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Humane treatment of animals gains more credibility

Crowded feedlots like this one in Colorado lead to animal distress which in turn leads to lower-quality meat as well as environmental degradation
Crowded feedlots like this one in Colorado lead to animal distress which in turn leads to lower-quality meat as well as environmental degradationPhoto by John Moore/Getty Images

Animal welfare has been an issue relegated to animal rights activists, but recent statements by a CSU professor lend strength to the growing concern for animal welfare not only as a moral issue, but also as an issue of food quality for those who continue to eat meat.

Professor Temple Grandin of Colorado State University told the Denver Post last week about how distressed animals yield poorer quality meat. The idea is not new, but until now, it has largely been ignored. Now that consumers are getting pickier about food quality and are more health conscious, they are demanding better meat, even if the price is higher.

Grandin’s own statements, which are part of extensive studies he has participated in since the 1990s, were linked the Post’s article that was published on August 27. He told the Post that animals that get agitated at the slaughterhouse are going to have tougher meat; he made the same statement at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association headquarters in Centennial (CO), the Post said.

Beef production has been under fire by vegan and non-vegan environmentalists alike due to its intense use of resources. A recent report by the World Watch Institute says global meat production has increased seven-fold in the last 50 years-a growth rate far greater than that of the world’s population of humans. The organization claims that just five percent of the world’s protein comes from beef even as beef production uses about a fifth of the world’s farm land.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations (also known as FAO) reports that about 30 percent of all the globe’s total land surface is now used for livestock production-mainly producing actual feed for the animals. About seventy percent of what was forested land-no deforested-is also used to produce feed for livestock. This feed goes to chickens and pigs as well as beef cattle.

Consumption of beef per person in the US has dropped slightly in the past year according to studies by Performance Food Group, a major wholesale food distributor. Yet, PFG said demand for higher-quality beef has risen. The demand for higher-quality meat might make consumers pickier, but it may do nothing to ease global impact from meat production.

Only if consumers decide that they are willing to eat less meat in order to get higher-quality meat will the trend for better treatment of animals lead to greater animal welfare and a lower amount of environmental impact. The only thing that is certain is that better treatment of animals is now also a meat eater’s issue.