Monday, 26 March 2012

bad beef

All the talk of pink slime in the news these past few weeks, and now this beef recall. I was scrolling through the list of dozens and dozens of beef products sold in my grocery stores and restaurants, all potentially contaminated with e-coli, grateful that I have only been buying meat from the local butchers for months now. Simply Food, Western Family, Country Morning Gold; they all sound like such wholesome brand names, conjuring images of happy cows grazing in lush green fields and dozing under apple trees. The reality is that they all came from a place like this; a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). When these animals eventually make it to slaughter, the meat industry is allowed a certain percentage of the end product to be manure, because the animals become so caked in their own feces from living in these conditions, it's impossible to avoid. It's no wonder these cows need to be pumped full of antibiotics when they live like this. 

I want to opt out of the industrial agricultural system. I do not want to be a mouth that demands to be fed food produced like this. I do not want to be responsible for sustaining this way of life. 
Some people have said to me lately, when we mention that we want to raise our own food- WHY?

It won't save you money.
But you love animals- now you want to kill them in your backyard? 
Your neighbours will hate you. 
It will be so much work. 
Animals are dirty- what if you make the baby sick? 

I think we've all been drinking from the water cooler a bit too much. Since when did it become a radical idea to produce your own food? It wasn't more than a hundred years ago that we were all doing it. Somewhere in recent history we were lured away from our self-sufficiency, dazzled by the brights lights of convenience and cheapness, and we never looked back, or questioned how this was all possible. And now we don't even remember how to grow a tomato. 
I want my knowledge back. It's my rightful inheritance as a human being, and somebody stole it from me. 

It was my dad that gave me that second line- and I have to admit it puzzled me for a second because he was rightly confused. I was always a bunny hugger as a kid- I cried when my dog ate a moth I had "nursed back to health" in a margarine tub. I wrote a letter to Disney World after we vacationed there and went to a laser light show; I was so upset that they used fireworks that I was sure must have scared the animals. I ran an animal rights group in high school and hosted vegetarian food fairs in the cafeteria, handing out grotesque pictures of bald, beakless chickens to kids eating their lunches. Such is the passion of youth. It is magnetized to the extreme; it's all black and white. When I was a child, loving and respecting animals meant presenting my parents with a report outlining why I would like to be a vegetarian and how I planned to still eat healthy (a requirement by my wise mother). Now that I am older, my values haven't changed, but my perspective has. I've started to think that, maybe if I can't raise it and kill it myself, I shouldn't eat it. But if I can, then it might be the most wonderful way to insert myself back into the fabric and rhythm of life- to reclaim my connection to the earth and empower my family to live without fear of e-coli recalls and ammonia-soaked beef filler. I haven't done it yet, but I have a feeling that holding a day-old chick in my hands, raising it with care and dignity, thanking it for giving it's life to sustain us, and then harvesting it with my own hands will be a spiritual experience unlike anything I've ever experienced in church. 

Sorry if that was too heavy for a Monday morning. I'm feeling righteous today. Lighthearted crafty stuff tomorrow, I promise! 


  1. I'm anxiously watching our city councillors because they have backyard chickens on the table right now. I hope hope hope they allow them!! Until then, I'm thankful we have wonderful farms nearby with grassfed cows and well-treated heritage breeds of pigs and chickens that are allowed to live natural and healthy lives before we eat them. :)

  2. I'm right there with you. We have chickens (only for the eggs right now) and I love it. I am trying to legalize backyard goats so I can also produce our own dairy on this small plot of land. This year we bought a 1/4 grass fed cow from a local farm -- best thing I ever did (especially after all the pink slime). But I am now wondering about the rest of the meat we eat (mostly chicken and pork). And I've considered raising it myself. And me? I'm a small animal veterinarian. My life is dedicated to saving animal life. But if I'm going to eat meat ought I not be responsible for it's life -- to make sure that animal was happy and healthy and well raised? And also to make sure he/she died with dignity? Makes sense to me.