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Meat & The Environment: Beef

Now more than ever is the time to support our communities, family, friends, and the environment. We are all trying to cope with a world that will be forever changed by the current pandemic. This is a time for serious introspection. A time to nourish ourselves physically and emotionally and take an honest look at how our actions or inactions affect the environment around us and result in far-reaching consequences. I hope we can all take this time to find ways we can live more gently and lessen our impact on an ever-changing climate and landscape.  

With that in mind, this month we’re kicking off our “Meat & The Environment” blog series with a discussion about a very common protein – beef.

For starters, let’s get a couple of points out of the way. We love meat at The Happy Beast. In fact, a large part of our mission is to educate pet guardians about the importance of a fresh food diet that is high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates. However, there is a price that comes with the consumption of meat by us and our pets. 

Where our meat comes from is an integral part of the puzzle. In this blog post, we’ll briefly address the basics of beef production in our country and what you can do to help lessen its environmental impact. In future posts, we’ll discuss the effect industrialized agriculture has on public lands, wildlife conservation, habitat destruction, and animal/human welfare.  

According to 2017 USDA statistics, there are 2.8 million cattle/calves in the state of Colorado. Americans consume an average of 65 pounds of beef every year and, according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, our pets’ diets account for 25–30% of the environmental impacts from animal production, including use of land, water, and fossil fuels.  

As a society, we have become extremely disconnected from where our meat comes from. We don’t see the effects a pound of ground beef has on the environment or what the life of the animal looked like. Our meat and produce have become industrialized, but it does not have to be this way.  

Today, the majority of beef produced in our country comes from industrial feedlots. In 1967, the United States had 9,627 livestock slaughtering facilities (cattle, hog, and sheep). Now, due to corporate consolidation and mass meat production, there are just 1,100 federally-inspected facilities that are managed under the USDA (Bloomberg.com). 

The reduction in the number of slaughtering facilities was the beginning of major corporations taking over our meat supply. This mass consolidation has led many small, family farmers and ranchers unable to find, or afford to process, their own meat.  According to the Niche Processor Assistance Network, there are only 20 USDA-inspected slaughterhouses in Colorado that support family farmers and ranchers who want to bring their own meat to market. The other option is for farmers and ranchers to sell their meat for a standard price per pound to a facility like JBS that handles processing and sales. In this case, the farmer or rancher no longer has their name on the product and loses all control over the product they have spent their daily lives creating.  

Like with most industries, these corporate processors have priced out the small producer and have often left them with no choice but to give into the system. This is why non-conventional meat (what I like to call “happy meat”) is so expensive. Processing can be 30% of the cost of doing business for these small-time producers. This cost trickles down to the consumer.  It is the cost of doing business the ethical way.   

The four major companies that dominate the world of animal processing sell 85% of the beef in the U.S. (Blommberg.com).  There are numerous problems with this. Like JBS in Greeley, when slaughterhouses process thousands of animals per day, the animals in their feedlot are given heavy doses of antibiotics and hormones to simply keep them alive enough to cross the threshold to be turned into meat. 

According to the FDA, 80% of antibiotics used in our country are used for farm animals. Not only do these antibiotics and hormones end up in the meat we and our pets eat, they end up in our drinking water and streams and rivers along with the animal waste pollution from these concentrated feedlots. Much like the movement we have seen for organic produce, there is a movement within the livestock industry called regenerative agriculture.  Put simply, this way of farming and ranching uses planned pasture rotation as a way to increase soil health, sequester CO2 in the soil, promote biodiversity, and increase water retention. 

Regenerative agriculture is also good for the cow! Cattle are raised by natural grazing in open pasture and more time is given for them to reach natural maturity for market. Unfortunately, this type of beef makes up just over 1% of the beef sold in our country. According to a report released in 2019 from Stone Barn Foods and Agriculture and their partners, it is estimated that 97% of cattle in the U.S. live the last 4-6 months of their life in a concentrated animal feeding operation (or CAFO). The animals become a product of an industrialized agriculture industry dominated by Tyson, Cargill, JBS USA, and National Beef Packaging Company. Colorado is home to 200 CAFOs. There are 2 million cows that pass through these facilities each year. 

The positive news is that demand for natural and humane beef is on the rise. We have the power to drive that demand and make a significant change for the betterment of these animals, our environment, and the dedicated family farmers and ranchers who work 365 days a year to survive and bring food to our tables.  

So, what can we do? 

1. Support Local Meat Producers

We as consumers drive the demand so look where your meat comes from! The more we ask questions and make sustainable and humane choices, the more change we will see in reversing the industrialization of our food supply. Our family farmers and ranchers need us. They want to do the right thing, but they are cornered between their ethics and being able to survive. 

