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  1. #1
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    Sep 2006
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    "Eating animals", about factory farming

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    I just picked up this book out of random curiosity. It's about eating meat, a little about cultural and historical reasons, but mostly about how meat is produced in the US today. It's not a case for vegetarianism, but it is a case against factory farms. (And for "family farms").

    And I've got to say I'm appalled I won't go into details, but the writer has hardly one positive thing to say about factory farming, except maybe that the meat is cheap and plentiful.

    I think conditions are better in Norway, but to be honest I don't know much about it. This book will have me checking closer, though. I'm comfortable with eating meat, but not with causing massive amounts of suffering for it, or a disproportionally large ecological footprint.

    I don't want to start any flame wars here, but it seems there are a fair amount of vegetarians and some farmers here. Anyone read this book? Anyone have an opinion they'd like to voice? I'd be interested to hear the choices some of you have made.
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    around Seattle, WA
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    3,250
    There was a TV documentary, or maybe it was a movie, that made it to the small box, on a similar vein. Definitely made one think about where your meat came from. And in the U.S. some of the factory farms also recruit labor south of the border, then are *shocked* when the same workers get busted for being here illegally.

    I can buy family farmed meat at my farmer's market, IF I make it to market. I generally don't buy my meat there, but I do buy my milk from the market. I know one local grocery chain carries the smaller dairy products, so if I miss market I can get my milk at the grocery. I ought to check to see if they get some of their meat locally too.

    Having family farmed food available at local grocery stores is going to help the farmers stay in business. Not everyone will go out of their way to find farmer's markets, or will have schedules that permit them to get to the market on the specific day. Mega-marts aren't as willing to buy local, but the smaller chains can. Then it's up to us consumers to support them.
    Beth

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    I'm the only one allowed to whine
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    I buy local grass-fed beef even though it's 2-3x more expensive than factory farmed beef flown from miles away.

    I did grow up in farm country, we ate meat from animals we raised (and named, often as not). The different conditions animals and the workers experience are certainly at the forefront of my mind when I choose which critters to eat.

    Similarly with fish. Salmon used to come up the creek by my mom's house to spawn. It was great to watch them leaping the falls and spy on them resting in the quiet pools. Until the county decided to put in a man-made gated "salmon spawning habitat" down stream where the water was slow and sluggish and exposed to eagles, and that "habitat" killed off all the salmon. Now you have to go to the river to see a salmon. Not sure what the bears are eating now instead of the salmon that used to come up the creek. Well-meaning city folks sure can make a mess of things.

    Well, that was kind of a rant on salmon environments, but what I meant to say is I will pay extra for local wild-caught Pacific salmon rather than buy the cheaper farm raised Atlantic salmon that have been fed dye to make their flesh pink.

    And if I can't find "good" meat, I just don't eat meat.
    Last edited by KnottedYet; 07-11-2010 at 06:04 AM.
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    325
    I haven't read that book in particular, but Fast Food Nation and the Michael Pollan books are similar. People always assume I am a vegetarian because of animal cruelty (which is true to a small extent) but my main reason is how big food corporations take advantage of farmers and destroy the environment. Definitely eye opening once you start to examine where your food comes from.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
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    Mrs. KnottedYet
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    8,983
    Quote Originally Posted by bmccasland View Post
    There was a TV documentary, or maybe it was a movie, that made it to the small box, on a similar vein. Definitely made one think about where your meat came from.
    Probably thinking of this: http://www.foodincmovie.com/

    Quote Originally Posted by bmccasland View Post
    And in the U.S. some of the factory farms also recruit labor south of the border, then are *shocked* when the same workers get busted for being here illegally.
    I'll probably get flamed for saying this but that's partly or largely because working conditions in factory farms and in the fields are so bad few here would take the job. Pay is low, conditions are worse than dangerous.

    There's a high cost to cheap food whether it's lamb chops or lettuce. It's one of the reasons that I try to shop locally raised, smaller farms when I can.

