Restaurants

You walk into a restaurant… determined to eat meat there only if it’s been humanely raised. You’re willing to go vegetarian if there’s no meat that matches your morals, but you hope they have something.

Ideally… you would have called the restaurant earlier, or looked at their website. The best time to ask about the meat is before you arrive.

If you can’t get information ahead of time, here are a few potential scenarios that could unfold at your table…

Scenario 1: Helpful »

Waitress:  Hi, do you have any questions about the menu?

You:  I was just wondering if any of the meat served here is grass fed, pasture raised, or organic…

Waitress:  Hmmm… I’m not sure, let me check for you.

[She goes and checks, then comes back]

Waitress:  The chef says we offer a grass fed strip steak — it’s this one right here [she points to the menu].  But that’s about it. And nothing organic. 

You:  Ok, thanks. I’ll have that steak. And thanks for checking for me.

[An ideal scenario. The eater’s question is specific and avoids the word “humane,” which can be interpreted differently. The server checks with the chef or owner, she doesn’t guess. And the eater thanks the server!]

Scenario 2: Hazy »

Waiter:  Hi, what can I get for you?

You:  Oh, it says here on the menu that your pork is from Pretty Pastures Farm. I was just wondering if you know how they raise their pigs?

Waiter:  Sorry, I don’t. And I think the chef is too busy right now for me to ask.

You:  Ok, no worries. I think I’ll pass on that dish then. I’ll have the veggie chili instead.

[You take out your smartphone and jot down the name of the farm so you can research it later.]

Waiter:  You’re smart to ask, by the way. Between you and me, I think Pretty Pastures isn’t so pretty…

[An unclear scenario. The eater is skeptical about farm names – all of us should be – and doesn’t choose the meat because not enough is known about it.]

Scenario 3: Hopeless »

Waiter:  Hi, ready to order?

You:  Yes, but before I do, I was just wondering if you guys serve any local meat?

Waiter:  Well, I think we get our chicken from around here.

You:  You’re not sure, though?

Waiter:  No…

You:  Oh. Would you mind asking someone?

Waiter:  Oh, no. Don’t tell me you’re like those annoying characters on Portlandia who want every last detail on how the animal was raised. We don’t have a “file” on each chicken we serve. And even if we did, I’ve got 10 other tables waiting for their food.

You:  You must be having a bad day.

Waiter:  You think?

You:  I’m so sorry. It’s just that I care about animals, and I don’t want my money to support the terrible conditions in which most farm animals are raised.

Waiter: Well, fine. I’ve heard about “factory farms” but I’ve never had anyone come in here asking about the meat…

[Note: A nightmare scenario – but an educational opportunity!]

 

Humane Eateries Across America

A list of American restaurants that make
a significant commitment to humanely raised meat

Why it matters:  You can eat at these places knowing that very little of your money is supporting factory farms; these places serve mostly humanely raised meat in their dishes. (See sidebar for how we define “humanely raised.”)

How it works:  A restaurant is listed here if Humaneitarian knows that the chef or owner demonstrates a clear commitment to ethically raised meat. Not every product they serve may meet your humane standards, but know that you’ll have a reasonably good chance of eating humanely there. Alas, I cannot independently verify any restaurant’s claim. 

Let me know of any places that should be considered!

This list is just getting started… check back often for updates…

~~~

Alaska »

Fresh Sourdough Express (Homer) — This down-home, comfort food restaurant gets all of its meat from Delta Meat & Sausage, a family-owned meat producer and processer raising 100% grass-fed, Alaskan beef. Delta also sells Alaska raised pork, goats, even reindeer and yak, though you’ll have to check with them on how those particular animals are raised.

Massachusetts »

Tasty Burger (Boston) — Ditch the factory farmed beef at Fenway. Instead, have a Tasty Burger right outside the ballpark. This small chain (locations in Harvard Square and Southie, too) serves Certified Humane beef.

New York »

Applewood (Brooklyn) – This hearty, uber-local Park Slope restaurant doesn’t serve an ounce of factory farmed meat. The 100% grass-fed beef is from Harwick Beef in Massachusetts, the pastured chicken is from the Finger Lakes Region of New York, and the pork, lamb, goat, rabbit and veal are from small farms belonging to the Fancy Meats cooperative in Vermont. Chef David Shea and his wife also run their own small farm in upstate New York. Says David, “Farming is the next step, in a lot of ways… I still cook at Applewood one day a week, so to load up the car with our produce and cook food from our farm just tightens the circle a little bit.”

Blue Hill (Manhattan and Westchester Co.) — The Blue Hill restaurants were pioneers in farm-to-table fine dining, and chef/owner Dan Barber speaks widely on sustainable agriculture. Pork, lamb, chicken and eggs come from the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture (where the Westchester Co. restaurant is located), and the veal, chicken and goat come from Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Mass. (the Barber family farm).  Numerous other small New York farms provide additional meat, all of which is served “seasonally” — that is, according to the time of year when the animals are pastured and processed.

Grazin’ (Hudson, NY) — This is the first restaurant to be Animal Welfare Approved; ALL of the animal protein is humane certified by AWA — beef, pork, eggs, cheese, milk, etc. Much of the meat comes from the nearby farm that’s operated by the diner’s owner, Dan Gibson. More info here.

Telepan (Manhattan) — Chef Bill Telepan breaks down whole heritage-breed pigs in the kitchen of his upscale restaurant on the Upper West Side. Here’s a nice video interview with him.

Rhode Island »

Farmstead (Providence, RI) — All the meat at this New England-centered restaurant is sourced from small-scale, family-owned New England farms. This makes sense, as they say on their website that “eating at Farmstead is a journey through the New England landscape and the rich cultural history of food in the Northeast.”

Vermont »

The Farmhouse Tap & Grill (Burlington, VT) — A farm-to-table gastropub that sources most of its meat from within Vermont. Here’s a list of their participating farms, so you can know exactly where the meat comes from.

Wisconsin »

Graze (Madison, WI) — “We chose the name Graze because grass-fed animals and rotational grazing are important to us,” says the website of this comfort food gastropub. All the meat (except the prosciutto!) comes from small farms within Wisconsin.

 

 

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What's humane?

**

Everyone defines "humane" differently. Humaneitarian takes a broad, inclusive view and believes that "humanely raised meat" should at least be anything that wasn't raised according to the standard, dominant factory farm model.

So a humane restaurant might serve any of the following kinds of meat in a majority of its dishes:

  • 100% grass-fed
  • Grass-fed primarily, then minimally grain-finished
  • Pasture raised or raised outdoors on bedded pack
  • Certified organic
  • Free range
  • Humane certified

Of course, if you have a narrower definition of "humane," you'll have a different interpretation of what a humane restaurant is. Here's a page on meat labels that can help you.