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Choosing Sustainable Meat Options Begins with the Label

Not sure how to buy meat sustainably? These pointers ensure you're purchasing with the planet in mind.

Written by
Brightly Staff

Many who choose to incorporate sustainability into their diets and lifestyles would say that cutting out meat completely from your diet is a sure way to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health. Even current research shows this—in a study completed by the Environmental Working Group, research shows that beef production leads to 13 times more greenhouse gas emissions than vegetable production. In fact, according to this study, beef production is in the top three for producing the most greenhouse gas emissions of vegetable and meat produce.

However, you might fall into the category of wanting to live a sustainable lifestyle but also not wanting to cut meat out of your diet. After reading studies such as the one above, you might be left wondering if there is an ethical and environmentally friendly way to still incorporate meat into your diet. Luckily for you, there are alternative solutions to becoming fully vegetarian or vegan.

Despite the health and environmental concerns presented by meat production, the trick to making healthier eating choices and to improve the environment is not to give up meat altogether; rather, it is to change the type of meat you are eating and reduce your amount of meat consumption on a regular basis. For those interested in reducing their carbon footprint and improving their health, making small changes, such as the type of meat purchased, will have a lasting effect on the environment.

Two Labels To Look For While Shopping

According to the Sentient Institute, over 99% of farm animals in the United States live on factory farms. These farms raise livestock indoors in conditions meant to expand production of meat and livestock at the lowest cost possible. Factory farms are the true detriment to both the environment and healthy diets. 

However, there is a simple solution to reducing the use of factory-farmed meat in your daily diet. While shopping for meat at the grocery store, purchase USDA Organic meat or Certified Humane meat. Beef production at organic and humane farms treat animals much better than do factory farms. Additionally, these farms reduce their carbon footprint by practicing environmentally friendly habits.

1. What Is USDA Organic Meat?

USDA Organic meat is raised on farms that have not used chemicals in the grasses or land on the farm within the last three years. Additionally, organic farmers avoid pesticide use in food and on the land as well.

2. What Is Certified Humane Meat?

Certified Humane meat means that the animals are treated humanely from birth to death; each animal is provided enough water, food, and roaming space. The animals are only given antibiotics when they are sick, and never for any other reason.

Both of these options are more environmentally friendly long term and also promote ethical and sustainable shopping options, as opposed to factory-farmed meat. 

The Benefits To USDA Organic And Humane Certified Meat.

So what makes organic and humane meat better than traditionally farmed meat? Organic and humane meat options:

  1. Offer a variety of health benefits
  2. Lead to humane treatment of animals
  3. Are farmed by farmers that maintain eco-friendly practices

1. Personal Health Benefits.

According to a study conducted on the US National Library of Medicine’s database, grass-fed meat, which is often organic, includes an increase in the following:

  • More Omega 3 fatty acids, which promotes increased heart health
  • Increased vitamins, such as Vitamins A and E
  • Additional antioxidants, such as Glutathione, which fights cancer
  • Other minerals and trace minerals 

One thing to note is that grass-fed beef does have a unique taste and will take some transition for those who are used to eating traditional, factory-farmed meat.

2. Benefits For The Animals.

In addition to the health benefits of eating organic and humane certified meat, there are obvious benefits for the animals as well. Livestock practices on organic farms include the following:

  • Organic feed for the animals to eat
  • Access to the outdoors
  • Healthy and sustainable living conditions
  • Vaccinations for the animals

2. Benefits For The Climate.

Most livestock in the United States is raised on factory farms where the animals are fattened with corn, fishmeal, soybean meal, and other grains. According to the study by the Environmental Working Group, grain production requires considerable amounts of fuel, fertilizer, water, pesticides, and land to produce. When fertilizer is placed into the soil, it develops Nitrous Oxide, also as known as N20, which causes 300 times the amount of warming than does carbon dioxide. Additionally, farm equipment, such as tractors and irrigation pumps, release additional carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. On top of the fossil fuels emitted into the environment, factory farms create soil erosion and lead to a decline in air quality. 

Farms that practice organic and humane certified standards reduce their carbon footprint drastically. Practices used on humane certified and organic farms include the following:

  • Crop rotation for soil quality and preservation
  • Traps used to control pests and insects
  • Animal manure used on fields to increase the quality of soil

One Of Our Favorite Options For Sourcing Sustainable Meat: Butcher Box

Here at Brightly, we aim to reduce meat consumption and make our diet more environmentally-friendly.

If you choose to eat meat, it is important to choose quality meat sourced under responsible practices. Unfortunately, this can often be challenging in a regular supermarket. 

One of our favorite options that our founders recommend is ButcherBox™. All of their cows, chickens, and pigs are raised humanely and sustainably, which we love. We also appreciate that their packaging minimizes waste and is recyclable whenever possible. The quality of the meat is superb and got rave reviews from our team who had the chance to try it.

ButcherBox also carries sustainably harvested wild-caught seafood and their meals start at $6 a meal. They also frequently run deals to cut down the price per box, making their offering more affordable. If you're looking for a better way to consume meat, we recommend ButcherBox.

This post was made possible by our partners at ButcherBox. Partnerships with brands like them help us create change for conscious consumers!