Monday, April 6, 2009

Don't Watch This Before Dinner

I stumbled onto yet another video about the horrors of modern factory farming on a British television show called "Supermarket Secrets". The majority of the show concentrated on chickens. They made the point that in years past eating chicken used to be a big deal, maybe a once a week Sunday dinner, but now we eat it all the time. That demand has been filled by factory farms and horrible conditions for the birds, and extending that, to the people who eat them. Have you ever noticed odd brown spots when you buy a whole chicken? I have, and I now know that they are called hock marks and they are an indication that the bird was sickly. What happens is the chickens are bred to grow so fast that their poor little legs can't keep up, so they can't walk. The marks are from lesions in their skin where they sat in the ammonia produced by the waste of all the chickens crowded in the breeding houses. They can't get up and they can't get away from it, so they get these awful, painful sores, and they just get worse and worse. *Shudder* Don't think this is just a UK problem, either; take a look for those hock marks at your local grocery store- you'll find them. I've seen them and wondered what they were, and now I know.

Now the problem is what to do about it! I've been buying organic meat for some time, and organic chicken when it's available. I'll buy regular chicken when the organic is out of stock, but I think I'm going to stop doing that. I really want to find more vegetarian meals the family will eat anyway, so that may be the route I'm going to take. Go back to the way my grandmother ate as a young woman- meat/poultry of any kind was a once in a while treat.

As far as a general philosophy, I like Barbara Kingsolver's thoughts on the issue. She wrote "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about her family's one year experiment in eating only local food, much of which they raised themselves. At the beginning of the book she stated that she ate only meat she felt was humanely raised, which I think is admirable, and had been doing that for some time. After she moved to the farm where her family lived for the year of the experiment, she bought some heirloom turkeys to raise. The passages where she talks about these turkeys are both thought provoking and, at some points, hilarious. It's a great book and one I recommend highly. (It's on the second page of my Shelfari down there on the right.)

Her take on the meat/vegetarian debate is that the heirloom breeds of domestic animals will go extinct if we DON'T eat them. They are dependent on humans to breed them and if there is no demand at the market these lines of cows and poultry and sheep and so forth will die out like the dinosaurs. The only problem is finding this kind of meat to buy! There aren't any local farmers' markets around here that I can get to easily, for starters. This area isn't real big on local produce, but the "Locavores" and "slow food" movements are gaining steam, so maybe there's hope for the future. If I tried to eat locally at this point the family would starve, but we do what we can.


Melinda said...

I've seen videos similar to that one, it's horrible.

Kim said...

Isn't it awful? Not only for the animals, but for the quality of what WE consume. We're killing ourselves all in the name of the almighty dollar.