Are you Meat Safe?

cows-552947_1280This is a post that I never thought I’d write, being the meat-eschewing vegan that I am. But, the rash of recent recalls posted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have prompted me to write this post. In just the last two weeks alone, at least three recalls related to contaminated meat products have hit my inbox. So, here are some meat-safe tips for my meat-eating readers.

While it’s definitely convenient to shop at your local grocery store for your meat products; it’s not optimal. Why? Because, depending on where you shop, you may have no way of knowing where the meat comes from. Whole Foods Market is to be commended for their strict animal welfare standards. You can read about them here. The U.S. imports meat from many countries whose food safety laws may not be as stringent as here in America. But, even if you happen to purchase meat produced in the U.S., there are still some things to consider.

First, most of the meat sold in our grocery stores is produced in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). CAFOs are essentially large-scale, animal feeding operations, where animals are crammed by the thousands into tight pens and spaces. They are often unable to get to fresh air or light. Space does not permit me to write about the horrific conditions these animals experience. But, you should know that consuming the meat produced in a CAFO environment is not conducive to good health. You can read more about this here. Second, despite its best efforts, the USDA can slip up and miss inspecting some meat products prior to going on sale in grocery stores. Third, sometimes known allergens like wheat, soy, and gluten can be present in a product, and not appear on the label. Again, sometimes the USDA doesn’t catch this, and these products can make into stores and, consequently, into your home!

The solution? Buy local. Check out your local farmer’s market to find a local farmer who raises animals for meat. This way, you know where the meat came from, and you can ask the farmer questions about how the animals are raised. At minimum, you want to know that the animals are allowed to roam freely and have access to fresh air. Many farmers offer tours, so, you might even be able to visit the farm. If you do not have access to local farmers, there are humane online shopping options, one to try is Snake River Farms at http://www.snakeriverfarms.com.

In a non-meat related note, watch out for salad kit products. These have been popping up with alarming regularity in USDA recalls. It’s safer to purchase your salad ingredients separately, and mix them up into your favorite combinations. How about some romaine, arugula, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds; all tossed with your favorite dressing? Yum! Check out Superfood Kitchen by Julie Morris for some great salad inspiration.

If you must eat meat, be meat-safe. But, don’t forget to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables too. You know I had to get in a plug for those!

To your good health!

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