Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Food Stuffs: Good post over at Reason on the meat-eating "dilemma". Having tried vegetarianism I can safely say that I'm doomed to be a carnivore. I don't care how much sauce you put on wheat-gluten, it ain't the same as steak tips or duck breast. If you want to be a veggy, by all means go ahead, more for me.

My concern rests more on the quality and safety issues inherent in the meat-processing world. I'm not arguing Sinclair's "The Jungle" - that was much more of a rant on the evils of capitalism. No, I'm more along the lines of "Fast Food Nation" which talks not only about our increasing desire to lower the bar on food quality (i.e. salty fatty fast food), but also the potential and actual dangers involved in the world of meat-processing and the system (i.e. animals, grain and labor) that supports it.

We feed corn to cows because we have so damn much of it. However, cows can't digest it properly. So we feed them full of antibiotics and other chemicals to enable them to digest it and derive some nutrients from it, and refrain from getting sick. Cattle and hogs and chickens are raised on gigantic farms because it's economically desirable to do it. However, the sheer mass and proximity of these animals produces incredible logistic and health problems in terms of waste-disposal and the spread of infectious diseases (think of it: one mad cow and all our friendly countries ban the import of beef - and further, we still can't figure out what other cows were next to that one because of the huge fluid system that is the beef processing world). The food inspectors are outmanned, outgunned and outspent by the processors, and even if we do catch something, it's usually a) too late, and b) buried as soon as possible. This is analogous to the transparency sought in investments - too often we only find out after all our money is in Ken Lay's art collection.

I'm not prickly p.c. about eating meat. I am prickly about eating good, safe and well-prepared meat. I don't think that is subject to much debate. Our system is not "dangerous" (the vast majority of us never get sick or worse from bad meat), but our ability to prevent and react and respond to these crises is woefully deficient. One tactic to help you? Eat kosher whenever possible. Go here, to Empire Poultry's website and learn how they process chicken. Compare that to Perdue. Tell me it's not worth a few extra cents a pound.

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