Organic Consumers Association

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Cook Organic not the Planet Campaign

Slow Meat: 5 Eating Habits to Transform the Meat Industry

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's CAFO's vs. Free Range page and our All About Organics page.

Americans eat a lot of meat. In many households, meat is on the table almost every day and for good reason: it is a good source of protein and nutrients, and can be healthy and delicious. However, with increased demand, industrial farming has turned food production into a machine that puts profit and efficiency ahead of health and sustainability. It is a shortsighted approach that comes at a cost to our health, our environment, animal welfare, the nutritional value of the meat we consume and even its taste.

Last month, Slow Food USA and Slow Food Denver hosted the inaugural Slow Meat symposium in Denver. Understandably, the overarching event theme "Better Meat, Less Meat" raised a few eyebrows. We held a national event in the heart of our country's animal agricultural hub, and asked farmers, ranchers and marketers to produce less meat?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is more complicated. Americans have a large appetite for meat, and the industrial system is good at producing it at high volume and low cost. But you don't have to dig deep to uncover the hidden costs of that model: health risks, childhood obesity, environmental degradation and animal abuse, to name but a few.

We as eaters are limited by a narrow scope of food choices - with just one or two breeds dominating our diets. Animals are confined in spaces that prevent them from enjoying the five freedoms that guide sustainable animal husbandry (often referred to as Brambell's freedoms for professor Roger Brambell, who formulated them in 1965 for the British government). The Farm Animal Welfare Council in the U.K. lists them as follows: 1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor; 2. Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area; 3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment; 4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind; 5. Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.     

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