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humane meat for human consumption

Today I started reading a book that I thought was going to be about balanced nutrition and small portions, and exercise, and funny. It turned out to be a diatribe about being a vegan. Not gonna happen here. In my opinion, that constitutes deprivation. PLEASE DO NOT MAKE THIS THREAD INTO A DEBATE ABOUT VEGAN OR OMNIVOROUS EATING!!!! To me all food groups, good wine and good coffee, all in moderation, are among the simple pleasures of life. You are welcome to disagree, but please not here.

That said, the book did go on about the hellish nature of slaughter houses-- how animals are skinned and their brains boiled alive; how animal flesh falls to the ground, into excrement (human and animal) and roaches and gets picked up and passed on to the public, etc. The authors so much as said that neither Kosher, nor free range slaughtering can be trusted to be either humane or hygenic.

Bearing all of that in mind, here is my question. Does anyone know the truth FOR CERTAIN, because you know for SURE about slaughtering? is there some source for meat that is killed humanely? What about raised humanely? Can Whole Foods market be trusted in this regard?


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  1. I would certainly not trust WF. You need to find a local meat producer in your area with a farm that you can visit. Ask what the animals are fed, and what measures are taken to ensure that they are humanely slaughtered. I live in a small town in the midwest, and can do this.

    5 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      That's a really lovely suggestion, but I live in the Pasadena area of California. I don't think there are any nearby farms. (the produce people hold local farmers markets, but not meat as far as I know) I should have said that to begin with. Why wouldn't you ( or anyone else out there) not trust Whole Foods? I'm not saying we should; I'm just asking why not?

      1. re: withabandon

        There are definitely meat producers at local LA Farmer's Markets. Healthy Family Farms comes to mind:

      2. re: pikawicca

        I actually would trust WF, because there are SO many people and organizations that love to find fault with them, that I don't think they can get away with much. People are ready to pounce. (Along the same lines, a local natural food cooperative that always made a big deal out of selling only sustainable fish once ended up on the front page of a Seattle daily after someone did an expose and found one of the fish they were selling was not caught according to guidelines. The front page! People loooove to take down organizations that they think are holier-than-thou).

        That said, I'd still trust my farmer's market guy more, and like others said, you should be able to find meat producers there. I think there have been similar instances at markets, where people who claimed to be growing organically weren't, etc. So can we know "the truth for certain"? Probably not. But can you know it about anything? Were your clothes made in a sweatshop by 8 year olds? Is someone back in the kitchen of your favorite Chinese restaurant a vicitim of human trafficking? Those of us that are concerned about this kind of stuff do the best we can to find out info, make judgments, and spend our money accordingly.

        1. re: christy319

          WF now has an animal welfare rating system for their meat department. everything is ranked and labeled - from 1 to 5+ - according to how the animals were housed, fed, raised/treated and slaughtered. as far as transparency goes, it's the best you'll get outside of interacting directly with the farmers. obviously there's never a guarantee - no system is infallible - but i like the fact that the one at WF is run by the Global Animal Partnership.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Agreed. A while back I was looking to buy a rabbit. I checked with WF and they said they haven't found a supplier who measures up to their requirements. I don't buy much there but when I do, I like them.

      3. I do not have any recommendations but I do know that renowned animal behaviorist and author, Temple Grandin, has designed (and I believe patented) chutes and various other equipment to ensure efficient, non-threatening passage of cattle into slaughterhouses, and humane dispatching of the animals. A partial answer might be to search around online for info as to what packing houses use her equipment and what brands their meat is sold under.

        1. This is not FOR CERTAIN, but I did read somewhere that slaughterhouse animals are killed instantly because if they're stressed it makes the meat taste gamey. I have noticed it occasionally in bought beef (tastes a bit like liver). Wild game tastes like that, apparently due to adrenaline produced when they're being hunted/shot at but not killed right away. I've only ever had venison, though.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hsk

            The 'Gameyness" that you refer to in hunted meat is a product of diet and post mortality handling of the meat, not due to adrenaline. Something about managing a carcass in 90 degree temperatures in the field...

          2. Sadly, I think the only answer is to get personally involved with your meat while it's still on the hoof, so to speak, and to know who's doing what to it and when while it's in the interim peroid between slaughter and table.

            Otherwise, nothing's for sure. Paying a premium for organic this or free-range that might ease one's mind, but it does nothing to guarantee the animal was humanely treated and its meat hygenically handled...

