J500 Media and the Environment


the pork industry: eating like a pig by jessicasb
February 27, 2009, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Food + Health, Society + Media, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , ,

Meat has been a staple in my diet since I can remember. My mother always enjoyed making juicy hamburgers on the grill, and it’s kind of hard for me to imagine eating out without ordering something with chicken.

Becoming a vegetarian is almost unimaginable for me, and though that might disappoint some of my classmates, I still represent more than 90% of the U.S. population.
natalie dee
Smithfield Foods is the largest pork processor in the world, but its process of raising and slaughtering pigs is far from pretty. “Boss Hog” goes on to describe its methods: Pigs spend time in pens so small they can’t move around and often trample themselves to death. Excrement from pigs — including piglets, insecticides and antibiotic syringes — make their way through slatted floors below the pens. This waste makes it way to holding ponds.

When much of your food is made this way, it’s easy to feel helpless about what you’re eating — or at least concerned about where you can get sustainable meat (The Atlantic has a great story about sustainable meat-raising practices).

One answer? Demand sustainable results come to you. As consumers, we are powerful.

Two years ago, Burger King started to buy eggs and pork from suppliers that did not confine their animals to cages and crates. Quiznos announced a couple weeks ago that by 2012, they plan on having 15% of their pork products coming from crate-free environments.

Sustainable businesses are finding it tough to break even. Can idealist food companies survive? Should we start to back big companies that can afford to make the (small) plunge, like those mentioned above?

Vegetarianism may be the ideal answer, but I’m not sure I can ever make that promise, and I know many others who couldn’t either. So, in a country of carnivores — what’s the second best answer for mainstream sustainable meat?

— Jessica Sain-Baird

Thanks to Natalie Dee for the image.

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5 Comments so far
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I’m making the transition not to be totally vegetarian but to eat only ethically raised meat products. That means no more drive thru for me. However, I started buying meat products from the Merc to cook at home and when I have a fast food craving I hit up Local Burger. Fast food will never offer 100% sustainable food. It wouldn’t be cheap anymore and isn’t that the point? Quiznos having 15% crate free pork by 2012 is commendable but leaves ALOT of room for improvement.

Comment by christinaw09

The comment about burger king makes me want to go to it over McDonald’s, but I agree with Tina that there is a long way to go.

Comment by tylerw09

Your fellow classmate vegetarians aren’t disappointed in you, and you’ve obviously taken the next important step in learning about how animals are treated and the environmental problems associated with meat production (sustainable or not).

Sustainable meat is a good answer, but why not try cutting back on the amount of meat you consume as well? Food with vegetarian “tags” seem to be avoided by meat eaters, but I’m sure not EVERYTHING you consume has meat in it.

(Unless, of course, you are eating this: http://www.baconnaise.com/)

Comment by Lauren Keith

Being a fellow omnivore, I couldn’t imagine becoming a vegetarian either. I also don’t think we should feel guilty about eating meat, it’s always been a part of a human’s diet. However, we can definitely become smarter consumers of meat, and like Lauren said above, cut back on the amount we consume.

p.s. I can’t believe Baconnaise actually exists. Gross.

Comment by janiec52

Tina and Tyler,
I agree there is still a long way to go, but I find it interesting when big companies like Burger King and Quiznos even choose to go somewhat sustainable. They could probably afford to not care, or act on it, whatsoever.

Lauren,
I don’t eat a lot of meat because I hate cooking it, but I do admit I sometimes bypass food with vegetarian “tags” just by default. I’ll give them a second look next time. 🙂 And Baconnaise’s slogan — “Everything should taste like bacon” — ew.

Comment by jessicasb




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