A quest to make sense of it all. Or a sense to make a quest of it all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

We're better than this.

Last night, I watched Food, Inc. You might recall the name. It came out a while back and made a stir. For some reason I can't remember, I didn't watch it.

I'm glad I finally did.

I've been eating clean for a couple years now, and I've made a lot of progress. My motivation has been mostly about improving health and healing the effects of a factory diet, not just for myself but for the people around me. It's not just a hobby. It's a lifestyle, and for me, it's segued into an education in nutrition and hopefully a career as a dietitian specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. So food's kind of my thing...but I've become more focused in the nutritional values of food than the food's sources. I still buy organic when possible, but I don't sweat buying regular meat. That's not how I started out. I used to go out of my way to find the highest quality animal products that I could: species-appropriate diets and humane slaughter practices were priorities. Watching this movie last night was a wakeup call, and I realized how much I've compromised my standards.

Well, that won't do.

I seriously almost started crying about this. I've continued to research the health merits of grassfed beef, but as a product. That was the flaw in my thinking. I kinda forgot that beef=cow. Egg=chicken. Pork=pig. This isn't just about health, not by a long shot. It's about stewardship. I don't remember when I started lowering the bar, but it's been raised back up even higher than ever.

I have no qualms whatsoever eating animal products. None. I personally believe they're an important part of a natural diet, and I'll be happy to back that up. But there is nothing natural about the way animals are raised for food in this country. We like to think of happy, healthy cows when we do think of the origins of our dinner. But if that steak came from the grocery store, the reality is that it didn't come from a farm cow. It came from a diseased cow that not only never ate grass, but rarely if ever even stood on grass. Throughout its life it stood and slept in a foot-deep slurry comprised of dirt and its own excrement. It was fed corn because corn is cheap and will quickly fatten any animal that eats a lot of it (see the 66% of American adults who are overweight, or the 34% who are obese, for a shining example of this). The problem with feeding corn to cows? COWS DON'T EAT CORN. They are supposed to graze on grass, clover, alfalfa. Cow stomachs are specifically designed to digest cellulose. Corn makes them very sick. It alters the pH and the flora of their digestive system. The result is a strain of e. coli that didn't exist until concentrated animal feeding operations did. To keep this sick, manure-covered animal alive long enough to fatten it, it's pumped full of antibiotics. Then it's slaughtered in a way that often only stuns the cow (so it's still alive when the skinning starts), dismantled, and the meat is then treated with -I'm not kidding here- ammonia in hopes of killing the e. coli that is present not only in the manure that was on the cow, but in the stomach contents that end up on the equipment. Hopefully, the toxic chemicals are enough to kill the bacteria that wind up on your plate, because, no matter what, there's shit in your meat.

Disgusted? Good. You should be horrified. E. coli outbreaks and antibiotic resistance are direct bite-you-in-the-ass results of deplorable stewardship. We're even feeding corn to fish.

The good news is that you have a say as to what goes in your mouth. You don't have to eat that meat. You don't have to eat produce that's been sprayed with Monsanto pesticides (the same swell guys who gave us Agent Orange). Understand that complaining will accomplish nothing. Your money will. Your wallet is the loudest voice you have. You don't have to support these practices. You do have options. Enough people choosing another way will force the industry to adapt and hold itself to standards set by consumers. Don't let corporations tell you what you will buy and eat.

Think about it.

Woe to the shepherds who only take care of themselves! Should not the shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you did not take care of the flock! You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. -Ezekiel 34:2-4.

Once plants and animals were raised together on the same farm -- which therefore neither produced unmanageable surpluses of manure, to be wasted and to pollute the water supply, nor depended on such quantities of commercial fertilizer. The genius of American farm experts is very well demonstrated here: they can take a solution and divide it neatly into two problems. -Wendell Berry

I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom. -Bob Dylan

If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. -St. Francis of Assisi

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. -Mahatma Gandhi

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