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Eating Animals

Just finished reading Eating Animals by J.S. Foer. Powerful indictment of factory farming. The most unsettling part may relate to the cruelty inflicted on the animals we consume. Other than a CSA is there anywhere in Boston/Cambridge where I can find meat that was raised in an ethical way. According to Foer, many labels like "cage-free" are hardly to be believed and designed to be misleading.

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  1. You'll need to ask good questions of your butcher. Savenor's, which is pricy, has a lot of locally-sourced, small-ish farms they source. There's a small store on Tremont (used to be Lionette's, now its something like DeLeo's?, right near Stephanie's South End that also has options. For farms, Stillman's sells out of Farmer's markets and, at least last year, they had a stall in the Downtown Crossing XMas market. You can buy directly from farms without being in a CSA, such as Blood Farm in Groton.

    Tremont Cafe
    418 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116

    7 Replies
    1. re: bostonbroad

      Verrill Farms is also pretty good in their treatment of animals. They have that store out in Concord (and right next door in Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds), and I think that Verrill is carried at some local stores. Dave's Fresh pasta is actually a pretty great store in regards to their sourcing, and their "Fresh This Week at Dave's" newletter gives some specifics with regards to the farms that they carry. The labeling at Savenors requires a lot of questions in my experience. Especially their seafood section, but also many of the meats. But they are still a good source for responsibly-raised meats. And the milk from The High Lawn Farm in Lee, MA (carried at whole foods, dave's, etc) is delicious (especially the chocolate milk) and from happy cows.

      Verrill Farm
      11 Wheeler Rd, Concord, MA, MA 01742

      Backyard Birds
      159 Wheeler Rd, Concord, MA 01742

      1. re: bostonbroad

        Don Otto (the store on tremont you referred to) has closed its doors

        1. re: Wannabfoode

          Don Otto's has closed? When did that happen?

          1. re: Wannabfoode

            Noooooo. I hope against hope that this is not true. I loved Lionette's (when I cooked meat for friends/family that's where I got it) and was wary when Don Ottos took over management. My fears have come true.

              1. re: Wannabfoode

                Very recently, and it seemed inevitable. I gave up after the third time they didn't have something I'd consider pretty basic (whole chicken, beef stew meat, pork sausage). It was an odd place after changing hands.
                I would love to see Savenor's move in but realize it's wishful thinking.

              2. re: bostonbroad

                Stillman's also comes into Boston and sells meat at random "Meet Meets."

                Chef JJ Gonson usually announces them on her blog and you post a comment on about what you want or call Kate at Stillman's to order. There is usually some extra stuff on the truck for those who just show up.


                Here are recent Boston Board conversations related to this topic:


                Here's a local Harvest page where you can search for meat suppliers.


                Looks like I should write a Fresh & Local column on this topic. Thanks for all the info.


              3. Try www.eatwild.com--this is a great resource to find humanely raised meat in your area. Also check out farmer's markets.

                1. Tender Crop farm in Newbury. I also read that book along with many others about consuming animals. Another book, "The Face on Your Plate" was also a great read. The owner at Tender Crop will bring you out to the animals if requested so that you can see the conditions they live in. Another great farm is Green Meadow in Hamilton. At this farm, you can wonder around the farm and meet and greet the animals. Spend some time with the pigs, you can feed and pet them. Spending time with these animals has greatly changed my eating habits. I have been a pescatarian for the past few years. I am know reading "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food" by Paul Greenberg. We will see how this book changes my eating habits soon. If you visit Tender Crop, don't forget to feed Buffy the Buffalo!

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: baldbert

                    Sorry to not address your original question, but Savenor's in Cambridge will address all of your humane meat concerns!

                    1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers

                      Some of Savenor's shrimp are labeled as coming from countries where shrimping practices have been called into question by Foer and others (Thailand, Vietnam, I'm not sure specifically which countries they are now), but I have never questioned Savenor's if these shrimp are caught via sustainable methods that avoid large "bycatch". But Savenor's is great and they will knowledgably answer most questions and either look up answers they don't know or tell you that they don't know, so I personally really like Savenors.

