American beef consumption is down – USDA shows a 5% decrease between 2002 and 2010 and a poll done by NPR finds that as many as 39% of us are eating less red meat today than three years ago.
This is good news. It means more of us are eating healthier (also, less environmental impact, fewer animals killed for food, etc). Unfortunately, America is still eating more meat per capita than any other country! And it’s not a stretch to assume that this is thanks in part to our indecently huge subsidies for corn and soy that’s fed to livestock… but I’ll save that discussion for another blog post.
Three main reasons attributed to our decreased meat intake are increases in price, health consciousnesses and most recently social awareness.
The financial correlation is a simple one: when meat is cheap or incomes go up, meat consumption goes up. This has been true in the history of America and other countries, most recently in the developing regions where salaries and the middle class are on the rise. The opposite is also true: when meat prices go up or incomes go down, meat consumption goes down as well. The latest from USDA shows cost of beef per pound increasing 7.5% from 2005 and 2010. And the recession doesn’t help either.
In my constant research and reading about the topic of eating kind, I came across this great article that talks about things we can do today (some of them are VERY easy) to directly improve welfare of farm animals. Read the full article here or see below for my summary:
Incorporate the Three R’s into Your Life
- Refinement: look for humanely raised products
- Replacement: look for vegetarian alternatives
- Reduction: reduce meat consumption by just one meal a week
The reduction part seems pretty easy to do and the results are fantastic! According to MSPCA, “if we reduce the consumption of animal products by just one meal a week, approximately one billion animals would be spared the suffering that occurs with intensive confinement operations.” And when we do buy meat, stick with the humanely-raised options!
Support Legislative Action
There are many websites and organizations that make it very easy to take legislative action, including keeping you up to date on various issues and even providing email templates so making a change is as easy as pushing a button! My go-to websites are Farm Sanctuary and HSUS.Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it?!
How do you convince habitual meat eaters to choose, eat and enjoy a vegetarian dish when yummy meat dishes are fighting for their attention?
The answer is pretty simple and it’s this: cook a delicious vegetarian dish as part of the line up. And I’m not just talking about putting out more veggie side dishes and salads (although those don’t hurt either), but providing a true vegetarian meal that can hold its own against its protein partner.
Unconvinced? I have two recent cases in point.
When it comes to the spectrum of treating animals like animals and treating them like people, I know both types, those who keep their dogs outside year round, treating them as a security system and those who cook daily meals for their furry kids using only organic meats and vegetables. I fall somewhere in the middle. While I believe that animals are sentient beings who feel pain and emotion, I don’t equate a human life with that of an animal, I still eat meat (even if only the humanely-raised kind) and I don’t let my dogs sleep in my bed (although I have lost the couch battle).
No matter where on the spectrum you fall on, I strongly believe that we all must raise our standards of how we treat our farm animals. While none of us are directly abusing the cows, the chickens or the pigs, when we eat meat from animals mistreated by the commercial farms we indirectly contribute to their suffering.
Raising our animal welfare standards becomes even more important if you agree with Dr. Marc Bekoff who says that “how we treat other animals has direct effects on how we feel about ourselves“.
Reading about the recent findings at a Tyson Foods pig breeding facility made me sick to my stomach. Which is the reason why I usually stay away from graphic, visual descriptions such as “workers kicking piglets like soccer balls, swinging sick piglets in circles, and ruthlessly beating mother pigs.” I don’t mean to be ignorant but it breaks my heart and so I try to focus on the positive.
In this case, I got far enough to read those details and as I was having a small angry crying episode, I kept asking the question “why“. I understand people taking the only available job at a slaughter house and having to deal with the standard abuses at commercial farms (minuscule cages, gestation crates, etc). I don’t agree with it, I think there are alternatives, but I get it. But why add to the cruelty? Even if you’re not an animal activist and don’t believe that pigs and chickens and cows have feelings and think of them as purely food, why proactively add to their pain?