Tag Archives: Food Industry

How to change the meat industry: Buy More Meat

Many, many people have viewed this telling video clip showcasing the mass production meat industry as well as a walk on role about general over-consumption. But the answer to this horrific treatment of animals is not to stop eating meat. Vegetarians and vegans have been waging a war against the mass meat industry for years with no real advances to be seen. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group’s poll, about 5% of the US population states they do not eat meat of any kind, livestock, poultry, or seafood. Think about the multi-billion dollar corporations who govern the mass meat industry. 5% is a tiny blip of their radar, and obviously not enough to make a dent in sales or change their ways. And these same vegetarians have the convenience of processed soy meat-replacement products(who are also owned by major corporations, who do just as much damage to the environment from growing and processing soybeans, let’s not even go down that path) on the shelves in most stores, so it’s really not a huge inconvenience to them to not eat meat.

Who are the people actually making a difference in this industry? Small to mid-size farms and the people who buy from them. If 5% of the US population took it’s dollars and spent them with these smaller farms who are practicing ethical ways of raising and treating animals, that would boost ethical businesses exponentially. It is rough being a small business and fighting for market share against huge companies who have turned what should be a beautiful and respectful transaction between animal and man into a machine and systems show of efficiency and profits over all else. Instead of viewing a video like the one above and thinking, I should stop eating meat, start thinking about sourcing your meat from the right people. Be prepared. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes sacrifices, either more money or less meat. It is hard. But if you want the animals to have the right feed, good living conditions, environment friendly practices, and still pay your farmer a living wage, it’s going to cost more. And it’s going to be harder to find. And thus in lays the problem.

I think becoming a vegetarian or vegan, because of these unethical practices, is just an easy way out. There are thousands of products on major grocery chain shelves that vegetarians can eat without feeling bad about animals(even Oreos are vegetarian!). It is much harder to make the time and effort to find an ethical source of meat, eggs, and dairy if you so choose, and budget for it properly than it is to walk into the same grocery chains selling the unethical meat and buy veggie burgers instead. Now here me out! I fully understand that many people eat vegetarian or vegan for health benefits or because they truly don’t believe in killing other animals for food, no matter how they are raised. I’m not knocking those people, but I am tired of seeing clips like this being used as scare tactics away from meat in general. Let’s have a less heated, more thoughtful conversation about this entire issue. 

Let’s even look back in recent history for an example of how this works. People started becoming educated on the negative effects of rbST when given to dairy cows to boost milk production. Some people stopped drinking milk altogether and switched to something like soymilk. The soymilk drinkers boosted the non-dairy drink industry, which yes has benefits for those who are truly lactose or casein intolerant or allergic, but did nothing to actually change the rbST riddled dairy industry. Others started buying organic milk and rbST free milk. This showed people still wanted real milk, and were willing to pay more for it without the rbST. This shift alone brought the largest retail chain in the US, Wal-Mart, to demand it’s dairy providers stop using rbST. And once a corporation with as much influence and power as Wal-Mart makes a change, most others will follow. This is the key. We must show large meat producers that we want meat! We want it raised humanely, fed properly, and in a sustainable fashion so it doesn’t harm the earth. And we are willing to pay more for it!! It’s a sad fact but if you want to talk to major corporations, you have to talk their language and that is cold, hard cash. I don’t think these corporations will ever completely change their ways either, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to get them moving in the right direction. Not everyone can afford or source ethical meats, so making changes, however big or small, in the mass production industry is at least a start. Those of us who do have the finances and resources to make different choices, need to change to get the ball rolling for these small and mid-sized farms as well as the stores and cooperatives selling their products to grow their reach and production to become more accessible for all.

Now, imagine if every meat eater in the US stopped buying from the major chains, and started buying it from smaller, more local farms. Now THAT would cause some alarm. For many, this is impossible to fully do, but even changing to buy half of your meat ethically and half from a more conventional source can make a difference. OR change the cuts of meat you buy to make buying all of your meat from local sources more affordable! Let’s stop with the ground hamburger or boneless, skinless chicken breasts already! Eat nose to tail, literally, and you can afford to buy from the right sources. Tongue and Heart are delicious and act like stew meat, so simmer it all day or grind it up and mix it in with your burgers. I put liver in pretty much any kind of liquid or sauce, and it goes unnoticed but packs a huge nutritional punch. Eat the dark meat, use the bones for broth and stocks, learn what to do to not waste a single piece of that animal. Now that’s ethical eating!

