A Re-Examined Life

Canberra girl’s mission to live a more natural, sustainable life.


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It’s time to meet your meat packaging

 

My new job could be the death of my blog! Longer working hours = much less time to write 😦

But I finally found some time and so here we are 🙂

So my last blog was all about some of the conditions our mass-produced meat live in, and if you are anything like me, those conditions will have left you feeling pretty upset, and you will have made a commitment to only buy meat that comes from animals that have led happy lives.

So I’m here today to talk about the labelling of meat, as when I first decided to make this change I ensured that any meat I bought was labelled “free-range” or “organic”, but since doing a bit more research on the labelling standards of meat, it turns out it’s not that simple, especially when it comes to the “free-range” label.

If you have been reading your meat labels you will have noticed that there are plenty of different labels around, depending on which meat produce you are buying you can find:

Grass-fed

Pasture-fed

Free-range

Bred free-range

Sow stall-free

Cage-free

Certified Organic

Biodynamic

And then, adding to the confusion, these different categories might be certified and there are a number of different certification groups, each of which has different standards.

The certifying organisations in Australia that I have come across are:

Australian pork free range

Free Range Egg & Poultry Association (FREPA)

RESPCA Approved Farming Scheme

Humane Choice

AUS-QUAL limited Organic

Australian Certified Organic

Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)

National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA)

Organic Food Chain (OFC)

Tasmanian Organic – dynamic Producers.

It’s worth noting that here in Australia most sheep and cattle are “free-range”, in that they aren’t confined and so there isn’t so much focus on free-range labelling for these guys. The focus is more on the grass-fed labelling (and you definitely want to be eating grass-fed animals as grain fed animals often get very sick and don’t have much fun).

So….. in terms of the labelling, here is what I have been able to find out.

First up are the ones you might want to stay away from because, well, it’s unlikely the animals have led happy lives.

Bred free-range, bred free, or outdoor bred, are labels for pork, and a bit misleading really, because although the terms free-range, free, and outdoors are in the label, what they actually mean is the animal is born free-range but after weaning it raised indoors with no outside access.

Sow stall-free means that the pigs don’t’ live in stalls, but they are still raised inside, in what is known as “indoor group housing”.   Better than the stalls, but still pretty sad as far as I am concerned.

The next labels mean the animal has probably led a happier life than their poor friends above, but as with all food labelling, there is no legislation (or it seems, desire born out of wanting to do the right thing) to govern how people label their products. So you should totally buy direct from a farmer you know and trust, and if you can’t do that, that is where label certification comes in .

Grass-fed or pasture-fed means the animals have been raised on open grazing land with access to water and they can have supplemental feed which is a mix of grasses.   All certified organic meat is grass-fed.

Certified organic – animals must be happily roaming around on pastures and cannot be given growth-promoters or antibiotics. The general principles of organic farming mean the animals must be treated nicely.

Biodynamic Bellamy’s organic blog has a great article that spells out the difference between organic and biodynamic farming, but from what I can understand, biodynamic farming has similar principles to organic but takes it a step further by considering things such as lunar and astrological cycles, and places a lot of emphasis on the health of the soil (yay!).

Free-range – depending on which of the certification standards, and the type of animal produce you are buying, this label can mean a lot of different things. I took some time out to read through the various certification standards, but so you don’t have to, I’ve put together a couple of tables to summarise, so you don’t have to 🙂

Free range accreditation - poultry

Free Range Accreditation - Pork

My advice, in case you are interested, is get to know a local farmer and buy meat direct from them (this is also good on so many levels, like helping to sustain your local farmers and support your local food economy, but more on that some other time).  There are plenty of options out there, just do a google search “buy meat direct from farmer “insert your location” and you will be sure to find something.

Here is the Berra we have Lost River Produce  who sell meat from their farm at Crookwell, their animals are happily free roaming on grass and are not fed antibiotics or hormones.  I buy from these guys regularly, their lamb is particularly amazing.   Another fantastic place is Greenhill farm whose meat is all biodynamically grown, and you can order from them online and pick up at the EPIC farmers market every Saturday.  I’ll stop with those 2, but I can feel a list coming on…..

If you can’t get access to a local farmer then only buy certified products, and get acquainted with  what the different accreditations mean.

That’s it from me till next time 🙂