If you’ve ever read The Jungle or the much more recent Eating Animals, or you’ve been binge-watching The Walking Dead, then you may have turned away from eating meat or animal products entirely. But there is a growing movement amongst those who eat meat to become “conscious carnivores;” people who purchase meat that has had not only a lower impact on the planet but also on the animals’ health. This consumer demand seems to be pushing producers in new and bold directions.
First, consider the egg.
The recent conviction of the owners of one of the nation’s large egg farms, Quality Eggs, LLC, due to their knowledgeable distribution of old eggs, is enough to make us want to run to the farmers market to shake the hand of a local farmer (or the wing of the hen), and buy some truly farm fresh eggs. The image of thousands of chickens crammed into cages like engines in an egg production machine is an all too familiar sight for anyone who cares about animals rights. Now consider the opposite: chickens in open fields pecking the ground for grubs. This is the reality now at Vital Farms where, according to Jane Black of the Washington Post, the owners are trying to change the world of eggs for the better. You may have seen these pasture-raised eggs in your local Whole Foods or even in a Kroger, and the chances are that you’ll see more of them. The company is growing and attributes a lot of its success to humane practices:
Vital Farms’ national distribution lets consumers who live in cold climates like the Northeast have access to pasture-raised eggs year-round. (Chickens can’t graze on pasture if there’s no grass.) Moreover, it is proof that companies don’t have to compromise on animal welfare, or on how much they pay farmers, to compete in the marketplace. ‘We set out to build a big business without compromise,’ said Jason Jones, Vital Farms’ president. Added founder and chief executive Matt O’Hayer, ‘Our job is to show people that an egg is not just an egg.’”
This company proves that even the big companies can do it right, but what about even bigger? What about a whole country?
When it comes to swine, Denmark can.
In response to the Obama administration’s announcement that it would allocate funding to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, author Barry Estabrook wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times on the Danish pork industry and how, in not very much time, Danes drastically reduced their country’s use of antibiotics for pork production. It’s not rocket science, he explains, just veterinarian science:
The Danish pork industry did have some early problems with mortality among young pigs. But it overcame those by allowing piglets to nurse longer, by feeding them more nourishing rations and by receiving monthly preventive visits to farms by vets. Overall use of antibiotics in livestock has fallen by 50 percent in Denmark, even as the hog herd has increased significantly in size. Levels of resistant bacteria on farms tumbled. Mr. Munck said his animals experienced no more bacterial infections than they used to. And despite predictions to the contrary, pigs in Denmark gain weight as efficiently as they did before the introduction of the antibiotic controls."
So, big can do good, it seems. As those of us who choose to eat meat continue to put pressure on companies and our legislators, we will continue to see rise of the conscious carnivore and more sustainably raised, fairly treated, healthier meat.
Image via Flickr
Government Not Recommending Jail Time For DeCosters, Sentencing Brief Reveals via Food Safety News
An Iowa Egg Farmer and a History of Salmonella via New York Times
How one company is trying to make ‘pasture-raised’ the new egg standard via Washington Post
Denmark’s Drug-Free Pigs via New York Times