Recently, a friend posted something online about the grossness of processed meat and how it made her “want to go vegetarian.”

It got me thinking about how many of us think that there are only two options:

  1. Eat meat and support horrible, unethical factory-farming processes and grain-feeding (not the animal’s natural diet), OR
  2. Abstain from meat altogether and be vegetarian.

What makes this more of a compelling argument is the common misconceptions that fat is bad for us, that cholesterol is bad for us, and red meat is bad for us. Doesn’t it seem like going vegetarian is a better answer?

The truth is, this “all or nothing” viewpoint is a false dichotomy. There’s a third, far better option.

You can buy from a farmer that you know personally and who raises their animals PROPERLY, pastured, and organic, eating their natural diet.

Doing this supports local farmers and supports sustainably raised meat.

Many people think taking out animal products is the answer to being healthy, but we’ve been given SO much misinformation about fat, cholesterol, and red meat being unhealthy. Those are myths. They actually are not only healthy, but necessary for optimal health!

Plus, fat-soluble vitamins HAVE to be absorbed from animal sources (Vitamin A, D, E, and K): they just aren’t bioavailable otherwise. Let me give you a concrete example: Remember when people told you “eat carrots; they’re good for your eyes”? That wasn’t quite right. Pre-formed vitamin A, retinol, only comes in animal products, like fish and cod liver oil. Only a small amount of beta-carotine (found in plants) can be converted into active Vitamin A (retinol), and some people, because of genetic mutations, can’t convert it at ALL. We get concentrated Vitamin A, D, E and K from the fat from animals that have been fed their natural diet and allowed to roam outside in the sun.

I mean, I get it. I don’t advocate for extremely processed, franken-meat either. But there’s a huge difference between some store bought “oh my god what is that” and and some bacon from pastured pigs that haven’t been given antibiotics or hormones to fatten them up.

The answer isn’t to give up meat. The answer is to buy animals that are being raised ethically, fed their proper diet, allowed to roam outside and do what they do in nature: embrace the “chicken-ness of the chicken”, as Joel Salatin puts it. Know your farmer, and buy locally if you can! The reason that all of this factory farming started happening is because we became too distant from the production of our food. It’s time to be educated and knowledgeable about where our food comes from, and to make wise, sustainable decisions in terms of from whom we purchase. The only way any of this is going to change is if it’s a grass-roots movement, with all of us changing our buying habits to support more ethical practices.

For more reading on this topic: I highly recommend the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan, which talks much more about the idea of vegetarianism, whether eating meat is ethical, and talks in depth about Joel Salatin and his farm, Polyface Farms.