Can’t Get Away From Factory Farming

I still don’t think of myself as truly vegetarian — just mostly vegetarian, and  I’m sure many vegetarians would consider me not entirely committed, for my viewpoint that it is possible to keep an animal kindly, and at the end of a happy and food-filled life to slaughter it humanely and eat it.  I believe this can be done with respect.  The animal benefits from health care, provisioned food/water/shelter and companionship; the human gets a wealth of supplies (leather, wool, etc) and food.  Everyone benefits.

Unfortunately, somewhere between this red-barn-and-picket-fence idyll and the high-speed modern slaughterhouse, the “mutual respect” thing turned into something where animals are not even afforded the basic respect we give to useful furniture, and I can’t buy into that system.  Thus, mostly vegetarian — enjoying meat but not the hell that animals went through in order to get it to me, I decided I would only eat meat from small, local, family farms, where compassionate farmers could spend enough time with the animals they slaughtered to ensure the process was as quick, painless and humane as possible, and the animals had as wonderful a life as it was possible to provide.  This makes me essentially vegetarian — certainly no restaurant or normal grocery store serves such meat, which must be found at specialty stores or obtained directly from the farms themselves.

I am now rethinking even this limited meat option.  It had been sitting in the back of my mind that even meat raised at the kindest of farms likely goes through USDA-“overseen” slaughterhouses, with their 3-chickens-a-second conveyor belts, and an episode of “Dirty Jobs” — in which Mike Rowe shadows Earl’s Meats, a mobile butchering operation which travels to clients’ farms, slaughters their stock, and butchers the carcass, producing wrapped meats ready for the kitchen — implied that it is actually required that this happen.  The episode pointed out to me that the meat butchered in this way was unsuitable for sale to the public because it had not been slaughtered in a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse.

This means that any meat to which I have easy, retail access, short of something I have slaughtered personally, has been processed through a USDA slaughter operation and has therefore been in the tender “care” of a high speed slaughter plant, or one of the new USDA-inspected mobile units, which can potentially process 30 head of cattle a day.  This means that it’s time to drop the “small farm” meat and become officially vegetarian, because there is currently no such thing as “humane” meat.

As a side note, here’s the Mobile Slaughter Unit Compliance Guide from the USDA.

6 responses to “Can’t Get Away From Factory Farming

  1. I’m not sure what the situation is in the US, but in Canada that isn’t exactly true. There is a lot of territory between huge, industrial scale plants where a gazillion cows end up in one burger, and killing your cow at home.

    There is a growing industry of abattoirs providing a better option for consumers who rightly disapprove of industrial-scale slaughter houses. If you want to eat meat that isn’t processed in the big houses, the best bet is to purchase through as CSA / direct from farmer. Sometimes they can get around the “unsuitable for sale” issue if it is a herdshare, for example.

    Most smaller producers here in Canada, anyway, take care to find the best possible processing options – for cleanliness AND animal welfare. Our favourite beef and pork farmer is actually SPCA certified. He processes all his animals at a small abattoir nearby that he helped design with animal welfare as primary concern. When we had our huge beef recall here recently, the only beef available was from small farms, because they were the only ones who didn’t go through the huge slaughter houses.

    • I keep hoping that’s what’s going on at least in some parts of the US, but — at least around where I am — it seems like everything is processed through one large local slaughterhouse, which is not where I want the animals I eat to spend the last hours of their lives. My primary issue seems to be that nobody labels their meat “humanely slaughtered”, likely because few consumers want to remember that anything *was* slaughtered to provide their meat. Therefore I have to just guess — and I can only guess that, at the supermarket, or even at my favorite local restaurant, nobody has yet bothered to pick out carefully *slaughtered* meat (although it is gratifying that they are at least trying for humanely *raised* meat). (I know that “kinder” meat costs more, and nobody is charging $90 for an 8-oz steak yet….)

      There are co-ops around here, but I do not have the money to front $600 for an annual membership, or $200 to buy part of a cow. Alas! I am so glad it is better in other countries (from what I’ve seen of other countries’ humane husbandry laws, it often is better, in many cases).

      Thank you for commenting!

      • That’s a shame. You’re so right about price being a huge problem. We have a little one so money is tight – we have shared sides of lamb with family in the past which worked, but the best for us so far has been “looking after” our own chickens and quail. We have just moved to a small farm, so we don’t have to worry so much now, but it is a huge problem

        We had a HUGE beef recall here in Canada just recently, and it was amazing to see how many people weren’t aware of the realities of our industrial system when it comes to meat.

        We have a great local butcher here that is all pasture-to-plate / humane product and they were never busier than during the recall! Even small butchers were getting their meat from this one huge factory. We’ve found it was a huge wake-up call for people here.

        We toy with the idea of starting a mobile abattoir ourselves – the only guy who can legally process small numbers of hens in the area charges 5 bucks a bird!!!

  2. “Everyone benefits.” I beg to differ. Because there’s no need to consume animals, and because they certainly would prefer to keep on living rather than being killed to satisfy human selfishness, there’s nothing humane about meat OR slaughter. They’re not objects to be “processed” (sadly, The Slow Foods Mama uses that euphemistic term about four times), but living, breathing, sentient beings who should be left alone to live out their lives the way we do. The notion that animals are ours to use is both arrogant and anthropocentric.

    • Thank you for commenting! I’d like you to know that I’m not ignoring your comment — I’m seriously thinking about it. Whether we have the “right” to “use” animals or not is a deep moral issue and I’ve been internally debating it for a long time. I want to write a post about it and give it the attention it deserves. I appreciate your contribution and wanted you to know it made me think!

      • No problem. And I certainly didn’t mean to sound harsh. I like your blog (otherwise I wouldn’t keep coming back, snort), and I’m grateful for anyone who significantly reduces their meat consumption.

        Animal use is definitely a deep issue, and I know that I didn’t really start thinking about it until I accidentally caught part of a documentary in which a cat was being prepared for dinner. By “prepared” I mean I saw the cat being skinned alive and thrown into a pot of boiling water. I was horrified and disgusted (even though I still ate meat at the time), but it did make me begin to wonder how we decide what animals to eat and what animals to love as companions.

        So when you say, “it is possible to keep an animal kindly, and at the end of a happy and food-filled life to slaughter it humanely and eat it.”, that is something I (and many people in our part of the world) would not consider doing to a cat or dog, so why would it be okay to do that to a cow or pig or turkey instead? As a vegan I don’t want any animal to be on the continuum of acceptable/not acceptable to eat (as just one form or use — some other forms of use are less clear cut for me), and my own evolving philosophy over the years can be distilled into the maxim of “don’t do to a nonhuman animal what you wouldn’t do to a human animal”, but I look forward to your post on use when you write it!

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