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A Burger With a Conscience?

A Burger With a Conscience?

The ethical line used to be pretty damn clear: either you abstained from eating meat and animal products thus honoring all living creatures, or you were an unabashed omnivore willing to cattle-prod your way to a delicious burger at any cost. Meat was indisputably murder, as it essentially still is, but now with more awareness, and a measure of humanity, being utilized and practiced by certain small-scale purveyors, the act of eating meat still implicates the consumer in the life taken, but just not the presumed cruelty. At any given moment there are about a dozen types of brands and certifications that inform the consumer that their meat is either sustainably harvested, organically raised, grass-fed, or humanely treated – all indicators that a burger is no longer simply a burger. Sure, some of it is just inflated marketing speak, but much of it does indicate that the wind has shifted and feedlot beef, while still the vast majority of what is available to consumers, is very slowly being challenged by meat raised with a higher sense of scruples.

Take Grazin’ for instance. About 2 hours north of New York City, in the long up-and-coming town of Hudson, is the newly opened hamburger haven of Grazin’. Grazin’ looks, acts, and seems like a conventional upstate 50s-styled diner, but is exceptional in at least one regard – it is the first Animal Welfare Approved restaurant in the United States. What this means is that all meat, eggs, and dairy consumed will be from animals that were locally, sustainably, and humanely raised, as certified from Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). The AWA is a non-profit organization founded it 2006 and is dedicated solely to certifying and promoting family farms that raise their animals with the highest welfare standards. Grazin’ boasts that nearly everything served in the restaurant originates from local, family farms within a few miles, and everything was raised strictly in accordance to AWA standards. This means no battery cages, no hormones or antibiotics, and no animal cruelty are at all acceptable. The cows, chickens and pigs roaming the farm graze on a natural pasture diet, and the slaughtering is done, not by a big industrialized slaughterhouse, but by local, and humane, butchers. The meat used to make the signature burgers at Grazin’ comes from the neighboring town of Ghent, where Grazin’ Angus Acres (also owned by the same people behind the Grazin’ diner). As Grazin’ owner Dan Gibson told, “For some time now, I have dreamed about opening a truly sustainable restaurant which serves tasty, nutritious meals using only high-welfare, sustainably produced meat and other ingredients,” Gibson said. “Grazin’ is that restaurant.”

Sure just about any major city, or semi-enlightened town, has a few restaurants, which feature humanely, and sustainably raised beef, pork, what have you, but usually that makes up just a small portion of what the restaurant serves. This unassuming diner is asserting an idea that promises a certain totality and absolutism concerning the issue of animal welfare. Sure dedicated vegans and vegetarians will be left relatively unimpressed by the offerings, as meat is still…well you know. However, should omnivores, animal rights activists, vegans and vegetarians alike take notice when something like Grazin’ opens doors in their town. Does such an entity shift the goal post and render the act of eating meat not so much of a taboo as it once was? Or is eating meat, no matter how local, how sustainably raised, and how grass-fed, still just a dead cow on a bun?

Read more: Animal Rights, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Environment, Following Food, Food, Pets, Vegan, Vegetarian, , , , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
8:47PM PST on Jan 15, 2012

More importantly,animal inclusive agriculture is self-sustaining, which chemical Ag is not. I fully support ending CAFOs, they are simply another face of chem-based Ag.

If we are not to depend on the completely destructive petrol and chem based food systems, we must convert back to one that integrates animals. Even Vegetarians like the Dervaes family integrate animals with their system;

While I really like to refer to those people, after all they have been anal-retentive enough to weight EVERYTHING, they are hardly a sole, stranded example of self-sufficiency. That of course is important, since one family in one weather-blessed location is not enough. The fact is that people don’t even remember what the original purpose for those yards was. People had yards to raise food in.

8:39PM PST on Jan 15, 2012

No matter which way you dice this issue all life dies to feed other life. Nobody gets outta this life alive.

9:31AM PST on Jan 6, 2012

More such burgers would be better, but it would never make it okay to eat meat.

2:59PM PST on Dec 3, 2011


2:44PM PST on Dec 3, 2011

Say no to killing:

2:32PM PST on Dec 3, 2011

No, it would NOT make "both sides a little happier" and it certainly doesn't make the animals who are brutally slaughtered as they fight for their lives any "happier" either. There is no such thing as "humane slaughter" and there is NOTHING "happy" "humane" or "ethical" about forcing living, breathing, beings with individual personalities and a will to LIVE, to being violently slaughtered just to end up on the plates of those who choose to eat their corpses. Using cushy words only makes meat eaters feel better about themselves. The animals STILL are forced to a man made hell and they STILL fight for their lives till their last horrific, fear filled moment.

7:40AM PST on Dec 3, 2011

Cool story. I hope more of these pop up everywhere. That should make both sides a little happier, no?

Our meat is local. Farms all over Iowa. The entire state boycotted that chicken farm we all know about. Stores won't even sell their eggs any more here. This would be an awesome place to offer local farm food.

Look at all these friendly, familiar faces in here. Lynda, Marilyn, Pego, Eddie and Diane. Thanks, Diane, for telling me about this.

5:28AM PST on Nov 29, 2011

Hi Diane! Are you there, Eddie? Would you like to choose the first specific topic?

4:45AM PST on Nov 29, 2011

How about “anti-stupid”? Let’s prove that people with different opinions can discuss an issue that means a lot to them in a peaceful, tolerant and friendly manner. We’ve already expressed our opinions, over and over, and it seems to me our ethics are the same; we differ by degree.

Instead of haphazard ‘arguments’ that keep shooting off in all directions, I propose that we take one specific “point” within this issue, and see if we can find and present information that we all can accept as objective and reasonable. And if it doesn’t change our opinion, we will state why without fear of “snarkasm” (I invented a new word - do you like it?) and move on to the next “point”. No war; no disrespect, just a genuine search for factual information. What do you think?

3:19AM PST on Nov 29, 2011

Heh heh heh!

Actually, we would only have to do 96 more to make 1500!

I’m game, provided we keep it “nice” and friendly. Perfectly OK to disagree, but not to get snarky, put anyone down or get frustrated about it. A new start?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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