Meat Is a Hot Potato

Making policy can be tough work, especially when those policies affect what we eat. Last fall, an application from sausage-maker Fatted Calf Charcuterie to sell at the Saturday farmers’ market raised questions about what, if any, animal products are appropriate to offer. Animal products have been sold at the markets since the Ecology Center started managing them in 1987: several farmers sell eggs; Redwood Hill goat farm sells cheese and yogurt, and Full Belly Farm sells wool and sheepskins, alongside carrots and sunflowers. In season, fishers sell fresh-caught salmon and crab, and free-range chicken is part of many prepared lunch plates.
Fatted Calf’s sausages and salamis are made from Niman Ranch pork, beef and lamb; its duck meat comes from Liberty Duck. Both suppliers have a reputation for hormone-free meat, humane treatment of animals, and practices that sustain pastures and waterways. The animals are pasture-raised, then fed grains for several weeks before they’re slaughtered. None of that changed the views of some committee members who feel selling meat at the market contradicts the Ecology Center’s mission to promote sustainable living.
These members pointed out that there is simply not enough land to grow enough meat to satisfy worldwide consumption. The annual beef intake of an average American family of four requires more than 260 gallons of fuel and releases 2.5 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, as much as driving six months in an average car. Nearly half the water the US uses goes to grow feed and provide drinking water for cattle and other livestock. Cattle-grazing on public lands is its own controversy, with cattle degrading the land by stripping vegetation and compacting the earth. Wild animals disappear, exterminated by cattlemen or out-competed. Even humane ranching practices may not be sustainable where over six billion people are trying to live.
Yet most people shopping at the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets are not vegetarian, and they buy meat somewhere. Offering space to the Fatted Calf Charcuterie gives these shoppers the chance to buy healthful meats from a local producer. Some  customers come to the market for the sausages, and these shoppers then support the fruit and vegetable farmers.
It was a tough decision for the committee to make, but in the end, we invited  Fatted Calf to sell at the Saturday market, on the condition that the company display information about the farming methods of the ranchers who supply their ingredients. The Ecology Center posts information about the environmental unsustainability of meat. The sausages and other products have been very popular.
Would you like to help decide policy? The farmers’ market committee is looking for new members from the community. The committee meets monthly for potlucks and discussion. Call (510)  548-3333 or email <a></a>.

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