On genuinely grass fed meat and food prices

Tank Green/ April 18, 2023/ Thoughts

When I turned vegetarian at aged 13, it was due to making the connection between the sweet lambs I would help bottle feed on my dad’s friend’s farm, and the (delicious) lamb chop on my plate. I decided that I didn’t want to kill an animal if I could survive without eating them. I remained vegetarian for over twenty years until it became clear that eating that way was compromising my health. I was originally only going to add in fish to my diet, but I went to Uzbekistan shortly after ending my vegetarianism and was confronted with a (delicious) lamb kebab and that was the end of pescatarian me.

Despite realising that I needed to eat meat to be healthy, the ethics around meat eating have not left me. This is why I refuse to buy cheap meat: not only for my health (no thanks to all those antibiotics and Omega 6’s), but also for the welfare of the animals. So I have been using quality butchers which sell meat from ‘grass fed’ and free-range animals. I thought that meat from ‘grass fed’ or ‘free range’ animals meant that those animals had eaten what they are supposed to eat all of their lives, and that they were free to roam.

Uh, no. ☹️

It turns out that meat labeled ‘grass fed’ or free range may only mean that the animal has eaten and roamed as it should for a part of its life. It could, for instance, finish the last six months of its life in a miserable barn, laying on a stone floor eating soy or corn. From my perspective, this seemed to defeat the purpose of buying grass fed meat as I would not be getting the health benefits I was paying a premium for, and from an animal welfare perspective, it stinks.

I had heard the term ‘regenerative agriculture’ but thought it was an American thing until I came across Pasture for Life. This is a certification system which guarantees that the meat you buy comes from 100% grass fed and free to roam animals. They have a list of butchers (on and offline) who sell genuine, 100% grass fed and free range meat using more regenerative and biodiverse farming practices. This makes me happy. This makes the earth happy. And, I hope, makes the animals happy. If not, tough shit, I needs your delicious proteins and fats. Sorry.

I have eaten my way through one delivery from Primal Meats. I chose them because they sell pig skin and I literally cannot stop eating pork crackling. I need pork crackling. Like, proper bone deep need. To be honest, I can’t say I can taste a difference between the meats supplied on that order and my normal ‘grass fed’ butcher—they taste equally delicious—except for the fat on the bacon. Like, literally, this made me swoon. If it was possible to buy it, I would eat plates of the stuff. The website says the pigs get yoghurt, beer, and cider as a part of their diet and so all I can think is that I am getting second-hand drunk. The last time I drank was September, so I would be light-weight enough for this to happen… ?

Anyway, this is really just a plug for Pasture for Life certified meat. I remain convinced that some of the real solutions to our so-called ‘climate emergency’ are to regenerate the land, work it more holistically, and live smaller, more sustainable lives. The Kiss the Ground film does a good job of showing how destructive mono-crop agriculture and modern farming practices are to the earth. So it seems simple to me that if we care about the earth, then we must stop destroying it through purchasing food generated using those kinds of practices.

People often complain that it’s too expensive to eat grass fed meat, but I think that belief is due to the stupidly low food prices found in UK supermarkets. In 1953, before the rise of supermarkets, we spent around 32% of our income on food. By 1983, that was down to 17%, and in 2020 it was 10.8%. This is impossibly and unsustainably low.

The drive for excessively low prices is so that we can consume more, and this is precisely the problem. (Even if we want low prices in order to pay into a savings account now, all we are doing is postponing consumption.) It is this drive for low prices which leads to industrial, unsustainable, environmentally destructive agriculture. We need to move back to a mentality which values land and those who work it, and we signal that by paying fair prices to those who are doing the good work of tending the land in an environmentally sustainable way.

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