Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Since May, I've been participating in a food politics book club. Before I started it, I had read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (and learned to make cheese, which I wrote about on here a lot) and the Omnivore's Dilemma, which completely made my brain explode. Since then, I've read 4.5 other books about all aspects of the food world, from industrial food to farmed food to even the Food Pyramid and seafood. I have come to a conclusion:

Like Barbara Kingsolver, I will no longer eat CAFO meat. Ever. At all.

This pretty much means I don't eat meat outside my house. This new lifestyle has been, so far, very easy. Restaurants have pretty many delicious vegetarian options and there are even a few here in Pittsburgh where I can speak to the chef and learn about where the animals come from.

This isn't to say there weren't a few snafus. The very first week of this decision, I totally failed and ate beef chili at the rugby bar. Then, I went to a banquet I booked months before and ate my chicken dinner I had paid $99 for. But since then? I find I feel pretty good about my ability to secure pastured beef, pork, and free range poultry at home while eating delicious vegetables outside it.

The true test approaching will be Thanksgiving. I am currently hard at work securing an appropriate turkey so I don't have to sit and smell my dad's baking bird, weeping. Luckily, food politics book club has helped me locate tons of locavore and sustainable eating web sites, so these products are easier than ever to get. I feel pretty happy that it's been relatively easy and affordable to change the way I eat and make a (small) statement. Maybe my boycott will be the one to change industrial meat practices!


Anonymous said...

When it comes to food, I can't help but talk:

I had an interesting discussion with a girl who is a vegetarian for similar reasons, not that you've gone vegetarian...but I guess my question on this ideal (non-CAFO raising of meat) is how this is sustainable in a heavily populated world of hungry and poor people? and how this meshes with your environmental views?

You know I am not pro-veg but for the sake of argument, and the reasons you've given for your lifestyle choices (I applaud the fact that you recognize that your financial means allow you to make these choices) why not go totally veg?

check out the writings of Dennis Avery at the Hudson Institute for an environmental argument for industrial farming and biotech...just as an opposition view (I don't go "whole hog" for his arguments either but I think some are quite valid)

I ate a salad for lunch; it had radishes!

PeaceLoveMath said...

What does CAFO mean??

Anonymous said...

concentrated animal feeding operation, more popularly known as "factory farm"

Katy said...

p, i know you know both sides of this debate in and out and i always love reading what you write about it. i don't feel ready to go vegetarian yet, and i don't know if non-CAFO meat is sustainable for a heavily populated world of omnivores. i just know that it's not right to cram chickens into cages the way we do now, so that their wings and beaks fall off and they spend their lives so miserably. if that's the only sustainable solution to hunger, then i'll have to go vegetarian because that just feels wrong to me. i don't know how we allowed ourselves to develop such practices to begin with! i'll spend some time this morning reading Avery.

Anonymous said...

I agree Katy, there HAS to be another solution that is still sustainable for the demand but more humane, and maybe that is a blend of CAFO and more modern practices or techniques that aren't even widely used. I do think that we are meant to eat some portion of meat in our diets and I think that there is also a food safety and quality element to the CAFO system. So, I don't think that cramming animals is good for us from a selfish standpoint either. The more I learn about food, the more I don't know. I think that coming to a decision and challenging that decision is an exercise that I torture myself with regularly on this and many other things.

I also think there is a missing element of education and respect taught to employees at large operations and they see their job as an assembly line rather than one where they deal with living things.

Someone I really admire is Temple Grandin, she is a very cool animal scientist who has autism and has worked with humane practices to agriculture meat production by literally putting herself in the path that leads to slaughter. She also helped discover that freaked out animals make crappy tough meat. This is why they put pigs in calming areas after they unload them from trucks before they process them.

I personally believe that it is okay to eat meat but I also believe that we are supposed to show respect to living things that sacrifice for our diets. It makes us better people. I think the mainstream agriculture backlash against orgs like PETA come from the fact that many activist believe in only veg as humane and have hidden agendas when they address the CAFO problem. As with most things (politics too) there has to be middle ground. On the flip side, we have to be careful not to anthropomorphosize animals to ridiculous levels too this means recognizing that they are legally property and not pseudo-property to be dressed and treated like children in our civil court system.

Thanks for listening/reading but more for sharing how you study and come to decisions about your household practices. It is too bad more people aren’t so thoughtful.

I'll shut up now. :o)

freya said...

First of all, going totally veg is hard for people who have been eating meat their whole lives, definitely. I think the problem is that most of our meals are based around meat as the main dish. Making meat servings smaller or not the focus would help, I think.

"I will no longer eat CAFO meat. Ever. At all."
I think this is a little extreme. Of course, you should try to do this if it's what you want. But are you not going to eat at a friend's wedding because of this? Or at a dinner party that someone invites you to?