If you have recently adopted a plant-based diet, that’s great! There are some healthy benefits to eating more plants, but if you are anything like me, you may still enjoy eating meat and animal products from time to time, which means you may be wondering how you can be more mindful about your meat choices altogether. Here are five tips that can help you eat (and enjoy) meat more responsibly.
*If you are currently contemplating adopting a plant-based diet, here are six simple plant-based swaps you can make today, a how-to guide to plant-based foods and some simple tips on how to create a plant-based kitchen that may help you along the way to adopting a plant-based lifestyle.
#1 Avoid misleading labels
When shopping for meat, avoid misleading labels. For example, meat defined as range-free is not a well defined term, so shop for more well defined labels like natural, which is defined by the USDA. Simultaneously, stay away from farmed produced meat that is focused on maximum output and profit. For more information, visit FACT.
#2 Choose ethical producers
When it comes to making better food choices, especially meat, you’ll want to choose farmers, producers and ranchers who enable natural behavior, promote good health and animal welfare and provide animals with a natural diet. This means purchasing your meats from local, smaller scale farms and ranches as well as independent butchers, farmers markets, farm shops and higher standard producers.
Do your research before making a final purchase and don’t be afraid to ask the farmers and ranchers questions. But if you’re more likely to do your shopping at the grocery store, you can find brands and farms that raise animals using higher standards.
Jessica Patel, RDN at Well Fed Nutrition says, “If you have access to a local farmer or farmer’s market this can be a great opportunity to talk to a farmer and find out how the animal was raised. For most of us, though, we’ll buy our meat from the grocery store. Luckily, many grocery stores stock higher animal welfare meat options. Check out brands to look for at the ASPCA Shop with Your Heart list.”
#3 Evaluate ingredients
When choosing your meat, read your labels and avoid options that include artificial fillers or preservatives. However, it’s important to note not all food additives and preservatives are bad.
Catherine Borkowski, RDN, LDN of LifeSpice Ingredients says, “Not all food additives and preservatives are bad—many are in our food supply to serve a purpose, whether that be to prevent foodborne illness, boost nutrition, improve taste and texture, or allow it to be transported across states. Some examples of these are salt, rosemary or celery extracts, tocopherols (vitamin E) or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Others, such as sugar, soy protein, or maltodextrin, may be used to produce higher yields with lower cost ingredients.”
She continues, “The FDA regulates how these additives can be used in the food supply—which foods, how much, and how it is identified on the label. More information on these types of food ingredients can be found on the FDA website. It’s important to educate yourself on food additives to understand which ones fit within your health goals or dietary restrictions.”
#4 Look for the right labels
When it comes to eating meat more responsibly, avoid the wrong labels (see tip #1 above) and instead, look for the right labels including:
- American Grassfed Association (AGA)
- Animal Welfare Approved (AWA)
- Certified Grassfed by AWA
- Global Animal Partnership (GAP)
- Humane Farm Animal Care
#5 Purchase only what you need
Meat is a precious resource, so start treating it as such. This means purchasing only the meat you need and using all of it including the bones by making your own homemade bone broth.
“Purchasing meat with higher animal welfare standards may mean paying more,” Patel notes. “Stretch your dollar by adding a smaller portion of meat to your plate and rounding it out with a veggie and carbohydrate like brown rice or beans.”
Adopting a plant-based lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to give up meat entirely, but if you do eventually decide to eat and enjoy meat sources, make sure you are doing so more mindfully and responsibly with these five tips so you can feel good about the meat you are eating.