Thursday, March 27, 2008

Downers - They May Be What's For Dinner

There are several reasons you may be concerned about beef consumption and production. Here are just a few:

  • This CBS News Story of downer cows being grossly mistreated at a California meatpacking plant owned by Westland/Hallmark Meat Company, which supplies food to school lunch programs.

Video of a downer/Downer of a video
  • Recent news of the "Biggest Beef Recall Ever." According to the New York Times, of the 143 million pounds of beef recalled, "37 million pounds went to school lunch programs."
  • You have heard some disturbing environmental statistics, such as the fact that livestock manure accounts for 18% of methane emissions (a gas that contributes to global warming)
  • Like me, you worked a stint at McDonald's in high school (file that under worthwhile learning experiences in a polyester uniform one need only have once - sorry, no pictures, and I had to give my uniform back)
So what's an omnivore and concerned citizen to do? The solution is a fairly obvious one - eat less meat! While the prospect of becoming a vegetarian may seem to drastic for many, it is important to know how our actions affect the quality of life for human and animal alike. The meat industry has become a brutal one, and if you decide to consume meat, it is critical to both your health and to the health of the planet that you know what happened to your meat before it became that neatly wrapped package in your market.

Here are three easy ways to insure conscious, compassionate consumption:
  • Reduce the amount of beef you are consuming. Try to limit yourself to once a week or less. As Bill McKibben suggested in a talk I attended recently, try to think of meat as a condiment rather than as a main dish.
  • Get to know your local farmers. No matter where you live, it is now easy to find grass-fed beef produced under humane conditions by small farmers.
  • Educate yourself. Read some of the books suggested above, do a little research on the web, talk to vegetarians about their decision not to eat meat, patronize organic, local restaurants, and always be sure that you know what you are putting into your body.

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