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facing the fact that your food has a face

Burgers don’t grow on trees. (Immediately an image of a patty bush pops into my head.) It sounds silly, but I really don’t know how many people realize their food has a face. Or maybe people just don’t want to make the connection.

Catherine Friend’s Compassionate Carnivore” makes the connection in a way that is easy to digest because she fully admits she was once a naïve meat-eater, not questioning how her burgers grew:

“When it comes to my food, meat or otherwise, for most of my life I’ve been a baby bird, tossing my head back, opening wide, and letting corporate agriculture … feed me whatever they want. … It’s not okay anymore.” In an effort to enlighten herself about the meat industry, Friend has uncovered a world of callous factory farming that would make you lose your appetite – at least for a little while.

“Compassionate Carnivore” is a dense textbook with a human voice. In an interesting, conversational and empowering way, Friend gives you more than you can chew, but chops it up in bite-sized pieces and warns you not to try and eat everything at once. For people not interested in changing their diet, or giving up meat altogether, Friend supplies readers with simple solutions such as paying attention to where their meat comes from:

98% of the eggs we eat come from caged chickens. “They never see the sun, never chase grasshoppers, never take dust baths in loose soil…” And since these hens are always caged, they aren’t healthy, so they’re kept alive with antibiotics. Friend makes me want to spend the extra dollar on cage-free eggs.

90% of broilers – chickens bred to gain weight quickly – have leg problems, 26% have chronic pain and others have heart problems, according to a study Friend cites. These factory chickens are also fed arsenic to help them grow faster. I don’t know about you, but the idea of eating arsenic-laced chicken is not so appetizing to me.

95% of the pigs raised in this country are raised in long, hanger-type buildings from farrow to finish, or as the industry likes to say, ‘from squeal to meal.’” But confined hogs suffer chronic respiratory diseases, ulcers, foot and leg infections and skin mange.

Instead of encouraging this animal cruelty, replace factory meat with meat from animals raised humanely, Friend suggests. Look for local farmers markets at www.ams.usda.gov/FARMERSMARKETS or research community-supported agriculture (CSA) at http://www.localharvest.org/. By paying a membership fee, you receive a share of the farm’s harvest – its like a farm subscription, Friend says.

From taste to nutrition, how an animal is raised and fed has an effect on the end result. Grass-fed cows have less overall fat, and contain up to four times as much beta-carotene as factory cows. Grass-fed beef also has more omega-3s than chicken, according to Friend.

Unlike so many animal rights activists, this book doesn’t make you feel judged for your meat-loving ways. Instead, Friend encourages readers to continue to sit at the meat-eating table, and make a difference. “Carnivores speak most loudly not through their words, but by how they spend their food dollars. People who remain at the table and support sustainable, responsible, and humane agriculture by purchasing meat from these farmers are sending a message to those farmers: ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t stop.’”

Another easy change you can make it waste less meat. According to Friend, we’re throwing away 22.5 million pounds of meat a day. “Every day we are killing then completely throwing away 5,000 cattle, 36,000 hogs, and 2 million chickens.”

What makes this book work is Friend does not assume the role of the infallible narrator. She lumps herself in with the rest of us, thus making change seem doable.

And after reading this book, “you’ll be able to impress a room full of farmers with your knowledge of farming jargon, which I’m sure is everyone’s secret desire.”

“facing the fact that your food has a face”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    I agree that the best way to stop factory farms is by a consumer movement. There is a grass-fed beef company in Montana that is running a campaign in New York right now asking people to join the grass-fed revolution. One of the components of the campaign is a sweepstakes to win a grass-fed cow. The company, La Cense Beef, is giving "grass-fed" a lot of visibility.

    check out www.winagrassfedcow.com