Eating meat is not the most environmentally-friendly life choice. According to a 2006 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock are responsible for emitting about 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gases. Some say that estimate is too low.
Beef is by far the worst environmental offender: producing it emits five times more greenhouse gases than the average for pork, chicken, eggs, dairy and plant products. Plus, compared to those products, beef production requires 28 times more land, 11 times more water, and six times as much reactive nitrogen. And buying grass-fed beef does not solve the problem. In fact, it may actually be worse for the environment.
So what can we do? The most obvious answer: give up beef. Many think it would be best to give up meat altogether. For an ardent meat lover, however, even giving up beef is a tough ask. Going vegetarian might require counseling.
If you’re not ready to go cold turkey on your favorite sirloins and marinades, consider reserving them for special occasions, or at least eat them a little less often. And when you do eat them, get them from a local butcher shop instead of the supermarket.
Buying grass-fed products might not be as environmentally-friendly as you thought, but buying local does have some environmental advantages. Many local butchers use meat from Michigan farms. That means it takes less transportation—and less energy—to bring the meat to your table. It also means you’re getting a fresher product. And fresh products don’t need as many nasty preservatives and fillers to make it to your table unspoiled. They also taste better than supermarket fare because of it.
All that said, not all butchers are created equal. Even if the butcher is local, it’s a good idea to ask if the meat they prepare comes from a local source as well. It also pays to look into their preparation methods. Here’s a few West Michigan butchers we consider standouts:
Montello Meat Market
435 Ionia Ave. SW. Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Check out this family-owned meat market next time you stop by the Downtown Market for fruits and veggies. According to its website, all of its meat comes from small Michigan farms and has been raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones. This meat market is old-school. They prepare their meats using the classic process of dry-aging, and they promise that they don’t use any preservatives, dyes, gases, or solutions along the way. The only catch: a hefty price tag. You will probably want to reserve this meat for special occasions.
Kingma’s Market and Butcher Shoppe
2225 Plainfield Ave. NE Grand Rapids, MI 49505
Nestled inside a local specialty grocery store on Plainfield Avenue, this family-owned butcher shop gets its beef from Holland, MI, its pork from Hudsonville, and its chicken from a supplier in Goeshen, Indiana. 100 percent hormone-free and antibiotic-free, Kingma’s meat is fresh from the farm and prepared in-house using traditional methods. Like Montello, Kingma’s dry-ages its beef. But unlike Montello meat, the cuts at this butcher come at a cost that won’t slaughter your wallet.
855 Michigan Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
This relatively new outfit is already making waves in the GR meat biz. Located right next door to Flatlanders Bar, Grand Butchers offers high-quality meats, all-natural products and gets its poultry and pork from local sources. In the future, Grand Butchers hopes to find a local supplier of grass-fed cattle as well. Currently, the beef comes from Nebraska.
Have you given any of these butchers a try? What did you think? Would you ever consider giving up meat altogether? What about beef? Let us know what you think!