                      1. re: redelephant

                        I misspoke. I should have said that Savenor's will be honest when they tell you what they have is either humanely or non humanely raised and farmed. This is not something, unfortunately, most places selling food would ever consider doing. I didn't mean to imply that Savenor's only sells humanely raised products.
                        I dig Savenor's particularly for their attitude regarding where their food comes from. They definitely push quality over proximity and responsibility and are unapologetic in how they do so. They sell really nice food and are happy to tell you where it's from but aren't going all crying Indian when they can't source humane stuff.

                        1. re: FastTalkingHighTrousers

                          You might also try the soon-to-open Akimenko Meats on Cambridge Street, Inman Square and Shepherd Market in Union Square, both of which only sell small-batch meats from nearby farms with articulated raising practices. There have been at least one or two other threads on this topic in the past few months so you might search around to see if you can find them.

                          1. re: hckybg

                            Do you mean Sherman Market in Union Square?

                            Sherman Market
                            22 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143

                            1. re: Allstonian

                              Oops! I even said in my head "Shepherd Market? Shepherd Cafe...yes, that sounds right..." Sherman Market (a couple doors down from Sherman Cafe); thanks for the catch, Allstonian. I can convince myself of anything, apparently.

                              Sherman Market
                              22 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143

                        2. re: redelephant

                          most of that shrimp is farmed. bycatch is not an issue.

                    2. Busa's in Lexington carries locally raised beef. They have a freezer that gets stocked every so often, though you never know what will be in it. I can personally vouch for the ground beef & kebabs- excellent flavor & cooks really well.

                      Also, Whole Foods carries locally raised beef. You can ask the butcher about the farming practices. You may not get an answer on the spot, but a follow up call to the manager may help.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: tall sarah

                        I spoke to the butcher at Whole Foods. Seems like they REALLY are addressing the issue. Not fully there yet but further along than most places. Another problem becomes all the small ethnic restos that can't afford to buy humanely raised meats. I real problem, I'm afraid.

                        1. re: baldbert

                          Yeah, I need to contact Redbone's to ask about their meat sourcing so I can figure out if my girlfriend will ever be able to join me there again. Sigh. At least at most places such as Indian and Chinese restaurants, we can be satisfied by the veggies. I'm still trying to figure out what I think of places that serve bluefin tuna. Like o ya. What is better: boycotting the restaurant all together [and making sure they know why], or visiting more often and ordering the Seafood Watch and sustainably fished items and also complain about their blue fin options every time? Personally, I'll probably do neither, which means visiting occasionally, not ordering the blue fin, but also not expressing my concern about their use of blue fin. And, I don't know if this makes it better or worse, but the owner of o ya recognizes the issues with serving items such as blue fin, but he keeps in onthe menu because he claims dinners expect it. Not exactly a leader in environmentalism, is he?


                          55 Chester St, Somerville, MA 02144

                          1. re: redelephant

                            Not sure you can own a restaurant and at the same time claim to be an environmentalist or care about animal cruelty issues. Which, I suppose, begs the question, can you be a customer and make any of those claims yourself. Probably not. Damning sort of hypocrisy we all are culpable of.

                            1. re: baldbert

                              I think that what Craigie and Journeymen are doing concerning their sourcing is very responsible along these lines and laudable, and relatively speaking, quite environmentally minded. So I eat at Craigie and feel very satisfied in knowing the relatively humane sources for their meats, and forget entirely about my leather belt and shoes and sweatshop-made clothing and just ignorantly and blissfully enjoy the food. yeah....

                            2. re: redelephant

                              I am always vocal about the sustainable fishing piece when at any restaurant- if I see a problem fish on there I point it out to the waiter and let them know how disappointing it is. I'm one of those annoying people who carries around the Monterray Bay guide in her purse.

                              Just saw this, though, so that makes me happy:


                              1. re: Kirs

                                Awesome! And thank you for the link.

