I follow a lot of vegetarian and vegan blogs even though I discovered healthier living by giving up vegetarianism almost two years ago.
So I was excited to read Une Vie Saine’s recent post about whole foods and her follow-up post, Beans and Fats, both of which touched on the healthfulness of a vegetarian or vegan diet. Until the end of 2009, I had been a “pescatarian”—someone who only eats fish—for seven years.
I realized that a lot of my vegetarian food was processed and contained ingredients I couldn’t exactly identify. Reading the back of a Morningstar box, I often could recognize only one or two ingredients—typically corn or soy. This troubled me because I had given up meat to maintain a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Corn and soy are the biggest monoculture crops in the country, which destroy natural ecosystems and soil fertility. Since the two crops are so heavily subsidized by the government, farmers are disinclined to grow anything else (i.e. fruits and vegetables). That’s why processed food is so cheap in this country. It’s also the reason meat is so cheap, since corn is usually force-fed to cattle, pigs and poultry. Buying faux meat products supports the same crop industry that allows the meat industry—and all the horrors of factory farming—to be so successful.
I gave up fake meat to find more sustainable forms of protein. Many of these foods are vegan—beans, lentils, nuts and unprocessed tofu, but I also eat poultry and fish, not to mention dairy and eggs. I added chicken and turkey back into my diet after realizing I needed to cut back on my fish intake. The Cove and Darwin’s Nightmare, two excellent documentaries, showed me how many forms of fishing can be devastating to marine and human life. I now eat fish a couple times a week, taking a cue from the sustainable seafood guide put out by The Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Poultry, though, is a whole different game. I only eat birds that I believe are ethically raised and thus more environmentally sustainable and safer to consume. Finding them has been no easy task, however, especially since labels like “organic,” “antibiotic free,” and “free range” often don’t mean much.
So I was thrilled when I came across the Certified Humane label.
According to their website, the Certified Humane Raised and Handled program “is a certification and labeling program that is the only animal welfare label requiring the humane treatment of farm animals from birth through slaughter.”
I trust this program not just because it is endorsed by the ASPCA and the Center for Food Safety, but because its certification process is so transparent. The website provides detailed descriptions of the organization’s inspection procedures and lists the professional backgrounds of its board and staff members.
Currently, I buy chicken from Murray’s Farms and eggs from either Giving Nature or Pete & Gerry’s. (These products also happen to be local.) I used to buy Applegate Farms turkey, but gave it up when I saw its certification was not renewed.
I’ve had no qualms about eating poultry raised under these standards. I believe that I am helping animals by eating humanely raised meat from local farmers instead of vegetarian products from huge industrial farms.