Focus on knowing your farmer or finding a smaller local store who has done that research for you. There are more and more small grocery stores or cooperative stores who have higher standards for what goes on their shelves. You’ll pay more for the work of vetting each and every source to make sure it meets the stores qualifications, but you’ll also be making a much bigger difference in the lives of those small businesses and producers who are doing things right: ethical, sustainable, and profitable.  After all, we want these small farmers to make a profit so they can stay in business and continue providing products the right way. We don’t want to see them posting, “Going Out Of Business” signs, and leaving us with one less option other than the mass meat industry. I hope and pray that this is the message people take away from the Samsara video clip, not to just stop eating meat, that does nothing to solve the problem.

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Nutrition Advice- Who Should We Believe?

I was having an interesting discussion with my husband yesterday about personal responsibility vs government regulation on the issue of advertising to children and food choices families make. His platform- it’s the first amendment, freedom of speech and all, so companies can advertise to who they want as much as they want. Parents need to responsible for what they buy and should just tell their children that certain things are bad for them.

Oh yeah, I had a field day.

We ended up in a loop of sorts with me explaining that not everyone knows or understand why certain additives or chemicals in our food system are unsafe, nor do they understand that the corn industry can basically pay a scientist enough to run a bogus study and skew the results to show that HFCS is perceived the same as table sugar in our bodies. His endless defense was “people should educate themselves, research that stuff, and figure it all out. You did it, and apparently there was enough commotion to cause them to change the name HFCS to corn sugar, so something is working.” Yes he’s very eloquent, and I love him.

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So my question is, who should the everyday people of America turn to when attempting to answer the question “What Should I Eat?”

Your first reaction might be the government, since they are the group with the citizens’ best interest at heart, supposedly. However, with all the lobbying of Congress by Big Ag, you get recommendations tainted by money and business, such as the MyPlate diagram. Harvard scientists disagree so strongly that they created their own version, Healthy Plate. It also slows down or destroys campaigns and initiatives to improve our food system and policies, such as the voluntary guidelines for advertising to children that sparked our debate in the first place. In my opinion, government = Big Ag & large food corporations, all of which are definitely not out to protect our health.

Ok, so the next person you may look to for nutrition advice is your doctor right? Well most doctors get 1-2 nutrition classes in their post-baccalaureate program which usually isn’t enough to see through the smokescreen of the government regulations and recommendations. So you will most likely receive a hand out for the new MyPlate diagram and be sent on your way.

Children get confused as well when MyPlate is promoted but then schools are allowed to serve pizza as a vegetable. This policy has been allowed to continue when Congress blocked the USDA from improving it’s regulations due to pressure from ConAgra and Schwan, despite the Obamas’ push for better school lunches.

So now I come to the professionals who just a year ago I would have touted as the key people to look towards, Registered Dietitians and the American Dietetic Association. However after seeing the sponsorships behind the ADA, I’ve come to question some of their recommendations. For example promoting diet soda over regular as an effective weight loss solution.

So who does that leave us???

I’d have to agree with Michael Pollan, that we should look to our grandmothers, or possibly our great grandmothers. The people who used real raw ingredients to create beautiful nourishing food. The ingredients they used were usually seasonal and fresh since they didn’t have farms in Central America growing their foods year round, and preservation methods were limited. They did not have to worry about chemicals and pesticides in their food and water supply since such things were not widely used until after World War II. They appreciated the art of creating a meal with love and patience. They used traditions passed down through the generations because these traditions kept people alive and healthy, and were obviously delicious if they’d stuck around so long. They did not need modern day science to tell them these traditions and food combinations were good, they relied on the food and flavor to do that. He has said that our ancestors did not need to know that olive oil enhanced the bioavailibilty of nutrients available in tomatoes and dark leafy greens; they just knew it was a delectable combination. These generations also had to work harder for their food and therefore savored it more than we do today in our fast-paced convenience food culture. So get back to the basics of from-scratch cooking, and discover the beauty behind transforming raw ingredients into a beautiful meal.

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The more technology advances, the more we discover how complex food is. But does it have to be? Do we always have to know why something is good? Can’t we just accept that real foods will never be able to be replicated in nutritional value by chemicals from a factory engineered to trick our mind and body into thinking what it is eating is real? Shouldn’t we just resolve to eat a variety of real foods within reason and season?