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I am looking for cured meat, especially ham, which I can buy in Germany and eat with a good conscience. There are two aspects that I am concerned about:

  • Animal maltreatment: I particularly wish to avoid products from intensive animal husbandry or any maltreatment.
  • Environmental efficiency: I see this less as a reason to avoid a product, than to moderate one’s consumption of it, in particular to reduce one’s CO2 emissions.

I enquired about Parma ham in German Wikipedia and was told of secret filming of maltreatment by the Italian animal rights organisation Lega Anti Vivisezione (see also 1, 2, 3, 4). Jamón ibérico sounds better, as they apparently prescribe extensive or free-range animal husbandry, but on German Wikipedia I read that Spanish TV had reported that extensive manipulation lead to 80% of co-called ibérico being factory farmed.

In his comment below J Crosby suggests trying local farmers, which may well be the best course, but I am also interested in what one can buy in supermarkets and/or on holiday and/or if time is short, so general guidelines are welcome.

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    Without knowing where in the world you are this may not be a great answer so I am writing it as a comment. Check with local farmers - this would be your best bet. Where I am there are lots of farmers who (with notice or a standing agreement) will more than happily sell you goods (bacon, sausage, pickled products or breads). I buy most of my meats (cured and raw) and honey from local producers often at the same cost or marginally more than what the supermarket would sell it for. The added bonus is that in going to them to see if you can make a purchase, you can see the farm and see if it's good – J Crosby Oct 3 at 15:25
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    @JCrosby: Thanks. I did say “which I can buy in Germany” in the first sentence, but good point anyway. To be a little more specific I live in a village in farming country near Venlo, so your suggestion is applicable. – PJTraill Oct 3 at 15:46
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    Unfortunately, this is a bad question for SA. The problems with it are that the answers are going to be both highly geographically specific, and very temporally specific. I'm not sure that it's necessarily off topic, but don't be surprised if you get close votes. – FuzzyChef Oct 3 at 17:12
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    @FuzzyChef: I would really have liked to ask this on “EthicalLiving.StackExchange”, as it is more about how to conform to ethical constraints than about taste or cooking technique, but unfortunately that site does not exist or never made it out of Area 51, so I came here in hope. But I do not think the answers would have to be geographically specific, if they (a) gave general principles on how to choose products and (b) if they did specify particular types of product, specified those widely available not just in Germany but, say, the whole of Europe (e.g. Parma or Ibérico ham). – PJTraill Oct 3 at 20:08
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    BTW, just to add to your problems with Jamon Iberico: most of what's sold is fake. – FuzzyChef Oct 3 at 21:28
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Some people might claim that there is no such thing as ethically sourced meat, because animal husbandry is inherently unethical. But if you are looking for meat from animals which were treated better than usual, then you can look for certified organic products. The EU regulation on organic products mandates standards for animal welfare which go beyond what's requested by national animal protection laws alone. A product is certified organic if:

But perhaps the most ethical form of meat you can get is if you buy meat from a hunter ("Wildbret"). Hunted animals lived their whole life in nature. You won't get any more organic than that. But hunted meat is usually hard to find in a supermarket. Most game meat you can buy there is actually factory-farmed. So you might have to either get to know one or buy from a specialized store. Also, game meat is not necessarily as healthy for you as factory farmed meat. Factory farmed animals are fed with controlled food, wild animals ate whatever they found. They might also have parasites, which can infect you if you don't cook the meat properly.

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In general, most cured meat found in supermarket come from industrial producers.

Some are very good and use good produces (more expensive, but not always); you need to look at the labels (ingredients and provenance).

For better products, go to a smaller butcher/Feinkost/delicatessen and ask about the provenance of their produces; ask about local products.

Better product will rarely be available outside of their area of production; but they could be found, again, at smaller stores.

  • Do you have any advise on what labels to look for specifically? For example, does the "Bio" label ensure that animals were treated well? Are there any competing certifications which have higher or lower standards on animal welfare? – Philipp Oct 4 at 11:43
  • @Philipp : odds are good that the smaller, local farms are going to be less likely to have the various certifications, just because they cost money and they might not do enough business to justify the increased cost. Ask around, as there might be a local farmer who's willing to let you tour their farm (which is a good sign they're not trying to hide anything). You can even get some odd situations, like pork being raised at a dairy or other type of farm to help them eat what would otherwise be waste products) – Joe Oct 4 at 14:40

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