“If you gave me a million, zillion dollars and said give me a plant that doesn’t have E. coli, I couldn’t do it,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It’s not about the will. It’s about the ability.”
The quote above from this New York Times article (user account may be required), illustrates just one of the reasons for my shift away from a meat-centric diet. Mr. Osterholm is referring to the difficulty of preventing disease from entering the beef production system due to the bacteria-ridden, utterly icky process of high volume, factory farm butchery. Even if I didn’t get the shivers over the cruelty of factory farming, the yuck factor regarding the mud and poop that can’t help but be part of the process would scare me off steak anyway.
I’ve eliminated all beef and chicken, and nearly all dairy, from my diet. I have eaten an eensy bit of shrimp, halibut, and salmon in the last month or two, although I’m sticking almost entirely to fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and legumes. This evening for dinner, for example, I made a lovely green salad with nuts and dried fruits, steamed baby peas, and sweet potatoes with vegan buttery spread (Earth Balance — so awesomely deelish, non-GMO, and organic). I don’t miss cow one bit.
I’ve read that the amount of plant energy and water required to raise a cow is many times that required to sustain me directly. I like knowing that by choosing a vegetarian diet I’m consuming substantially less resources. Once raised, the cow of course then has to be butchered and shipped to me, consuming still more resources, including fossil fuels. And ultimately, the end product may be contaminated with poop! Ay carumba.
I adore animals and have enjoyed my friendships with a wide variety of pets including horses, rabbits, dogs, cats, turkeys, chickens, sheep, doves, pigeons, and goldfish. Although I’ve never owned a cow or a pig, I got to hang around those species as well through friends and as part of 4-H activities and fairs and such. I enjoyed them all. As a kid, a friend and I once scared the pants off our parents by running away from home because we were mad about my friend’s cow being butchered. My family dabbled in raising chickens, turkeys, and rabbits for meat. I ate the meat, and remember feeling unsettled and weird about it, aside from the unpleasantness of the butchering process itself.
When I think of the animal that a piece of meat came from, I really have no desire to eat it. It’s important to me to make conscious decisions in my life, and I think I’ve just been choosing to remain unconscious about eating meat. I don’t envision myself as militant about it, just more in touch with my own compassion for other creatures and my concern for making choices that result in a decreased environmental impact.
And back to the poop thing, I’m struck by how industrial farming encourages disease. Consider this excerpt from the Vegetarianism article on Wikipedia:
In 2003, an article in the Journal of Dairy Science found that between 30 and 80 percent of cattle carry E. coli O157:H7. In that same journal article, a quick fix was pointed out: Cows that are switched from a grain diet to a forage diet saw, within 5 days, a 1,000 fold decrease in the abundance of strain O157. But until changes like this are made, the source of many E. coli outbreaks will continue to be high-yield (industrial) meat and dairy farms.
More likely, rather than change the way cattle are fed or raised on industrial farms there will instead be pressure to find technological solutions like food irradiation, plans for HACCP, or simply cooking burgers longer. Suggestions like this have led some experts, like Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley, Michael Pollan, to suggest that “All of these solutions treat E. coli O157:H7 as an unavoidable fact of life rather than what it is: a fact of industrial agriculture.”
So, the meat industry apparently recognizes that, as part of the industrial model of production, poop happens–especially when frightened animals face horrific death and in some cases torture. Allowing animals to forage isn’t profitable, so hey, how about irradiating meat? Just get over it and cook my meat longer? Yikes.
How about instead I just say, “No meat no mo’!”