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Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat 
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Post Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
Please use this thread for discussion of Chapter 4, The feedlot : making meat. ::111




Sun Oct 01, 2006 11:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
Ew. Yuck. **brrr**


Okay, sorry. Had to get that out of my system.

[Still can't quite. Hopefully Mad will come in, and put a more intellectual spin on this...]

How do I reconcile what I know now (what I probably knew before, but ignored) to the meat in my freezer?

Can I come back to this? Thanks.

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:51 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
I found this chapter interesting mostly because it fleshed out what I basically already knew.

A little background. For about three years -- most of my time in college -- I was completely vegetarian. Well, as completely vegetarian as you can be without getting rude about it. The decision to drop meat from my diet wasn't really an ethical one, as it is with many people. Rather, I was interested in making decisions about my diet -- taking control of what I ate was part of making myself responsible for, well, myself.

After three years, I decided that I had taught myself enough discipline that I could drop some of the self-imposed restrictions without having to worry about backsliding all the way into my previous eating habits. I'm no longer vegetarian, but I almost never eat beef, pork or any other four-legged critter. I eat fish and foul in limited quantites. And for the most part, I was (and continue to be) happy about not eating much meat. And a very large part of that reason is ethical. (See how that works? What started out as a not very ethical, but not unethical, decision morphed into an ethical consideration. Funny the way these things happen.)

I say that my contentment with not eating much meat is ethical in part because it lessens my responsibility in the economic structure that result in feed lots. To some degree, since at least college, I've been aware that our system of food production rests on a foundation of cramming animals into unnatural environments and forcing them to behave in ways they never evolved towards. And I think distancing ourselves from that system is an ethical matter.

What I didn't know, and what made this chapter particularly interesting for me, were the details of this systemization of meat.




Sun Oct 22, 2006 9:49 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
I have been waiting for the discussion to get to this chapter. This is when I really got hooked on the book. Because of allergies, etc., I have to get my protein from beef. For various reasons, nothing else works for me. I'm like a flash from the past, living on vegetables and meat with a little grain, like a hunter-gatherer :) Anyway, in terms of the ethics of eating meat that is treated in the way we handle beef in feedlots, in a second I would become a vegetarian after reading that chapter. I found it appalling! I agree with you Mad that it is an ethical matter. No question.

I did a lot of research after this chapter on the practices of raising beef in Canada, hoping against hope that I could close my eyes again and go back to my previous oblivion. No such luck. What I read about Canadian practices is a little less dire than what Pollan presents in the book, but I could not pursuade myself that it was not just written from a different perspective. So, I'm left with eating meat from cows who are fed corn, at least in the "finishing" process, and lived miserable lives at the end. In Canada, we do okay by the cows up until the last 30 to 60 days, which are spent in a feedlot eating corn. Until then they are raised on pasture in the summer and forage in the winter. I investigated other methods of raising cows, like organic farming or pasture raised beef, but there really is very little of that around. Too expensive for the farmers and, since not many people would choose to have their eyes opened, no one would be willing to spend the money on a more ethical product cuz they don't know about feedlots. Like me a few weeks ago.

I always thought our feeding of antibiotics to cows was to keep them (and us) healthy. Something like - A cow is a big investment, so let's keep it healthy. I had no idea that the feedlot process is just an industrial method of staving off inevitable disease and death long enough to get the cow to market. And as for the forced weaning of the young cows **shudder** But even though the process as described in the book is stomach turning, I'd still rather be aware than continue to have my eyes closed. I eat less beef now. I also thank the cow that is feeding me when I do eat beef.

In terms of the ethics, we are programmed to be omnivores, as evidenced by our anatomy and physiology. So my eating a cow is no different than a hawk in my back yard tearing into a sparrow or mourning dove. I can accept that. I don't want to be a vegetarian on that basis. I believe myself to be an animal same as any other, programmed for a role on earth. And my role happens to include being an omnivore. It is the treatment of the animals that bothers me. If that cow had a nice life on earth, albeit shorter than it might have had, I would feel better about slaughtering it for dinner. Pollan gets more into that later in the book, which I found really interesting.




