Meet Your Meat

Posted on April 16, 2011


Click image for attribution.

For me a big part of an Ethitarian lifestyle is responsible sourcing.  This applies especially to food, and most importantly, to meat.  I don’t eat a lot of meat, so it’s worth making sure that the meat I do eat was raised humanely and sustainably.

There are some obvious reasons why this is a good idea.  Animals raised to USDA Organic standards are allowed access to the outdoors, are fed healthier natural diets, and are generally treated more like living things than products.  This is especially true of small scale local farming operations.  When you can meet the farmer, and maybe even visit the farm, you can be truly confident that you are getting your food from the best, and best treated, source available.  Smaller organic farms also have a less detrimental effect on the environment.  They produce less waste and don’t require heavily fertilized GM crops for feed.

But aside from the (very important) humanitarian reasons to choose Organic and small scale meats, there are health concerns as well.  Conventional “Factory Farms” keep animals in cramped, dirty, unhealthy conditions.  They are often fed industrial byproducts, which can include the leftover ground-up bits of the previous generation.  Because of these conditions they are pumped full of hormones to increase their growth (or milk production) and antibiotics to keep them from succumbing to illness and infection.  The more antibiotics you use, the more bacteria evolve to resist them.

This is bad.

We only have so many antibiotics.  They aren’t particularly lucrative so pharmaceutical companies don’t spend much time or money researching them.  And it turns out these antibiotic resistant bacteria are in our food.  Especially meat.  A lot of it.  According to an article from NPR’s Health Blog:

Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute… took samples of meat and poultry around the country and found that 47 percent had evidence of Staphylococcus aureus contamination. More than half of the bacteria they found were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study, published online today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Here is another article from MSNBC.  This is an even more detailed look at the problem from Wired.

This problem is already widespread, and it doesn’t look like it will be going away anytime soon.  So choose your food carefully, wash your hands/counters/utensils often and well, and buy organic when you can.