Here at Ecocentric (and throughout Sustainable Table, the food section of our website), we provide a great deal of information about the problems caused by industrial livestock production. We describe the water and air pollution, the soil contamination and other environmental damages. We write about misuse of antibiotics, exposure to pathogens, outbreaks of foodborne illness and other harmful effects on public health. We note the lamentable impact of industrial livestock production on animal welfare, rural communities and local economies. We even delve into some of the unsavory details of industrial meat production; pink slime, manure lagoons, food irradiation, arsenical feed additives, etc.
The sad reality is that the vast majority of US meat is produced by a socially irresponsible system that damages the environment, threatens public health, degrades rural communities and compromises animal welfare. The good news is, a growing number of independent farmers and ranchers are rejecting the factory farm model, choosing instead to raise livestock sustainably on pasture.
As sustainable food advocates, my colleagues and I have long sought to support these efforts, so we were thrilled to learn about the launch of the Pro-Pasture Campaign this week. Created by Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF), Oregon’s largest sustainable agriculture advocacy organization, the campaign encourages consumers to commit to choosing sustainable, pasture-raised meat, eggs and dairy one day a week (on Pro-Pasture Fridays, of course!). FoFF is collaborating with farmers and businesses throughout Oregon to promote the program by offering special deals on Fridays.
According to Campaign Director Lori Bell:
Farmers and ranchers across Oregon are making the choice to raise animals in a way that is respectful to the environment, humane for the animals, and good for their rural communities. We want to highlight a growing list of family-scale producers who are doing it right.
While sustainably produced meat, eggs and dairy products are generally more expensive than their factory farmed counterparts (which are priced artificially low due to subsidies and externalization of environmental and social costs), consumers can stay within their budgets by eating less animal products overall, simply choosing quality over quantity. And given the fact that the average American eats 270 pounds of meat per year, give or take a quarter pounder or two, cutting back on the animal protein wouldn’t be a bad idea for anyone.
As we’ve always advocated, consumers who choose to eat meat should do their best to buy from producers who raise their animals sustainably on pasture. We hope, therefore, that consumers in Oregon and beyond will embrace Pro-Pasture Fridays – and eventually go Pro-Pasture whenever they buy meat.