The Food Fight We Might All Agree On
Because no one in their right mind really wants meat from factory farms
Photo Credit: Slurp by Lisa Eisenbrey
The “eat less red and processed meat” pronouncement by the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) set off a heated debate about whether or not consumers should eat meat, a debate that included the standard name-calling by factory-farm front groups denouncing consumers and environmentalists for being “anti-meat” and “anti-farmer.”
Unfortunately in its recommendations, the DGAC didn’t really come out and tell us the whole truth, which would go something like this: “Americans should eat less, or rather no red and processed meat from filthy, inhumane factory farms or feedlots, where the animals are cruelly crammed together and routinely fed a diet of herbicide-drenched, genetically engineered grains, supplemented by a witch’s brew of antibiotics, artificial hormones, steroids, blood, manure, and slaughterhouse waste, contributing to a deadly public health epidemic of obesity, heart disease, cancer, antibiotic resistance, hormone disruption, and food allergies.”
If the DGAC had really told us the truth about America’s red-meat horror show (95 percent of our red meat comes from these Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs), we’d be having a conversation about how we can get rid of factory farms.
Instead, we are having a slightly higher-volume replay of the same old debate, whereby vegetarians and vegans, constituting approximately 5 percent of the population, tell the other 95 percent, who are omnivores, to stop eating meat. Nothing much ever comes of that particular debate, which leaves thousands of hard-working, conscientious ranchers, and millions of health-, environment-, and humane-minded omnivores out of the conversation.
North American cattle ranchers, for the most part, have no love for Cargill, Tyson, Monsanto, JBS, Smithfield, Elanco (animal drugs), or McDonald’s. Most of these ranchers practice traditional animal husbandry, conscientiously taking care of their animals from birth. They graze their cattle free-range on grass, as nature intended, before they’re forced to sell these heretofore-healthy animals at rock-bottom prices to the monopolistic meat cartel. Before these hapless creatures are dragged away to hell, to be fattened up on GMO grains and drugged up in America’s CAFOs, their meat is high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (LA), and low in “bad” fats.
Unfortunately, by the time their abused and contaminated carcasses arrive, all neatly packaged, at your local supermarket, restaurant, or school cafeteria, the meat is low in omega-3 and good “fats,” and routinely tainted by harmful bacteria—not to mention pesticide, steroid, and antibiotic residues. What was once a healthy food has now become a literal poison that clogs up your veins, makes you fat, and heightens your risk of heart attack or cancer.
If CAFO meat and animal products had to be labeled (a proposition I support wholeheartedly), the entire factory-farm industry would collapse. If CAFO meat had to be labeled, not only in grocery stores but also in restaurants, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and the rest would immediately be on the phone, contacting ranchers directly to buy their grass-fed, healthy, free-range beef.
Fortunately, demand for healthier, sustainably raised grass-fed beef is growing rapidly. In Minneapolis–Saint Paul, where I spend a good part of the year, there are now over 100 restaurants that offer grass-fed beef on their menus. Local co-ops and natural-food grocery stores are barely able to keep up with the increasing consumer demand.
But unfortunately 95 percent of beef today still comes from factory farms and feedlots. Meanwhile most of the 100-percent grass-fed meat sold at restaurants such as Chipotle or Carl’s Jr. is imported from Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, and Argentina, rather than produced here in the United States. Why? It’s not because consumers don’t want healthier, more humanely raised 100-percent grass-fed beef. It’s because Cargill and Big Food have monopolized the market by brainwashing the public into believing that cheap CAFO meat is okay, while controlling nearly all of the meat-processing plants in the country.
No one in their right mind, or at least no one who has ever experienced a factory farm firsthand or even read a book or watched a video about what’s going on, supports CAFOs. That’s why corporate agribusiness is working overtime to pass state “Ag Gag” laws making it a crime to take photos of CAFOs. That’s why the beef cartel and Big Food spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to keep you in the dark about CAFOs, about whether or not your food contains genetically engineered ingredients, and about the country-of-origin of your food.
It’s time to stop fighting among ourselves about whether or not to eat meat. Americans need to boycott all factory farmed meat and animal products. Period.
Beyond boycotting CAFO products, if consumers care about their health and the health of the planet, we need to reduce our consumption of sustainable grass-fed animal products to approximately three or four ounces a day (not nine ounces a day, the current average).
We are what we eat. We must get rid of factory farms and put the earth’s billions of confined farm animals back outside on the land, grazing and foraging, where they belong.