Warning: Rant ahead.
Obviously, driving on the central trunk-lines between Michigan and New York regularly means we see a lot of interesting and sometimes strange things along the way. In one week we saw something that was so horrific, it opened my eyes to the true cost of meat.
What am I talking about? Trucks crammed full of animals, in one case chickens, so tightly crammed into their cages that the back half of the truck appeared to have died, and in another two cases, pigs squeezed into spaces so small they cannot move. Picture a pig being trailered by a semi-truck during a rain storm, its face is covered in mud and cold with those intelligent eyes now hosting an afraid, vacant, and defeated stare. The horror I felt was initially captured by a feeling of absolute disbelief. I know this stuff happens, but I had never actually seen it. The feeling overwhelmed me. I wept.
But what did I do when I returned home? Stopped for lunch at a local eatery known for their delicious (and often local) foods. Did I think to ask about the meat? No. I had become complacent. And in that complacency, I may have contributed to the same behavior I found so abhorrent.
Bacon is so easy to love that we are satisfied with labels like “natural,” but this says little about the treatment of these animals. And I love bacon, but not enough to contribute any longer to this cruelty.
So, while at the store with a pound of bacon in my hands, I remembered those eyes staring back. There was no way for me to discover whether this product was raised humanely, so I put it back. Really, it’s simple. If I don’t know how the animal was raised and treated, I’m not going to personally fund it. And it’s amazing how much of a chore this is outside of going directly to a farmer. So, outside of a humanely raised certification, it takes educating yourself on best practices and not becoming complacent or satisfied by generic responses that do little to protect the animals we have learned to take fore-granted as a source of food.
One argument against buying local is the price of meat. Here’s the thing. As a farmer, I can tell you raising an animal free-range or GMO-free, organic, costs money. It is a labor of love. Cheap meat often comes with a cruel price-tag and significant environmental mayhem. So, if you like to eat meat, fund your local farmers, Folks. You may pay a bit more up front, but think of what that added cost buys you? Peace of mind and a better world for our little peeps.