By Lynne Hendricks Staff writer
It may seem incongruous for someone purchasing a steak from their local market to balk at the manner in which that cut of beef was born, raised and ultimately processed for consumption. But in the wake of a string of movies like “Food, Inc.,” which takes viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of how animals are treated, and mistreated, on factory farms, a new type of meat-eating consumer — self-described compassionate carnivores — have been born.
Local farms, shopkeepers and restaurants that cater to these consumers — whether prompted by passionate feelings of their own on the subject or the economics of selling in this growing market — are seeing the growth in their balance sheets.
"The only proteins we serve are from humanely raised animals," said Mary Reilly, owner of Newburyport's Italian eatery Enzo.
"We don't serve anything but that," she said. "We've been open since March of last year, and that was one of the founding principles for how I was going to build my menu. It's made sourcing our products a little challenging at times, but it's something I feel very strongly about."
Like so many other animal lovers conflicted over how to balance their love of animals with a love of meat, Reilly and her husband, Dave, don't feel they have to go vegan to be true to their passionate beliefs that animals should be treated humanely.
But they don't have to patronize farms that place undue stress on steer by confining them to back-to-back pens, grow pigs in crates too small for them to turn around, or that debeak chickens or slaughter them within hours of being born, Reilly said. Even though customers don't always expressly appreciate the couple's commitment to offering a 100 percent humane menu, Reilly feels good about giving it to them anyway.
"I enjoy meat," she added. "I think a lot of people do, but I feel if we're going to eat meat, it behooves us to be conscious and thoughtful about our choices. So, if I'm going to ask an animal to give up its life for me, my responsibility is to make sure until that time ... that animal was cared for in an environment that was free from undue stress."
On the other side of the Route 1 bridge in Salisbury, Joe Bucciarelli, owner of Bucciarelli's Butcher Shop and Deli, echoes the same sentiment.
From the deli counter, he touts product lines that come from farms carrying the seal of approval from the nonprofit organization Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), which is considered the gold standard in the industry for ensuring ethical treatment of farm animals.
Though he doesn't exclusively sell certified humane raised and handled meats carrying the HFAC seal, he says it's something more and more customers are asking for.
"Even though I'm in the meat business, that doesn't mean I don't love animals," Bucciarelli said. "When I saw 'Food, Inc.,' it broke my heart in a lot of different ways. I would never want to see an animal treated badly just so we could make money."
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