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The Caring Carnivore

Last night, Lauren and I watched Food, Inc. because it was the next thing in the queue. I had put it on the list quite some time ago, but had forgotten about it until it showed up in our mailbox. I know that half the point of the movie is to shock, shame, coerce, cajole, or otherwise convince you to save the planet and shun The Man. In this case, The Man is a few corporate agriculture giants that deliver the vast majority of the 'food' everyone in America eats. We are talking of companies like ConAgra, Monsanto, Tyson, etc.

I think I already knew most of the stuff in the film. I had seen footage from CAFOs before. In fact, I have driven past a few and seen (and smelled) them in first person. I don't care for them at all. The Man does such a good job of distancing our neatly packaged cuts of meat from the terrible places that the animals are raised and slaughtered that we forget about the sickening truth. In fact, the treatment of animals at such places could almost convince me to be a vegetarian. I know some people who are vegetarian for that very reason. But I am not a vegetarian. I am an carnivore. Or more correctly, an omnivore.

This film convinced me that I can do better for myself than what I am currently doing. Lauren and I have been kicking around the idea of getting local meat for a couple of years now. We just haven't done it. But after talking about it after the film, we have decided to be more careful carnivores than we were before. We decided that we would take the money we spent on corporate meat and use it to buy local meat from farmers that we know and trust. Farmers that care about the land and the animals more than the siren's call of corporate cash. We haven't actually figured out what the meat budget was before, but it is a sure thing that we won't be able to buy as much local meat as we have been eating. It's not like we are gorging ourselves on animal flesh every night, but we will certainly have to introduce more beans and lentils into our diet to pick up the slack.

Really, with this change, we are winning on every front:

  1. We will be eating meat more 'in season.' With loads of local, fresh fruits and veggies from our garden and the farmer's market during the summer, we will be eating less meat. The meat will get saved for the lean winter months when fresh veggies are not so plentiful.
  2. We will be eating meat that has a lower negative environmental impact. I admit that meat is not the most environmentally friendly food. It takes a lot of food to raise the animal which could otherwise be used to feed people. CAFO animals also require more stuff: waste disposal, more medications, transportation, etc. Locally grown, grass-fed beef leaves no trace. All the animal waste is distributed by the animal itself (mostly evenly) back into the fields where it acts as organic fertilizer. They don't require as much medication because they are not in such close quarters. They don't need as much transportation since they are grown close to where they are eaten. Less environmental impact on every front.
  3. We will end up eating less meat. According to the movie, Americans eat, on the average, about 200 lbs. of meat per person per year. I don't even think our family eats that much meat per year in total. But even so, a little less meat never hurts. Yes, now and then I get a craving for a thick, juicy steak or a perfectly grilled pork chop. This won't change, but it will mean that it won't happen quite so often. We are a middle class family. That means we can't afford to make the switch to local meat without cutting back on something. We chose to cut back on meat, merely spending the same amount.

At the end of the movie, they try to be motivational and convince you that you can do your part to change (save) the world. Sure if everyone in the world started to only eat local foods The Man would go out of business. I am not so sure that my dime makes that much of a ripple in the world's pond. I don't know how much of an environmental impact our family's decision will make, but if nothing else, it grants me a peace of mind that I am not sure I could find otherwise.