Fire up the Grill: Tips for a More Sustainable Cookout

@silviuz via Twenty20

Summer and grilling go hand in hand. If sustainability is on the menu, you are in luck, because there have never been so many options available at farmers' markets and even in supermarkets. These days you can find humanely raised beef and chicken, wild US caught fish and vegetarian options to satisfy your summer cravings. Here are a few key tips we've put together for sustainable grilling this summer:

Look at Labels

The first step when shopping is to know your labels. For classic grilling options like ground beef, hotdogs, steaks, chops and the like, we recommend looking for meat and animal products with the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) label. Another good option is the USDA Organic label; meat with either label lets you know that you are choosing sustainable options for summer grilling. Unlike the USDA Organic label, however, AWA products come from animals that have been humanely raised to the highest animal welfare standards, including ensuring that animalsĀ are raised on pasture and are fully able to express their natural behaviors.

If you can't find AWA products, other good options to look for include American Grassfed Approved, Certified Humane, Global Animal Partnership (look for the higher numbers) and Food Alliance Certified. Seafood, like wild salmon, bluefish and other delicious but less appreciated species are great on the grill, too! There are plenty of resources and guides to help navigate the most sustainable seafood choices.

Rethink Your Grilling Options

If you are looking to reduce your "food footprint" with your grilling choices, think about making a better burger: mix mushrooms or veggies in with your sustainable ground beef to add flavor and reduce your meat consumption. Looking for plant-based options that are still tasty on the grill - and can satisfy both vegetarians and carnivores alike? Check out Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger to explore the next wave of meat-like veggie burgers. If you are looking for veggie burgers, remember that many are highly processed and may be chock full of GMO soybeans or other processed ingredients. Be sure to check the ingredient list on veggie burgers - or better yet, make your own and you'll know exactly what's inside! And, of course, don't forget to throw some veggies and/or fruit (think: pineapple!) on the grill for delicious meatless side dishes.

Go Paleo and Get Creative with Game Meat

Interested in more exotic options for grilling? Even if you don't know a hunter, you may want to consider game meat. As we found, meat like ostrich, bison, venison and alligator are now being farmed or ranched in sustainable conditions and are increasingly available in supermarkets. As with grassfed beef, game meat is lean and cooks quickly, so you will need to take extra care not to overcook it to avoid ending up with tough, dry meat. Consider serving venison, bison or elk rare or medium rare (pull from the grill when the internal temperature is 120 to 125 degrees). Brines or marinades can help add moisture to lean meat. Game meat also has a tendency to stick to the grill, so consider brushing with oil as it cooks.

With so many grilling options, it's time to get outside and fire up the grill! Here are even more tips on sustainable summertime fun (including a breakdown of the environmental impacts of gas vs. charcoal). Enjoy - and know that you are serving a bit of sustainability while filling up plates for your family and friends.