                        2. I struggle with this all the time. For myself--or one or two of us, I can buy locally farmed meats and do so gladly. When I occasionally need to feed a crowd, it becomes far less affordable. The T-day turkey this year will be from Stillman's and will be worth it. But for the rest of the year? Sigh. Here's what I do:

                          Hannaford carries a brand of chicken that is "certified humane" Only a few farms have been certified so far. Springer Mountain brand is another, and that's available at my local health food store (Good Health) and probably elsewhere. It's not as great as knowing this chicken was raised well a few miles from me, but when I need to buy a bunch, I can do so without feeling awful about it. If I had to, I'd rather make my guests "deal with" a meatless meal than eat factory farmed. Can't always afford the perfect, local/small farm, option.

                          (Note--two/three years back when I first found this "certified humane" label I did reasearch it and was satisfied at the time. I also know about the issues around "cage-free" and other labels as OP mentions and so am careful around that.)

                          Poultry is not always what's on the menu though, so then what?

                          Lovely local lamb, pork and beef can add up for a crowd, too. Around the same time, I found that in New Zealand and Australia they do not factory farm. So from a humane perspective, I feel OK buying a nice leg of lamb or chops, etc. from Aus or NZ. The carbon footprint on the travel-factor doesn't sit well with me, but what to do? I'd rather eat an animal that did not suffer terribly than one that did.

                          As I say, this if for large number of guests. I am happy with my bit of locally/nicely raised "proteins" and mostly veggies and sustainable fish otherwise.

                          I'd be very happy with a few goats and chickens in my yard, but that's waaaaay down the road for me! Plus I probably couldn't bring myself to eat them after raising them!!

                          Real tangent: a few years ago, I heard a beef farmer (big, commercial farm) being interviewed. He refered to the way the cows were housed, treated, medicated, etc) as " producing protein" not raising animals, producing protein. Totally turned me off of course and drove home the whole mentality behind factory farming. Add to that the "dead zone" at the foot of the Mississippi River and that's really all I need to know.

                          Rant over, hope my little conscientious workarounds help.


                          4 Replies
                          1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                            I was a vegan for many of the above reasons for 13 years and then tried "sustainable" meat for 2 years and now am currently pesco-lacto-vegetarian because it simply suits my physiology better.

                            I think any effort one can do in regards to being conscious of their diet is applaudable. When I ate meat, I rarely ate beef, but had lamb from the Halal markets in town. Inexpensive (around 5-6 bucks a pound) and much better than NZ. NZ's lamb is the only place where scrapie does not exist in the sheep populations, but American lamb was so much nicer. They usually bought it from NH. Chicken was kind of crapshoot at the time, but I'd always buy whole birds, simply quarter them with a few good whacks and make a tagine or something easy. Fish I read the sustainable guidelines.

                            So you do what you can with your budget, means, and knowledge. Things are changing for the better, my hope is that it gets to a point where it's affordable for all and we don't have to be so investigative about it all the time.

                            1. re: tatsu

                              Thanks Tatsu.

                              Hmm... Scrapie??

                              I would be happy to seek out Halal lamb. Is it raised differently? or is that more about the treatment during slaughter--somewhat like Kosher? Oh Go-, I hope I haven't offended anyone. I can't say I'm familiar with either practice, just associate Kosher with treatment during slaughter. Forgive me!

                              Anyway, if Halal has to do with a nice happy (or decent) life for the animal and a humane slaughter, great! I wil check it out.

                              1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                                From what I understand Halal has more to do with slaughter than with the way the animal is raised. Halal meat-bound animals are slaughtered with a single cut to the throat & bled out while the heart is still pumping. I'm a farm girl & it seems to me to be a cruel dispatch, certainly more cruel than a bolt gun (if the latter is done correctly). Quite frankly, a .22 in capable hands is the most humane way that I've seen, though rather shocking to witness the first time. It is instantaneous & the animal knows nothing. If you can contact local farmers through Local Harvest, don't be afraid to ask them how their animals are slaughtered. You'll learn a lot about their approach from their forthrightness, or lack thereof.

                                1. re: muirne81

                                  Very helpful-thanks.

                                  The latter does sound the better way.

                          2. Take a look at the certifiedhumane.org website. Very helpful and enlightening. Helps decode all the adjectives that get thrown around on this subject.