Greener Pastures

Welcome to Kitchen Matters!
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I invite you to join me for an exciting-and hopefully enlightening-new adventure with the launch of "Kitchen Matters." Each month, we will explore the nooks and crannies of issues and topics from the prosaically functional to the socially complicated to the simply delicious. Journey with me, let us learn and grow and share ideas and opinions. After all, the kitchen is the heart of the home, and what transpires there truly matters.

-Chef Neil

Humane treatment of animals for eating

Thanks to a growing number of farmers, it is possible to be an omnivore and respect animals at the same time. Here's how

Is it possible to consume animal protein and still lay claim to a modicum of concern for animal welfare? I don't propose to answer that question, merely to explore the opportunities in our current social construct to make the attempt.

Without question, the inherently humane course that avoids all harm to animals is vegetarianism, or even more strictly, veganism. But going back thousands of years to our hunter-gatherer forebears, it can be argued that Homo sapiens, like many other species, are genetically designed to be an omnivore. Early man, and primitive tribes throughout history, had a complex and intimate relationship with the animals they hunted for food, a contract as it were: The animal laid down its life for the benefit of the hunter, his family, and his tribe. And in return, the community honored the animal for its sacrifice, saluted its spirit, and pledged to use every bit of it to sustain and enrich their existence.

Needless to say, in our overpopulated, mechanized, industrial society, such an arrangement is no longer even remotely feasible. So those of us who are deeply appreciative of, and are concerned for, our fellow species on the planet-but still want to remain omnivores-face a profound dilemma. Short of retreating from society and reverting to our ancient hunting ways, how do we remain omnivores and still respect our fellow creatures? There is no tidy and facile answer. But the best place to begin is in the marketplace, where it is now possible to get educated about husbandry practices and support farmers who are truly concerned with the health of their animals.

Studies have shown that animals that are raised humanely, with care and concern, are arguably more nutritious and safer than their industrially produced brethren. And in supporting the farmers who strive to respect the animals they raise, we're doing our small best to improve their quality of life. You'll have to do your homework, and you'll pay more, but it's worth it, don't you agree?

Humanely Raised Meat Recipes

Humane & Healthy Shopping Guide

Get as close to the source of your meat as you can. If you live in a rural area, get to know local farmers who follow humane guidelines. In urban areas, it's the farmers markets and Mom-and-Pop health food stores that will allow you to ask questions and learn about the origins of your food.

Rely on organizations that have done the research and certify manufacturers for humane practices. Animal Welfare Approved (animalwelfareapproved.org) is one of the most respected and stringent certifications; look for their blue-and-green seal, which is given only to family-owned farms. Also: seek out the 5-Step Program of the Global Animal Partnership (globalanimalpartnership.org), which offers a rating for the level of humane husbandry involved.

Look for any of these key words when shopping for meat, poultry, and/or eggs:

  • Pastured (or pasture-raised)
  • Humane certified
  • Organic, 100% grass-fed
  • Non-GMO Project Verified

Keep in mind that the terms free-range, cage-free, and natural can be deceptive-especially if these are the only descriptions used on a label.

To learn more about grass-fed farming, we recommend Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production by Nicolette Hahn Niman. Written by an environmental lawyer turned rancher, this new book uses meticulous research to separate fact from fiction.

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