*so you’re probably wondering what the hell the title of this post means. You’re gonna have to read on to find out. At least it got your attention
I came across the following article on The Atlantic‘s website about eating animals and wanted to share some of my ideas on the meat industry and the “ethics” of food. To quickly rehash the argument put forth by James McWilliams, he argues that the factory farm industry is actually gaining an endorsement from the “humane” and “sustainable” meat movement because inherent in the movement is the fact that people want to eat meat and the factory farm industry will always be able to provide it more efficiently and for a lower price. To quote him, he says:
So long as consumers continue to eat meat, eggs, and dairy — even if they are sourced from small farms practicing the highest welfare and safety standards — they’re providing, however implicitly, an endorsement of the products that big agriculture will always be able to produce more efficiently and cheaply.
As someone who recently bought chicken breast from the Honest Weight Co-op for $10 a pound, who knows that I can buy chicken at Price Chopper for about $3 -$5 a pound (according to this week’s ad) I agree with this last statement. My purchase of meat acknowledges that.
Mr. McWilliams says as much in his article, so I guess we agree on this. However, he finishes by saying:
We’ll never beat Big Ag at its own game. Those of us concerned with the myriad problems of industrial agriculture will make genuine progress toward creating agricultural systems that are ethical, ecologically sound, and supportive of human health only when we pursue alternatives that are truly alternative. The most immediate and direct way to take a step in this direction is to stop eating animals.
So according to McWilliams, the “alternative” to Big Ag, is NOT eating humane meat. But does he explicitly say what the “truly alternative” alternative is (WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN?) or describe it in any way that makes sense? No. And I am so frustrated because I am truly at a loss to envision this “truly alternative” alternative. Why? Because here’s what it CAN’T be:
*a world in which no one eats meat, because that’s just fucking absurd, there are over 300,000,000 people in this country and there is a better chance of me growing to 7 feet tall before I die than this EVER happening
*a world in which there is NO factory farming and all local farms. Because even places like the coop admit that they can’t stock only local meat because there simply would not be enough to meet demand (see, people WANT/LIKE to eat dead animals, plus, we all can’t afford $10 a lb chicken (let me state for the record that the chicken I am talking about was bought by my gf using a gift card, so it’s not like we really even paid for it)
*a world in which we all eat processed tofu that is engineered to taste like dead animals. Because that really wouldn’t be ecologically sound or that supportive of human health considering what is added to tofu to make it taste/resemble real animal protein, plus these products are incredibly expensive
My point? There is no other alternative. This is the world we live in. A world in which A LOT of people eat meat because there are so damn many of us and animal protein is a filling, healthy (let’s just agree that eating a piece of chicken won’t kill you and that eating a leaf of spinach won’t make you live forever), and CHEAP source of food. It’s a world that has a mixture of factory and local farms because there are people who want cheap meat and there are people who can afford $10 a lb chicken. A world in which people choose not to eat meat but then choose to eat products that TASTE like meat.
*speaking of meat, here is a great link where an editor from Serious Eats comments on the ease of meat, thus making my point that for most Americans who don’t have time or money, but have kids to feed, meat is the obvious choice. The solution then is not less meat, but a change in social circumstance
So where does that leave the food movement? Where does that leave Michael Pollan (a man who admits that when he gives talks on eating healthy he talks almost exclusively to people who don’t really need his advice) and Barbara Kingsolver (an author who had the luxury of raising her own food for a year and got a book deal out of it)? A giant, rich, skinny, white person circle jerk. That’s where. It’s a world in which liberal haves (who are just as annoying as conservative haves) sit around and bond over causes that they have in common that they are fortunate enough to support. It’s easy to pat yourself on the back because you shop at the co-op and it’s easy to write about your “perfect” agricultural world when your lifestyle allows you to essentially create a food bubble to surround yourself in. But it’s all just masturbation. These choices aren’t changing the social forces that created the “Big Ag” that you so despise and if McWilliams is right, then it’s only making “Big Ag” bigger.
Now, I’m not saying that if you don’t eat meat you should suddenly start. I’m not saying that as a personal choice, the choice to not eat meat or eat “humane” meat is wrong. Do what you wish, more power to you. But PLEASE, PLEASE, can we stop pretending like this “food” movement is some sort of revolution that will change our society? Stop with the books on how to eat in ways that will REALLY change the world. Eat what you ant, but get rid of your bombastic dreams and rhetoric about its consequences. Gay marriage didn’t kill the dinosaurs and the choices we make about what we eat won’t bring them back.