Frequently Asked Questions - Animal Products
Animal products can be a very healthy part of a balanced diet if they are sourced from healthy animals. Since the 50's small family farms are rapidly being replaced by 'mega-farms' and globalized food corporations. The result has been a steady decline in food quality and multiple negative consequences for human health, the environment and local economies.
Unhealthy Livestock = Unhealthy Food
In the last few decades as farm size and distribution areas have increased, the quality of our meat, eggs and dairy has declined. The poor diet and artificial animal 'care' methods used in industrial farming as well as the hardship experienced by the animals have resulted in a highly adulterated product.
Without high levels of antibiotics the infections caused by crowded, unhealthy conditions and an unhealthy diet, many animals would not live to slaughter. Residue of the drugs and hormones remain in the foods, especially concentrated in the fat in the milk and meat. Modern nutritional science tells us that there is not only truth to the old adage, "You are what you eat" could be expanded to "You are what your food eats."
GMO Livestock Feed
Today's conventional livestock is fed unhealthy and genetically modified foods. In addition, their diet often includes substances that the animals do not naturally eat. For example grass is the only natural food for cattle and feeding them corn or soy or animal byproducts suppresses their health and reduces the healthy fats in the dairy and meat. The sad truth is that is the factory farming methods result in sick animals. Eating flesh, milk or eggs from unhealthy animals does not support the health of humans that consume the products.
Statistics link cancer and heart disease with meat and dairy products. However these disease conditions can be expected given the poor health of the animals. Studies show that, if animals are raised healthfully and humanely, their flesh, milk and eggs contain higher levels of fatty acids that are very healthy foods for omnivores. The way to raise healthier animals is to treat them humanely and feed them a biologically appropriate GMO free diet.
Agroecology, Ecological Agriculture
Such healthy conditions are increasingly practiced on a growing number of organic farms which are switching to a sustainable, ecological, compassionate and healthful approach. These special farms practice methods sometimes described as agroecology. The naturally rotating grazing methods on compost or manure fertilized grasses, prevent the toxic waste from industrial 'slurry' (manure) produced by factory farms. Agroecology methods promote the building of microbes and organic matter in the soils that results in increased carbon sequestration and increased drought and flood resistance.
Here is some excellent information about the health, ethical and environmental reasons to seek the best source of meat possible.
Here is a post on the Whole Approach forum recommending the Top Ten Questions to Ask About your Food to help assess the 'happiness footprint.'
If you cannot access free range animal products from animals fed a GMO-free biologically appropriate diet and raised and harvested compassionately, you may wish to explore hunted animals raised in the wild (as opposed to wild species raised on farms). Wild meat killed swiftly by a professional hunter is superior to industrial meats in many ways, both ethically and healthfully.
Hunted animals lived a natural life up until their last moment. They were not exposed to the conditions that factory farm animals are. Overall the health, environmental and ethical considerations regarding wild foods are way more positive. Similar comparisons apply to wild fish vs farmed fish. The ideal wild fish is line caught and quickly killed rather than caught in a net with thousands of other fish and unintended by-catch to suffocate slowly. (See the sustainable fish section for more information).
For some intimate insight into a respectful approach to hunting and using the whole animal, this chef takes the brave step of joining the deer hunters who harvest the deer he cooks. The video is not for the faint of heart but it is very thought provoking, perhaps especially for those who have compared hunted meat unfavorably to factory farm meat which represents tremendous suffering and multiple health concerns. Hunting for supper
Future of Food
By learning what we should know about our food, we can consume animal products consciously and feel better about it. And, by taking responsibility for caring enough to ask questions about how the animals lived and died, in our role as discerning consumers, we can help to create a demand for more thoughtful ways of producing food in our society.
TL Cornish, CNP