When buying sustainable meats, here are a few things to consider:
1. Grain fed for some, grass fed for others.
Ruminants (cattle, sheep, and goats) are capable of converting straight grass into adequate basic nutrition. And in most cases, they should be allowed to do this to reduce the risk of illness that comes from eating grain. Any animal that doesn't chew its cud and have four stomachs, will take in grass as extra roughage, but cannot absorb all of the proteins and vitamins it needs without another source of nutrients--typically grain.
2. All animals are happier when they have the opportunity to run around, but some won't go as far.
Laying hens roam freely within a range and return to their coops at night, stomachs filled the with insects and plants they've foraged. Part of what makes it safe for them to spread out is the fact that they will have to check in regularly with their grain feeders, and that they are naturally inclined to put themselves to bed at dusk.
Pigs can be active when they are young, but their level of activity decreases as they reach adulthood, and begin to spend a good portion of the day sleeping. However, anything less than adequate room for them to sleep; to be piled up with 2 or 3 other 500 lb. pigs, is unkind and stressful for them. They are social creatures that like to change sleeping positions and locations over the course of the day.
Ruminants rely on grass if they are being fed well, which means that they require enough pasture to keep them from running out too quickly. The moment they run out of grass in a pasture, they will need to be moved, so it behooves a farmer to give them a large area to graze.
3. Antibiotics as growth enhancers versus antibiotics as cures for infections.
Antibiotics used in livestock are the same drugs used to treat infections in humans. Drug resistance can turn a small infection into a life threatening problem. The continual consumption of meats with low-dose antibiotics, that also likely contain resistant strains of bacteria, is moving us toward an inability to use antibiotics to help us when we're sick. We say 'no' to unnecessary antibiotic use in people as well as food.
That being said, all livestock farmers at some point will be faced with the ethical choice of allowing an animal to die from an illness or to give them an antibiotic. We cannot ask farmers to allow an infection to spread through their herd, or to allow their animals to suffer and die out from a curable illness. When it's the life or death of an animal and of a farm, we would rather see both make it out alive. However, we would never accept an animal for slaughter that was sick or had not gone through the prescribed withdrawal time after receiving medication.
Practices We Do Not Allow from Our Farmers
All cattle herds are pasture based. We don’t accept veal. No feedlot type infrastructure is permitted in raising or finishing our cattle. At no point in the present or future will preventative antibiotics or appetite stimulants be allowed.
In addition to the criteria above, no pigs sold to HVH can have originated from farrowing crate-based operations. Commercial confinement practices of tail docking, wolf teeth removal, appetite stimulants, and preventative antibiotics will not be allowed.