As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I am reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" by Michael Pollan. To make a long story very short, it is a book about how food is made in the US (industrial agriculture), what it does to our bodies, why it is the way it is, and what we can do about it. I find the book extremely compelling and I am just shocked by many of the things I have read. For instance, I knew that the way cows are raised in this country was extremely nasty, with cramped spaces, lots of antibiotics, and extreme amounts of waste. However, I thought the antibiotics were used because the cows got sick from being cramped together, not being outside, etc.
That is not the case, actually. The cows get antibiotics because we make them eat corn instead of grass. Even I remember vaguely from science class that cows have mulitple stomachs and are made to eat grass - humans, for instance, cannot get nutrients from grass, but cows have this ability. But since there is such an overproduction of corn in this country (which Pollan covers very well) we make cows eat corn - and this is what makes them sick! They have to take antibiotics because we make them sick. How awful is that??
Pollan also discusses "organic food" and shows that "industrialized organic" is not that much better than regular food. Chickens can still be raised in cramped spaces with no access to the outdoors, the only difference being that they don't consume antibiotics. Organic lettuce is grown without pesticides (which is great), but if we ship it half-way across the world it still causes a lot of pollution. He shows some actual sustainable organic food producers, including Polyface Farms, which is truly fascinating reading. If you have access to meats or produce from places like that, it is definitely worth it. And eating according to the seasons is crucial.
So my dilemma is that even after reading all this, I can't seem to change my behavior. I don't eat a lot of red meat, but when I am in the grocery store it is hard for me to make the connection between the packet of chicken breasts and the horrible way chickens are raised. I can even read the book while eating a chicken sandwich - without losing my appetite! I guess I have no willpower... At least I keep my portions small, that helps as well. As a society we have become accustomed to eating huge portions and that meat is cheap, while it is actually very expensive in terms of animal cruelty, transportation costs, and input needed. I guess a good start would be to cut down my meat intake even further, and to eat seasonal vegetables.