Before I begin, I would like to note that I am not here to pass any judgments on people or to force my opinions down anyone’s throat. With that in mind, onward. There are three topics that will surely ignite the sass in me. As you can probably guess, one is people telling me how I’m supposed to behave or look (refer to any one of my pixie cut posts). The second of the three is the food industry. We, as humans, have become all too comfortable in our ignorance. We’ve accepted the information spoon fed to us by major corporations without giving it a second thought. And guess what, the food industry LOVES the ignorance. They endorse it with propaganda and smiling faces that assault us every time we turn on the TV. The food industry is like the North Korean government and we are its loyal subjects. But do you even know what you’re accepting every time you buy the things on your shopping list: a gallon of milk, a pound of beef, a dozen eggs, a box of cereal? Lemme drop some knowledge on you. But first, some background.
I was born and raised in the great dairy state of Wisconsin. Beer battered cheese curds, Friday night fish fry, beefy burgers were things I grew up on. They are part of my culture. Growing up, I never questioned where the food on my dinner table was coming from. Where I grew up, I was surrounded by fields and farms. The biggest club at my school was the FFA. My dad was raised on a pig farm. So you can imagine the shock when I told my family I decided to become a vegetarian nine months ago. Trust me, it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I had been toying with the idea for a long time (we’re talking years), but I was never brave enough to start the journey. If I’m being honest, there was one defining moment that helped me make my decision. Over the summer, I went to a picnic with my family. I naturally assumed there would be some sort of barbeque sandwiches or something like that, but I had no idea that I would see an entire pig roasting on a spit; eyes, ears, tail, and all. The pig’s dead eyes stared at me the entire time its body was being carved up. That’s when I started questioning when the disconnect between the animal and the table stemmed from. Of course I knew that a pulled pork sandwich came from a pig somewhere in the world, but seeing it carved really opened my eyes. My decision to change my lifestyle was made at that very moment.
If we’re being technical, I consider myself a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so I still eat dairy and eggs. Ideally, I would love to become vegan, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet. I choose vegan alternatives when the option is there, but I’m not entirely committed to it yet. I’m also a vegetarian on my own terms. By that, I mean I will only eat meat if I kill and process the animal myself. I cannot even fathom killing anything, so I have no intention of eating meat again. This facet of my vegetarian lifestyle brings me to my topic of sass.
I recently read a blog (link below) about dairy farming that ignited the sass. The blog featured statements like, “Farmers treat our cows like family,” “98% of farms are family farms,” and “we all know that even saying PETA is like spitting out poison.” Remember, I still eat dairy, so I’m not about to knock dairy farms. But dairy farms are directly linked to the meat industry, which lead me to some questions about these statements. Farmers treat cows like family… That doesn’t really make any sense to me. “Shoot, looks like your cousin didn’t do the chores he was supposed to. Time to put him in the crockpot for dinner.” That’s not cool. PSA: Please don’t eat your family. As far as the second statement goes, I have no doubt that the number is totally accurate. But what I want to know is this: what percentage of those family farms sellout to major corporations like Dean Foods (who continues to fight Prop. 37: our right to know if our foods are containing genetically modified organisms, GMOs)? And once the dairy cow has outlived its usefulness and is shipped out to a meat processing facility, what percentage goes to Tyson, Cargill, Swift & Co., or the National Beef Packing Co.? These four companies alone control 83.5% of the market (this statistic and more found here). Yes, the farms are family owned, but in the end, it comes down to the major corporations that run the system. What I’m getting at is that politics and greed have taken over the food industry. Now, that’s not to say it’s the farmer’s fault, because it’s not. Farmers are at just as much of a disadvantage as the consumer is. These major corporations that run the industry have both the farmers and the consumers under their thumb. The corporations made the system to their advantage, trapping farmers into working with them or losing their livelihoods. So my choice to become a vegetarian was not made to stop supporting farmers, but rather to stop supporting corporate greed. I’ll continue to support farmers through buying my produce from farmer’s markets and other honest avenues.
And then there’s the PETA statement. PETA’s mission is pretty intense and they go about it in an intense way (with some extremely radical supporters), so I’m not at all surprised that there are critics of their ways. I don’t agree with everything PETA does, but I do agree with their foundations, particularly this part of PETA’s missions statement, “PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in the clothing trade, in laboratories, and in the entertainment industry.” So family farmers need not get all hot and bothered about PETA unless they are operating under the fundamentals of a factory farm. If you claim to treat your animals like family, then don’t you essentially have the same fundamental beliefs as PETA?
The last thing that struck me about this blog was a quote from a very astute kid who believed milk was made by men. Sure, the kid is technically wrong on a surface level, but he’s not entirely wrong. Here’s the thing… The amount of milk a cow is expected to produce these days is not natural. Factor in antibiotics, hormones, and the process of artificial insemination, then try to tell me that milk isn’t made by man through imposition and administration. Don’t stop believing, kid, because you’re on to something.
I’m not PETA. I’m not hating on farmers. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life. I’m just curious. I’ve got questions that I’m exploring. I don’t expect you to give up meat just because I did. Sure, it would be rad if I sparked some curiosity or questions, but I don’t expect anything. If you are curious about where your food is coming from, check out some of these rad resources: Food Inc. (documentary; or if you’re crunched for time and want to go straight for to facts, this article would do the trick), Vegucated (documentary for anyone who is thinking about being a vegan or has questions about vegan lifestyles), Forks Over Knives (documentary), Facts About GMOs, or Yes on Prop 37 (for those of you who would like to know/fight for the right to know about products containing GMOs). All that being said, there are two sides to every story, so I encourage you to check out the blog I was referencing throughout the post, Crown & Cows. You can find other references about dairy farming within. Develop your own point of view. I’d love to hear it as I continue to grow and develop mine!