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If you decide to try a vegetarian diet after reading this section, that’s great! A vegetarian diet will save you money, and is wonderful for your health and the planet. Think of all of the animals you will save!
For a vegetarian starter guide, recipes, and shopping tips, check out:
Mercy for Animals also has a really great vegetarian starter guide:
If you are still committed to eating meat and seafood, we hope that you will make an effort to eat more humanely and sustainably whenever you can.
We know that eating 100% humanely can be difficult and expensive. Some families worry about how to get food on the table and cannot also worry about where their food comes from.
I have volunteered at several homeless shelters, and know first-hand how tight their budgets are. It would be impossible for these facilities to only serve “humane” meat, and it is a blessing that they are feeding those in need.
Churches can also face tight budgets and cannot afford to serve humane meat at functions. Instead, consider serving more vegetarian dishes which are generally less expensive than meat.
As Christians we need to do the best that we can with what we are given.
If you can afford to make more humane eating choices then please do. If you can’t afford to eat humanely, your time and involvement can be just as valuable.
Taking action to steer our meat industry towards more humane practices, and demanding stricter regulations for factory farms will make a huge difference.
If you can only afford factory-farmed meat, try eating more vegetarian meals and cut back on waste to help reduce the suffering of animals (see Take Action: Cut Back on Meat Consumption and Waste for tips).
Being a humaneitarian can mean different levels of commitment.
Some people may choose to not eat factory-farmed meat.
Others may choose to eat humanely at home, but forgo the practice when dining out.
The most committed humaneitarian will never eat meat unless they know where the animal came from and how it was treated.
The biggest concern when eating humanely is the welfare of the animal.
The animal must have had adequate space, access to the outdoors, and access to fresh food and water. It is also very important that the animal was killed quickly and painlessly with minimal stress.
Just like health-related claims, animal products use a lot of terms that are confusing when it comes to the treatment of the animal.
How do you determine how the animal was treated?
First it’s important to know what the different humane-related labels actually mean.
The following labels are not humane-certified, but they are commonly found on products:
Free Range or Pasture Raised – This term means that the animal must have continuous access to the outdoors for 51% of its life. The outdoor area isn’t required to be vegetated and there is no space requirement. Farms using this label register by filling out a form and are not inspected by the USDA. Many farmers use this term without ever even registering.
Grass Fed – These animals must be 100% grass fed and be allowed to graze during the growing season. Animals may still be confined to feedlots and antibiotics and hormones are allowed. Farms using this label are not inspected by the USDA and many farmers also use this label without registering.
Cage Free - According to the USDA, cage free eggs come from hens who are “never confined to a cage and have had unlimited access to food, water, and the freedom to roam.” The reality is that these birds are kept in crowded sheds with no more room than they would have in a cage. They do not see sunlight or go outside. Beak cutting is permitted without anesthesia.
Kosher – Think kosher meat is humane? Think again. In kosher slaughter, the animal is not stunned or rendered insensible to pain before being slaughtered. A cow’s throat is cut while hanging upside-down and fully conscience. It can take several minutes of bleeding for the animal to die. Much of the kosher meat in the US is also highly unregulated, and comes from the same factory farms as non-kosher meat. Undercover investigations of kosher slaughterhouses have found some of the cruelest cases of animal treatment and suffering. This type of meat is inhumane and should be avoided.
Humanely-Raised – This term is unregulated by the government. It should be accompanied by text explaining how the animals are treated. A “humane” label doesn’t mean anything unless it is verified by a USDA approved third-party certification organization.
Our government is doing a poor job of regulating labels that should be assuring us of humane animal treatment.
It can be frustrating to pay more for a product that may not be what it claims to be; but don’t lose hope! At least these labels generally mean that the animal lived in a much better environment than a factory farm.
To ensure humane treatment, there are currently four third-party organizations in the US that certify products as humane.
Unlike the USDA, these organizations physically inspect farms that apply for certification and provide their workers with humane care training and education. Once certified, farms are subject to continual and unannounced inspections to confirm that they are upholding the high standards of animal welfare and humane care.
Just keep in mind that the humane food movement is pretty new. Americans are slowly beginning to question where their animal products come from.
More and more farms are becoming certified to meet the demand for humanely treated products. Now more than ever these organizations need your support so that more pressure can be put on factory farming.
Please take a moment to check out the humane-certification organizations listed here, and keep a lookout for their labels at the grocery store.
Their websites provide a wealth of information about humane treatment of livestock, as well as lists of their certified farms and products.
Certified Humane even has a free app that will find their humane-certified products in your area.
American Humane Association
Animal Welfare Approved
Global Animal Partnership