As always, I’m a bit behind this week on pop culture topics – other than the death of Davy Jones. I am, after all, a fan of bubble gum pop, and quirky, cheesy TV from the 60s.
So I missed the video that’s making the rounds from Chipolte Restaurants, an animated short called “Back To The Start”, which depicts a family farmer who moves to a factory farming operation and then back to a family farm. The music is Willie Nelson performing Coldplay’s “The Scientist.”
I suspect that most Americans have absolutely no clue where their meat comes from, and they probably don’t care. I confess that it wasn’t all that long ago that I fell into that category. But over the last several years, I’ve become more and more interested in where my food comes from, and as I’ve researched I’ve been surprised (and often disgusted) by what I’ve learned.
Once you’ve seen the truth about factory farming and what it does to the animal, the economy, the farmer, and in the end, the consumer, you can’t go back. It’s like trying to unring a bell. Can’t do it, and in fact you want to do just the opposite. Ring and ring and ring until everyone listens to what you’ve learned.
I’m not talking becoming a vegetarian. I eat meat. I eat less meat than I used to – way less. I eat more grains and vegetables, which means I spend less on groceries, I actually enjoy the meat that I do eat a lot more, and I feel better. Physically and spiritually.
It’s clear that some Americans are speaking out. In the last few weeks, McDonalds and Hormel have taken a stand on the use of gestation crates in the production of pork. Wait, let’s not call it pork. Let’s call it the production of pigs for human consumption, because that way you remember that pork comes from a living animal.
But Chipolte goes further, committing to “Food with Integrity” and it begins with their belief that ” The best way to treat animals with dignity and respect is to allow them to display their natural tendencies.” Chipolte’s pork is 100% naturally raised – which means that a pig was raised like a pig, not mass produced like a widgets in a factory. They’re working to eventually make all of the cattle and chicken and diary products they use 100% naturally raised animals.
Why is that important?
Did you know that in factory farms, the cows and pigs are fed other animals? Offal (which is … well … the parts that you don’t want to eat), brains, spinal tissue, road kill, and other animals. In case you’ve forgotten the lessons you learned in kindergarten, pigs and cows don’t eat each other. They eat grass and grains.
So we’re feeding cows and pigs food they don’t normally eat. How do you feel when you do that? Sick, right? The animals aren’t healthy, so they get medicines to treat the illnesses they’ve come down with from eating food they don’t normally eat.
They also get hormones to help make them get fatter so they can get to market faster. But in order to save money, they’re crammed into smaller spaces where they can’t even turn around. Which means they’re prone to more illness. So they get a daily low dose of antibiotics to prevent illness that can occur in a filthy, cramped environment.
When a bacteria is exposed over time to a low dose of antibiotics, it begins to mutate and becomes resistant to the drugs developed to treat it. Ta da, now we have strains of super bacteria that are increasingly dangerous as well as difficult to treat.
If you are what you eat, aren’t you also what they ate? Yes, because what goes into a cow or a pig eventually goes into you, too.
The reality is that in many ways, factory farmers are responding to consumer demand. In the documentary “King Corn,” Bob Bledsoe, of Bledsoe Cattle Co. in Wray, Colorado, said,
“If the American people wanted strictly grass fed beef, we would produce grass fed beef for ‘em. But it’s definitely more expensive and one of the tenets in America is that America wants and demands cheap food.”
And that sums up our entire food system: cheap and fast. And unhealthy and inhumane.
Tell me what you think: do you think about how the animals you eat are raised or how their care affects your health and well being?
- Meat consumption down, fur sales up?
- New Year’s resolutions for animal lovers: #1 – Think before you eat
- Friday food for thought quote: our varying attitudes towards animals, from James Serpell
- McDonalds and Hormel to end use of gestation crates