Animal Welfare Week: Choose Your Meat Responsibly

Our clean compatriots at Whole Foods Market launched Animal Welfare Week from May 20 to May 27, an endeavor targeted at helping people enjoy meat that is raised in nurturing environments with ample space – in other words, with respect.

Animal Welfare Week stresses choosing beef, poultry and pork (plus all other meat you consume) that rate high on the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating, which evaluates living conditions, transport, behavior, diet and more. In fact, when animals are raised the way nature intended, the meat actually tastes better and offers more nourishment (for more on why, check out Tosca Reno’s “Kick It Up A Notch” column in our June issue!).

Whole Foods’ global animal production and welfare coordinator, Anne Malleau, shared some interesting tidbits about farm animals and what the company looks for when selecting suppliers:

In 2010, the US consumed 12 million metric tons of beef! And we fear that plenty of those cows were not brought up in acceptable living conditions. Though farmers can be wary of cows hovering around trees and packing down the land, White Oak Pastures offers tree-speckled roaming land for its cattle. They “act as wind breaks and provide shade,” says Malleau. “[The cows] love to rub up against the trees too.” Cows should be clean and spend a good amount of time with their young before weaning.

Dirty pigs are often happy pigs! According to Malleau, this means cool, muddy waters or “wallows” at their disposal, providing “a place to cool down and protection from insects and the sun (pigs have sensitive skin!).” On Thompson Farms, piglets hang with their moms and don’t have their tails snipped, which is often a means of preventing pigs from biting each other’s tails. The likely reason? They’re content.

Different birds need different lifestyles. Malleau says the California Bronze chickens at Pitman Family Farms (pictured above) “were born to be outside as they’ve got strong legs and a good immune system.” Outdoor chickens like to have places to perch, spots to dodge the sun and shelter to sleep beneath. At Pitman, the pasture is regularly relocated to provide fresh pecking grounds for its chickens.

So, whatever meats make up your diet, be sure to source them from responsible farms that give their animals a happy life with respect and dignity. It might cost a bit more, but the benefits you (and the animals!) will reap are priceless. And as you kick off barbecue season this weekend, try some of the recipes in our Memorial Day slideshow!