For some people, choosing what to eat goes beyond matters of taste or what is appropriate for certain occasions. They aren’t concerned about comfort food or fine dining. They’re concerned about the ethics of eating.
This is an issue that has become widespread as people are exposed to new food choices. It’s become part of the social fabric, especially in America and Europe. Everyone knows a vegetarian, vegan or ethical carnivore.
But it’s rare for something to cause vegans and vegetarians to not only go back to eating meat, but also work as a butcher. Grass-fed beef has done that.
Grass-Fed Beef and Ethical Eating
The emergence of grass-fed beef in recent years has led to ethical carnivores, or those who only eat meat from sustainable farms that raise grass-fed cattle without the use of steroids or antibiotics.
However, it’s also created a new breed of butchers, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
The Times interviewed Kate Kavanaugh, who was a vegetarian for a decade because of “a deep love for animal life and respect for the environment.” Now, she’s a butcher at Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe in Denver - believe it or not, for the exact same reasons.
Kavanaugh is part of a small group of former vegetarians and vegans who have become butchers. They have done so because they want to revolutionize the current U.S. food system. In short, that means moving away from the practices of the industrial beef industry and into a grass-fed model, sustainable model as practiced at Acabonac Farms.
The Grass-Fed Revolution
On its website, the Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe says its mission is nothing less than to “revive the West one pasture at a time; restoring the ranching of our roots and the roots of our grasses.” The business only takes beef from grass-fed cattle farms within 150 miles of Denver.
The same commitment drives Acabonac Farms and ranches and butchers across the country. It’s in reaction to the farming methods used by large, industrial farms.
Those methods include feeding cattle with grain for most of their lives in livestock yards. It also can include injecting them with hormones to promote fast growth and giving them antibiotics to fight illness.
Knowledge of how this industry works has helped fuel the growing trend to buy beef from local farmers who feed their cattle grass only, allow them to roam pastures and eat a natural variety of food. These farms also never use growth-promoting hormones or antibiotics.
But switching vegans and vegetarians to butchers of grass-fed beef is something else entirely.
Pollan Launched Movement
According to the Times, Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” kickstarted the ethical butcher movement. In it, Pollan famously decided to slaughter a pig and some chickens because he deemed it “not too much to ask” that a meat eater at least once in his life take “some direct responsibility for the killing on which his meat eating depends.”
Another butcher, Janice Schindler, 28, who works at the Meat Hook in Brooklyn, told the Times that she was a vegan starting at an early age in California. But then, she learned that the soybean and corn farms that provided much of her diet were “wreaking havoc” on the environment.
Another factor driving people to support local farmers are studies that have found grass farms lead to sequestration of carbon, keeping it from entering the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.
So, the ethical butchers are part of an overall “ethical carnivore” movement. It’s a holistic approach that takes into account how the animal is treated and what the farm does to sustain the local environment.
The healthy attributes of grass-fed beef are, for them, an additional bonus. As Kavanaugh told the Times: “I’m basically in this to turn the conventional meat industry on its head.”