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©2019 by Buy Fresh Buy Local

  • Jen Cheek

Learn the Name of Every Livestock Farmer Within 50 Miles

In a Civil Eats piece titled, "A Livestock Farmer’s Response to the Amazon Fires," Cassie Wasser shared, "I believe the best way for American meat-eaters to respond to the Amazon fires is to do our homework on meat labeling. And learn the name of every livestock farmer within 50 miles, so we can buy meat we trust, regardless of the labels.’’ We couldn't agree more.

The article explores the increasingly popular grass-fed labels and shares her own philosophies. "I define “humanely raised” as pasture-raised, grassfed, free-range, or organic—basically any alternative to standard factory farm practices. On my farm in upstate New York, the lambs are raised on pasture, where they eat 100 percent grass.

My definition of “humanely raised” usually leads me (and others) to buy meat from local, small-scale farmers, or from larger companies trying to achieve a balance between animal welfare and high-volume production. It also leads me to buy pasture-raised, i.e., “grass-finished” beef, because cows raised on grass instead of grain tend to be healthier, and some of those animals are grazed on pastures that are sustainably managed to improve the soil and sequester carbon.

But doesn’t Brazil—the world’s largest exporter of beef and the country that has gained all the recent notoriety for agricultural fires in the Amazon—also produce “grass-fed beef”?

Indeed, the majority of Brazil’s cattle are either raised on grasslands that once supported broadleaf tropical rainforest (a major digester of carbon released into the atmosphere) or are raised in feedlots on soy grown on former rainforest land. For instance, JBS, the world’s biggest meatpacking company, which produces one-third of beef imports sent to North America, was also found to be buying beef raised on illegally deforested Amazon land. And it is estimated that cows cover 60 percent of all deforested land in Brazil, feasting on the grass that quickly grows after deforestation. One study found that pastures cover 80 percent of deforested areas in the Amazon."

Visit Civil Eats to read the whole article, and check out a Buy Fresh Buy Local Guide to find your local livestock farmers.