Confession: for the first time in about two months, I ate meat tonight. (Even just writing those words somehow embarrasses me.)
In case you missed the last few columns, after watching "Food, Inc." two months or so ago, I decided that I didn't want to eat meat anymore for these reasons: in this country, we have gone very far away from how meat animals used to be raised, fed, and slaughtered on family farms. I knew that in an abstract way, but seeing it in living color in the film made me sick to my stomach. Now, most meat animals are raised on huge feedlots that are frequently swamps of manure, in very close quarters. Remember when you used to see a herd of cattle spread out over a green hillside, lazily swatting flies with their tails while contentedly munching grass? How often do you see that now?
The name of the game now is getting animals to market weight as quickly as possible by feeding them (mostly) soybeans and corn, even though that's not what their digestive systems like best. They are also given growth hormones, and antibiotics because of the conditions they're in (all that standing around in manure). By the way, you could feed way more people if you just gave them the grain, instead of feeding it to animals first. Poultry birds are kept in huge warehouses with no windows - not only don't they get to be outside, they don't even get to SEE the outside - with each bird getting 1/2 square foot of floor space. Because of the growth hormones they're given, they grow to twice the weight they used to, in half the time ... but they can't take more than a couple steps before falling down, because their legs can't hold up all that weight.
OK, so why did I cave?
After we watched the movie, my Iowa farm boy husband said that he would like to try to eat meat from animals that HAD been humanely raised and slaughtered, without hormones or antibiotics. That's pretty hard to find in Muscatine grocery stores and restaurants; I think they sell those kinds of meats at the New Pioneer Coop in Coralville, but I've never bought any because it was more expensive, and I could buy meat in Muscatine (as opposed to the delicious salads from their deli). Anyway, I found that our local
Hy-Vee store sells something called "Just Bare Chicken." Its label reads, "No added hormones. No antibiotics. Cage Free - Vegetable Fed. Traceable to the Family Farm." Whole chickens were on sale for $1.69/lb this week, so I bought one. It cost $8.04, which seemed high for chicken, but before I stopped eating meat I routinely bought boneless skinless breasts at over $2/lb.
I roasted the chicken, and (after removing the skin, of course, like any lifetime dieter would) I ate about a 3 oz. portion of breast and gave hubby his favorite - a leg and a thigh. (Any marriage has better chance of success when one partner likes white meat, and one likes dark!) And there's enough left for several more meals, depending on what I do with it.
It was good, although it wouldn't bother me not to have any more. Meat's just not my favorite thing, and never has been. But I feel like I was supporting a family farm instead of a huge corporate farm. I'm committed to buying food with quality - not cost - in mind. I can scrimp in other areas!
Lori Carroll has been a music teacher for 30-plus years, and teaches at Louisa-Muscatine Schools. She may be contacted at email@example.com.