2. Value Quality

The second justification for apathy is that “happy meat” is too expensive. Yes, it is more expensive. Another way to look at it is why is conventional meat so cheap?  We consumers see this everyday with everything we purchase. Huge quantities are always less expensive than food that is produced in small batches, homemade, sustainably sourced, organic, etc. We need to eat less and waste less. Quality over quantity.  

We are excited to announce that you will begin to see many transformations at The Happy Beast in the coming months. We are working diligently to be a leader in the pet food industry by expanding the scope of information provided to customers, and to broaden our responsibility as animal guardians, members of our communities, and inhabitants of this planet.  

One of our major tasks at hand is to design a scale of sustainability with all of our manufacturers. By creating a code of ethics addressing concerns like where their meat comes from, we can offer transparency about the products you are buying and help you make better choices by selecting products that are more connected to your values.  

Here’s a couple of definitions to help you along the way:

  • Grass-Finished – Meat labeled “grass-finished” is guaranteed to come from an animal that spends its entire life on open pasture and is processed by the farmer/rancher at a small-scale facility.  
  • Grass-Fed – Meat labeled “grass-fed” most likely started its life on pasture on a farm or ranch, but was finished with grain at a feedlot. The exception to this would be meat that is ethically grain-finished on a farm or ranch for taste preferences and then taken to a small-scale processor. Some people prefer the marbling of meat that comes from grain-finished meat.  A safe way to tell is don’t trust anything that is not grass-finished unless it comes directly from a farm or ranch or from a local market or butcher shop. Unfortunately, beef in the big grocery stores most likely came from animals that ended up in the feedlot.

3. Support These Companies

  • Andersons – A Colorado company using only meat from Kinikin farm, which practices regenerative farming on the western slope! They offer fresh food and lots of bones for your dog to chew on.
  • Answers – A leader in the industry for their socially and environmentally-guided principles. All animals are pasture raised with the highest regard for animal welfare.
  • Rawr – Balanced cat food that is sustainably sourced and free of antibiotics and hormones.
  • Raw Bistro – Located in an area of Minnesota dedicated to sustainable agriculture. They source all ingredients from local and regional producers who value humane and environmentally-based farming practices.
  • Beast Feast – Our own line of pet treats made from responsibly-sourced meats in Colorado and Wyoming.

Resources:

Restricted Exercise? The Five Things That Helped Us Survive My Dog’s Injury Recovery

Restricting exercise is often a first line of healing for dogs with soft tissue injuries, but is also prescribed for dogs recovering from surgeries (including spay, neuter, and ACL repair) and broken bones. Your vet may recommend keeping your dog kenneled when you aren’t home, short leashed walks lasting 5-30 minutes, no running in the yard and no jumping on furniture.

For my super active Aussie-mix, restricted exercise sounds like torture, but we’ve made it four weeks and only have two to go!

These are the five things I brought home from The Happy Beast that are helping her heal faster and bust through the boredom.

FYDO Bagel Bed

I’m a total sucker when it comes to dogs on the furniture. The FYDO Bagel Bed is so plush and snuggly that my dog thinks it’s an appropriate substitute for sleeping on my bed.

Tip: I turned all the furniture to face the wall so there’s no temptation for her to jump up. If you don’t want to lose access to your sofa and chairs, put heavy books on the cushions or block them with baby gates.

InClover’s Connectin

Connectin was developed as a joint support with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, so it’s amazing for dogs with joint pain and arthritis. My dog has a soft tissue injury, so I chose Connectin for its anti-inflammatory and circulatory-stimulating properties. InClover’s clinical studies were done on volunteered animals who already showed joint problems (which I find to be more ethical than studies done by other companies where healthy animals were inflicted with joint pain as part of the study- yikes!) InClover’s studies “show significant relief in weight bearing discomfort and increase in mobility”.

Tip: Connectin is available in three different forms. My dog is taking a crunchy tablet dipped in peanut butter every morning. I saw noticeable improvement after 14 days.

CBDRX Hemp Oil

CBD is quickly gaining popularity for treating pain and inflammation and decreasing anxiety in animals. (Read our blog on how it works.) CBDRX grows their own organic hemp plants in southern Colorado and extracts the CBDs in their facility in Boulder.

Tip: You want to use the lowest effective dose- which their representative described to me as one drop less than what makes my dog sleepy. I started with four drops, and worked up to half of a dropper. When I went over that dose, she slept really hard. (CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive properties, so you don’t have to worry about your animal getting “high.”)

