Free Range Egg. Photo by Borb, Creative Commons
As I wrote here, I’m boycotting factory farmed meat and eggs, because of the cruel treatment of the animals. So far, people have been pretty supportive. Some have even been curious, though it’s awkward, because the conversation always comes up around meal time, and my southern courtesy upbringing makes me reluctant to talk about battery cages, gestation crates, animals that aren’t properly killed, and so are alive while being dismembered, and so on.
I’ve come to realize that I took a pretty big step. Eating at restaurants is hard. Finding the meat is expensive and difficult. I live in Mississippi, which is just about the least conscience-eating-friendly place in the country.
Despite seeing tons of cows grazing in open fields along the highway, finding locally sourced beef is all but impossible – even the free-range stuff I have found is from the Midwest. Katherine was able to find a farmer in Lucedale who sells pork and chicken (she got me cruelty-free bacon. I love that woman!).
Needless to say, I haven’t made any “converts.” But it’s been a big jump. Maybe if I had a few “small things” people could do without radically altering their lives, it would help. So here are a few suggestions:
1) Buy “cage free” eggs.
They’re about $1 a dozen more than factory eggs, available at Winn-Dixie or the local farmer’s market. They also taste much better. Just dedicate a couple more dollars a week to eggs, and you’ll gently push the industry toward more humane treatment.
2) Eat one meatless meal per week.
The average American eats 200 pounds of meat a year. That’s more than the average American weighs. We all know that’s too much. Make one more meatless meal per week than you usually do. It doesn’t even have to be vegetarian. Try fish or seafood.
3) Reduce the proportion of meat in a given meal, without removing it entirely.
Next time you barbecue, include some roasted vegetables, baked potatoes/sweet potatoes (cooked on a charcoal grill – YUM), and roasted onions (cut an onion, fill the cuts with butter and garlic salt or Italian dressing, wrap it in charcoal, and roast it).
Don’t forget the meat, but alter the proportions. Steak is good, but steak with baked potatoes and roasted vegetables is better. Pan-fried chicken is good, but a pan-fried chicken salad with cranberries, mandarin oranges, and walnuts is better. Okay, I’m making myself hungry now.
4) Request free-range/cruelty-free meat at your local grocery. Talk to the manager.
Corner Market gets its free-range meat on Fridays. By Saturday, it’s gone. I don’t know why they keep under-ordering. If it sells out in one day, you’re not ordering enough. Winn-Dixie always has something, but almost never chicken, and the selection is always thin.
5) Ask where your local restaurants get their meat.
Just knowing that someone cares enough to ask can help raise awareness.
6) Reduce your use of dairy.
In the U.S., dairy pretty much comes from the same uncaring agribusinesses that provide beef. In fact, the conditions are arguably worse for dairy cattle than for beef cattle (though most of the time the dairy cattle do end up slaughtered for their meat after a few years).
I’m working on this one myself, but it’s not easy around here. Wal-Mart used to carry soy cheese (cheaper than regular cheese, and it melted better, too), but I haven’t seen it lately, and there’s not a Whole Foods within shopping distance.
7) Spread the word.
“American farmers” conjures images of people like my grandparents in the minds of most people. In the past, American farmers were small farmers, who cared for their animals like Psalm 12:10 says.
But now most of the farming in American is done by a few large corporations, subsidized by our tax dollars (10% collected 75% of the subsidies between 1995 and 2011, almost $208 billion). Nanny Jet and Pa Clarence no longer represent the face of American farming, and they haven’t for a long time. Let that be known. Speak the truth.
If you want to do something, but aren’t ready to “take the plunge,” try implementing a few of these. They’re relatively easy. They’re good for your health. And most of all, they help nudge American agriculture back in a saner, more humane direction.