Sacred Cow: The Nutritional, Environmental and Ethical Case for Better Meat

Movie review by
JK Sooja, Common Sense Media
Sacred Cow: The Nutritional, Environmental and Ethical Case for Better Meat Movie Poster Image
Informative docu about improving farming practices.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 80 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Positive messages about the ways we live, the environment, and regenerative and sustainable farming. For the health and future of ourselves and the planet, we need animals, and we need to treat them humanely, well, and honorably in life and in death. Promotes better education and understanding about how animals, the environment, the soil, our eating practices, and ideas about our food all work together. Works to dismantle the meat versus no-meat binary.

Positive Role Models

Many profiles of different farmers from around the country who are practicing, teaching, and helping others commit to regenerative farming. Strong informative contributions from authorities and professionals in fields related to farming, agriculture, livestock, meat and food processing, and dietary health. Full of inspiring mission statements, examples of positive change, and ethical farming philosophies, practices, and revelations, the collection here of role models leading the way to better farming is inspiring.


Some talk of slaughterhouses and butchery involved in farming livestock. Discussion of humane killing practices. Many shots of hanging meat, what it looks like inside a butcher's shop, and animals heading toward their deaths. Some talk about the necessity and inevitability of having to kill animals. Scenes show some of the processes involved in the livestock farming industry. 


One "s--t."


Some discussion about consumer food products. Some of the food brands shown are Pringles, Coco Pebbles, and Froot Loops, frozen pizza brands, candy brands, and fast foods. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sacred Cow: The Nutritional, Environmental and Ethical Case for Better Meat is a documentary narrated by Nick Offerman that argues for the necessity and ethicality of eating meat, but it requires better education, farming practices, and eating habits. Also a book, Sacred Cow shows how modern commercial farming practices hurt the health of the planet, soil, and environment, how better farming options are available to us and why they are better, and how meat shouldn't be villified as the problem of our modern health issues linked to unhealthy eating habits, diets, and consumption practices (salty, sugary, and processed foods are much more dangerous). Cows aren't the problem, but our understanding of our relationship to them and the mismanagement of them can be. Lots of discussion about slaughtering practices, butchery, and the ethical and practical issues around killing animals. No gore, but some scenes that show hanging meat, meat being cut and packaged, and live animals heading to their deaths at slaughterhouses. One farmer says, "s--t" once.   

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What's the story?

SACRED COW: THE NUTRITIONAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND ETHICAL CASE FOR BETTER MEAT is all about our future and what we need to do to keep our planet, environment, and ecologies that include animals alive. The Sacred Cow movement argues for better sustainable and regenerative farming practices, understanding about animals and why we need them and need to treat them with dignity and respect, and health and environment outcomes for everyone and the common good.

Is it any good?

This documentary is thick with information, history, criticism, education, and hope for the future. For many, Sacred Cow: The Nutritional, Environmental and Ethical Case for Better Meat will be essential viewing that yields vital information about what we really should be worried about (it isn't eating red meat), what we can do to better the lives and deaths of animals, and how we can better our farming practices across both agricultural and livestock farming industries. For some, however, Sacred Cow might be difficult viewing as it historicizes veganism and anti-meat lifestyles, argues for essential health benefits of eating meat and health dangers for not, and largely works to dismantle many of the myths involved in the vilification of meat over the last 40 years. For example, the documentary points out that eating faux meat is arguably worse for the environment and for your health, and many animals were still involved and required in its making. It also points out that trying to live on a diet that entirely consists of food that has no animal involvement is actually incredibly difficult and nearly impossible unless you grow everything yourself, and even then, you’ll end up having to kill something, whether it be slugs, rabbits, or other invaders.

Industrial cropping is also a problem as it kills the soil and environment and eventually renders the earth obsolete. Once-plains can turn into deserts in a mere 60 years, like the Chihuahuan Desert that covers parts of southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Soil that can retain and hold water turns into depleted soil that cannot. And we absolutely need animals for this. They graze, stomp, fart, poop, and fertilize, and ultimately work as an ecological management tool. To demonstrate all this, many farmers around the United States are profiled and given lots of screen time as they show how they changed their farms around using regenerative farming. Sacred Cow convincingly argues for regenerative farming and bettering our understanding about food, meat, and animals, and it's presented with science, historical analyses, and vital criticisms of the modern commercial farming industries that rely heavily on chemicals, caged animals, and the separation of crops from livestock farming.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about modern farming practices and what they learned. Sacred Cow: The Nutritional, Environmental and Ethical Case for Better Meat presents strong arguments for changing the ways we farm, think about animals, and eat. Did anything you learn surprise you? How could you learn more?

  • Will you change anything about your own eating practices because of this film? Why or why not?

  • How do you think people who don't eat meat will react to this film? What about people who don't eat any food that has any animal involvement in its production? Do you think this documentary is good enough to convince these audiences to change their eating and/or lifestyle habits and practices? Why or why not?

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