms working under contract with agribusinesses. By buying directly from local farmers, you cut out the middle man, and help keep the farms that adhere to ethical practices in operation.
Ethical meat production isn’t just safer for animals. Maintaining a high standard while raising animals requires a lot of labor. Your buying choices make it possible for ethical meat suppliers to hire workers, pay living wages, and even expand their pool of labor.
Knowing the benefits to your family, the environment, and the economy, the question becomes: where to buy humanely-raised meat?
The best way to ensure you’re getting the highest quality meat from producers that maintain the standards you expect is to seek out the farmers themselves.
A good place to start is searching for regenerative farms with transparent practices. (If you don’t have one locally, we deliver!)
Ethical meat suppliers are more than happy to show you their operations, and many of them even take the proactive step of providing virtual tours, so anyone can see how their animals live.
Farmers and producers who commit to ethical standards welcome questions and are fully transparent about what they do, how they work, and how they keep themselves accountable.
Although there are a lot of certificates that both the USDA and third-party organizations can give to humane meat brands, it’s important not to put too much trust in a label. Most of the standards these companies meet are broad and allow for a lot of wiggle room for brands that want to maximize profit at the expense of quality.
Your best choice is to talk directly with producers and ask the right questions to get to the bottom of what’s really going on. Knowing what the different labels, qualifiers, and certifications really mean will help you sort out which producers align with your values, and which are just checking off boxes on a form.
Learn more about ethical meat production and sustainable agriculture on our Resource Page.