Reader: It's getting harder for me to justify the consumption of meat

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Lori Midson
Last week several Denver chefs traveled to Kansas to visit the Callicrate Ranch, a cattle ranch and slaughterhouse owned by fiercely opinionated, radically passionate Mike Callicrate, to witness the slaughter of a steer. Lori Midson went along, and offered up her account of the trip last Friday.

It was eye-opening -- and also heart-wrenching.

See also:
- Photos: Steer slaughter at Callicrate Ranch -- and why Mike Callicrate has a beef with just about everyone
- Can Triple M Bar's flock create a Colorado lamb comeback?
- Two small-town families made Colorado's Best Beef a sought-after brand

Says spmarx:

I finished off leftover Mother's Day brisket while I read the article...I built my own drum smoker this spring and thought it was cute to paint a stylized butcher's diagram of a pig on the side of it. (I am proud to say my smoker kicks ass.) But I admit, it's getting harder for me to justify the consumption. And not in a pious, moralizing way. As I grow into equal parts cynic and softie in my middle age, I just don't want to be a hypocrite.

"I realize what these animals are doing for us, and we have a contract to honor them." - What a fantastic quote that summarizes how much respect and thought I at least want to give the choice. This was a great, heads-up article and I really appreciate it.


If you missed Lori Midson's account of her visit to the Callicrate Ranch, you can read it here -- and then let us know if it changed your thinking.


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6 comments
monopod
monopod

I think the answer is NOT to stop eating meat - that just takes you out of the meat industry's calculation entirely.  Instead, advocate with your dollars and buy ethically and sustainably raised meat.  Yes, I know, it's cliched these days, but the good, local stuff not only helps to get us back towards sustainable practices but actually tastes a lot better (especially the chicken... I can't believe how tasteless supermarket chicken and eggs are after getting used to buying local birds).  It's a little more expensive but the taste is worth it (and most of us could use to eat a little less meat and a little more veggies anyway).  

bondadprevalece
bondadprevalece topcommenter

@monopod "It's a little more expensive"

I completely agree with your sentiment and luckily have the financial ability to adhere to it myself, but you can't ignore that this is a problem for many, many people. "It's ethical" just isn't a very convincing reason for a lot of paycheck-to-paycheck families whose more pressing concerns are getting the most for their limited funds. Until we stop with this "foodie" and snobbery culture and work on making more ethical meat accessible to everyone, it's going to be a problem. I guess I'm just puzzled at the amount of articles written nowadays that seem more concerned with convincing us that ethically raised meat is better (we all agree, no?) rather than how we're going to make it accessible and affordable for everyone (the real problem).

monopod
monopod

@foodcrazy I'm all for getting a nice T-bone and tossing it on the grill, but why get a crappy King Sooper's steak?  You may not care about the ethics, envinronmental, or health consequences of cattle raised in CAFOs on heavy doses of antibiotics (most people don't, though they should), but unless your tastebuds are dead you can certainly taste the difference.  If you're going to treat yourself to a T-bone, why not get a good one?

Jon_S
Jon_S

@bondadprevalece @monopod I understand this sentiment, but I agree with monopod that buying smaller quantities of higher quality meat is the way to go. Meat is just way too big a part of the American diet. Low income families in the US really aren't suffering from a meat shortage. We've just become accustomed to large quantities of cheaply produced, unhealthy meat. I do hope ethically raised meat becomes more accessible, but frankly what most low income areas are in need of is affordable fresh produce rather than more cheap animal protein.

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@bondadprevalece @monopod It's not really snobbery when you consider the percentage of household income spent on food today compared to 50-60 years ago, or the percentage compared to other industrialized nations.

Here's an interesting chart: http://wsm.wsu.edu/researcher/WSMaug11_billions.pdf. So even though the US has the lowest percentage in the world, we're still at a higher level of malnutrition than other industrialized nations.

Here's another one: http://visualeconomics.creditloan.com/100-years-of-consumer-spending/. Food, clothing, and shelter have all dropped. What's gone up is transportation (drastically), entertainment, and "other."

Maybe some prioritization is in order. It's expected that the people of a country will have more expendable income as the the country itself becomes more affluent. But what's not expected is that the quality of nutrition actually drops. 

People (rich or poor) in the US have access to food that's cheaper than at any other time in US history. But it's also making us sick. I heard a recent quote on NPR that correlated the decline of food prices and nutritional value to a concerted push by Wall Street in the '70s and '80s to demand better stock performance from the food industry. 

monopod
monopod

@bondadprevalece @monopod Good points, but I disagree that everyone agrees that ethically raised meat is better.  There's a lot - a majority, I think - of people who honestly think that sustainability, ethical production, blah blah blah is all just pretentious foodies being snobby, and the media does a pretty good job of reinforcing that.  Thing is, my grandparents weren't foodies - they were just used to organic produce and local meat (because that was all that was available), and they are aware that what we get at the supermarket today doesn't taste nearly as good.  And there's a growing body of research indicating that a lot of the mysterious health problems that are increasing in the last few decades (more cancers, more autism, more allergies, etc.) may well be related to the food we eat - makes sense that if we put a bunch of antibiotics and other chemicals in our food and drastically change the diets of the animals we eat, that might change how our bodies react when we consume them, no?

As far as the cost issue, it's a big one.  But I'm not rich, and I manage to eat mostly "good" meat (I'm not rigid about it - if I'm at a friend's house or restaurant and they use mass-market meat, I'm not going to refuse it on principle).  I just figure that I have a certain budget for meat, and I'd rather spend it by getting less of the good stuff and then supplementing with more inexpensive beans, whole grains, veggies, etc.  I get to eat the better tasting and better-for-me meats, and my diet becomes a little lighter in meat and heavier in other proteins.  This doesn't address the underlying problem of people who really genuinely can't afford to eat anything but fast food and such - and it is a problem.  But I do think the majority of folks could make small changes and vastly increase the market for "good" meat, and that would fundamentally change the industry and perhaps lower prices for all.

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