Posted by: A Part of the Solution | January 6, 2011

Humane Meat

I worked at one of the great (and last) vegetarian foods only co-ops in America in the 90’s. I worked as a chef for a vegan caterer for more than ten years. My parents were both raised on family farms (Dad during summers only, but still). I am, and have been, more than a little aware of general concerns regarding the quality of life livestock animals receive at the hands of people.

My first articulated desire regarding farming was that our farm be organic. I know too much about non-organic practices and their effect on the food-stream, the ecology and the economy to want otherwise. At the time, I was thinking more of fruits and vegetables than I was about animals we might raise. But here we are, and here also are the animals under our care.

And yes, we care for our animals. Not merely seeing that they receive food and water, but that they have food which agrees with their digestive systems and means of acquiring some of it by their own efforts. Not merely seeing that they have shelter, but that the shelter suits their evolutionary inclinations and contributes to their general health and mental well-being. Minimal standards are, by our own mutual agreement, not acceptable here for our purposes.

More than caring for our pigs and chickens (and one day goats and turkeys and guinea fowl and maybe sheep), we also interact with them. We spend time with them as they go about their business. We observe them closely so that we can see when they are thriving and have early notice when any one of them might be in less than optimal condition. If we see significant deviations from their normative behaviors, we take prompt action.

We aren’t investing this amount of time and energy into our relationships with the farm animals simply to maximize our return on investment. We are putting our resources at their disposal because we have a sense of stewardship. This is our side of the bargain. No matter what the weather, no matter what the concern, we put caring for our animals first on our priority list. Because this is moral. Because this is humane. Because anything less would diminish us as persons, and would unnecessarily diminish our animals’ essential dignity.

8′ x 4′ of concrete is how much space a commercially raised pig has to stand on. Chickens have recently been accorded by law the equivalent of a sheet of 8 1/2″ x 11″–this is an upgrade for them. Our pigs have about an eighth of an acre of forage space each. We rotate them as they forage through one area so that they have fresh forage regularly. Our chickens are free-ranging in the truest construction of the phrase.

Our animals end up costing more in time, in feed and in general expenses. Our ‘products’ derived from these animals are commensurately more expensive. But the cost to our souls, our ethics and our environment in consuming them is incalculably less. Cheers to you if you consume no meat or any other animal products. Consider switching to humanely sourced meat, eggs and dairy if you do.



  1. *standing ovation*

    Good post.

    (I’m betting you meant 8′ x 4′ for commercial pig space)

    • Oops, I’ll change that right now. Thank goodness for edit functions.

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