Animals that are raised in a way that is kinder and can be sustained over many generations can be achieved by supporting free range and organic certified meat. But don’t rely on these alone: look into the farm your meat comes from and decide for yourself if the welfare aligns with your ethics. Butchers and independent retailers like yours truly will be able to tell you about the farmer and farms, ensuring you have informed choice over which is the best option for you.
Chicken and Poultry
Over 70% of chicken meat is produced in industrial systems. The majority of Chickens and Turkeys bred for meat grow so fast that their bones, heart, and lungs can’t support their weight, causing crippling lameness and often heart failure.
Big chicken farms often cage around 50,000 birds in one house. They do not get to go outside or see daylight. Free range birds, on the other hand, are able to access the outdoors and given much more space to roam. You are also able to purchase birds that are kept indoors but have a higher quality of life with more space, daylight, and a better environment.
In Bristol we have a number of local farms that go above and beyond the minimum requirements. Our organic, free range chickens come from Wood Green Farm. Both use GM free corn feed, in addition to allowing the chickens to munch on grubs. The former has an on-site abattoir, the latter has invested in tree planting.
If you are shopping elsewhere in Bristol their are lots of options. Like super local and small-scale Elm Tree Farm in Stapleton. They can be found out the weekly farmers market in St Nicks and their chickens are also free range – they are not certified organic (as it is too costly for them) but they follow the same principles. Have a look online and find a supplier that you are willing to support.
Beef and Lamb
Here in the UK, nearly all beef cattle and lambs are reared outdoors. This is not guaranteed though, so make sure to check the label for ‘Organic’, ‘Grass-fed’ and ‘Access to pasture’.
We stock beef and lamb from organic meat company Wellhung, based in Devon.
Pork and Bacon
When buying pork or bacon keep an eye out for organic or free-range products. In the UK organic production offers higher animal welfare with organic pigs being reared outdoors with access to straw bedded huts and large paddocks.
Organic outside of the UK doesn’t necessarily offer these welfare practices, organic pigs may only have access to an outdoor run in other countries in Europe.
Adey’s farm supply our pork and bacon; which again is organic. They are against factory farming and regularly host open days should you wish to see the animals and understand more about their farming practices.
After campaigns in the 80s and 90s, the vilified use of veal crates – which were so small that calves weren’t able to turn around – were banned in 2007 across the EU.
Buying veal these days, however, is important for the dairy industry as this means more dairy cows aren’t shot at birth or exported the long journey to continental veal farms.
British law means veal calves have bedding, more space as they grow and better welfare in terms of diet.
Over 80% of the world fish stocks being fully or over-exploited from fishing, the future of our fish stocks are in serious danger.
Take a look online at www.goodfishguide.org where you can see the latest list of sustainable fish, as well as pick up some tips on what fish to avoid and recipes for fish from big name chefs!
You can also download their app today here.
Our cod is MSC certified and comes from St Mawes in Cornwall.
‘Free range’ hens are able to access the outdoors and are free to roam inside also. ‘Barn hens’ are allowed to roam within a barn, but they do not have access to the outdoors. The cheapest eggs available are usually from cage systems which offer little to no space for the hens to move and carry out natural behaviors. These hens will remain inside so do not get to see natural light.
Choosing organic and free range means that not only can the chickens have freedom to roam, but they are also free from chemicals. That means no chlorine washes, hormones, gm feed or the overuse of antibiotics! When Organic certified there is also incentive to increase on land biodiversity, not only improving the taste of your meat and eggs (as a diverse diets means a healthy gut) but improving the health of the soil and health of the planet!
Remember when purchasing egg-containing products such as mayonnaise, cakes, biscuits etc. these products most likely will contact caged hen eggs unless the ingredients say ‘free-range eggs’ or ‘barn eggs’.
Our eggs come from Haresfield Farm in Wiltshire.
Organic dairy farming ensures cows are able to graze on pastures during grass growing season, as well as encouraging improved welfare and breeding of the animals.
Other dairy cows, specifically the Holstein-Friesian cow, have been selectively bred to produce a higher milk yield. Holstein-Friesians are susceptible to lameness, mastitis as well as fertility problems, this means they require a strict management and are often kept indoors permanently. Cows can live for around 20 years, but in commercial systems are often slaughtered at 5 or 6 years, sometimes a lot less.
Organic milk has higher levels of nutrients, e.g. Omega 3 fatty acids, than non-organic. According to the Soil Association, Organic dairy cows are generally not pushed to their milk producing limits in the same way other cows can be. This results in lower average yields – around a third less than in intensive production – but higher welfare. Our main organic milk supplier is Bruton Dairy, who also supply us with goats milk.
Bear in mind that cows have to be constantly pregnant if they are to produce milk. We are the only animal that drinks another species milk, and the only one that drinks it past infancy.
In recent years milk has been homogenised to remove the layer of cream that would otherwise rise to the top as the fat molecules separate. This extends the life of milk, makes it easier to label the product according to fat content (e.g. skimmed), and allows large-scale producers to mix milk from different breeds. Some people claim that homogenised milk changes the way in which the body absorbs milk fat. Our local organic milk supplier Jess’s Ladies doesn’t homogenise her milk.
Milk is also commonly pasteurized to ‘reduce disease-causing bacteria’. Proponents of unadulterated raw milk would say this also kills the good bacteria, and argue that to get the full health benefits of milk we should drink its natural form.
*This is a guest blog by Robert Lovell a Yorkshire-based writer, editor and content creator with a passion for ethical and sustainable food