It’s an old saw— nobody wants to know how the sausage is made. We get it. But the way animals are treated is important. We may not talk about it or even think about it, but most of us want to believe that the meat we enjoy comes from animals that have been well treated. The world’s major religions even decree that righteous people take good care of their animals.
In addition to being the right thing to do, raising animals with care also makes good business sense. Animals from farms and ranches committed to animal welfare can produce better quality meat, which brings a better price at market.
Caring for animal welfare means providing the right food, in the right quantities, in the right way, giving animals all the time they need to eat. It also means raising them in pastures rather than in cages or crates, breeding them responsibly and providing good medical treatment – they shouldn’t be pumped full of hormones or other substances to make them bigger and therefore more profitable for the producers.
How can consumers know whether they’re getting meat from animals that are ethically and sustainably raised? Who’s paying attention to the way that animals are raised?
If you think the government is doing this, think again. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades meat to help livestock producers price their meat, to give consumers a uniform supply of meat of the quality they desire; and to assist in promoting and selling meat products. But grading is voluntary. Livestock producers aren’t required to submit their meat for grading. And there’s nothing in the USDA grades that tells consumers whether the meat comes from farms and ranches that treated the animals well.
It would take a private company’s commitment to giving its customers natural and organic food to bring about a way for customers to know they’re getting meat from farms and ranches committed to animal welfare.