How to eat ethically without cutting out meat or dairy

By Lauren Aguirre

Conscious consumerism is a big part of American culture today. A lot of people don't want to put their money toward something that is harmful if they can help it. Vegetarians choose to be so because they believe eating animals is wrong. Vegans take it one step further and swear off all animal products, including dairy, eggs and even leather. However, you can still be environmentally and ethically conscious with your animal product buying and eating without having to go cold turkey — so to speak.

Some will say that consuming animal products isn't as ethical as avoiding them. However, practically speaking, not everyone can or wants to become vegetarian or vegan. You can still avoid contributing to animal suffering and the environmental effects of factory farming and still enjoy beef, chicken and dairy.

First, do your research. Eating ethically isn't always as easy as picking up a different brand of eggs or meat at the grocery store. You might have to go out of your way to find free range meat or ethically sourced dairy. It can take some time and effort, so you should be committed before you start. If you're just following a trend, you'll probably give up pretty quickly. Research why people are choosing to avoid the supermarket products in favor of others and decide for yourself.

Second, decide how far you want to go. This is where you determine your practical limits. Maybe you want to find ethically sourced food at your local grocery store. Maybe you don't mind ordering different products online to supplement your usual groceries. Maybe it's a price point you don't want to exceed. Staying within your boundaries will make sticking to your new diet much easier in the long run.

Third, determine your sources. Probably the easiest way to eat ethically and still enjoy animal products is to find a food delivery service. These services provide the raw ingredients right to your door with step by step recipes to create your own home cooked meals. Blue Apron is committed to providing sustainably-sourced seafood and meat with no added hormones. Hello Fresh has a vegetarian plan option as well as sustainably sourced meat.

Depending on where you live, you might be able to have free range meat delivered to you. If you live near some family farms, you could also pick up seasonal produce and dairy products from the farmer's market. In fact, getting most of your groceries from a farmer's market or another local source is the best way to avoid paying into the big factory farming system — if that's one of your goals.

Fourth, if these options don't seem to be enough to be considered eating ethically, maybe you should consider going vegetarian or vegan. Vegetarians still eat many dairy products while vegans swear off all animal products entirely. However, before you radically change your diet in this way, you should make sure that the new one will provide enough nutrients that your body needs. You may want to ease into it to avoid a big shock to your system.

Whatever the result is of your research, making sure you have delicious and affordable food options will keep you on your new ethically sourced diet for months and years to come.

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