Written by Despi Ross. Reproduced with permission from www.FiguringOutFood.com
Buying meat is often a bit trickier than buying veggies if you want to find out about what’s going on behind the scenes. Here are some questions you can ask to get a friendly conversation going about farming practices.
1. How long have you been raising [insert animal name here]? You can also try “I’ve never bought meat from this farm before. Could you tell me a little about it?”
This question offers an opportunity for the farmer to give you a little back-story about the farm. The actual length of time is less relevant.
2. How big is your farm?
Less is often more. Smaller farms can pay much more attention to animal welfare and producing a quality product.
3. Are the [insert animal name here] pastured?
This question is important because you will discover how animals live their lives. Are they out of doors whenever possible, with free reign to roam, or stuck in a crate? Don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions about living conditions if you have them.
4. What are the [insert animal name here] fed?
This answer will vary a lot depending on the animal of course. Find some typical answers for the most common animals below. Which answers are best for you and your family?
· 100% grass fed - Cows are herbivores that are, by nature, built to eat nothing but pasture. Many believe that 100% grass feeding leads to healthier cows (and healthier meat)
· Grain-fed and grass-finished – This practice bulks up animals while trying to maintain some grass fed benefits.
· Grain fed – This is the conventional feed for most of the cows in the American food system.
· Foraging with supplemental organic or non-GMO feed - Pigs will eat anything, so it is up to a responsible farmer to be sure what they are eating is good for them and for us.
· Scraps and grain – This is the most typical feed for pigs.
· Access to pasture and supplemental organic grain - this means they have a chance to run around eating bugs but also get organic corn or other grain to supplement their diet.
· Corn /Grain – Chickens are typically fed conventional corn and soy-based feed that could contain a lot of chemicals if it is not organic.
5. “Do you process your own meat?” If the answer is no, the natural follow up question is: “Who does?”
Processing is simply another word for butchering. Meat processing is regulated by the state of Indiana.
It is helpful to ask questions about processing if you are concerned about the treatment of animals after they've left the farm. Educating yourself about the process might make it easier for you to detect good and bad answers to this question. You can start by checking out the Humane Farming Association website.