Family photo 2013

Family photo 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where has the beef been?

Spring is a wondrous, exciting time in the country. Walking my dog on the dirt roads that surround my house I can't help but stand (or jog) in awe of this outstanding gift we've been given in creation. Living in a 35 acre development, the majority of our neighbors have animals of some sort. In our neighborhood alone, on a normal daily jaunt, Echo and I get the privilege of visiting sheep, alpacas, cows, horses, chickens, geese, and donkeys. On these spring days, I especially marvel at the beautiful mama cows with their calves close by underfoot. Living nearby farm animals for the better part of a decade, looking these critters in the eye on a daily basis has changed my perspective immensely. 

I spent my teen years into my early 20's as a vegetarian. It wasn't due to animal rights or treatment, but solely because I didn't care much for meat. The thought of eating flesh consistently was kind of revolting to me. 

Then, I became pregnant with Jayla in the winter of 2000 and I craved meat. Bobby almost popped a disbelieving gasket the night I asked him to pull into a Wendy's drive through late one night after we left a meeting and order a big, juicy, cheeseburger (of all things!). And that's when it began, my meat eating past time was in full throes once again. 

As our family grew, not eating meat didn't seem like a very practical option for serving a brood. It's harder to think of vegetarian alternatives. They are often costlier on the budget. My husband enjoyed it almost as much as the next guy.

Still, in my heart of hearts, I felt cutting back substantially on our meat consumption was important. So we did. Scaling down to 3 or so times/ week was what I figured our long lasting goal would remain. 

Then that enlightening, bright and nasty and exposing little documentary Food Inc. came out following the book The Omnivore's Dilemma. I was fascinated by both and felt that not only could we reduce our meat consumption, but we could grow selective in the types of meat we would intake, specifically with regard to the treatment of the animals we would consume. Not only could we cut back, finding plenty of healthy, cost effective alternatives along the way, but we could become quite choosy in where we would spend our dollars, casting a vote toward humane treatment of animals. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and told them to have dominion and all that jazz. But did he tell them to stick cows in a feedlot where they would stand in their own feces their entire lives eating a manufactured diet of genetically modified corn? Did he insist chickens live in dark steel cages, have their beaks cut off to prohibit, normal chicken-esque pecking and be pumped full of antibiotics because their conditions were so rancid disease was inevitable? Well, no. I think not.

Exploitation of the vulnerable is, always has been, and will probably continue to be a reality in the world in which we live. What is more vulnerable to human abuse and greed than wildlife? We fight against it when it comes to dogs and cats and whales and dolphins and tuna. We can fight against it when it comes to cows and chickens and pigs too.

Going to Garden City, Kansas and driving by, seeing (and smelling!) the feedlots reminded me of our commitment and renewed my vigor for it, prompting a nice, long lecture for my beloved babies to endure. (Sorry, kids. Mommy's got a rant to let loose from time to time.) Such a sad, sad state these poor creatures are forced to dwell in. I know, it's big money and Americans are demanding a whole lotta beef. It's what's for dinner after all. But surely, if we are so adamant about protecting our precious pets, we too could grow concerned for the lives of the precious animals who give theirs on our behalf, so that our palates may be satisfied. 

Even if their lives are short, they can be of great quality. Cows doing what cows do. Grazing on grass. Pigs allowed the same grazing freedom rather than containment in tiny pens. Chickens allowed to see daylight, to peck at the ground, to walk and roam and do a chicken dance if they please. Granting our food a natural setting in a natural environment just seems fitting to me.
For our family, it's not easy or necessarily convenient to inform ourselves about the lives of our meat before they were processed for our tables. It's certainly not cheap. Feeding a party of 9 who eats out in restaurants so rarely a new Presidential administration is ushered in between visits, I am intimately aware of the costs. We have had to make drastic cuts in the quantity we purchase as we gladly pay the higher prices. For example, the last ham I bought cost $45. But the pig was allowed to graze on actual green grass in Pueblo, and his meat was delicious, and we were grateful for his piggly wiggly life, and ultimately his death. Surely even Wilbur himself could scarcely argue with that. 

Since we've had chickens of our very own that we care for with their very own names who provide us with fresh eggs every single day of their lives, guess what? Our kids have decided we ought to declare our table A Chicken Free Zone. My heart, it was proud.

Then, they remembered they must mark an exception for hotwings, especially on our trips to Jim's Wings in  Fort Collins. Because, let's face it, enjoyment is important. Those little people, they are right. Mama can't win em' all...

1 comment:

Holly said...

amen sista'.
we are on that same path too...the expensive/inconvenient but oh so yummy track.

love us some Michael Polen.

love us some pastured meat.

and we now live in hippy land so that makes it kinda easy!

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