The Sensitive Carnivore
October 24, 2006
Reading Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore, one could be left with the impression that consumers simply do not care or are unaware of the differences between regular meat, organic meat, and other labels indicating better animal welfare practices. Judging by the shelves at my Midwestern grocery store, this is not the case. The free range chicken regularly sells out, while the organic and natural chicken does not. Free range buffalo sells better than the merely "natural" beef right next to it. A whole line of organic meats was recently pulled back off the shelf, or moved away from the free range, because people simply were not buying it.
Labeling is a real concern and does indeed create confusion even for the savvy consumer. But with good signs — such as the clear signs at Whole Foods explain their range-fed beef policy — consumers will, over time, learn the difference and begin to really question the relevance. And thanks to greater media exposure, such as the recent Times articles by Michael Pollan (1, 2, etc.) and the Meatrix videos on the Web, consumers are slowly beginning to learn the importance of shifting agriculture away from the feedlots: they not only engender inhumane treatment, but are also huge sources of pollution and breeding grounds for disease.
Mr. Martin’s article simply does not do justice to the variety of issues around "factory farmed" meat or to the ability of the American consumer to understand the difference.