Enough to make one a vegetarian…

Last night I was thumbing through a farming magazine (I don’t subscribe–someone who can’t say no to door-to-door kids selling subscriptions evidently did) for gardening tips, and I came across an article on meat production and consumption. I’ve read some pretty horrifying things about meat in recent years, courtesy mainly of Michael Pollan, but this article reminds me of one of the reasons why we’ve dramatically lowered our meat consumption in the last year or so. To wit,

“There are about 7,500 meat inspectors…consigned to inspect more htan 88 billion pounds of meat per year. By my calculations, that means each inspector is inspecting about 12 million pounds of meat per year, or almost 6,000 pounds per hour….lobbying efforts reclassified feces from a dangerous contaminant to a ‘cosmetic blemish.’ One former inspector…provided a succinct summary: ‘We used to trim the [feces] off the meat. Then we washed the [feces] off the meat. Now the consumer eats the [feces] off the meat.'”

Uggghhhh. For me this is not only disgusting and unbelieveable (Who lets this stuff get passed?) and on top of the cruel actions factory farms are known for, but it also introduces new questions that Mr. Pea and I debated last night. Does feces-encrusted meat end up everywhere, or just in, for example, pre-packaged meats like premade burgers you can buy 16 to a box? I would think my local butcher shop is more careful–as in, when they get a side of beef, they clean it–I would hope, anyway–before carving it into steaks, roasts, etc. What about the grocery store butcher? The whole thing makes me feel impotent, as the only way to ‘guarantee’ you aren’t eating poop-tainted meat would be to get it from a local producer, but the prices for that can be astronomical. The grocery store we shop at now has some organic chickens, but nothing that’s just hormone-free or antibiotic free, so I could make some kind of compromise.

And then, if you want to just become a vegetarian, there’s a whole new roster of questions. Local vegetables are scarce in New England for about half a year, and many places only have imported veg. In addition to the fuel requirements of such a veggie, imported veg are notoriously unregulated. You can use much scarier pesticides in other parts of the world. Do I want to ingest those? Not especially! Can I afford all organic? not really! Do I still feel sorta guilty that even if I could buy all organic, it’s all from California? Yup. So it’s a puzzle to me. Maybe I’ll just subsist on coffee, which I know comes organic and fair trade at Trader Joe’s at a reasonable cost.

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