I miss meat. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I believe in (compassionate) carnivory and I do not believe there is a moral failing in consuming an animal you have appropriately “paid” (with food, water, shelter, care and affection) for its contributions to your household. I am happy to eat meat. However, I prefer not to pay the companies who do not adequately compensate their animals — thus, I do not eat meat at restaurants, picnics, fast food joints, what have you, because they buy their meat from enormous, horrible factory farms. This leaves me searching, often vainly, for meat which has been slaughtered humanely and raised kindly. I don’t eat a lot of meat anymore.
It is possible, if one hunts diligently, to find small local farms where the animals see grass and daylight during their lives, have adequate vet care and space, and even (gasp) enjoy species-appropriate social groups. (I am happy that, because of the prevailing change in attitudes, it is slowly becoming more possible to find these farms.) I find that my best chance of locating non-factory-farmed meat is at the local, “community” grocery stores. These stores appear to make at least a token effort to find these humane farms and carry their products. In turn, I happily give these places my money. I wish to encourage this behavior.
However, I still find that the meat selection in these stores can leave much to be desired, and the watchwords caveat emptor still apply. Unless the meat says “free range” (and sometimes not even then), you’re likely looking at factory farmed meat. Yes, even if there’s a picture of a smiling pig on the wrapper. Yes, even if it says “organic” and “hormone-free” all over it. Today, I was almost ambushed by some elk stew meat, ambiguously labeled “Broadleaf”.
In my experience, it is generally very difficult to factory-farm wild game. I worked with bison for ten years; they are larger and smarter than domestic cattle, and do not tolerate herding, hitting, crowded conditions, or running through cattle chutes — all requirements for “economical”, assembly-line processing — well. I was initially attracted to the elk meat for this reason. Fortunately, I still made the wise choice to look up “Broadleaf”, which after much research turned out to likely be Broadleaf Game, based out of California. Broadleaf sells bison, elk, alligator and boar, which are quite unlikely to be factory farmed due to husbandry issues similar to those mentioned above, but they also sell beef, chicken, various “poultry”, veal and “farm-raised” rabbit, which are very easy to factory farm. They say things like “hormone-free” on their site, but only the lamb is (vaguely) intimated to be living on grass, and most species do not have any description of their living facilities.
Alas, this is another brand name I won’t be rewarding with my money. To demonstrate that it is possible to raise and slaughter wild game (or any animal!) kindly, and to advertise it properly, here is the web page for Broken Arrow Ranch, in Texas, and a description of its “field harvesting” technique, which I believe is the most humane way I’ve ever seen to kill an animal, for meat or otherwise (provided the person behind the gun is an excellent shot).
Of course, checking out the web site is only a small part of thorough research on a brand. Typing search terms like “Broken Arrow Ranch USDA” and “Broken Arrow Ranch humane” into Google would be a good followup, checking for news articles concerning their handling practices and articles on other sites describing the facility. Sometimes you can find reviews from people who have actually visited the farm, or a Facebook page from the farm with photos. Ideally, one would be able to visit each facility personally, but, well. In this exciting old world we can only do our best.