Ethical meat: What I’ve learned

So, my recent post on ethical dairy seems to have gone down a storm so I figured I’d fill you guys in on how we choose and buy our meat.


Having found our middle ground we have our own little system for choosing where we buy our meat. We go by 4 easy steps:

  1. Buy from your local butchers or farm! We live in the centre of the city so we use a local butchers called Rare, they are an incredibly knowledgeable and passionate team who know all there is to know about butchery. Chris, one of the butchers, even gave us a little tour of their freezers/ fridges and explained the process from delivery to our shopping bags! My partner’s parents live the opposite to us and live close to working farms so they go and speak directly to the producers. For Christmas we enjoyed a turkey, for example, that was bred not only locally to them but also slaughtered on site, giving the bird the least possible stress.
  2. Slaughtering on site or as near as physically possible is also a must for us. This is also why buying from butchers and farmers are great. We go into Rare and they can tell us where the meat has come from, which farm, and also which abattoir they use. For us, we only buy certain beef because the super local farmers are no more than an hour away from the abattoir, whereas some farms are just over 2 – so these we don’t buy from. Transportation is stressful for animals, supermarket meat, for example, can often be from animals that have travelled hundreds of miles. In other words – very. unhappy. animals. Research has shown that stress in these animals (chickens, cows, pigs, sheep etc.) can cause illness and, to look at it selfishly, bad meat. Worrying after the livestock, stress can be seen to cause an imbalance in their internal systems. If you read ‘How Stress affects Livestock Health’ in Farmer’s Weekly it explains how, when the balance in the body is disrupted (the animal is stressed), it can cause diseases within animals such as Pasteurellosis, which is aptly also known as ‘Shipping Fever’. If you don’t know the distance just whip out Google maps for a check. The less stress the better!
  3.  Animals also need to have lived a peaceful, happy, natural life up to slaughter. Much like with our standards for dairy cows, we demand these same standards for our meat. All the meat we buy has come from free range farms, where the animals are protected but fed nothing unnatural (no concentrates!) and live as they do in the wild as it were. Our chicken, for example, comes from a farm called Castlemead where the chickens are sheltered at night from naughty foxes but roam Somerset fields during the daytime, eating natural cereal based feeds but also the bugs, grit and grass that they find in their fields. Animals need to have natural lives, have the ability to explore and discover. We owe that to them for making the ultimate sacrifice. The farms are, for the most part, also small holdings, meaning the animals travel in very small numbers if at all and the farmers have a much more one-on-one relationship with their livestock.
  4. We don’t eat meat every day! You need to eat a little vegan to look after the planet and keep animal welfare standards high. If you talk to your grandparents they will explain to you, I’m sure, that you only had beef once a week for your roast and then beef sarnies if you were lucky from the leftovers. It’s not natural to gorge on meat everyday. If you follow these steps to buy your meat it would also make for a very expensive lifestyle. But this doesn’t need to be the case. We pop to our butchers several times a week and buy something for a roast or mince beef for example and this will last us several days and meals, if not the whole week. For the days in between, we cook veg filled goodies like vegetable stir-fry’s (click here for my simple recipe) or a vegetable, dairy free lasagne, for example. The impact on our environment is also a big factor to encouraging you not to eat meat everyday. The supply for livestock would lessen, creating less pressure on farmers but also on the methane footprint we leave on our planet every day and would lessen the need to chop down woodland for more fields.


Here are some links I’ve discovered whilst trying to find some hard facts for you guys:

  • British Government Welfare regulations: This is an interesting one because it’s important to know the law but it shows how far ahead of the law these ideas really are. For example I lifted this straight out of the transportation document section, ‘You must have a valid transporter authorisation if your business transports vertebrate animals on journeys longer than 65 kilometres (about 40 miles). The type of authorisation you need depends on the total duration of your journeys.’ This implies that under 40 miles the animals could be transported in conditions which could cause them stress and it wouldn’t be against the law. I’d like to think most farmers would be thinking of their livestock but it leaves room for those few who try to bend the rules. Just a thought.
  • Farms not Factories! This is a fantastic organisation. Great ideas that support farmers and their livestock. Hopefully, in Britain you would see support in your local butchers for them. They highlight where the current farming system of mass production is failing our animal population and how we can go about changing the world’s perception of farming. Literally love these guys!
  • EU report on the welfare of animals during transport I have to admit, I have just skimmed this document (it’s a pdf) but it seems full of facts about animals welfare and the impacts of transporting them from farms to other farms and abattoirs. Let me know if you read it more in depth, I may try and take it up another day.
  • Stress incurred in transporting livestock I linked you up to this in my 4 steps to buying ethical meat above, but here’s the link again because it’s a farming online magazine and perhaps worth an explore to understand where the farmers are coming from too. Supporting our local farmers is a must if we want to insure happy animals!
  • Farm Health Online This is a great website, I found out the low down on ‘Shipping Fever’ here. It is a place where animal welfare and health information is shared to help create a more knowledgable livestock community accessible for all, including famers and vets alike.

Obviously, some other links are in my steps, such as Castlemead Poultry’s website and a website with information on our local butchers. I hope this helps you come to your own decisions.

L xx


P.s. I don’t know if I needed to properly reference these websites but these are all my own opinions on what I’ve read from them.

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