For the past several years I’ve been buying meat, fish and poultry almost exclusively from Whole Foods. I trusted their sources and noticed a considerable difference in quality from other grocery stores. I’m not promoting Whole Foods (WF) or claiming it’s the only place to buy animal protein sources, rather I’m only sharing my personal preference and observations.
I recently learned that WF started the Global Animal Partnership program in 2007. It’s currently the only store that carries GAP-labeled meat. There is no standard factory farmed meat for sale at WF and all the fresh meat at WF stores must be GAP rated. The GAP program is an independent non-profit planning to open up the 5-step system for use by other stores.
The GAP program is different from the other humane certifiers in that it offers 5 different certification levels (or steps) at which a farm can be certified. The higher steps (3, 4, and 5) mean that a farm provides a more natural and less stressful life for its animals. The lower steps (1 and 2) are closer to industrial agricultural practices even though they require a farm to provide better-than-standard conditions.
If you want chicken, pork, or beef raised in a pasture-centered way, look for GAP products labeled Step 4 or Step 5. If you’re ok with chickens and pigs being raised indoors, or beef cattle being raised for 1/3 of their life off pasture/range, you can buy meat labeled at Step 1 or 2. Step 3 meat generally has some outdoor access (similar to “free range”). To understand the step differences, see the GAP website. (Standards for turkey are currently being developed, as are slaughter standards.)
When you choose to support higher welfare farmers and ranchers, you make a significant difference in the life of an animal. Think about the impact you would have even if you opted to eat Step 5 meat 2-3 times/week vs. standard factory farmed meat. Think about how many animals lives would be different by making this choice over your entire lifetime and teaching your children to do the same.
I’m certain many of us would prefer to not eat animals at all. I’ve been working on implementing more plant based proteins and fish into my diet, but I admit I would rather have chicken, beef or turkey. Our culture has been raised to include meat at every meal. This takes a tremendous toll on the environment because such a mass quantity of meat needs to be produced (quickly) to feed the ever-growing population.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for this topic (I could say a lot more on this!) but for now I urge you to challenge yourself to move away from this “norm.” To get started, what is your favorite “non-meat” meal? And how often do you eat it?