The Reality of Feedlot Chicken and Why Free Range Is Essential to Your Health
by guest blogger Bobbi Peterson from Living Life Green
Google “meat industry,” and you’ll find a variety of horror stories, each one worse than the last. While most farmers make efforts to take the best care of their livestock possible, there are downsides. The sheer volume of the meat industry makes it impossible for demand to be met while keeping animals in pristine conditions.
There are some efforts to change that. There are farmers who have made a concentrated choice to put animal welfare first. In each of these cases, you’ll likely pay more for the produce, but that money is well spent when it means improving animal welfare. It also puts pressure on some of the industry giants who may then take their animals’ welfare more seriously.
Pressure on the Planet
We have an average of 7.5 billion people on the planet, and most of them eat meat. In the US alone, we have well over 300 million. Supplying enough meat to meet those demands puts a huge amount of pressure on the planet. All those animals have to be fed, housed, slaughtered and their waste disposed of.
The result is that conventional meat production is one of the costliest industries on the planet. Sure, coal and oil top them as far as PR and accidental spills, but, for day-to-day operations, the meat industry takes the cake.
In the US, agriculture accounts for about 9% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, that number goes up to about 30% of global greenhouse emissions, even if the US doesn’t produce that much on its own. Conventional agriculture is having a disastrous effect on the planet.
Going Free Range
There are things that can be done to help with that. One of those things is eating or raising free-range chicken. Chickens are some of the most abused animals on farms, for a variety of reasons. They’re easy to de-humanize, even for animals, and because they’re small, they have to be produced en masse.
The label “free-range” isn’t a perfect solution. According to the USDA, free range meat or eggs are from animals that have access to the outside. That’s it.
Clearly, the labeling leaves something to be desired. It doesn’t state the animals have to be allowed to go outside, how often or for how long. That means there’s a lot of wiggle room for suppliers, but those who stick with the spirit of the label — and not just the letter of the law — do reap the full benefits of it.
If you’re unsure about the labels because so little is required to obtain them, you might want to reach out to a Holistic Management® practitioner for grass-fed, free-range meat and poultry and support HMI programs, which focus on animal grazing as a part of the whole regenerative solution, resulting in carbon sequestration, healthier soil and cleaner air – among many other benefits!
If you’d like to raise your own free-range chickens, it might only take a few to meet your own needs. You get the benefit of knowing you aren’t contributing as much to the demise of our planet, along with knowing the animals you’re working with have had good lives.
If you do want to invest in that, then you should know that chickens require specific care. They’re pretty easy to feed, but, without cover, they’re easy prey for everything from foxes to hawks and neighborhood cats. You’ll need to set up an outdoor chicken coop, which means you’ll need to do a little construction, paint it and then fill it with chickens!
All this still begs the question — why mess with it? Why should you go to so much trouble over some chickens? Well, for some people, the animal welfare and the planet is incentive enough. But you might be able to find some additional health benefits as well.
Chickens that have access to the outside would usually be healthier, which in turn makes their products healthier. This is doubly true if you’re using truly free-range products, from chickens that would get to graze outside and eat a varied diet. The influx of different foods would help them get more vitamins, which comes across in their eggs and meat.
This adds up to one really important point — the meat industry needs to change. Think of shopping as voting. Every time you put your food where your money is, you’re sending a message to the food industry. It’s time to start demonstrating that some things are more important than money.
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Holistic Management International’s mission is to educate people in regenerative agriculture for healthy land and thriving communities.
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