Stuff used to be simpler. Granted, it was common practice to own slaves, blood-let and burn witches…but the food was so much more wholesome. There were no hormones, taken from us and injected into other species, wreaking havoc on those poor cows’ endocrine systems; there were no antibiotics encouraging diseases to become resistant and thus stick around on the animal until it merrily made its way into our bodies; no genetic modification to make chickens so big so fast that they couldn’t stand for more than a few moments; no presumption of what we thought was the best things for the animals to eat so they’d get fatter quicker; and no pasteurization.
Stuff was simpler.
Animal husbandry was a craft; a calling. People cared for their livestock-mostly because healthier animals meant that fewer died, which translated to more output. But also because there was a respect for the animals and what they sacrificed. The practice of acknowledging the sacrifice animals made in order to sustain us goes waaaay back.. From the hunting tribes in North America, to the Maasai in Africa; animals were seen as gifts. They provided not only food, but shelter, clothing, tools and weapons.
When we started domesticating them, we let them do their thing in the space they had. Chickens could roam, peck and dust-bathe. Pigs could forage and mud-bathe; cows could graze and frolic. Yes, frolic. Have you ever seen a cow frolic? It’s amazing. You’ll never eat cow again. Or maybe you will, and just remember that it was a happy, frolicking cow before it came to be on your plate. I, personally, like the thought of eating happy food.
Now-a-days, livestock are kept in pins where they can barely move; they’re fed genetically modified corn and soy products (sometimes even the leftover icky stuff from slaughter…i.e., Wilbur’s uncle); they’re injected with hormones and antibiotics which screw with their natural biological processes; and they don’t even have access to sunlight. Now. I’m no vegetarian…but that’s just awful. We humans are mostly herbivorous, but we do need our meat. Sometimes. We’re also the dominant species on Earth, which can be sad at times(especially when things like Honey-Boo-Boo and Rick Santorum exist). That means that we pretty much are responsible for bringing animals into the world just to eat them.
That also means that we have the biggest environmental footprint. And that, dear friends, translates to bearing the burden of stewardship. We take the most and cause the biggest impact, so we must compensate the most and give back what we can. And then, we mitigate what we can’t make right.
So: when we can make animal husbandry more simple, less environmentally malicious, healthier for us, and most importantly, less cruel…we have the obligation to do so.
And guess what. Being good is a big part of what distinguishes us from everything else. It’s part of what makes us responsible for taking care of the earth.
Thus is the practice of factory farming an insidious incarnation of all that is bad within us. But, hark! There is a light at the end of this carnivorous tunnel! Organic farming, free-range farming, pasture-farming. In other words: let the animals do their thing and be happy, so that they’re healthy (and the earth is happy), and in turn produce happy food, which then makes us happy. California’s got the right idea:
After I finished my research paper on proposing an international ban on factory farming, let me tell you, friends, that I will NEVER purchase conventional meat, eggs or dairy again. If you want to be as disgustingly educated as I had the misfortune (or…I suppose I can count it a blessing and epiphany) of being, read my paper. I’ll email it to those interested.
So, I’ve embarked on a mission to secure reliable sources of these wonderful and wonderful tasting products. Whole Foods stores are a good bet (and they have this handy number rating system for animal humaneness). Also, community farming co-ops and programs are amazing. Or, just get to know your local farmers.
So…is there a difference? You know…other than contributing to the decency of society? Abso-freaking-lutely. The taste for starters. I had grass-fed beef the other night, and I was floored Usually, I can’t tell the difference between cow, buffalo and ostrich. But this! Best. Beef. Ever. It was rich. It was umami. It was….beefy. It was how beef is supposed to taste. And the chicken? Dear Mary Mother of a toothless, drooling Baby Jesus. The thigh meat melts in your mouth. And did you know chicken has a flavor? Yep. Not chicken. I.e….not like every other tasteless hunk of white fleshy stuff. It tasted real.
Pork is the same way. And you know where I got that? Chipotle. Yep. They source most of their meats from grass-fed/free-range farmers. I wish to give that company a hug. But I can’t. So I give them my money instead. And by the way….their guacamole is God snot. Seriously. Best guac I’ve ever had. But I digress.
Free-range/grass-fed is healthier. It’s chock-full of nutrients. Know why? Because the animals ca eat what their bodies can digest the most effectively (read: they eat what they’re supposed to be eating). That means that the most nutrients are extracted from the food they eat. Nutrients like omega-3, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A….vitamin H (vitamin Happy).
Is it more expensive? Duh. How else would these guys cover their overheads? But I think an overhaul of the agribusiness is looming. So, it’s expensive…but is it worth it? Have you been picking your nose this entire post?!
Here: I’ve made it easy. Links, videos and pictures. Let’s get this overhaul going, dear, awesome people.