Clicker and Training Treats

Since my dog is getting limited physical exercise, I’m increasing her mental exercise! Check out these stationary games we’re playing this month. My dog loves clicker training, so I chose a few tricks that can be done without her standing up and moving around. She almost has “lick your lips” figured out and it’s so funny!

West Paw Brain Toys

West Paw’s Zogoflex are stuffable and more challenging than a traditional Kong. Load them up with canned dog food, peanut butter or treats and freeze for a longer lasting “puzzle.”

Tip: It’s extra important to watch calories since your dog is getting limited exercise. On days when your dog is getting a lot of treats, feed less food at meal times. You can also use a Zogoflex toy in place of a dog bowl, and make mealtime into playtime!

Why We Love Local and USA Companies

USA! USA! USA!

The foundation of our business is based not only on the love we have for animals, but on the love we have for our planet and our local community.

We are fortunate that our community culture strongly encourages people to support local and environmentally-friendly options for everyday needs. In fact, Lafayette is one of the top 50 cities in the nation recognized for its environmental and sustainability efforts. We echo these efforts in our search for brands who share these values and incorporate them into their company mission statements.

Mother Earth Love

The companies that we feel provide the healthiest foods for our animals are also the most environmentally-friendly, sustainable and ethical producers – and most of them hail from the good ol’ US of A.

Local Economy Love

When we support our local economy and buy products made in the US, we increase demand for domestic sourcing and services which requires more local jobs. Local workforces tend to spend more money in their own economy, which further increases demand.

Buying locally made products and choosing to spend money in local businesses benefits our economy by:

  • Creating more jobs
  • Increasing tax revenue
  • Decreasing pollution from imported goods
  • Encourage sustainable practices that support the health, environment, and economy of our local community.

Supplements for Every Day Dog Health

You already have your dog on a healthy diet so what else does your she need for optimal health and wellness? The answer might be dietary supplements.

At The Happy Beast, we always address diet first. A species-appropriate diet lays the foundation for proper health by reducing the risk of illness and injury in animals and helping them recover from existing illness and disease. Often times, our animals have a lifestyle need or health condition that can be addressed by adding supplements to the appropriate diet.

For example, my dog, Pi, eats raw foods prepared by Primal and Small Batch and she occasionally gets air-dried food from The Real Meat Co. She’s on an optimal diet, but to meet her specific health needs, I stock my doggie medicine cabinet with Connectin joint support, a fish oil, Pet Natural’s Calming treats and Optagest prebiotics.

Check out these common scenarios we hear in the store every day and how the right supplement can help improve your animal’s health.

My two-year-old border collie mix is my hiking and running companion.

A young, active dog is susceptible to joint inflammation and injury. Omega-3s from fish oil and glucosamine keep joints healthy and moving. Colorado canines will also benefit from a daily prebiotic or probiotic to stave off environmental bacteria like giardia. Try InClover’s Jump or Connectin for joint health and Optagest Prebiotic and Enzyme.

I have a seven-year-old dog with a history of urinary tract infections and struvite crystals.

Powdered cranberry contains tannins that prevent certain pathogenic strains of bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Free-floating bacteria can then pass through the bladder, reducing the risk of infection and growth of struvite crystals. Try Cranimals or Wee Wee Boost.

My lab has itchy dry skin and sheds incessantly.

Omega-3s from fish oil or algae combat inflammation and soothe itchy skin. Anecdotal evidence shows that those same omega-3s reduce shedding, but conclusive research is still ongoing.  Try InClover Glow or Alaska Natural’s Salmon Oil.

My dog’s breath stinks!

Bad breath can come from tartar in the mouth or bacteria in the gut. To combat both, pair a prebiotic with a green detoxing supplement. Try InClover’s Grin or PetKelp’s Wellness Blend.

I have a dog who is a Nervous Nelly at the vet and sometimes vomits on car rides.

There are several supplement approaches to calming an anxious dog and some are more effective than others depending on the dog and the cause of anxiety. Theanine helps dogs who are generally anxious, while flower essences like Rescue Remedy work well for sensitive dogs. A dog who vomits in the car will find relief from an herbal supplement like Ark Natural’s Happy Traveler.

My dog got into the trash and she’s had loose stools for the last few days.

Pumpkin fiber soothes tummies by regulating stool volume and density, meaning it binds loose stools and combats constipation. Firm-Up’s dehydrated pumpkin also boasts soluble apple fiber for an extra stomach-soothing boost.

We hope this blog post provides a good, quick summary of some of our favorite supplements, but stop by the store if you’d like to talk more about your pet’s specific conditions and how we might be able to help.