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Understanding the True Costs of Humanely Raised, Quality Meat

More and more Americans are shopping for meat that has been humanely raised and handled. The farm-to-table movement has led many people to start asking questions related to animal welfare, while others are starting to understand that better quality meat is better for their health.

If You Want Better Quality, It’s Going To Cost More

As a shopper, when you visit your local farmer’s market or butcher, you may notice that meat is usually double to the cost of what you find it for in a traditional grocery store. Chicken can start at $6+ per pound, lamb starts at $9+ per pound, pork and beef start at $10+ per pound.

Cost: Space Per Animal

When it comes to animal feeding operations, stocking density is maximized so that there is revenue coming from every inch of space (this often at the detriment of the animals). The stocking density results in stress to the animals, violence and even cannibalism, and disease. To combat this, large, industrial operations use methods that can be considered inhumane to animals (debeaking birds, docking the tails of pigs, and feeding antibiotics to negate diseases that will occur in confined, unsanitary conditions.)

Cost: Finishing Time

Industrial producers of meat turn over a profit much faster than farmers who raise pasture-centered livestock or poultry. They use growth-boosting antibiotics and hormones, fattening feeds, and highly productive breeds. This allows them to slaughter their animals at a younger age and turn a quicker profit

Consideration: Nutritious or Fattening?

When it comes to feeding, industrial farmers use slaughterhouse by-products to feed their livestock. They may also use waste from commercial bakeries. Neither of these methods provides much in the way of nutrient density. Humanely raised animals are fed diets that mimic their natural diet. In some cases, this can result in less cost for feed because sheep and cattle will graze at no extra cost to the farmer as long as they are in a pasture where the grass is green.

For example, pigs and chicken raised on organic, no corn and no soy diets are three times more expensive to feed. If you add that cost to the slower growth time, you see the impact of the animal’s diet on its end cost.

Consideration: Mass Production

A highly saturated mass-production agriculture industry is one that has four or more companies controlling at a minimum 40 percent of their market.

  • In the pork industry, four companies also control roughly 64 percent of the market.
  • In the poultry industry, just three companies control over half of the market.

Consideration: Passing the Environmental Buck

Although the industrial food production industry is often touted as being efficient, they have a number of negative externalities. These negative effects are absorbed by the communities around the producer rather than the industry that is causing them.

It will be hard to find an ethical farmer that gives antibiotics or hormones to healthy livestock.

And in terms of what these animals are fed, these same farmers don’t use pesticides on their land because they know a healthy population of insects is an important part of their pasture. Rather than taking shortcuts that have a negative impact on the land and planet, these farmers are humanely raising animals which results in higher production costs.

Cost: A Closer Look at the Specifics

When it comes to the most common types of livestock, each has its own specific reasons for the increase in costs that you see at the store.

If You Demand Better Meat, You Have To Be Willing To Pay For It

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences in the quality of life and costs of livestock at a smaller farm compared to industrial farms, do you still have questions as to why humanely raised meat costs more?

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Data Analyst and Strategist for Food and Ag. I’m badass cowgirl who raises her own meat and can always bee found with my horses.

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