by: Nate Furler, Marketing Specialist
You may think you are getting away cheap by shopping for meat at a conventional grocery store. It looks fresh, and most likely it is fresh. It tastes good, maybe not better, but still okay. I know this internal conflict well. However, once I realized the true cost of conventionally raised meat, it was back to the Co-op. Let’s take a look at the potential baggage you are buying when you purchase conventionally raised meat.
The conventional agriculture industry can produce an enormous amount of meat for relatively cheap prices, and hormones are one of the biggest (no pun intended) reasons. It now takes nearly half the time to raise an animal from birth or hatching to slaughter. These animals grow extremely fast and even certain parts of their own bodies cannot keep up. Naturally these hormones wind up in humans, the cost of which we’re still unsure.
Cattle are increasingly fed corn. Genetically engineered corn, the majority of corn planted in the United States, can withstand larger doses of pesticides throughout its life in the field. These pesticides wash into our rivers and streams, eventually contaminating the water we drink and killing entire ecosystems. Tests have shown that cows have evolved to eat grass. Alas, it’s cheaper to feed them corn and they fatten up more quickly. But, consequently, so does the meat. You are buying more fat than you used to.
Poop – lots of it
Unfortunately conventionally raised animals that are raised on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) have little choice but to exist in their own feces. If a 1,000 head feedlot produces up to 280 tons of manure a week, you can bet the neighbors know when it’s time to empty the lagoon.
Being cramped in such tight quarters presents another problem – bacteria and disease. For this reason, animals are given antibiotics. The liberal use of such antibiotics is leading to new and enhanced strains of bacteria which then evolve to resist the drugs. Grazing not only helps the animals and their natural habitat, it deters the growth and spread of bacteria caused by these cramped conditions.
Sustainability is not cheap, but perhaps the cost we should be looking at is not simply the number on our register receipt. When you look at those prices on the shelf, think about what you are paying for. At the Co-op, you are paying for a great piece of meat, and the benefit of sustainability for the future.