            I've read about Temple Grandin's designs and while I guess they seem unconventional (not that I know much about cattle) I can certainly see how they'd make for a far less stressful environment.

            Grandin or not, though, there is always going to be a large amount of stress placed on any animal that goes to a slaughter plant -- from the shipping (often in double-decker trucks) to the feedlots to the queue-up line for the deed itself.

            I know with horses they're required to stun with a captive bolt before the animal is actually killed. Not sure about cattle.

            1. i like meat ,but i did a sandblasting job at the local meatmarket .on the wall above the kill room was about a hundred 22 bullet holes.thats alot off misses or near misses(bad shot anyways)big slaughterhouses are usually more humain as thay use bolts

              1. this is also an issue of taste -- humanely raised AND killed meat, tastes a lot better.

                i solve this by using a butcher who gets to know the meat they sell while it's on the hoof and who also cares about this issue-- fortunately, he's also very close to me (part of why i live where I do). Once you start eating 'happy meat' you'll really notice the difference.

                1. The best approach is to find a local farmer and check out his methods. I'd be really surprised if you don't have any producers near you. You can look for them at the following websites:
                  If you want to stick to buying at the supermarket, look for the Animal Welfare Approved label, or ask the guy at the meat counter for AWA meats. Their standards, birth to slaughter, are so humane as to actually be overkill. Unlike labels such as organic, cage free, all natural, at cetera, this one actually means something, and is tightly monitored by a very good non-profit. Here is their website so you can check out their standards for yourself, and find approved products:

                  1. This article was in the Denver Post a couple months ago. While I don't take everything I read at face value, it is nice to read about people doing right by the animal. I agree with the other posters, the best way to ensure you're getting humanely raised & killed meat , is to research & ask many questions. Here in Wyoming, we have the chance to buy cows, chickens, pigs, etc at our local 4-H fair. We then arrange for it to be butchered and cut. Of course all that meat requires a big freezer, but we know where the meat came from, how it was raised, and how it was slaughtered.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jcattles

                      Having lived on a farm most of my life, I will give view. 1st, my dad said never name something you're going to eat. 2nd, if you like meat, don't ask where it comes from. Putting down an animal is not a nice thing to see. But it is getting more humane. The butcher in the store gets his meat in big boxes from some big meat packer, so he does not know how it was raised and killed. A lot of meat is now imported and there are very few small packing houses do to the open southern border. The best thing to do is find a custom butcher and buy 1/2 or 1/4 beef from him. Like I said, the more you think, the more likely you will become a vegan. But of course if you seen how wine was made, like I have, well I just drink water.

                      1. re: yakitat jack

                        I've seen, participated in, and thought a lot about, a variety of different methods for each step in the meat production process, and I've never seen anything that made me even vaguely consider being a vegan. It has, however, made me unwilling to buy most commercially available meat.
                        As to butchers, there's a big difference between an actual butcher and a guy who calls his meat market a butcher shop. A real butcher does the actual butchering, which means getting whole carcasses, sides, or quarters, cutting into primals, and preparing cuts for sale. Most "butcher shops" do get already butchered primals, or even prepared cuts, from a meat packer. Real butchery is mostly a lost art, but you can still find real butchers. They will usually know where the meat came from, as they tend to buy direct from the source.
                        What could you possibly find objectionable about winemaking?

                    2. I ran into the same issue after reading "Fast Food Nation". I knew I had to find some ethically raised and slaughtered meat or become a vegetarian, and that wasn't even an option. So I went looking, and I didn't have to go far. Found a guy at my state Farmer's Market that had some literature on the benefits of pasture raised beef. I got to talking to him, and once we got past the fact that I was already convinced about the benefits of his cows eating grass we got to talking about the slaughtering process. He said that he didn't get a lot of questions about that, but he was happy to talk about it. Not that he didn't have some complaints. He takes his cattle to a place that does the slaughter/butchering/packaging/freezing all on the same premises, and he supervises the process. He said there has to be a USDA guy there, but that he was basically useless, and he resented the fact the guy got paid to sit and drink coffee. Anyway, I told him I was interested in purchasing a whole tenderloin, but not frozen, and wondered if that was possible. I told him I could meet him at this place and bring a cooler. He wasn't 100% sure if he could legally do that and we never ended up following up on it, but he didn't have an issue with me seeing the process. He also had no problem with me coming out to his farm and seeing how his cattle were treated.

