What is better meat?

What is the best kind of meat or dairy I can buy if I want to eat more sustainably?
  11 Oct 2017    |      3 min

Eating more plants and less meat and dairy is great for the planet and our health. But for the meat we do eat – what should we choose? These three simple guidelines make buying better meat and dairy easy.

1. Better for the environment

Look for meat and dairy produced in so-called low-intensity systems. These include organic and pasture-fed regimes, where

  • the number of animals raised in one area is limited
  • fewer or no chemicals are used on the land
  • animals aren't routinely dosed with antibiotics.

Meat and milk from animals that have been reared on pasture or home-grown feed avoid the use of imported soy feed from deforested areas. Imported soy feed from deforested areas is a particular problem in intensive chicken, pork and dairy production.

Find organic meat and milk at your local farmers’ market, farm shop, butchers or supermarket. Look out for the Soil Association or OF&G logos. Other certification schemes are also available.

Look out for the Pasture for Life (100% pasture-fed beef and lamb) and Pasture Promise (milk produced from free-range cows) labels, as well as pork and chicken produced from home-grown animal feeds. Ask the producer or retailer for this information.

2. Better for animal welfare

Choose only meat produced to high welfare standards, which enable animals to express natural behaviours and ensure they have plenty of access to the natural world.

The RSPCA Assured label shows the meat and dairy is from higher welfare farms. The “Free-range” label for chicken (and eggs) covers a host of production methods — some better than others. Find out more from the British Hen Welfare Trust.

3. Better for your health

Steer clear of processed meats, which have been linked to colorectal cancer. And limit the amount of red meat you eat — the World Cancer Research Fund recommends no more than 500g a week, or around 70g a day. Choose organic meat – which has been shown to be higher in nutrients and lower in 'bad' fats.

Friends of the Earth is part of the Eating Better alliance — a network of over 50 organisations working to make it easier for everyone to eat less and better meat. Find out more on what makes 'better' meat on their blog.