The recent announcement that Congress has repealed a labeling law that required the country of origin to be marked on packages of red meat is just, well, sad. It’s indicative of a floundering food system which values profit more than quality and consumer protection. Nothing new – but I was surprised that congress would repeal such a rudimentary law. Why should consumers not know where their meat comes from?
I was even more outraged to read that the Washington Cattleman’s Association, my local association, applauded the repeal.
From an article in the Seattle Times, Jack Field, Executive VP of WCA is quoted saying “The most effective means of labeling is to let the market drive it if the consumer is requesting labels”.
If that were true, than I am pretty sure GMO labeling would be required. According to the Center for Food Safety, 93% of consumers believe the federal government should require labeling for GM or bio-engineered food products. That sounds a lot like “market forces” are indeed demanding labeling. But the reality is consumers must contend with the pocket books of corporations that stand to gain $ by eliminating any barriers they see between them and profits.
So what does this have to do with buying half a pig? Well, one option is to go Vegetarian. And as I talk a bit about this in my previous post Wait, Am I Vegetarian? my family is pretty darn close to being vegetarian already. However, I am convinced that meat, dairy, eggs and other products are not the true source of the problem – the root cause is instead our industrialized agriculture system as a whole. From GMO corn that requires frequent applications of Monsanto’s Round-Up, to CAFO’s stuffing cows with antibiotics and growth hormones to chickens piled in cages that never see the light of day. These agricultural practices are in stark contrast to practical sense and historic farming practices that worked in tandem with nature to build, rather than destroy, soil quality and biodiversity in human-dominated environments (no, I’m not saying small-scale farming is more bio-diverse than the rainforest, but you get the idea).
So, what is the alternative?
The solution is simple. Support your local, small farmer. Instead of buying meat wrapped in plastic and styrofoam with an origin of who-knows-where, buy a share of a pig or a cow from your local farmer. Get your friends and family together to do a bulk buy and save more. I not only know where my pork came from, I have personally shaken the hand of my farmer and know the meat I consume is from a pig that was properly cared for and humanly slaughtered. I’m voting with the most powerful tool I have: my hard-earned money.