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Cows Grazing on Hillside - Meat and the Environment - The Happy Beast

Meat & The Environment: Beef

Now more than ever is the time to support our communities, family, friends, and the environment. We are all trying to cope with a world that will be forever changed by the current pandemic. This is a time for serious introspection. A time to nourish ourselves physically and emotionally and take an honest look at how our actions or inactions affect the environment around us and result in far-reaching consequences. I hope we can all take this time to find ways we can live more gently and lessen our impact on an ever-changing climate and landscape.  

With that in mind, this month we’re kicking off our “Meat & The Environment” blog series with a discussion about a very common protein – beef.

For starters, let’s get a couple of points out of the way. We love meat at The Happy Beast. In fact, a large part of our mission is to educate pet guardians about the importance of a fresh food diet that is high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates. However, there is a price that comes with the consumption of meat by us and our pets. 

Where our meat comes from is an integral part of the puzzle. In this blog post, we’ll briefly address the basics of beef production in our country and what you can do to help lessen its environmental impact. In future posts, we’ll discuss the effect industrialized agriculture has on public lands, wildlife conservation, habitat destruction, and animal/human welfare.  

According to 2017 USDA statistics, there are 2.8 million cattle/calves in the state of Colorado. Americans consume an average of 65 pounds of beef every year and, according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, our pets’ diets account for 25–30% of the environmental impacts from animal production, including use of land, water, and fossil fuels.  

As a society, we have become extremely disconnected from where our meat comes from. We don’t see the effects a pound of ground beef has on the environment or what the life of the animal looked like. Our meat and produce have become industrialized, but it does not have to be this way.  

Today, the majority of beef produced in our country comes from industrial feedlots. In 1967, the United States had 9,627 livestock slaughtering facilities (cattle, hog, and sheep). Now, due to corporate consolidation and mass meat production, there are just 1,100 federally-inspected facilities that are managed under the USDA ( 

The reduction in the number of slaughtering facilities was the beginning of major corporations taking over our meat supply. This mass consolidation has led many small, family farmers and ranchers unable to find, or afford to process, their own meat.  According to the Niche Processor Assistance Network, there are only 20 USDA-inspected slaughterhouses in Colorado that support family farmers and ranchers who want to bring their own meat to market. The other option is for farmers and ranchers to sell their meat for a standard price per pound to a facility like JBS that handles processing and sales. In this case, the farmer or rancher no longer has their name on the product and loses all control over the product they have spent their daily lives creating.  

Like with most industries, these corporate processors have priced out the small producer and have often left them with no choice but to give into the system. This is why non-conventional meat (what I like to call “happy meat”) is so expensive. Processing can be 30% of the cost of doing business for these small-time producers. This cost trickles down to the consumer.  It is the cost of doing business the ethical way.   

The four major companies that dominate the world of animal processing sell 85% of the beef in the U.S. (  There are numerous problems with this. Like JBS in Greeley, when slaughterhouses process thousands of animals per day, the animals in their feedlot are given heavy doses of antibiotics and hormones to simply keep them alive enough to cross the threshold to be turned into meat. 

According to the FDA, 80% of antibiotics used in our country are used for farm animals. Not only do these antibiotics and hormones end up in the meat we and our pets eat, they end up in our drinking water and streams and rivers along with the animal waste pollution from these concentrated feedlots. Much like the movement we have seen for organic produce, there is a movement within the livestock industry called regenerative agriculture.  Put simply, this way of farming and ranching uses planned pasture rotation as a way to increase soil health, sequester CO2 in the soil, promote biodiversity, and increase water retention. 

Regenerative agriculture is also good for the cow! Cattle are raised by natural grazing in open pasture and more time is given for them to reach natural maturity for market. Unfortunately, this type of beef makes up just over 1% of the beef sold in our country. According to a report released in 2019 from Stone Barn Foods and Agriculture and their partners, it is estimated that 97% of cattle in the U.S. live the last 4-6 months of their life in a concentrated animal feeding operation (or CAFO). The animals become a product of an industrialized agriculture industry dominated by Tyson, Cargill, JBS USA, and National Beef Packaging Company. Colorado is home to 200 CAFOs. There are 2 million cows that pass through these facilities each year. 

The positive news is that demand for natural and humane beef is on the rise. We have the power to drive that demand and make a significant change for the betterment of these animals, our environment, and the dedicated family farmers and ranchers who work 365 days a year to survive and bring food to our tables.  

So, what can we do? 

1. Support Local Meat Producers

We as consumers drive the demand so look where your meat comes from! The more we ask questions and make sustainable and humane choices, the more change we will see in reversing the industrialization of our food supply. Our family farmers and ranchers need us. They want to do the right thing, but they are cornered between their ethics and being able to survive. 

2. Value Quality

The second justification for apathy is that “happy meat” is too expensive. Yes, it is more expensive. Another way to look at it is why is conventional meat so cheap?  We consumers see this everyday with everything we purchase. Huge quantities are always less expensive than food that is produced in small batches, homemade, sustainably sourced, organic, etc. We need to eat less and waste less. Quality over quantity.  

