Butcher’s Guide to Finding Ethically Sourced Meats

The issue of how meat is sourced and its overall production and consumption impacts us all as the environment is affected in the process. According to the Environmental Working Group, lamb and beef production account for the highest greenhouse gas emissions, over 13 times more than vegetable proteins. However, eating meat can be favorable for the environment when sourced sustainably and ethically as it can help reverse the damage done by big agriculture.

As a butcher, it is in your best interest to find ethically sourced meats as modern people are aware of the importance this issue has when it comes to the greater good of the environment and us all, for that matter. Your job doesn’t only rely on using the best home meat slicer to sell perfect cuts to your customers or have diversity when it comes to the products you sell to suit the tastes of as many people as possible as there is morality to take into consideration as well. Reputation is built hard and can be knocked down easily, so you must make it a point to only acquire your meat from reliable sources that treat the animals properly and raise them in a way that protects the soil and land.

Moreover, there’s the fact that more people are aware that their meat consumption habits should be reduced for the better good of mankind, so their standards grow exponentially when it comes to the meat they buy as well. For short, you must make efforts to deliver the quality and ethics that modern customers expect of butchers if you want to strive.

Labels to look for

  • Certified Humane: It is the most ethical choice in terms of meat sourcing as the animals are treated properly throughout the entire duration of their lives, being provided with regular access to food and water, as well as access to the outdoors. Moreover, with Certified Humane, antibiotics are given to the animals only when they are sick, not for ill-intended purposes like forcing their growth. Similar to Certified Humane is the Animal Welfare Approved label that indicates antibiotics and hormones were never used on the animals.
  • Grass-fed: What this label indicates and makes it appealing to butchers is the fact that, due to a healthy diet exclusively based on grass instead of feed, the meat of the animals is more nutrient-rich and tastes better. As the animals wander freely in the farmland and are fed in a natural manner, they help contribute to producing healthier soils, healthier plant growth, as well as creating a healthier habitat for many wild critters, providing natural weed and pest control which in return leads to a diminished need for pesticides.
  • USDA organic: In terms of sustainability, USDA organic might be your best option as these organic farms use compost and natural fertilizers to grow healthy forage with which the animals are fed. Moreover, the farms usually practice sustainable methods like covering the crops to maintain the fertility of the soil and crop rotation. What the USDA organic label refers to is the fact that the animals are born and raised on these organic pastures where the feed is not sprayed with pesticides and that chemicals are not used in the area or on the grass where the animal roams and is raised. Antibiotics are not used at all either, which reduces the risk of another issue emerging, that of the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that represents a serious threat to the sustainability of the world.

Humane animal slaughtering

Although for the uninitiated it sounds farfetched, abattoirs can actually practice ethical, humane slaughter methods. How the animal is handled at the end of its life before it inevitably ends up on your table and you use your meat slicer knife to portion it into steaks and other delicious cuts matters just as much as it impacts not only the morality of the situation but the taste the meat has as well. If the animal is stressed even in the last moments of its life, the meat is left with a metallic flavor caused by the adrenaline pumping through it as it is scared.

Abattoirs that practice humane slaughtering handle animals with care as they are the ones who raised them, to begin with, and with whom the animals are familiar. The final part of the job is done in a swift and painless manner as the animals are, through various methods, basically unconscious when it does happen. It isn’t a pretty sight to imagine no matter how you put it, but the truth of the matter is that meat consumption is and always will be a part of most people’s lives, so what we can do in the least is to ensure proper care and treatment of the animals from the moment they are born to the one they die.


It might take time and thorough research, but in the end, it’s worth to find a truly ethical meat source from which to acquire the product you earn a living off of not only from the moral perspective but from the financial one as well. Yes, “going ethical” does generally imply bigger costs as the animals are taken care of and handled properly and thus costs are higher to raise them, but if you are smart with the amount you buy and how you preserve it to later sell to customers, you can profit off of ethical meat sourcing more than you would otherwise.

Market your proceedings to customers and they are sure to buy to experience the difference in taste and flavor, as well as to actively participate in saving the environment. What is important in the end is to make a good reputation for your business and keep your image clean, delivering healthy products to customers to keep them pleased and eager to return.

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