meet, meat

2 07 2007

I was at a Christmas party this year where I ran into my high school Chemistry teacher — also the overseer of the school’s “Students for Environmental Action” group. He had brought to the party a home-made spinach and feta quiche, and I have to say, even though I am a stalwart vegan, I was very impressed. However, upon complimenting him on his quiche, my former teacher lamented that he had faced an ethical dilemma while buying the spinach.

There were two spinach options at the natural food store he shopped at. One option, at $3.99 a bunch, was an organic brand of spinach which had come from China. The other, at $4.99, was a non-organic brand which had come from upstate, made by a company owned by Nabisco. Which spinach should he buy?

He went for the latter because to him, no cause was greater than buying locally (or as locally as possible). There are hundreds of advantages to this: Local food supports American farmers (who really need support as free trade and corporate-controlled agriculture become more and more prevalent), contributes less to global warming (the less your food has to travel, the fewer carbon emissions are made), and is often safer and better for your health (foreign produce, fish and meat have come under investigation recently for spreading various disease).

One thing Congress has tried to do about this problem is to institute a country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law, which would require all meat, fish and nuts to be labeled with the country they came from. That way, consumers would be able to decide for themselves (as my old chemistry teacher did) what they put in their mouths (or in their quiches).

But, as with most good Congressional ideas, Republican members of Congress (Henry Bonilla especially) have managed to push back the enforcement of this law. For five years. While pocketing enormous sums of money from the livestock industry, who fear higher costs with the instigation of the law.

But good news: As we have been witnessing over the last few weeks, the Democrats have finally learned to speak. And the Times says things are looking good for the law these days.

Reading that article reminds me how fucked up the American livestock farming system remains. Considering that one of the leading arguments against the enforcement of the law for meat is:

They also say it would be difficult and expensive to label ground meat like hamburger, since it often includes meat from different cows.

There are just so many things wrong with that. Animal abuse aside (although that’s another horror story in and of itself), worker’s rights are pathetic in slaughterhouses, which means they regularly employ undocumented workers who are subject to frightening racism and bigotry. The work is dangerous, unhealthy and rigorous. Standards are lower, not higher, in countries like China and Mexico.

I’m constantly surprised that this system isn’t more thoroughly examined. The meat industry is as corrupt as any other industry in the country — except it alone explicitly abuses the right every living being should have: basic respect.




One response

2 07 2007

It’s interesting. I am a vegetarian, wishing I could be vegan, living in France for the past 6 years. Here the meat is labelled down to the cow it came from (it’s a requirement) – this came from the BSE (mad cow) problems in Europe a few years back. Also in the shops all the vegetables are marked with where they come from on the boxes, bags or signs. I also run into this dilema (ie should we buy the organic food from far off vs. chemical-laden food produced ‘locally’). Luckily here in summer we have great farmer’s markets, and family farmers come to sell their stuff each Saturday so I go there and often some of these are organic. In winter, I tend to compromise and buy European grown food that is organic over any organic shipped in from Africa, South America etc.. What it ends up is that you eat seasonally what is ripe for your region – which is also meant to be better for your system (ie follows normal biorythyms of what your body should expect to ingest in Spring vs. Fall). However, in winter it leaves me with a rather limited diet (as I live in a snowy area!!). But overall, I do find the USA is lagging behind Europe in this regard – and at the same time the large US agri giants are pushing the EU to accept their horrible GMO foods and seeds, and it appears the EU is starting to cave in (so I hope it doesn’t start to change here for the worse … !)

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