More and more people are struggling today to figure out what they should be eating in response to concerns about global climate change and environmental degradation. We believe that large-scale factory farming of meat is one of the most destructive and harmful practices in the modern agricultural system. Sewage lagoons contaminate and pollute groundwater and have been linked to E.coli outbreaks across the nation. Large-scale meat processing is handled in a way that allows one contaminated animal to adulterate thousands and thousands of pounds of meat. Animals are packed tightly in crowded corals, with no room to exercise or express their natural behavior. Cows are fed more GMO corn than their bodies can digest, causing health problems and discomfort to the animal, at great expense to the nation’s topsoil, which is eroding at alarming rates.
For many, the response is to eat less meat, or to eat no meat at all. While we at Grow and Behold Foods respect that argument, we also believe it can oversimplify the problems and doesn’t address people who believe that meat can be a healthy part of an environmentally responsible diet. Furthermore, as farmers ourselves, we at Grow and Behold have learned that meat animal agriculture does not exist in a vacuum. Dairy production and meat production are closely linked because dairy cows must be bred each year to continue producing milk. This means that half of their offspring will be males, which are then typically shipped to feedlots or, even worse, to veal barns where they live short, unpleasant lives. So when people tell us that the answer to our environmental problems is to simply become vegetarian, we say, “not so fast”.
When animals are raised on grass, with enough room to move around and exercise their innate characteristics and animal proclivities, the environmental, social and animal welfare concerns of factory farming disappear. In their place are a number of benefits: providing livelihood to farmers whose work protects the beautiful countryside we love to drive through; sequestering carbon through grass and natural pastures; providing healthy, nutrient-rich foods that support immune-system development and robust health; and providing a delicious food, to be savored and enjoyed. Good meat, raised right, is never something you should feel guilty about.
In fact, the Jewish tradition acknowledges that we may have the craving to eat meat, and requires us to prepare it in a specific way. The fact that meat is one of the most ritualized aspects of Jewish tradition tells us two things: First, we had better take it seriously, and second, eating meat offers the opportunity to engage with the divine. The fact that kosher meat must be slaughtered by an expert—that is, by someone with highly specialized training and also, by definition, by a person rather than a machine—does not allow us to escape the very real responsibility of taking life to sustain our own. The fact that we have such specific rules about how to prepare and eat our meat reminds us that we are a holy people, in covenant with God.
Our appetite for meat has driven the industry to create the feedlots and mega-farms that currently raise most of the meat in this country. Grow and Behold hopes to whet a different kind of appetite: one for delicious meat that is enjoyed perhaps just a touch less often, but with the full knowledge of the holiness of the product, and all the potential for good at every step of the grass-fed process.
Jewish Values >