The locavore movement keeps growing. In the last few years, the small local farmer has reemerged as friend, hero, and businessman...actually it's more often a businesswoman. The smaller local farmer new shine has brought with them the other businesses. Seed savers and restauranteurs and brewers are integrating the market. And of course, the local slaughterhouse and butcher.
The last time I ate a fast food burger was the same day I watched Supersize Me. It was shocking. I don't think I was ever a fast food kid...well...I did work at Wendy's in high school. But I wasn't one of those every chance I get I'll eat a 99 cent burger types. Then when I read Fast Food Nation, I felt vindicated. And curious. Like a lot of people I know now, I started asking the question, "Where's my food come from?" I read Peter Singer, Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, Francis Moore Lappe, and some others.
The industrial meat system terrified me. I read a piece, "Farmacology" in Johns Hopkins Magazine regarding the massive antibiotic inputs into chickens in industrial chicken, pig, and cattle farms called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Johns Hopkins researchers were finding that "nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials is building dangerous genetic reservoirs of resistance. If they are right, industrial agriculture is fostering and dispersing drug-resistant bacteria that impair medicine's ability to protect the public from them." It's an arms race. Eventually, we could lose. Rolling Stone's Jeff Tietz wrote a similarly alarming story on pig production (excerpts here) featuring the goriest details about manure lagoons and piles of dead pigs. And last month Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University researchers found evidence suggesting that previously banned antibiotics for poultry production are still being used by the poultry industry.
I've said nothing about the violence incurred on the animals across their whole lives. There are frequent reports of worker mistreatment and higher levels of drug and alcohol problems among such workers. And the enormous effluent waste CAFOs create lead to pollution on a scale unimaginable a century ago such that play into the expanding dead zones in our bays and gulfs.
So if you want to be a responsible omnivore, what can you do? Maybe we go back to that small farmer and that local butcher.
On Friday afternoon at 4:30 we will talk to the people starting Rising Spring Meat Company, a slaughterhouse and butcher shop in Spring Mills, Pennsylvania. They bill themselves as "your connection to a farming community that is dedicated to producing quality livestock and meat" including cows, pigs, sheep and goats expertly butchered to cuts of beef, pork, mutton and chevon.
So we'll be asking them about these things. How are they different from the big boys? Can I trace some mutton from the farm through the plant with any confidence the animal led a sheeply life? Will I get a good-tasting slice? Is money staying in our area?
Listen in on Friday from 4-5 pm. Call in (814) 865-9577 with questions and comments. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter as well.