Hi friends! I know things have been particularly quiet over here and I apologize for the silence. It’s been a busy start to the year, and I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on where I need to focus and devote my time. I haven’t felt as compelled to return to this space, but I’m hoping to continue posting whenever inspiration strikes.
This quarter, my classes have inspired me to think about food from various perspectives. Lately, we’ve talked a lot about food ethics – what factors do we consider when making food choices? And how will our personal biases influence the professional dietary recommendations that we make? I’ve reflected on my personal purchasing decisions and have shifted my focus beyond, ‘is it organic and unprocessed’ to ‘where, when, how and who produced what I’m eating.’
In particular, we’ve focused a lot on the ethics of industrial agriculture in the United States. I cannot even begin to scratch the surface of this topic in this post, but I wanted to share some of the information that made me change my consumption habits.
If you take nothing away from this post, at least hear this: we need a major shift in the way we produce food in the United States. ← You’re probably thinking: “well, duh.”
I know that you know that our food system is terribly wrong. Many people know this to be true. But are you doing anything about it? Maybe this isn’t an issue you’re passionate about – totally fine. But if this is an issue that you care about, it’s not fair to remain blissfully ignorant.
Easier said than done, right? The majority of us are so far removed from farming and agriculture that we forget, and choose to forget, where our food comes from and how it’s produced.
The time has come to educate ourselves.
Where to start? Try researching these topics:
- The lack of regulation in our food production system.
- The horrible conditions that both employees and animals have to endure at CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.)
- The enormous environmental impact of eating a factory-farmed meat.
We just finished reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, and I want to share a powerful quote from the book:
We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory – disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.
-Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
Yes, I eat meat.
While Safran Foer is a vegetarian, I am not. But I can say with 100% certainty that I will avoid ← (I wanted to say never, but that seemed like a hard-line to draw) purchasing factory-farmed meat for the rest of my life. The primary motivator for this personal decision is the damage that factory farming causes the environment.
The price we pay for cheap meat
Here’s the thing about price per pound at the grocery store: it doesn’t account for the health and environmental costs of factory farming. Our cheap meat is creating short-term solutions and making long-term problems.
Think about it: it’s simple math. The cheaper that companies can produce meat, the less they can charge for it at the grocery store, while still making a profit. What does that mean?
Cheap feed. The government subsidizes corn that ends up in animal feed.
Wait – cows eat corn?
Yup, factory farmed cows are fed a mostly corn-based diet because corn is a cheap way to fatten them up. But cows needs those lovely blades of grass to stay healthy. Cow are ruminants, which means that their digestive systems are made to digest grass, not corn.
But what happens with cows are fed a starchy diet? A slimy layer forms in the cow’s rumen (their stomach) that traps gas, causing the rumen to expand and press against the animal’s lungs. If the pressure is not relieved, the cow will suffocate.
A high-starch diet also causes a build-up of acid in the rumen, which begins to eat away at the stomach lining. This allows bacteria from the stomach to leach into the bloodstream, causing liver damage.
But we have a solution! (not.)
Antibiotics are administered to minimize liver damage, which introduces a whole new set of problems that I will have to address in another post.
The industrial farming industry has perfected the art of animal ‘husbandry.’ Or in other words, they have calculated exactly how many days a cow can just barely survive on a grain-based diet in order to maximize the number of days they get cheap feed.
Now quickly (because I really need to go to bed), what are the environmental costs to factory farming? According to the USDA, the US meat industry produces 61 MILLION TONS of waste each year. Where does it go?
It goes here:
Lagoons from a CAFO in North Carolina
All of that ↑ is waste. It was captured by a drone in the documentary, Speciesism: The Movie. This sh*t is filled with toxins, gets into our waterways, and is sprayed back onto our crops as ‘fertilizer.’ Don’t believe me? Read more about it here.
You guys, I could go on for ages, but I’ll step off of my soapbox for now. If you’re looking for more information, I’ve highlighted a few books/documentaries below that I highly recommend.
And remember…vote with your fork!
(I personally prefer other books to this one, but my classmates enjoyed it!)
4. Our Daily Bread
(a documentary on the industrial agricultural system)
(The reality of industrial agriculture)
Wow, let’s chat!
- Did anything here surprise you?
- Have you seen or read any of the books/documentaries listed?
- Nutrition 513: Food and Society, Winter Quarter 2016, University of Washington