Tue Oct 24, 2006 6:41 am
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
As I mentioned earlier (somewhere!), I'm producing a forum on food security, taking place in a few weeks. I'm also the manager of the local Farmers' Market...so I'm wrapped up in this issue on all levels.

I've never been one to care much for organic or not, never really thought about it at all, until now. It's not just the book (or this chapter in particular)...it's that I've become more and more aware of the distances food has to travel to get to me. If all truck drivers went on strike tomorrow, the average supermarket would be out of food in 3 days.

What I wanted to say here was that just this last Saturday, I found out that there is a local farmer who will sell you chicks in the spring, and then he raises them. When you want a chicken, you go and get one, slaughtered & plucked by them (or by you, if you want the experience?). My vendor was telling me he buys 50 every spring -- one a week, essentially, although he says he gives some away. (SolinaJoki -- I'm in the Okanagan Valley, in BC...so this kind of thing is available in Canada, but it's not widely known.)

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:23 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
SolinaJoki: I investigated other methods of raising cows, like organic farming or pasture raised beef, but there really is very little of that around.

Later chapters kind of present organic farming in much the same light, too, so I'm not sure modern organic farming is much of a solution. It lessens the problem to some degree, I take it, but equivicates on so many others that we can't really treat it as more than a paliative to the larger problems.

But even though the process as described in the book is stomach turning, I'd still rather be aware than continue to have my eyes closed.

Agreed; an unexamined life is no life at all.

In terms of the ethics, we are programmed to be omnivores, as evidenced by our anatomy and physiology.

I don't see the ethical problem as a question of whether we should or shouldn't eat meat. I sympathize with the point of view that it might be unethical to kill and eat other animals, but I also think that our biology makes it implausible to take an ideal ethical stand on the matter. Rather, the ethical dilemma as I see it is that of how we get our food and what we make the terms of our relationship to that food. Even if meat is a product, is it right to treat the cow as a product? Is it right to treat the cow as nothing but, from the consumer's point of view, the product that it will become? Those, I think, are the central questions. There are all sorts of auxilary questions as well -- the processes involved in turning cattle into food on an industrial scale are wasteful and polluting -- but I think that most of those can be traced back to the central question of how we conceptualize the animal and what that entails for our relationship to it.

Loricat: I'm also the manager of the local Farmers' Market...so I'm wrapped up in this issue on all levels.

Remind me to bring up Gene Kahn's statement about working in the farmer's market when you get to chapter nine.

...it's that I've become more and more aware of the distances food has to travel to get to me.

I really think that's one of the central issues here -- so much of the industrial food process seems wrapped up in the problems of shipping food over long distances and preserving food for long periods of time. If we made a principle of ensuring that the majority of the food we ate (say, 80%) can from sources within five miles of our home, solutions to all of the peripheral problems would follow in the wake.




Tue Oct 24, 2006 3:32 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
when you look at it that way -- this book being about the distances that food has to travel -- then in some ways it's a sequel to Mark Kurlansky's book Salt...the history of the world through the lens of salt -- our need for it in our bodies, and for preserving food.

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:12 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
Do you recommend "Salt", Lori? I keep seeing it on bookstore shelves, but haven't gotten around to cracking the spine yet.




Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:26 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
I recommend SALT! I just read it a few months ago after looking at it on the bookstore shelf for over a year.

Very good read. I love the way he structures world history through salt colored eyes!

Mr. P.

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Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:30 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - The feedlot : making meat
Totally! It was one of the first 'cultural histories' I ever read, and it is the standard by which I compare them. Informative, interesting, accessibly academic instead of slightly intellectual pop culture in style.

In a lot of ways, it changed the way I see the world. (Who'd 'a thunk salt was that important?!?)

"All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds."

Loricat's Book Nook
Celebrating the Absurd




Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:30 pm
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