Why America Loves Her Meat

Posted on 17 March 2011

Why is it that Americans are so bloodthirsty?  Does it date back to our days of taming the wild frontier, or the residual dreams of meat and potatoes brought over from Europe?  Is it just another expression and celebration of our own wealth, since meat is so difficult (resource-draining, labor-intensive) to produce?  Whatever its source, in today’s racing, commodity-crazed fast food nation (to borrow Eric Schlosser’s term), the widespread availability and consumption of meat appears symptomatic of a certain cultural ailment.  The quality and origins of most of the meat consumed by Americans are murky, at best.  Yet the most quintessential American pastime is still grabbing a dog at the baseball stadium or sinking your teeth into a hamburger.  Will there ever be a day when ripping into a roasted veggie wrap will boast the same, distinctive aura of Americana?  Although most of California may think otherwise, the prospect does not look good.

I just read an interesting opinion piece on pets versus animals in the New York Times (check it out! “Some Animals are more Equal than Others“).  The (at times, enraged) author clarifies the unjust, perceived differences and distinctions between an animal and a pet, but also brings up some excellent points about the American meat industry in general.  For example:

—Nearly 10 billion animals are “processed” (i.e. killed and packaged) in America each year.  This accounts for approximately one sixth of the world’s total.

—“Common”, i.e. currently legal, practices in the agricultural industry include: keeping poultry in spaces so small they can never open their wings; sending baby male chicks through grinders to dispose of them; castrating millions of calves and piglets without anesthesia; depriving sick animals of individual veterinary care and then breeding them; keeping livestock in grossly unsanitary conditions; and killing off animals en masse to stem the disease outbreaks that inevitably arise in these conditions.

All animals kill (either plants or other animals) and survival of the fittest, blah-blah-blah.  But don’t we carefully weed and water our gardens to make sure we get the best vegetables we can?  And until a few hundred years ago, didn’t the animals we eat either run free in the forest or plains until the day they died or roam happily in the fields, either with or without a shepherd to tend them?  Even the vegetable industry provides as much sun, protection and stimulation to plants as it can.  If animals stood stock still like they had roots, only drank water and didn’t make any noise, would they get more respect?  Ironically, we invest a lot more than that in each animal—in food, time, space and resources—and yet we can’t even afford them the courtesy of a tomato plant.

Yikes; that’s bleak.  Pet pig, anyone?






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