The True Cost of Meat
I wanted to say a sincere thank you for the extremely positive and unexpected response that we’ve had to the opening of Featherblade Craft Butchery in Las Vegas. My team and I literally cannot wait to get open and start bringing our produce and service to everyone who walks in the door.
I wrote this a while back, and I don’t ever want to come across as too preachy, but this stuff is important, not only for our own health and well-being, but for the animals and the environment that we live in. This post is not as extensive as it could be, and I am sure I will delve into this subject more in the future. In the meantime, I highly recommend reading any or all of the books listed at the bottom if you want to learn more about these complicated issues. I have a little bit of a legal background, so the suggested books aren’t weighted in my favour (in fact I encourage reading material that explicitly disagrees with your viewpoint), and as always I welcome good, constructive debate. I also look forward to discussing these issues with the good people of Las Vegas in the very near future, as well as further development of general discussion on the issue, and pushing more support for our small farmers and ranchers of America.
I don't have much fun stuff for this one, except for these two clowns
The cost of producing meat in the traditional sense has been increasing steadily since the 1930s, but when you consider inflation, consumers are paying roughly the same, if not less than they were 50 years ago. This has led to meat producers developing new and profound ways to cut costs over the decades. In order to produce meat profitably and maintain the retail price status quo to the average Joe or Josephine, animals have been reduced to commodities and treated as such, with the mission seemingly to produce as much animal meat as quickly as possible for as little as possible.
A typical meat “farm” scenario in the US typically involves huge metal sheds, jam packed with animals who never see daylight, and with a stench and chemical fumes from faeces so strong, that if the air conditioning were to break down, the animals would suffocate in minutes. Bacteria and a lack of space leads to a number of deaths through illness, stroke or heart failure, despite the animals being pumped with antibiotics upon arrival in the factory. These companies account for this and write off 5-10% of any given “batch”. Can you imagine an actual farmer writing off 10% of his herd?
For those especially unfortunate breeds, namely pork and poultry, factory farming is more the norm than not in the US. With overcrowded living spaces, routine use of antibiotics and shortened animal lifespans, these “farms” are about as far removed from the traditional picture of a farm as you can get. These methods however are the only way that retailers selling meat at these prices can afford to do so, and no sunny image of a farm or the countryside on the label can defer from that fact.
This remains both an animal welfare and a human health issue, as I believe the true effect on humans from consuming meat of medically treated animals has yet to be fully realised.
Environmentally speaking, it also seems nonsensical to use a field’s worth of grain to feed an animal instead of using the same field for grass which could feed an entire herd of the same animals.
Furthermore, should the meat on your plate have acquired more air miles than you? Beef from Uruguay or lamb from New Zealand might be cheaper to import than to produce here but it isn’t always about the bottom line, when you consider the environmental impact plus, the unknown “farming” methods and practices of those countries.
The adage of voting with your feet has never been truer. Whether you are picking up a pack of chicken breasts for $3 or enjoying a meal in a local restaurant, have you wondered where the meat came from, or how it was produced?
I feel that the right way to raise animals for food is the way that most people actually think it’s done, on a farm, with fields and farmers who care about the animals they raise.
I firmly believe that animal welfare and meat quality go hand in hand; you can actually see and taste the difference between intensively reared and free-range meat. I want the meat we eat to be ethically and sustainably sourced, from actual farms where the farmer can work his or her land, rotating livestock through fields to promote growth, and using traditional methods to maintain that sustainability. This care and attention shines through in the quality of the final product.
I am also a realist, and I don’t have all the answers, but I do think it’s possible to return to more traditional practices, the fact is, ranchers and farmers are doing it now in the US and across the world. Unfortunately, as long as there is demand for cheap, intensively reared meat from tortured animals, the big factories will keep churning it out. It would take change from the top down and I don’t know if I see that happening, especially with the lobbying system here, but you never know.
So, if you’re normally not that fussed on animal welfare, have a think about the impact on the health of yourself and your family, plus we challenge you to try meat from us or a similar proper and ethical butcher and say it isn’t better tasting that the cheaper stuff.
If you eat less meat, make sure it’s better meat, raised the right way.
Feel free to ask us about where our meat comes from.
For some interesting discussion, please see :
Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer – 2009
Defending Beef – Nicolette Hahn Niman – 2014
Planet Chicken – Hattie Ellis – 2007
Sacred Cow – Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf - 2020
And these two, have a good week !
We'll be announcing our grand opening this week, and look forward to welcoming you soon. x