With the “horse meat scandal” recently gripping our attention in the press, we thought it was about time to set the story straight and help our readers to understand the dire situation we currently have with our meat purchasing practices.
Meat is a source of iron, protein and provides a number of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet. However, in the EU we are currently consuming around 2.5 times the recommended amount of meat and the NHS now recommend that people should be consuming no more than 70g of meat a day to ensure good health.
A recent document written by Compassion in World Farming, in combination with Slow Food and Action Aid, has highlighted the need for changes in our current meat consumption in the UK. You can see the full report here: Too Much at Steak and we have provided a brief summary of the important points below.
Standard industrial farming and what it means:
- Our desire for excessive meat consumption and the belief that it should be cheap, drives farmers to produce large quantities of low quality meat.
- The more cheap meat we buy, the higher the environmental costs e.g. public health, animals, farmers, the environment.
- For every 100 calories of food fed to livestock, only 30 calories are produced (that excess could have been used to feed the hungry in under-developed countries).
- Industrial livestock production produces huge quantities of manure and requires the use of environment damaging pesticides and fertilisers. Even our honey bees are dying out from this!
- Industrial meat production is therefore clearly a large contributor to climate change and greenhouse gases.
- Producing a kilo of beef is equivalent in energy to leaving a100-watt light bulb switched on for 20 days!
- Animals fed grains rather than fed naturally on grass or forage have lower levels of omega-3s; this means those eating poor quality meat may also be low in essential omega-3s.
- The modern intensively farmed dairy cow is the hardest working of all farmed animals and is killed after around 4 years (rather than naturally after 15 years) when they are so worn out that they become infertile and so are of no use to farmers.
- Animals are treated as commodities and kept in unnatural environments often with no lighting, no space to move and in their own excrement.
- The long transport times of live animals also puts them under a lot of stress and high doses of antibiotics and other drugs are often used to reduce infections due to close confinement.Many farms are going out of business as there are very small returns for the farmers after supermarkets and processed food industries take their cut.
So what can YOU do about it:
- Base your diet on plant foods “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” (Michael Pollen).
- Choose local products, including meat where possible by checking the label.
- Try different cuts of meat as the parts of the animal that are not purchased are just wasted which leads to a higher demand for meat.
- Buy different types of meat rather than just opting for chicken and steak.
- Ask about the welfare standards of the meat and meat products you buy.
- Eat less meat but choose a higher quality meat when you do so.
- Check standards of particular brands see www.compassioninfoodbusiness.com and use the higher standard companies more often.
- Avoid overly cheap meat prices as these are a sign of exploitation.