Ethical Meat Eating in the Valley

So, you’ve become attuned to the some of the horrors of factory farmed meat — cramped living conditions, antibiotics and disease, environmental degradation — but you find yourself still craving a steak, or wanting a juicy burger?

Fortunately, ethical meat eating is made easy in the Willamette Valley, thanks to many local farmers who use sustainable practices. Supporting these farmers helps support healthy, local economics and agriculture.

Friends of Family Farmers
Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) promotes small, sustainable farming with the use of environmentally-friendly and humane practices. Together with OSU’s Southern Willamette Valley Small Farms, this grassroots non-profit organization hosts an ongoing series called “inFARMation” with the goal of educating Corvallis and surrounding communities in how to buy meat directly from local farmers.

According to Lindsay Trant from FoFF, inFARMation started in 2009 as a voice for family farms, and to show Oregonians that choosing to eat meat doesn’t have to mean compromising your ethics.

“Every single producer we work with cares so much for their animals. They raise their animals with the goal of them only having one bad day ever in their lives,” said Trant. “They make sure that the animals are comfortable, and not stressed.”

Trant explained that family farmers in our area often opt for mobile slaughter, so animals never have to deal with the stress and confusion of leaving their pastures. Four Star Meat from Eugene, for example, will travel to farms for the kill, then take the animal back to their facility to be processed.

Family Farms vs. Factory Farms
Family farms are the opposite of a factory farm, or a CAFO — concentrated animal feeding operation.

Per the FoFF website, “It is neither natural nor sustainable to confine thousands or tens of thousands of animals in one location without access to the outdoors, fresh air, vegetation, or the ability for animals to engage in natural behaviors.”

Trant expressed her own concern for animals crammed into CAFOs, and posed the question: When you have all of those animals in one place, what do you do with the manure?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock alone produces 7.1 gigatons of CO2 per year. That equates to over 15.6 trillion pounds of CO2, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, with cattle alone representing 65 percent of all emissions. The FOA also states that 44 percent of livestock emissions are in the form of methane, another major greenhouse gas.

For cattle in particular, the release of methane comes down to feeding techniques and feed used, which is exactly why FoFF advocates for pasture-based farming over CAFOs. The Oregon Pasture Network, another FoFF program, is actively working with farmers on increasing sustainability by regenerating their soil through carbon sequestering, where the carbon they produced is put back into the dirt.

Half a Cow
One of the issues that Friends of Family Farmers has come up against is the USDA process required to sell meat at a store or farmers market. It is a complicated, lengthy, and expensive ordeal that is often a barrier to small farms.

While FoFF is actively advocating at the Capitol in support of small farms, consumers also have other options. For example, there are local farmers that will sell shares of a live animal, which exempts them from the rigorous USDA process. In other words, you can split the meat of an animal amongst friends and family.

The idea of buying “half of a cow” might sound intimidating to most. Where would you go to buy it? How much meat would that be? How much would it cost? Who would butcher it? Which “half” should you get?

This is where inFARMation steps in, providing meat-eaters with tips and explanations, such as where to find a processor and how a butcher can help you select the right cut.

Buying Local Meats
What is the price of sustainably raised, well cared for, pasture-farmed meat? According to Teagan Moran from the OSU Small Farms Program, this can be a hard thing to nail down.

Moran said prices fluctuate “depending on breed, management strategies, and then of course, the final weight of the animal, which will always vary.”

She provided some examples: A Black Angus steer (approximately 1,100 lbs) from SCIO Farms costs $1,300 for the whole animal. A cow from Crooked Gate Ranch in Monroe costs $3.20/lb per whole animal, and $3.30/lb per half. While the cost may seem high up front, buying local meat usually pencils out to be less than what you would pay to buy from a grocery store, and much higher quality.

If you don’t eat that much meat, don’t have the storage space, or don’t have a family to share the cost of an animal with, you can also buy local meat at local farmers markets, the North and Southtown Co-ops, or from CommunityCow.net.

Community Cow is the same idea as buying “half a cow” or splitting a cow with your family, but instead, you split the cost with others from the Corvallis Area. Plus, they will deliver specific cuts of meat directly to your house.

To learn more about FoFF and see when the next events are near you, check out the Corvallis calendar on their website. If you can’t make it to an inFARMation event, OregonPastureNetwork.org has all of the information you’ll need, including a ‘family farm-finder.’ A quick zip code entry of ‘97330’ brings up 11 different options for purchasing sustainable meat near Corvallis.

By Lydia Parker