FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The Ethics of Eating

CHEW ON THIS: MEAT CONSUMPTION IS AT A RECORD HIGH! In 2007, Americans consumed an average of 78 pounds more meat than they did annually in 1950, up to 222 pounds from 144 pounds per year. (Humane Society of the United States estimate confirmed by USDA statistics)

My mission – should I choose to accept it – is to talk about “local issues.” In my mind, many issues customarily labeled as “global issues,” are really local. I want to take a look at old ideas in a new way by examining our beliefs about how we should live our everyday lives, and what the consequences of those choices might be.

Well, we have to start somewhere, and I thought this would be a good topic to begin with. Everybody eats. Each of us, as consumers of products generated by today’s huge agribusinesses, are “voting” to continue business as usual for America’s food productions system. Are we supporting a cruel and environmentally disastrous system with our food dollars? Let’s consider a few facts about the current state of the food production system.

In our busy daily lives, far removed from the feedlots and chicken sheds, the reality of how our food is grown is not even on our radar screens. We are immune to the suffering of the beings that produce American’s glut of animal protein. Although meat and poultry production in 2007 reached 91.5 billion pounds (American Meat Institute numbers), you’ll notice that people don’t actually see very many of the animals that are giving up their lives for us.

According to USDA statistics, 33.3 million head of cattle – also known as sentient individual beings capable of feeling fear and pain – were slaughtered in the U.S. in 2009. Where are they? Picture a huge feedlot mired in many inches of old manure with cattle squeezed together and baking unsheltered in the sun. To add to their suffering, they are being fed corn, an unnatural diet that results in painful stomach ulcers for them while they wait to be trucked to the slaughterhouse.

Using USDA statistics again, The Humane Society of the United States  estimated that each American would consumer 222 pounds of red and white meat in 2007.

Compare that to 144 pounds in 1950, a 77% increase.

Chicken consumption is up (from 21 pounds to 87 pounds), turkey is up (from 3 pounds to 17 pounds), and beef is up to 66 pounds from 44 pounds in 1950.

Meanwhile, the way these animals are raised has changed drastically, and not for the better.

More on this later.

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