1. Happier and healthier animals
Meat that is produced on industrial farms often comes from farm animals that are kept in small, cramped, unsanitary spaces where their basic needs of life are not met. These animals often have so little space that chickens cannot spread their wings, and pigs cannot turn around in their crates. They are stressed their entire lives, subject to painful physical alterations, and are fed a poor diet. Needless to say, these animals do not have the ability to engage in their natural behaviours, and must be fed preventative antibiotics daily to keep them from continual sickness or premature death.
But there’s a better way. There’s a way to treat farm animals like sentient beings, instead of inventory. There’s a way to raise animals in an environment where their welfare is a top priority. To do that, there should be a fulsome animal welfare program in place that covers every aspect of the animals’ life, from feed, space allotment, handling, transportation and ultimately slaughter. If we raise animals for meat, the least we can do is provide them with the highest quality of life possible under the circumstances.
2. Higher Quality Meat
Buying a product that uses humanely raised meat means that you and your dog will be eating better; studies have shown that raising an animal in more humane conditions positively effects the makeup of their meat. Animals raised on factory farms have high levels of stress-induced hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which results in Pale Soft Exudative (PSE). PSE meat has a lighter color and is acidic and tasteless. Hundreds of millions of dollars of pork is discarded every year due to PSE. By minimizing the stress of the animal, this degradation of meat quality can be avoided altogether.
Studies have also shown that meat from humanely raised animals has elevated nutritional qualities, such as lower levels of saturated fat and Omega-6 Fatty Acids, and a higher content of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Humanely raised meat has also been shown to have higher levels of antioxidants likes Vitamin E and beta-carotene. Plus, the routine use of non-therapeutic antibiotics and growth hormones on factory farms can result in pass-through into our food, and largely contributes to the growing issue of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
3. Supporting local farmers and their communities
With the industrialization of the farming landscape, it became more and more difficult for family farmers who wanted to raise their meat naturally and humanely to compete. The commoditization of meat prices meant that farmers had less money to put toward raising animals. Less money meant less space, worse conditions, and worse feed for the animals. The goal became to grow the animals as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible. Fortunately, in recent years, consumers have started demanding a higher level of animal welfare, quality and transparency from meat producers, and they have demonstrated a willingness to pay a premium for these benefits. This has created a market for ethically raised meat, and more incentive and support for farmers who want to raise their animals the right way.
4. It's better for the environment
The inconvenient truth is that raising animals for meat production is not good for the environment. However, there are more or less environmentally responsible ways to do it. There is an argument to be made that family farmers who are trying to do right by their animals, are more often trying to do right by their land as well. Factory farms contribute to many serious environmental issues. The need to dispose of massive amounts of animal waste produced on factory farms has damaging effects on water, air and soil. Not to mention the tremendous amount of fossil fuels and water needed to feed, house and transport the animals. There is a host of issues which we will cover in a subsequent article, but asking environment-related questions of meat producers will help you find responsible farmers who act as stewards for their land.
5. You're voting with your dollars
The shift toward more humane and sustainable practices in the farming industry has been driven by consumer demand. Consumers have shown that they are willing to pay a little more for reputable animal welfare labels such as Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership. By putting your dollars behind humane brands, you’re using your purchasing power to support animal welfare – and demand impacts supply! As a consumer, your purchases have power and can make a meaningful impact for farm animals.