Can You Be Cruelty-Free and Eat Meat?

February

17

by Becky // in Food

It's all so confusing at times, isn't it? If you wear a particular perfume, you might be aiding in the mistreatment of rats.

By taking a life-saving prescription medication, you could be unintentionally supporting experimental testing done on chimpanzees or rabbits. 

When you eat meat, it is impossible to deny that an animal gave its life for that meal. It makes you wonder - is it possible to be cruelty-free and still eat meat?

Can You Be Cruelty-Free and Eat Meat?

Since there is no definitive labeling for meat products to indicate a product's cruelty-free status, it is left up to a consumer's moral quandary. With awareness of labels, intentional purchasing, and avoiding factory-farmed meat, it is possible to support higher welfare standards for animals.

To determine if honey can be cruelty-free, you must know how the bees are treated that make that honey. There are a lot of questions to ask when it comes to finding honey that is indeed cruelty-free.

Read on for tips to make the process of finding cruelty-free honey easier.

How to Be Less Cruel to Animals and Still Eat Meat

Steak

It is an unfortunate truth; animals need to die for people to eat meat. Ultimately, the death of animals is something that can't be avoided if you want to keep meat in your diet.

That doesn't mean that you can't still do something about the mistreatment of animals. There are a few things that you can do to limit suffering, and they aren't challenging to do.

All it will take from you is a little reading and some due diligence. What can you do?

Limit Your Impact by Learning to Read Labels

Even though cruelty-free labels are reserved for non-food items, there are still many types of labels on food packaging that can direct you towards producers that treat animals well.

Thanks to the power of the internet, it is possible that you can learn to recognize the types of labeling that honest companies use to indicate that they treat their animals with care.

Many of the labels that you regularly see at the store are misleading, if not outright lies. Most labeling on meat products, at least from the largest suppliers, are all marketing. 

They come up with compelling phrases and terms that make it seem like they care about their animals' welfare, but frankly, it is only a gimmick to sell more meat. Here are some examples of some labels. Let's see if you can guess which ones are purposely misleading:

  • Cage-Free Chicken
  • Ethically Raised
  • Naturally Raised
  • No Added Hormones
  • Omega-3 Enriched Eggs

If you guessed that any of these terms indicate that the animals' welfare was taken into account, improved, or monitored in any way, you're mistaken.

None of these terms guarantee that the animal was treated better. These labels are usually indicators of deficient standards of treatment and cruel factory farming practices.

For example, "Cage-Free Chicken" is meaningless. Birds raised for meat in the U.S. are never caged. Cages are reserved for egg-laying birds. Meat birds live in giant hangar-style pens with hundreds or thousands of other birds.

Factory farming chickens is far from cruelty-free. It is one of the most unethical, unsanitary and unhealthy ways to raise livestock. So, why is it done? To drive higher chicken production and higher sales.

Read our article “Is It Cruel to Eat Chicken?” to find out what you can do to help the situation.

This label does nothing more than tug at the heartstrings of the purchaser. So if you don’t know what to believe next time you’re in the store – you can always check out this guide from awionline.org.

They show every type of label you might find on meat packaging and how to decode them so that you can find meat from producers that care about the welfare of their livestock. 

Buy Your Meat from Places That Treat Animals Well

There are more ways to purchase your meat than by heading to the supermarket. Even if you live out in the boonies, other sources are available that don't rely on factory farming. Here are some great options for buying better meat.

  • Your Local Farmer's Market: Even the smallest towns have a farmer's market at least once a week. In your town, there could be one every day of the week in different parts of town. Locally sourced meat means that meat came from a smaller, independent operation. So, you know that the animals were much less likely to be subjected to the horrors of factory farming. Also, you can talk with the farmers themselves. You can purchase precisely what you want.
  • Order Online: It might be a bit more expensive, but well worth it. The ASPCA has a great tool that can help you see which companies follow the best practices regarding animal welfare. Check that out here.
  • Buy Straight from The Ranch: Once you've found a reputable farmer, you can buy straight from them. Many ranchers do special deals for repeat customers or those that buy in bulk. So, stock your freezer while supporting a farmer who cares about animals.

Eat Less Meat, Kill Fewer Animals

This one is simple math. Eat fewer animals, kill fewer animals. Somewhere along the way, the diet in the developing world became very meat-heavy.

A study done in 2004 found that the average American consumed 128 grams of meat per day. Compare that to the the recommended serving for an average, sedentary man of 56 grams per day – and you can see how disproportionately big our portions have become.

It's no surprise that 70 percent of Americans are now considered overweight or obese.

Not only is it unhealthy to eat so much meat, but it is also altogether cruel. By simply reducing your daily meat allotment to one meal, or even one day a week, you can personally impact the meat market.

What Foods to Avoid Altogether

Burgers

This should come as no surprise, but fast food and processed foods, like frozen and prepared meals, sell a lot of meat.

The increased demand for meat created by these institutions means that a lot of that meat comes from animals that were treated inhumanely. The animals that produce that meat are more-than-often mistreated en masse due to large-scale factory farming-style operations. 

There are some foods to avoid altogether as there is no way to make them without causing intense harm to animals. Here are some things to avoid.

  • Fast Food Burgers: Fast food burgers are so in demand that the supply side utilizes giant grinders to produce meat in large quantities. This means that your burger is likely made up of dozens or more different cows.
  • Veal: Veal is made from baby cows. The food and the amount of room they are given are severely limited. The young cows often develop health problems and abnormal behaviors from the separation from their mothers and the tight confinement.
  • Foie Gras: Foie Gras is a French delicacy made from a goose or duck's fatty liver. To grow the animal's liver to over ten times its average size, they are force-fed, and their housing is limited in space.

Other foods necessitate cruelty in their production, but these are some of the most common and the worst, in our opinion.


For example, one that is often overlooked is lobster. Eating this crustacean is cruel and to find out why you can read our article, “Is it Cruel to Boil a Live Lobster.” For more reading on the topic and an extended list, read this article from prevention.com.

Summary

There are ways that you can still eat meat and be more mindful of what kind of animal treatment you support. While there is no way to eat meat without an animal's death, this, of course, comes down to a moral quandary. 

Hopefully, this article has helped you to be able to find food from producers with which you agree. Before we part, check out these useful resources:

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