I was a vegetarian for a long time, starting when I was 13. My friend, Jen, said that she thought if she couldn’t kill an animal herself, she shouldn’t eat it, and I was easily influenced. My Dad also went vegetarian around the same time for health reasons, so it was an easy decision, and my little sister (now a pescetarian and my go-to sustainable resource) followed suit. Finally, when I was a junior in college, I started craving chicken. I don’t know if I needed the protein, or what it was, but I made the decision to end my vegetarian days. I’d be making plans to go out to dinner with friends, and when asked where I wanted to go, I’d say, “Somewhere that has chicken.” My friends were like, “Janet… everywhere has chicken.” Heh.
But until recently, I never thought that much about where my meat comes from. I eat red meat rarely (heh, no pun intended), though I like it. Mainly I buy chicken and turkey, but I had no idea about the horrendous conditions many of these animals were raised in. Honestly, it took the media attention around California’s recent Prop 2 to really enlighten me and make me think about where my meat is coming from. I’d been buying organic, “free range” chicken for awhile, but usually from Whole Foods, who sells Rosie Chicken, and I’d heard from friends who read The Omnivore’s Dilemma that the chickens are not actually living such a lovely life. What’s a meat-eating girl to do? I’ve been trying to research humanely-raised meat lately, and it can be really frustrating. I came across this great site, The Ethicurian, which is a good resource for finding sustainable, ethical food. Still, it’s not easy. I’ve been shopping at Bi-Rite for the last few weeks, as they carry meat from Marin Sun Farms, which produces pasture-raised livestock. And I’ve been buying chicken breasts there that come from Fulton Valley Farms after reading this post about their chicken farm. For turkey, I’ve been buying Diestel or Applegate Farms – Applegate has a few products that are Certified Humane, though they seem to only be their pork products – and I’ve been buying Niman Ranch Bacon (which Bi-Rite sells by the slice – sweet!). I also ordered a special heritage turkey for Thanksgiving – though it has to come all the way from Kansas. The great local/organic/humane debate rages on. I’ve been trying hard to research all these companies and farms, but there isn’t always perfect information out there. My sister says a good thing to do is to ask if you can visit a farm, but I haven’t gone this far at this point. I’m still not totally sure how I feel about the whole situation. Just because they aren’t certified, doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t humane, but there are also a lot of places that claim to be humane and ethical, but really aren’t. I don’t really know enough yet. I’m not willing to give up meat at this point, because my body craves it, but I’m doing my best to make smart, ethical decisions. I’ll continue to research and post about this topic and I’d love to hear from others who also care about this issue! Any great resources out there that I don’t know about?