    But they are hiring. For those looking for work the UFW says please, come http://www.takeourjobs.org/
    Last edited by Trek420; 07-11-2010 at 06:55 AM.
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    2,560
    Quote Originally Posted by greenbeanvw View Post
    I haven't read that book in particular, but Fast Food Nation and the Michael Pollan books are similar. People always assume I am a vegetarian because of animal cruelty (which is true to a small extent) but my main reason is how big food corporations take advantage of farmers and destroy the environment. Definitely eye opening once you start to examine where your food comes from.
    +1 to this. I don't eat meat, but I do buy commercial dog food.

    I haven't read this book, but I want to. I also want to read this one, which explains why (in our culture) it's okay to eat pigs but not dogs.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Branford, CT
    Posts
    737
    I just finished some bacon from a local farm I like meat, but I can understand how some people turn to vegetarianism when you learn about factory farm conditions. Since I sell at a farmer's market, I buy produce and meat there, and also get a little discount from my fellow vendors. I think if you eat meat, you should be aware of the whole process and if you can live with that process, go for it. Thankfully, even in the winter I can get local meat from the farm delivery service, along with dairy, herbs, veggies, and any number of other Connecticut grown/made products. It's a cool program and more farms seem to be getting on board, which is good to see.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    East-Central Indiana
    Posts
    322
    All four of us have read the book -- loved it!!! It's the one title we recommend to anyone who expresses an interest in learning more about the subject. Without being overly technical and/or preachy, Jonathan Foer does a superb job of presenting the issues involved in factory farming. After the birth of his first child, he began wondering about the sources of the food they were eating. That curiosity, combined with investigative work and personal stories morphed into a wonderful read.

    For those interested, here's a link to info on the book.
    "If we know where we want to go, then even a stony road is bearable." ~~ Horst Koehler

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    1,063
    Quote Originally Posted by greenbeanvw View Post
    I haven't read that book in particular, but Fast Food Nation and the Michael Pollan books are similar. People always assume I am a vegetarian because of animal cruelty (which is true to a small extent) but my main reason is how big food corporations take advantage of farmers and destroy the environment. Definitely eye opening once you start to examine where your food comes from.
    Well said.

    I think that this is just one view of a larger problem--knowing the true cost of things, be it food, drink, the clothes we wear, the bikes we ride, etc.

    If one item costs significantly less than another, we should be asking ourselves why and asking ourselves if we can justify it or whether we really need it.

    Now, not everyone can afford to pay the higher price, but we can all ask whether we really need the item.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Lake Superior in the summer; southern WI the rest of the year
    Posts
    67
    We have a small farm, and I'm also a professor of wildlife and forest ecology at a huge midwestern university. Factory-farming methods are appalling--except for broiler chickens. Laying hens are abused quite horribly in factory farm conditions, but broilers are treated in factory farm conditions pretty much the same way they're treated on free-range farm (they have a huge hoop house with lots of straw bedding, and they run around in flocks until it's time to eat them. Not a bad life for a flocking creature.) So I'll buy supermarket chicken meat, but no other meat from supermarkets. Instead, buy locally.

    If you're in North America and you go to www.eatwild.com you can find great local sources of grass-fed, free range meat. Buying grass-fed, free-range, humanely treated meat directly from the small farm usually costs less than buying nasty meat at the supermarket. Support your local humane farmers! And eat great food in the process. Get a freezer cheap from craigslist so you can always have a supply of good meat from the local farm.

    And best of all, grow your own little garden, get a small flock of laying hens, feed them the garden scraps and your own food scraps, compost the chicken manure, return it to your garden for more food, and create a self-sustaining cycle. Laying hens make great pets, and many towns now allow a small flock in your town garden. Plus the eggs taste a million times better than any supermarket egg.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    3,936
    I will make the case in favour of expensive food to anyone who will listen. All the things that have made food cheap, i.e. efficiencies, have ruined the good stuff. Cheap food allows us to displace our $$ from food towards consumer goods that further destroy the planet and its people through mining (ever heard of coltan mining?), intercontinental commerce, etc. Sure some people can't afford to buy "happy" food, and I won't make them feel bad about it. But I can afford it, so I will as much as I can.