We are excited to announce that you will begin to see many transformations at The Happy Beast in the coming months. We are working diligently to be a leader in the pet food industry by expanding the scope of information provided to customers, and to broaden our responsibility as animal guardians, members of our communities, and inhabitants of this planet.  

One of our major tasks at hand is to design a scale of sustainability with all of our manufacturers. By creating a code of ethics addressing concerns like where their meat comes from, we can offer transparency about the products you are buying and help you make better choices by selecting products that are more connected to your values.  

Here’s a couple of definitions to help you along the way:

  • Grass-Finished – Meat labeled “grass-finished” is guaranteed to come from an animal that spends its entire life on open pasture and is processed by the farmer/rancher at a small-scale facility.  
  • Grass-Fed – Meat labeled “grass-fed” most likely started its life on pasture on a farm or ranch, but was finished with grain at a feedlot. The exception to this would be meat that is ethically grain-finished on a farm or ranch for taste preferences and then taken to a small-scale processor. Some people prefer the marbling of meat that comes from grain-finished meat.  A safe way to tell is don’t trust anything that is not grass-finished unless it comes directly from a farm or ranch or from a local market or butcher shop. Unfortunately, beef in the big grocery stores most likely came from animals that ended up in the feedlot.

3. Support These Companies

  • Andersons – A Colorado company using only meat from Kinikin farm, which practices regenerative farming on the western slope! They offer fresh food and lots of bones for your dog to chew on.
  • Answers – A leader in the industry for their socially and environmentally-guided principles. All animals are pasture raised with the highest regard for animal welfare.
  • Rawr – Balanced cat food that is sustainably sourced and free of antibiotics and hormones.
  • Raw Bistro – Located in an area of Minnesota dedicated to sustainable agriculture. They source all ingredients from local and regional producers who value humane and environmentally-based farming practices.
  • Beast Feast – Our own line of pet treats made from responsibly-sourced meats in Colorado and Wyoming.


Discontinuing Single-Use Plastic Cat Food Pouches

Sustainability and reducing our plastic use is a very important goal at The Happy Beast. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task to accomplish in the pet food industry. However, we still feel strongly that it is an important goal to strive towards, which is why we are discontinuing our single-use plastic cat food pouches.

Single-use plastic pouches have been growing in popularity over the past 5 years as an alternative to canned foods. This is because pouches are supposed to retain the flavor of the food better than a typical aluminum can since no heat is used in the sterilization process. However, this relatively small benefit to flavor has come at a significant cost to our environment.

The problem with these types of single-use plastic pouches is that they are made up of several different kinds of plastic and cannot be easily separated and recycled by most recycling facilities. In fact, the only way we’ve found to recycle these pouches is to send them to a New Jersey based company called TerraCycle that specializes in hard-to-recycle materials. 

While TerraCycle is a great option, many people can’t afford to implement a similar program into their homes, or just do not have the means to do so (e.g. Living in an apartment complex, restrictive HOA, etc.). Even with TerraCycle as an option, these pouches often create more wasted resources because they need to be thoroughly cleaned out, rinsed, and dried in order to recycle them. 

And all that effort is just for the pouches that are recycled! Unfortunately, the vast majority of single-use pouches are simply thrown into the trash where they end up in landfills or in the environment. can clog storm drains, harm wildlife, and even end up in our food as we consume animals that have ingested plastic products.

According to the UN, “plastic packaging accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste globally.” and it is estimated that 79% of all plastic waste produced is now in landfills, 12% has been incinerated, and 9% has been recycled.

Conversely, aluminum cans are 100% recyclable and can be recycled almost indefinitely. Unfortunately, as a society, we currently only recycle about 50% of the aluminum used in consumer products, but that’s primarily due to a lack of education and infrastructure rather than a limitation of the material. What’s more, in Boulder County, all of the aluminum pet food cans we carry at The Happy Beast can be recycled through single-stream recycling services, which are available to nearly all residential and commercial buildings.

Overall, we feel that discontinuing single-use plastic pet food pouches in favor of aluminum cans is simply our next step towards reaching our sustainability goals. We plan to discontinue carrying all pouches by Earth Day 2020. We will continue to provide a variety of food and packaging alternatives for our customers to try, in order to help you find the best option for your pet. As always, we want to help provide the best possible nutrition options for your pets, and simply want to do our part to lessen the impact on the environment and improve our sustainability.

Feel free to reach out to us at with any questions or concerns. Thanks!

Additional Resources

Easy Tips for Low-Waste Living

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”  – Anne Marie Bonneau

This year, in honor of Earth Day, we’re once again taking the opportunity to review our sustainability efforts and find ways to improve. The planet needs us and there are lots of ways that we can help. The problems and solutions can often seem overwhelming and unattainable. However, the reality is that small changes in our awareness, attitudes, and lifestyles can have huge impacts on our environment and make a world of difference. Movements start with people (and now our pets!), and we want to encourage everyone to join us in our efforts to reduce waste and become more sustainable in everything we do. Because the choices we make matter.

