Growing up I never really thought about an actual animal being attached to the chicken cutlet or steak I was eating. They came home on Styrofoam trays and shrink wrapped plastic. I never even saw the inside of a butcher shop until I was twenty-four years old. The idea of raising an animal or seeing it at the farm before slaughter was not even a remote thought in my mind for the majority of my life. Needless to say, I never considered how the animal lived before it became that chicken cutlet or steak.
Over the last several years my family and I have made huge changes to our diets and how we source our foods. We eliminated all the processed junk and started to buy the majority of our produce from local farms, CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) and farmers markets. I felt that I was doing really well buying all my produce locally and improving my family’s overall health. The very last thing I looked at was meat. Like most people today, I didn’t really want to know the truth behind how commercial meat is produced, ignorance was indeed bliss. But with countless meat recalls for various contaminants, children and adults sick and even dying, it was time to pay attention. In 2011, the Center for Disease Control reported that 48 MILLION people get sick each year due to food borne illness, 3,000 of those die. (1) That is only taking bacterial infections and other contaminants into consideration. Those illnesses get you sick right away and it is what people pay attention to.
I’m sure we all remember that Roberta Flack song “Killing Me Softly?” Today, we only really pay attention to things that kill us quickly and painfully. We don’t consider the things that are actually killing us over a long period of time, or killing us softly. Everyone knows that things like extended exposure to certain types of radioactivity can lead to cancer and other serious medical concerns. I mean, Chernobyl still isn’t on the map for a strip malls or new restaurants. And of course, we all remember the famous Erin Brockovich case, portrayed in Hollywood by Julia Roberts. In the case, Ms. Brockovich and her firm fought hard against a multimillion dollar gas and electric firm who was contaminating the local drinking water of the town of Hinkly, California. We remember the woman, children and men all affected over years to contaminants that cause death, cancers and so much more. We remember the crux of the case was that a business was doing what they needed to do to maintain profits to excel which was much more important that the health and welfare of the local community.
Meat and dairy in the United States are very big business. The meat industry in the United States alone produces over $800 billion and accounts for 6% of the GDP. (2) 80% of that meat processed is done so by four meat companies in the United States. With such a hefty addition to our country’s revenue, you had better believe that folks want that protected and profitable.
I think we have already determined that sometimes big companies don’t always have our best interest at heart. Such is the case with big meat business. The conditions of large meat producers and slaughter houses are far less than ideal, in many cases, downright frightening. Animals are raised for finished weights, becoming so big that they cannot even support their own body weight, leaving them to wade and sit in their own waste and that is only the beginning. I am not going to delve too far into that, there are many places that you can read about commercial farms and animal conditions that would send you potentially in a plant based diet.
The bottom line is that over the long haul, sick animals make sick humans. It is not an instant stomach ache or infection, but our commercial meat industry is definitely killing us softly. There is a better way.
Next: Grass Fed vs. Grain Fed, What’s the Big Deal Part 2