A Question of Ethics
“It’s hard to find clean protein that is locally sourced and ethically raised.” Local – yes. Ethically raised? You be the judge.
Uproot Meats claims on their website to ethically raise their livestock. We’ll come back to this. At least they don’t seem to still be touting that the animals are pasture raised. That is indeed very hard to do when the property has absolutely no pasture. Zilch. Nada. None. It’s simply a steep, denuded hillside directly above the TID irrigation canal and Ashland’s backup drinking water source. The pigs are kept in muddy or dirt pens on the extreme slope. Any remaining vegetation that had regenerated after the Siskiyou Fire of 2009 has long since been destroyed. It’s been wiped out on one side of the hillside by the proprietors’ illegal and since abandoned marijuana grow, while the other side is being stripped to bare dirt by uprooting pigs. It doesn’t take pigs long to decimate a landscape. That is what they do best — and that is what they’ve done and are still doing at Uproot Meats’ farm. Uproot’s chickens, marching toward the slaughter, spend much of their time confined to the inside of a hot, stinking building. These are not free-ranging chickens living the good life, as has been implied.
Several issues have arisen that bring into question how ethically the animals are raised. Here’s one customer’s experience. A resident of Ashland purchased three pigs from then-named Uproot Ashland about three years ago. After he traversed the steep slope in his truck to pick up his pigs, the buyer noted the unlikely setting for a pig farm. Not your typical pig farm usually sited on flat ground, on an actual farm, not a mountainside. The place was in various stages of disarray and did not lend itself to a favorable first impression.
The buyer paid $500 for the pigs and descended back down off the mountainside. The very next morning, he called Ms. Vegter, owner of Uproot Meats, and let her know that the pigs were not well. They were weak and sick and had obviously been taken from their mother too soon. Ms. Vegter refused to take the pigs back. She said that they had been rejected by their mother and that she would just trample them to death. The buyer wondered why she had sold him pigs in such a sorry state.
This buyer had experience caring for animals and livestock. He tried to nurture the struggling pigs to health, but there was little he could do. Two of the pigs died. The third survived after quite a struggle.
The frustrated buyer contacted Ms. Vegter several times via phone and text. She promised him that she would give him two more pigs from the next litter. She didn’t. Then she said they would come from the next litter. And then they didn’t. It was a series of false promises one after the other. Finally, this customer gave up hope for new pigs and simply asked for a refund for the pigs that didn’t survive. Did he get a refund? No. He still hasn’t. He had had numerous conversations with Ms. Vegter, some sounding hopeful, but none ever panning out. Finally, he gave up. He was getting nowhere. He knew he had to take the loss and chalked it up to a hard lesson learned.
One lesson gleaned from this frustrating experience is to question the care and the health of the animals. Just because someone says they raise animals ethically, doesn’t make it true. The other lesson from this personal experience is that Uproot Meats’ business practices were questionable. In this account, the customer was the loser and Uproot refused to make it right. The main takeaway is that both the care of the animals and the business practices proved to be unethical. Not as advertised. You be the judge. Visit the “farm” if you have questions.
Ms. Vegter did not respond to a request for comments. The digruntled buyer asked for anonymity.