    I love meat, red meat in particular, rare or raw if possible but I almost never buy it anymore, unless I know where it's from. I eat as little chicken as I can, although I do eat eggs and cheese regularly, from a place where the chicks are sent to Montessori preschool or something like that. Most meals I cook at home are vegetarian now, it's also cheaper and I'm getting pretty good at making it tasty. I'm always surprised at how few people of my parents' age group even consider cooking a meal without meat. Most people are having meat at least twice, if not three times a day!! When my parents were visiting last summer I cooked a tofu dish that even my dad thought was great. He was pretty surprised. [And there is a lady near here that makes local tofu!! I couldn't believe how good it was compared to the regular stuff.]

    However one looks at it, the environmental cost of meat - even family-farmed - is totally excessive. I increasingly see it as fit for special occasions, as it used to be.

    Oh, and salmon..... I love, love, love salmon. But I'd rather leave it for the bears and eagles. I do buy it two or three times a year, but much less than before. Worldwide fisheries are collapsing... So many people and other species depend on fish protein more than I do.

    Cycling reference: I get produce delivered from this guy. http://www.grocergunst.com/ It's an amazing concept, and the food is really good. Pretty inexpensive considering what we're getting, too.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    MD suburb of Washington, DC
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    1,832
    Quote Originally Posted by tiva View Post
    We have a small farm, and I'm also a professor of wildlife and forest ecology at a huge midwestern university. Factory-farming methods are appalling--except for broiler chickens. Laying hens are abused quite horribly in factory farm conditions, but broilers are treated in factory farm conditions pretty much the same way they're treated on free-range farm (they have a huge hoop house with lots of straw bedding, and they run around in flocks until it's time to eat them. Not a bad life for a flocking creature.) So I'll buy supermarket chicken meat, but no other meat from supermarkets.
    Of course, this doesn't consider the inhumane way the assembly line workers at the chicken processing plant are treated. I became a vegetarian in 1991 after reading about the limbs that were lost by the mostly immigrant workers when they were caught in the fast-moving machinery at the plants.
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  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    1,336
    I'm mostly vegetarian. I have issues with meat in all sorts of ways, mostly borne out of the cruelty they face, but also because of all the other issues mentioned.

    It's interesting to note about the boiler chickens, though. Chicken's probably the only meat I'll eat if given a choice so at least it'll give me some comfort knowing they weren't horribly abused. I buy my eggs from a reputable local free range farm that uses organic vegetable feed.

    I rarely ever buy meat, and the times I eat it, it's because it was offered to me.

    I'm getting super weird about fish, too. Fishery is a whole other can of worms that affects everything from fishers, environment, and the animals in it. What is actually ok these days that aren't harmful to them or to us? We've been abusing our oceans for so long we're starting to see how sick it's getting

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    West MI
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    4,308
    Quote Originally Posted by tiva View Post
    If you're in North America and you go to www.eatwild.com you can find great local sources of grass-fed, free range meat. Buying grass-fed, free-range, humanely treated meat directly from the small farm usually costs less than buying nasty meat at the supermarket. Support your local humane farmers! And eat great food in the process. Get a freezer cheap from craigslist so you can always have a supply of good meat from the local farm.
    Great link--thanks for posting! There are several resources there that we should look at in our area. I think I finally have DH convinced that small chest freezer would be a useful appliance.
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  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    4,713
    One of my majors was environmental studies. The year I took the required seminar course, the topic was food. I think everyone in it felt guilty about eating anything for a while. We read The Omnivore's Dilemma, as well as a book about how humans have basically been depleting fisheries for about 1000 years (can't remember the title). Scary stuff.

    Living in Ohio, you'd think we'd have more local produce or meat. Nope. Of course, it doesn't help that I live on the East (read, poorer) side of Cleveland. If I can make it to our food co-op, which in summer does tend to have some local stuff, I go there.

    Meat...If I had money, I'd definitely pay for free-range grass-fed beef or free-range chicken. As it is, I can't. I'm certainly eating less meat, although that's a function of trying to keep food costs down. I love salmon and tuna, but save the occasional piece of fish or a sushi date with DBF, I don't eat much at all, for both cost and environmental reasons.
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
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