Saturday, August 09, 2008

Time to eat less meat?

A while back I started reading "An Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. It floated to the top of the pile again this week as I became more thoughtful about what was in our freezer and pantry. The chapter covering the feed lots where cattle spend the last miserable months of their lives was disturbing on so many levels. The conditions the animals live in is not just inhumane to the animals, it's unhealthy to those of us who consume their flesh after their slaughter.

Feed lot cattle spend most of their time standing around in their own manure. Microbes that live in the manure often end up on the hides of the animals. When the animals leave the feed lot for the slaughter houses, they are processed so quickly that the microbes from their hides sometimes end up in the meat.

That's probably what happened here: More Nebraska Beef recalled

Before reading this story, I told my husband that reading Omnivore's Dilemma had me wanting to limit my meat consumption. Whenever possible I think we'll be switching to grass-fed free range beef, and free range chicken. Meat raised by small scale producers is nearly three times as expensive as industrially processed meat. However, our health and the health of the planet are worth it.

As to 'the planet' part: the amount of fossil fuels invovled in the feeding and production of industrial meat is just astounding. Every time you eat a hamburger you are indirectly consuming gallons and gallons of crude oil.

I highly recommend this book. But first, go watch "King Corn". It's a fun documentary that scratches the surface of the root of our hidden food crisis. Nearly every processed food we eat relies on the production of #2 field corn. This corn costs more to grow than the farmers can get for it, so the government pays farmers a fixed price per bushel to assure that they get at least a pittance for their effort. Most corn farmers are not making a living at farming. They have second jobs, or they rely on the second income from their wives' jobs.

It's all very depressing.


szap said...

Depressing yes, but it's such a wonderful book. Writings about food from chefs are one thing, often good, but really, WRITERS writing about food and cooking is a whole 'nother level. Bill Buford's book about cooking should be next. (I cheered up at a later chapter about a good working farm.)

ToughJeansWanted said...

Awesome book. I made a commitment in January to cut out all red meat. I don't miss it one bit. I'll have to check out King Corn.