We’re also working on a new Sustainability page on our website, which will help keep track of our efforts and share everything we’ve learned to date. We’ve also a compiled a list of resources that have helped us reduce our waste and make choices that put the planet first. We are nowhere near perfect, but try to make  progress everyday, and are encouraged by all the wonderful information and resources available on low-waste living.

From a business perspective, we have a lot of exciting goals for 2019 and beyond. So far this year we have:

  • Stopped using printed receipts in favor of emailed receipts
  • Stopped offering single-use shopping bags in favor of reused boxes or reusable shopping bags
  • Offset 100% of our electricity use with Xcel Energy’s Windsource program
  • Continued to expand our partnership with Eco-cycle and Terracycle in responsibly disposing of our customers’ plastic pet food packaging.
  • Significantly expanded our bulk food and treat options, including The Beast Feast, our own line of dehydrated treats for cats and dogs.
  • Started working with the City of Lafayette and Boulder County to implement dog waste composting at The Great Bark Dog Park.

Stop by the store during Earth Week for special deals and stay tuned for our “Sustainability” page for a full list of our existing efforts and a list of our friends and partners. For now, we’re including a list below of some of our favorite sustainability-related websites and experts.

Lastly, we always welcome your input and commitment to helping us achieve our sustainability goals – let us know if you ever have any questions or ideas on how we can keep getting better. Happy Earth Day everyone!


A Greener Beast

We’re preparing for a greener 2019 and we can achieve our sustainability goals with your support:

  • Beginning January 1, 2019, we will be eliminating paper shopping bags in the store and encouraging the use of reusable tote bags and boxes instead. If you have a stockpile of reusable tote bags at home, please consider donating them to our bag “lending tree.”
  • To decrease packaging, we will be offering more treats in bulk. We are also requesting our vendors to use less plastic and styrofoam.
  • When selecting beef products, we are choosing more grass-fed and finished sources. Anderson’s Natural Pet Food, The Beast Feast, and Answers all use responsibly sourced beef.
  • Members of The Happy Beast Team are working diligently at home to reduce plastic waste and make more informed decisions as consumers. Check out some of our favorite resources:
Happy Earth Day from The Happy Beast: Celebrating the Lafayette Green Business Program

Happy Earth Day: Celebrating the Lafayette Green Business Program

In honor of Earth Day, we’re thrilled to announce The Happy Beast has received gold certification as part of the 2017 Lafayette Green Business Program!

This is our third year in the program, and along with 93 other Lafayette Green Businesses, is one of the ways we work to exemplify the best of Lafayette, help shape a vibrant green economy, and champion a more sustainable future for our customers and residents. Overall, the sustainability upgrades Lafayette businesses have made are saving over $50,000 per year on utility bills and are equivalent to taking 100 cars off the road.

Click here for a full list of participating Lafayette businesses and remember to support them by shopping locally.

At The Happy Beast, we are extremely proud to achieve the highest award for waste diversion, water conservation, and energy efficiency, and we couldn’t have done it without our amazing customers! You can read more about our dedication to sustainability on our blog, but here’s a quick list of our current initiatives:

  • Environmentally-Friendly Purchasing Policy: Toys, treats, and foods made from reputable manufacturers with high environmental standards as well as eliminating products containing palm oil, which contribute to deforestation
  • Recycling: Cardboard, paper, and plastic single-stream recycling
  • Composting: Food waste and scraps
  • Zero Waste Boxes: Customers are invited to bring empty pet food packaging back to The Happy Beast for recycling through our partnership with TerraCycle
  • Water Efficiency: Low-flow aerators on faucets and upgraded dog wash sprayers with efficient flow and auto-off functionality
  • LED Lighting: Replaced old incandescent lights with new LED lights acquired through Xcel Energy and PACE rebate programs
  • Reusable Shopping Bags: Provide $.10 bag credits and reusable shopping bags for purchase
  • Smart Electronics Policy: Smart power strips and automatic sleep functionality for all computers
  • Energy Efficient Appliances: EnergyStart certified washer and dryer and automatic thermostat programming
  • Pet Food Donations: Reusing and donating pet food items for local animal shelters and rescues

In addition to these efforts, to further support the Lafayette Green Business Program, I’ll be leading two Green Business Marketing Workshops on May 1 at Confluence Small Business Collective. See below for more info or contact to learn more.

Lastly, thanks to all of the organizations who collaborate to help make this program happen: the City of Lafayette, the Lafayette Energy Sustainable Advisory Committee (LESAC), the Lafayette Waste Reduction Advisory Committee (WRAC), Xcel Energy, and Boulder County’s Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE) have partnered to offer the recognition opportunity.