Below is a segment of Mother Earth News review of the book, Animal Factory. In “Animal Factory,” investigative journalist David Kirby exposes the powerful business and political interests behind large-scale factory farms, and tracks the far-reaching fallout that contaminates our air, land, water and food.
Six Steps to a More Sustainable Animal Diet
- Be label conscious. You have rights as a consumer, but you also have responsibilities, in my opinion, and that includes self-education and being savvy about labeling. In Animal Factory, I describe some of the competing food labels (organic, humane, cage-free, etc.) and the different criteria they require to earn their endorsement. There’s a lot of crossover, and a lot of confusion. Some consumers are now looking for what is widely considered to be the most stringent label of all: “Animal Welfare Approved.” AWA requires all animals to have pasture-based certification, prohibits the use of liquefied manure, and only certifies farms “whose owners own the animals, are engaged in the day to day management of the farm, and derive a share of their livelihood from the farm.” You can search this database of farms and where to find AWA products.
- Pick a protein. Begin your path toward being a more sustainable epicure one food at a time. Pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar, eggs, cheese or butter are good starter products. For example, I only buy humanely raised, certified-organic eggs at my local supermarket. They cost $3.99 a dozen versus the $1.99 a dozen for factory farmed eggs — a difference of about 16.5 cents an egg. And while I have the admitted luxury of not having to support a family, I am more than happy to double my costs and expend an extra 33 cents in the morning for my omelet. Organic (pasture-fed) cheese and butter also have manageable price point ratios to their commercial counterparts, so you may want to pick one of those as one of your switchover foods as well.
- Become cooperative. A few national chain stores — and of course your local farmers market (the ones in New York are a marvel) — are usually excellent and reliable sources of sustainably raised protein. But the prices can sometimes make you laugh out of sheer exasperation. I have seen $27 chickens, which, for most families, is too extravagant. On the other hand, I have seen $2.70 chickens in my supermarket, which, to me, at least seems too cheap for the life of a bird. Another alternative is to seek out a food coop in your area that specializes in local, sustainable meat and produce. I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which is home to the nation’s oldest co-op, which offers deep discounts on delicious, fresh, local meat, dairy and eggs. Unfortunately for me, the place is so popular that I have not yet been able to get a slot in the mandatory orientation for new membership. But I keep trying.
- Go red-tag shopping. I have noticed that the meat department at my local place tends to get rid of its older stuff on Mondays and Tuesdays, slapping a bright red, easy-to-spot sticker with the words “Manager’s Special” onto the cellophane. I make it a point to shop on those days or, sometimes if I am just passing by, I might pop in and make a quick run down the aisle, eyes peeled for those exciting red tags as I scan the row. The discounts are usually about 30 percent off the normal price, and sometimes more. Whole organic chickens are often reduced from $3.99 to $1.99 a pound. If you don’t eat it that day, freeze it.
- Go online. Another great resource for finding local, sustainably and humanely raised animal products is Sustainable Table, and its Eat Well Guide — with a ZIP-code based searchable database for farms, markets and restaurants in your area that offer food that did not take a toll on humans, animals or the environment before landing in your mouth.
- Eat less meat. This is a suggestion, not an order, and it doesn’t come from me, it comes from the Meatless Monday campaign. Reducing your animal protein even a little bit each week will contribute to easing worldwide animal demand from any source. Check out the Meatless Monday virtual online support group for temporary withdrawals of the flesh.