My Beef With Meat Labeling

It’s hard to decipher the grocery code these days. “Lactose Free, Gluten Free, Organic, Free Range, Cage Free, All Natural, Fat Free, Hormone Free… The list goes on and on. Buzz words for days! You can rest assured that whatever becomes the hip new food trend will be coming soon to a label near you. When it comes to animal products, it seems that the waters get muddy. Naturally, the factory farm version of meat is a high stakes industry and their methods… Well, they leave much to be desired. Nobody wants to eat hormones in their meat or milk. Nobody wants to support an industry that is cruel to animals. These are things that have been methodically hidden from us. Is it all very dark and evil? Perhaps. However, we cannot point fingers without examining our own decision to look the other way, our subliminal desire to not know. Ignorance has been the blissful norm for decades. In these decades, we have systematically abandoned traditional methods of raising livestock. We’ve given up the care it takes to raise animals for the cheaper manufactured version. We waste precious resources to meet the insatiable demand for meat in America. Confused sign 2

At some point we began to eat meat daily. This was not always the norm. We ate potatoes and porridge and other hearty plant based meals. Daily meat was for the wealthy. It was President Hoover who promised “A chicken in every pot” to his constituents if he won. This promise came just before The Great Depression which undoubtedly derailed that promise. Never the less, this became the aspiration. “A chicken in every pot”, this meant you were making it. Once we got past the depression, things were looking up! In the decades to follow, we eventually began to add meat to every meal. We even created the food pyramid to teach us all that we NEED all of this meat and dairy and we need it multiple times per day. Funny… Humans were getting along just fine without animal milk for a long time. So, now that we are here and we eat bacon for breakfast, ham and cheese for lunch and steak for dinner (Mmmmm, steak! That cut of meat is practically universal for “I have arrived, bitch!”), how does the industry keep up without sacrificing profits? Well, it will have to come at the cost of quality. For decades, we have blindly allowed the abuse of animals, the flagrant waste of precious natural resources and the addition of harmful agents to rule.

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Well, it’s a choice and I don’t choose that anymore. My family and I have committed to eating fewer meals with meat in them and it hasn’t affected us a bit. We’ve been eating this way for a good stretch and it’s normal to us now. We aren’t vegetarian, though. The meat we do eat, I buy from Whole Foods. It’s a bit more expensive but it’s a “safe” place for me to buy and truly know what I’m getting. Their Step Rating System can been seen here. Not everyone has a Whole Foods and not everyone can afford it. My suggestion is always to eat fewer meals with meat so you can afford to buy better meat, thus decreasing demand for the bullshit. Most grocery stores these days have “healthy” meat choices now, don’t they? I mean, the labels say “Organic” and “Natural” and “Grass Fed”… what the hell does it all mean???

Let’s dig in, shall we?

Natural: What does it mean if the sticker on the plastic says “natural”?

Apparently, not much. It’s just a bullshit buzz word that doesn’t mean jack. Meat labeled as “natural” or “All-Natural” can come from an animal that has consumed any grain or forage product, organic or not.  Natural does NOT include any standards regarding farm practices; which means an animal can receive additional growth hormones or antibiotics.

Organic: This is a bit better as far as quality goes. Meat bearing the moniker “Organic” means that the animal’s diet can consist of any grain or forage product as long as those feed items are certified organic. This program is the most strict with the most guidelines, governed by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). To be certified organic, a grain or forage source must not have had “synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation applied, and/or had genetically engineered products produced on that ground in three or more years” (USDA, 2011). Additionally, the livestock cannot receive antibiotics or additional growth hormones (Organic Standards, 2013)

Here’s the tricky part… “organic” only refers to what the animal has consumed. The NOP does not regulate or govern what happens to the meat during processing. Meaning that the meat may have additional colorants or products added to the final product, unlike all-natural meats. It also doesn’t regulate anything about the treatment or conditions in which the animals are kept. This meat is likely still inhumane factory farmed and causing a negative environmental impact.

Grass Fed: Simply put, the cow eats grass. It is misleading because upon hearing the term we go immediately to imagery of cows frolicking in pastures. This is not the case. Pasture raised cattle is raised in that way and was, no doubt, cavorting with it’s homies with room to stretch… but are they also grass fed? Not necessarily. They were likely fed grain. Also, there is no guarantee that it’s organic.

So, where are the labels that read “All-Natural, Organic, Grass Fed, Pasture Raised, Yoga Practicing, FitBit Wearing, certified happy and healthy cattle”? Why do we have to pick and choose between health, environment and humanity? The fact is, we shouldn’t have to. We can’t expect the profiteers to change if their methods are bringing profit. As long as we buy, they will sell. We have the power, though. Collectively, if we went back a bit, returned to a diet that is more plant based and ate only “good” meat and only on occasion, they would have no choice but to acquiesce to our demands. How we choose to spend our money is one of our most powerful weapons and we squander it. Swearing Mom out.

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Sources: Source 1

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