Friday, January 24, 2014

Believing in Better Meat and a Better Me

Fig.1 Happy cattle.

Cynicism not only serve as a destructive force to humanity, it also provides an excellent shield, via circumstantial ad hominem, for those who would anoint with cynicism to hide behind.
At one point last week, funneled in a transitional share between social media users, a video surfed its way into the laptops, phones and tablets of millions of people. The video depicted the rampant abuse of pigs inside a Tyson industrial processing plant. The makers of the video addressed the disturbing revelations to retail giant, Wal-Mart, Tysons biggest client. I wont describe the video in this article, just Google it if youre curious. But, if curiosity is all you have then you just might be a cynic. If curiosity is all you have then you just might be bored. If curiosity is all you have, then, once youve watch the video, you wont be curious anymore; the proverbial itch will be scratched and therein lies the problem.
Watching from a computer screen, within the safe confines of our daily habits and routines, we become immune from the inner backlash that should erupt when curiosity meets anger. When I watched the video for the first time I was appalled-how could people, I wondered, be so cruel? I had lost faith in the goodness of humanity, a sentiment steeped in despair, and therefore, a sentiment that requires hope. Hope for me presented itself by way of self-fulfilling research: who breeds and butchers organic and humanly raised pork and where can I buy it?
Being a food writer, this was by no means the first time I bore witness to such a video. I first read about such centralized, mechanical, industrialized meat processing plants from the book, Fast Food Nation. Author, Eric Schlosser paints an apocalyptic scene filled with lakes of blood, riddled with heaps of carcasses, and filled with human cruelty.  But despite Schlossers descriptive scenes of carnage, a rational and merited argument can be made that such industrial meat plants are a necessity; how else can a populace of five hundred and thirty million plus meet their meat requirements? But our meat requirements are not being met, in fact, our meat requirements are being exceeded, our meat consumption is insatiable. According to a recent BBC health report “In the United States more than 75kg (165lbs) of meat is consumed per person each year. In Germany that figure is around 60kg. Huge amounts compared to per capita meat consumption rates of 38kg in China, and less than 20kg in Africa.” (In Canada, per capita meat consumption ranges from 38 to 50kg per person depending on which report you believe. Given our proximity to the U.S, I would lean toward the higher estimation of 50kg.) Also, according to the BBC report, over 70 billion animals are killed every year worldwide to meet our meat requirements, most of which are ground and pureed to make processed meat products, such as is found in frozen foods and fast food items. And meat consumption worldwide is going up, as Europeans and Asian countries adopt a more Western approach to daily food rituals.
I spoke to many people who saw the video, all were appalled-some below the threshold of curiosity, others, fuelled by anger, have transcended simply being curious to the point of proactive awareness.  
Being proactively aware is a powerful sensation. If it's channeled correctly it can fill you with the realization that you hold power, and that power to choose can sway a business practice and change, what you once perceived of as a permanent landscape, into a temporary one. For while the cynic has a general lack of faith and hope in the world, what they really have, is a lack of faith in themselves-they are cynics to their spirits, doubters to their abilities, skeptics to their power.

And so, to the cynic in which the status quo tastes just fine I would say stop hiding. Ignorance can be bliss but the cost is getting too high. There are costs to cheap meat that register beyond the final grocery tab: high processing costs, gas emissions from long distance transportation, soil pollution from industrial abattoirs, feeding all these animals, and, worst of all, the detriment to our heath and health care system all have costs and repercussions that will be on our grandchildrens shoulders. The cost disparity between what we pay for food and what its really costing us is as plain as day and as elusive as our indifference. Now, more than ever, Oscar Wilde was right, people today know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Moral and Organic edible meats available in the following places:
Boucherie Lawrence: 5237 St Laurent, Montreal. (Between St-Viateur and Faimount) 5142778880
Boucherie Ferme Saint-Vincent in the Jean Talon and Atwater Markets.
Les Fermes Valens: 79 York, Huntington, Qc, Canada, 450-264-4061