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Serving Humanely Raised Food: Exploring the Pros and Cons

Serving Humanely Raised Food: Exploring the Pros and Cons

For many consumers, how they get their food is important to them. This is especially true when it comes to meat, egg, dairy and poultry products. Offering menu selections with origins from certified humane farms can help your restaurant attract those health-conscious carnivores that are willing to pay a little more for some peace of mind.

What are Humanely Raised Animals?

Here is a sample of the guidelines for certified humane meat, egg, dairy and poultry products:

  • Animals must have enough space and shelter to live as comfortable as possible 
  • Animals must have access to fresh water and take in a healthy diet of feed that is hormone and antibiotic free 
  • Animals must be allowed to roam freely without cages, crates or cramped stalls

By serving certified humanely raised animal products, you show that you have a heart and that you care about the quality of product you are serving to your customers.

However, when switching to a new product there is always a list of pros and cons to consider. Let’s take a look at how serving humanely certified animal products will affect your restaurant:

Pros

  • Healthier animals, healthier customers. Grass-fed, organic, free-range and pasture-raised livestock do not have the dangerous hormones or chemicals that have been known to cause health problems. There is also less of a risk for foodborne illnesses like E. coli as livestock are usually kept in cleaner areas. 
  • Everybody’s doing it. There is a definite demand for free-range and organically-fed animal products, as evidenced by big burger chains like Burger King and Sonic serving cage-free eggs. College campuses and major companies like Google have made the change in their cafeterias to serving humanely raised animals products. 
  • It’s profitable. Since 2000, Chipotle has been serving hormone-free sour cream and cheese, organic beans and naturally raised pork, chicken and meat. Since the company went public in 2006, Chipotle has had great success with cruelty-free animal products being one of their main advertising points. 
  • Trust the source. While growing customer concern has pressured factory farms to change their methods in raising livestock, the spotlight has been on smaller local farms and markets for production. This more intimate relationship guarantees you know just where your meats and animal products have come from. 
  • Ease guilty consciences. For the hesitant meat-eaters, restaurants that serve humanely raised meats and animal products have become a beacon of hope. Not only is serving and eating naturally-raised meat healthier and much kinder, but the entire farm-to-table process itself is more environmentally friendly than the factory farm system.

Cons

  • Smaller portion sizes. The benefit of chemically-altered meats is that cows, pigs and chickens get bigger, meaning more meat per animal. This is also true for egg and dairy products that come from factory farm-raised animals. So while they may not be healthier, they are plentiful. 
  • Higher demand, higher cost. With more and more foodservice companies looking to attract concerned consumers and factory farms still out-producing certified humane farms, demand outstrips production and drives up cost. Raising free-range cattle, organically-fed pigs and cage-free chickens is also more expensive for farmers as they need to build the proper facilities and secure ample land. 
  • It takes time and research. You can’t just go into purchasing and serving humanely raised animal products blindly. Trying to find a reputable farm with a dependable track record is tough and sifting through all the labels and literature can be confusing. Finding the time and making effort to personally survey the farms and markets you purchase from just might not be feasible. 
  • Buyers beware. Since compliance with humane treatment is voluntary and regulation is still vague, some farms may try to circumvent the system.  And though there may be organic labels on produce, farms may not necessarily practice humane tactics when it comes to animals. >>Learn more about where your food comes from. 
  • Customers pay more, too. While you may feel good about improved quality of life for animals and a reduced carbon footprint, customers may not agree with you. Customers looking for great value will not find the cost of procuring humanely raised food worth the extra added price.

Choosing to go the humane route for your meats, eggs, poultry and dairy products can play a huge factor in attracting business from concerned consumers. Just be sure to comprehensively weigh the risks and costs that come with ditching the factory farm for much greener pastures.