Three sustainably raised cows grazing in an extensive pasture field

What is better meat?

Better meat and dairy are better for the environment, animal welfare and our health. Find out the best kind of meat and dairy to buy if you want to eat more sustainably.
  Published:  11 Oct 2017    |      1 minute read

Eating more plants, and less meat and dairy, is great for the planet and our health.

Did you know 14.5% of global climate-changing gases come from meat and dairy production? So switching to a more plant-based diet is an easy way to do something about climate change. 

But for the meat we do eat – what should we choose? These 3 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 in their article.