As you're lighting your grill this summer, spend a bit of time considering what you're putting on it. We all look forward to grilled burgers, grilled veggies, and even barbecue, but while grilling meat can be a conscious choice, you do need to make the extra effort to ensure that your barbecue is a humane one. Whether you're grilling chicken, fish, pork, or beef, here are some guidelines for ensuring that you're only choosing the best humane meat to feed yourself, your friends, and your family this summer.
1. Familiarize Yourself with Humane Meat Labels
It seems that every package you buy in the grocery store has some kind of buzzword on it, but they don't always mean the same thing.
The Certified Humane label, organized by the HFAC non-profit organization, is one of the most humane certifications out there, creating verified "Pasture Raised" and "Free Range" labels for poultry to replace the unregulated use of these terms. However, humane fraud was uncovered in 2015 related to this certification, so you may wish to be cautious or opt for another certification to verify these claims.
Animal Welfare Approved is one of our top choices for humane meat, with rigorous standards developed alongside a variety of professionals addressing every aspect of the species' lifecycle needs. In fact, alongside Certified Humane, AWA ranked as the most humane choices in a 2011 comparison of five of the top humane meat labels.
For more information on these and other humane meat labels, this handy guide from the ASPCA is a great place to start.
2. Choose Unique Cuts
Most grilled meat recipes opt for muscle cuts: beef tenderloins or hanger steaks, chicken thighs, and lamb chops are all frequently featured. But always choosing common muscle cuts increases the demand for industrial production, whereas choosing more obscure cuts, like liver, kidney, or even tripe allow for smaller producers and butchers ascribing to whole animal butchery to make a living, and it's a far more sustainable choice no matter how you look at it.
Offal cuts or even whole poultry can also easily be cooked up on the grill. Try our whole grilled chipotle chicken recipe or grill up some delicious beef heart to venture away from flank steak and chicken breasts and explore a different side of grilling meat.
3. Pay the Price for Humane Meat
If meat is at the lower end of the price scale, chances are it's not all that humane.
Low prices are often an indication of low-quality feed and animal exploitation. The higher prices associated with free-range chickens or grass-fed, organic beef aren't just because of increased demand, but also due to the increased cost of raising animals humanely. In other words, if you think you've found a deal that seems too good to be true, chances are, it is.
The one exception would be buying bulk meat from a whole animal butchery. You can often find great deals buying in bulk, via CSAs, or buying a whole animal (alone or with friends).
4. Vary Your Menu
Just because you're grilling meat doesn't mean that needs to be the only option. Choosing to serve just a bit of high-quality meat alongside some delicious grilled vegetables is a great way to reduce your consumption of meat (and afford the pricier, better quality cuts).
We've got some tips to make sure that you're grilling vegetables perfectly.
5. Choose Local
If you really want to ensure that the meat that you are buying is truly humanely raised, your best resource is the producer. Choosing local meat not only reduces the carbon footprint of your purchase, it also allows you to speak directly with the producer and ensure that the humane standards that he or she works with are in line with what you are looking for as far as humane meat.
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Grilled beef image via Shutterstock