Let’s face facts: America has a very deep-seated meat culture—and that’s not going to change any time soon. Despite the efforts of some food advocates to persuade people to stop eating meat, U.S. per capita meat consumption rose by a whopping 5 percent in 2015—the largest increase in over 40 years.
As an organization promoting high-welfare, sustainable food animal production—and working directly with thousands of livestock farmers and ranchers—this represents a real challenge. It’s now widely accepted that if we continue to consume such unsustainable levels of industrial meat, dairy and eggs, we’re all in big trouble. We urgently need to change what we eat and how it’s produced.
Over recent years, some food advocate groups have sought to find a ‘silver bullet’ solution that consumers can easily buy into, which will bring about the wholesale reform of industrial food animal production we so urgently need. While these efforts have resulted in some good (and some not so good) ideas, the food industry has always been sharper and far more effective at getting their message across to the consumer.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the environmental and animal welfare impacts of animal agriculture. First we were told to avoid processed meat; then we learned beef was the new villain; and now ALL meat is being vilified as bad for human health, animal welfare and the planet.
But is meat’s bad rap really deserved? While it’s great to see more people talking about the impact of our diets on the planet and animal welfare, encouraging the world to go meat-free misses the point entirely. Here’s why:
After years of delays, the U.S. National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has finally agreed the organic standards should encompass the treatment and welfare of animals. The big question is: will the proposed welfare standards actually change anything?
As detailed in the National Organic Program’s (NOP) Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, the proposed welfare standards would introduce a range of new requirements on the living conditions of organic animals, including transportation, slaughter and minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements. The proposals are intended to address what many see as a long-standing—and gaping—hole in the U.S. organic standards concerning the welfare of animals on organic farms, not to mention the huge shortcoming in consumer expectations of what the “organic” label actually stands for.