Sherry, South Carolina

A former farm kid realizes that cheap meat isn’t the right meat.

I remember distinctly the moment I became a humaneitarian. I had been craving a good hamburger for days. I had also been wrestling with the idea of animals suffering abuse for that burger. I wrestled partly because I’m the human… farther up the food chain than a cow. If I wanted a burger, why shouldn’t I have one?

CertifiedHumane1One day as I was pushing my shopping cart around, still wrestling with the idea of animals suffering so I could have a meal, I saw the organic meat section and decided to look it over. It was there that I saw my first package of Certified Humane ground beef. I picked it up and again began to emotionally wrestle, but this time it was over the price tag. It was double the price of conventional beef. Needless to say, after a few moments of sticker shock, my heart for animals won over the stress of my wallet… and I haven’t looked back. I now realize that being “further up the food chain” demands that I have a responsibility to respect what I have charge over. I may not raise the animal, but I am just as culpable in the abuse if I support those who do the abusing.

Food choices always came down to cost when I was growing up in farm country, in Michigan in the 1980s. I was raised eating conventional animal products… and the least expensive at that. We did have a large vegetable garden and that, too, was because it was less expensive to grow veggies for our family of 6 than it was to buy them. During this era, there was little to no awareness or  public demand for organically grown food, sustainable gardening, or humanely raised animal products. Some of the old-time farmers would farm this way, but it was because that was the way they had always done it. My family did, for a couple years, raise a few cows of our own; I think we had a total of 7. They were happy cows, and I assumed that this was how all cows were raised. I was unaware at the time, but this was my first experience with humanely raised animals. Without realizing it, my parents instilled values they never intended to.

As I continued into adulthood, I retained the so-called ideal of eating cheap. It became something that I believed was “right.” Why spend more money on food than you have to, right? It’s just food. Well, thankfully, my sensibility slowly began to change as the humane treatment of animals stared receiving more headlines and airtime, as undercover videos of  animal abuse in factory “farms” were posted online, and as the organic/sustainable farming movement became a viable choice for the average consumer. I started thinking about the animal I was eating as an animal and not “just food.”

The most difficult part of my transition from commercial to humane was keeping my values in the forefront of my mind when shopping, and finding products that were truly humane. There are so many false claims and I found myself angered over having paid twice the amount for eggs that claimed to be humane, only to find out that “free range” doesn’t necessarily mean humane. I had to do my homework. It started small, one product at a time… ground beef, eggs, pork… and now I buy all my meat and dairy from local small-scale farmers. Yes, it still costs nearly double, but that forces me to truly appreciate what I have and not to waste food.

To me, being a humaneitarian means that I don’t buy any product that an animal suffered to supply. I buy only pastured animal products. When I have the choice of Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved, or local farms, that is what I buy. I also look for transparency in the farms I support. Do they allow you to visit, do they give tours, etc… There is a small independent grocery store in my area where I buy my dairy (which comes from a local farm) and supplement my own vegetable garden. They also carry local, organic, and humane meat products but I tend to stock up on frozen meats directly from the farm.

I no longer buy leather, either, or anything made with down, and I have never worn fur. My journey has evolved and will continue to evolve as I become more informed, more sensitive, and more inspired. Maybe one day, I’ll raise my own animals.

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