                      1. Niman Ranch is the one large meat supplier I know of that makes a very big deal out of raising its animals both humanely and sustainably, using best practices for breeding, housing and feeding. If I could afford their prices I'd eat nothing else, though perhaps this is simply ducking a much greater issue: SHOULD meat be as cheap as factory farming allows it to be? Am I not being kind of a spoiled brat here? Like our assumption that cheap gasoline is an American birthright, or the way we've driven the garment industry almost entirely offshore by expecting the prices that are based on 5ยข-an-hour wages. That's a nasty conundrum, and a straight answer can only be uncomfortable, I suspect.

                        1. The OP asks two questions - one about humane animal raising, the other about humane slaughter.

                          I know about nothing "for certain", as I am neither an organic farmer nor a slaughterman.

                          So I have to take matters on trust. I buy organic meat direct from the farmer. I have to trust him when he says he raises to verifiable and certificated organic standards. I have to trust him when he says slaughter is carried out by a small nearby abattoir, so animals are not stressed by long journies. I have to trust that the abattoir acts in accordance with legislation governing their practices.

                          1. When I can, I buy meat from the local farms (not organic because they haven't paid to be certified organic). I'm not a fan of WF because I find their customer service ridiculous and their founder despicable even if their stores are run with zero emissions.

                            Soon, we plan to start with a medium-sized chest freezer, but once we get the oil tank removed from the basement (if the gas company and condo president ever gets his s*&% together so we can upgrade to gas), a larger freezer would be great--for game, a side of local beef, half a pig, etc. My in-laws started raising chickens and ducks 2 years ago, so we hope to get some of those too (the livers were already saved for us). We know 100% that these were happily and humanely raised ducks and chickens who were slaughtered in a clean environment. I don't know about the stress, however.

                            1. I'm sorry but you said yourself the book turned out to be a diatribe about veganism. I have been inside slaughterhouses as a truck driver and all that (insert expletive here) that you read in the book is nothing but lies attempting to sicken you into eating their way. The FDA keeps an eagle eye on slaughterhouses from the cattle pens until the meat is boxed and loaded onto trucks for transport.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                wow, i didn't know anyone actually still believed the FDA was capable of effectively protecting and regulating our food supply.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Try to imagine what it would be like without the FDA or USDA.

                                  1. re: kengk

                                    sure it would be worse...but anyone who doesn't think there's still room for vast improvement is kidding themselves.

                                    and just because PotatoHouse hasn't personally witnessed inhumane animal farming and meat processing doesn't mean the problems don't exist.

                              2. I am SURE that the animals I kill myself have been killed in a humane manner. Chickens get one swift blow of hatchet through their neck. They are kept calm until the blade strikes.

                                I also harvest wild game and am fastidious about making sure that I can deliver an appropriate shot to the proper spot before pulling the trigger. To me they suffer less with the slaughter than any domestic animal possibly could.

                                I wouldn't particularly trust what anybody else says on the matter.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: kengk

                                  I'm sure you're right, kengk. Here in the UK, the usual way of despatching even farmed deer is by shooting them. It's quick and, as far as producers can tell, does not appear to upset other members of the herd.

                                2. We in the 'West' generally are so insulated from the reality of slaughtering the animals we eat. What goes on in third world countries would give Charlie Manson nightmares.
                                  I was waiting for a bus at a dusty hot bus station in a little town in central Mexico once. I was sitting on a bench in the burning sun. Directly across the narrow road were two huge doors big enough for trucks to drive through. Just beyond the doors was the local slaughter house. The scene was out of a horror show. Pigs screaming trying to escape. Men chasing them hacking away with machetes. Cows still alive hanging upside down. Blood and guts ankle deep. MILLIONS or blue bottle fries on EVERYTHING. Dogs gagging on chicken guts. And that was in Mexico. I'll spare you what things are like in Johannesburg.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Puffin3

                                    surprisingly, when i was in Hong Kong, a cosmopolitan city, unexpectedly i witnessed some dreadful sights too

                                  2. Personally I trust Whole Foods on their rating system. That said, most of the pork I eat is slaughtered by my family in the Fall and kept in the freezer for the remaining year till the next slaughter comes along. I know the person raising the hog, so I personally can feel okay when the animal is dispatched because he had a happy life right until the moment when he met the maker.