Why buy sustainable?
How an animal is reared, fed and treated all have a big impact on the quality and flavour of the meat. It might be a little more expensive but you really can taste the difference.
British sustainable meat is also better for the environment. High welfare, lower than average emissions and low food miles all help, as well as boosting the local economy. Outside the UK, practices are different so might not equal the same standards.
Chat with your local butcher to find out exactly where the meat comes from and more about the specific conditions it’s been raised in. Your butcher can also help you chose the cut that’s just right for your meal.
Speak the lingo
Organic – meat reared to high levels of animal welfare, avoiding the use of artificial chemicals.
Grass-fed – most if not all of the animal’s diet is pasture; only meat that carries the Pasture for Life logo is 100% grass fed.
Free range – this differs depending on the animal but generally means that they have access to an outside area for at least a portion of every day.
Outdoor reared – referring mainly to pigs, the animal will spend most of its life outside before being brought inside to fatten before slaughter.
Labels to look out for
RSPCA Assured logo – this means that the meat has been produced according to the RSPCA’s animal welfare standards.
Red Tractor logo – can be traced from pack back to British farm with standards based on 4 key principles.
Soil Association logo – shows that the meat meets Soil Association organic standards.
Pasture for Life logo – meat with this logo comes from exclusively pasture-fed animals, raised to the highest welfare standards.
Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) logo – meat from a native or rare breed animal will carry this logo, which encourages the continuation of these breeds.
Meat to eat
Chicken and poultry
Much of the UK’s chicken meat is intensively farmed, typically grown indoors at speed and slaughtered at 35 days old. Organic and free range birds are grown at a more natural pace and setting, and can live for more than double the amount of time, which means better texture and depth of flavour to the meat.
Beef and lamb
Most UK beef is outdoor-reared but it’s not guaranteed so check the label or ask your butcher. Try grass-fed, look for meat that’s been dry hung for at least 21-28 days and consider rare breed beef if available.
While all lamb is free range, it’s often killed when very young. Older lamb or young mutton offer better flavour; so speak to your butcher to find out what’s available.
Pork and bacon
Your best bet here is organic pork as there is currently no legal definition of free-range pork. In the UK, organically raised pigs are reared outdoors with access to straw bedded huts and large paddocks. That’ll put some sizzle in your sausage!
Get your goat
There are tens of thousands of commercial dairy goats in the UK, which means many male kids that can either be raised for meat – or dispatched at birth. So rather than waste a resource that’s already there, it might be time to embrace a new flavour of meat.
Locally sourced game is one of the most sustainable ways to eat meat. Buying wild game ensures it’s free range and avoids the non-sustainable issues with intensely farmed meat. Source from your local butcher, gamekeeper or an online supplier.
Now you’ve sussed out sustainable, try these tips to feel more at ease at the butcher’s counter and off you go!