Comments: Holocaust, Inc.

My recommendation is to start by eating a lot less meat, and to buy only humanely raised and slaughtered chicken, pork, beef, and lamb. It's a good deal more expensive, but that's less of a problem when it forms a much smaller part of the diet. (Stir-fries, curries, etc.)

Small-scale, close-to-market livestock farms are an integral part of a sustainable food system.

This isn't relevant for people who have philosophical or religious principles that bar meat consumption. But for people whose main concern is the health of the planet, the well-being of the animals they do consume, and the healthfulness of same: no need to give up meat entirely. Cut down, pay attention to the source, support humane and sustainable livestock raisers.

Posted by Nell at May 13, 2010 09:23 PM

By far the most moving part of Food Inc. for me was the outrageous persecution of the seed cleaners and their grain- and bean-growing clients. It made me want to throttle Monsanto execs.

Sadly, there's not a comparably simple, personal action we can take to combat that the way we can opt out of the mass-produced meat system (except maybe contributing to the legal defense funds for people like Maurice Parr. (Monsanto has set up a whole website to defaming and smearing him, by the way, which I encountered while looking up Parr's name.)

Posted by Nell at May 13, 2010 09:30 PM

Meat eating expanded human brains to the extent that an increasing number reject meat eating. Perhaps there's divine irony in that. Or maybe it came down to garnishes.

Posted by Dennis Perrin at May 13, 2010 09:53 PM

Nell,

I'm fortunate in that I've never enjoying eating meat that much, so giving it up completely isn't much of a struggle for me. Except bacon...oh sweet, sweet bacon. I struggle more with dairy products, which seem to be produced in conditions almost as horrifying as meat itself.

Agreed re Monsanto. You really have to be a sociopath to be a corporate executive or corporate lawyer today. And you're right, it's far more difficult to opt out of the insane vegetable production system, especially if you like to eat glorious tofu. I myself actually enjoy the freakish food-product Quorn, which I'm sure has something horrible about it although I don't know exactly what.

Dennis,

That IS a beautiful irony of evolution. What a pie in the face for homo erectus!

Personally I don't reject meat eating necessarily, just meat bred in death camps. I would consider eating livestock from the kind of farm shown in Food, Inc. if I really loved meat. I just don't care enough to go to those lengths.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at May 13, 2010 10:11 PM

That's not an option for a lot of folks. And not just for reasons cultural. Crap meat is cheap, just like crap [insert stuff made with processed corn] is cheap.

Posted by Jack Crow at May 13, 2010 10:15 PM

Dietary constraint theories of human evolution have been made before, but I don't really buy them. Last year Richard Wrangham made a similar argument about cooking food, which is appealing nonsense but not particularly well-evidenced. Human caloric requirements are pretty low compared to some other animals, which have to eat many tons of food to maintain, so I hardly see that as being a particularly strong constraint on human evolution. Furthermore, many other animals have similar diets - chimps, for example, eat meat quite often, but they're not galloping along the same evolutionary trail we did. So: meat-eating is not a lynchpin in human evolution.

Posted by saurabh at May 13, 2010 10:16 PM

That's not an option for a lot of folks.

I wouldn't say it's literally not an option. It's just far harder to find and make inexpensive non-animal product non-corn meals with bad or no supermarkets, no education, lack of time and a toxic advertising environment (particularly when children are involved).

In other words: it's not a lack of money as much as it is a lack of other things.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at May 13, 2010 10:21 PM

I started eating less meat a few years ago for some of the same reasons. The first big hurdle was getting over how bad what passes for vegetarian food tastes. Then I found Bittman's "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian". The title is lame, but the cookbook is a revelation. Check it out.

Posted by Bruce F at May 13, 2010 10:21 PM

The problem is, farming fruits, grains and vegetables inflicts even more ghastly, agonizing deaths on animals. I saw how many birds and squirrels an rabbits and other animals were trapped and poisoned to keep them away from one blackberry farm and it was terrible. It looked like a truckload.

Posted by Jelperman at May 13, 2010 10:25 PM

Jelperman,

I don't want that be true, especially given that I ate a pound of frozen blueberries yesterday, so I am going to pretend you don't exist.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at May 13, 2010 10:39 PM

I gave up red meat and poultry for the death camp reason. But damned if I wasn't raised on dairy so hard that I cannot live without milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs. All the beans & nuts notwithstanding. I feel guilty about it though (guilt — always the impecuniary liberal's last best effort).

Posted by Cloud at May 13, 2010 10:56 PM

"I wouldn't say it's literally not an option. It's just far harder to find and make inexpensive non-animal product non-corn meals with bad or no supermarkets, no education, lack of time and a toxic advertising environment (particularly when children are involved)."

It's literally not an option if you live on a $75 food budget (a week) and have more than two mouths to feed.

Posted by Jack Crow at May 13, 2010 11:12 PM

It most definitely is not "literally not an option", it's entirely a cultural and educational problem. Many working people around the world live on largely vegetarian diets - I come from a billion-strong country where this is true. Pulses and grains are cheap, and can be prepared easily and nutritiously (and even tastily). Both my parents worked and did this all the time. If need be, kids can cook for themselves. It's not hard. It's just a matter of knowing how to do it.

Posted by saurabh at May 13, 2010 11:38 PM

Yay! Please do, and keep in mind:

1) It's never been EASIER to be a strict vegetarian than today, what with all the quorn and soy products and synthetic leather etc.

2) You do NOT need to start strict. Too many people think they do, and therefore put it off forever. Just find a starting point by skipping meat once a week, or a particular food, and then move on at your own pace. Cheat whenever you feel it's necessary.

3) Point is: Just make it easy on yourself, because then there's no need to prepare and get all existential about it. Every day on non-tortured food counts as a win!

Posted by Aron at May 13, 2010 11:39 PM

"It most definitely is not "literally not an option", it's entirely a cultural and educational problem. Many working people around the world live on largely vegetarian diets - I come from a billion-strong country where this is true. Pulses and grains are cheap, and can be prepared easily and nutritiously (and even tastily). Both my parents worked and did this all the time. If need be, kids can cook for themselves. It's not hard. It's just a matter of knowing how to do it."

Saurabh,

Kindly - go to a poor neighborhood in any American city. Go to poor towns in Oklahoma or Nebraska, right next to multi-thousand acre industrial agriculture latifundias.

Come right here to my small city in New England, twenty miles from a small chunk of farming country. Come to the poor neighborhood in what the local Hearst-Argyle station now calls "Center City." Once, every Thursday from June through September, you might be able to walk the half-block long "farmer's market." And buy a dozen eggs for $5. Or a head of lettuce for $3.49.

Otherwise, you're shopping at Stop and Shop, Shaw's, Hannaford or Walmart.

Now - if you're upper middle class and can afford $2 dollar single potatoes, $4.50 for a liter of juice and quinoa at $6.99 a pound, maybe you can boutique eat the self-congratulatory organic food.

But if you're poor or just struggling to keep a roof over your head, your bills paid, your co-pays met, your clothing replaced and your kids in shoes - you're not shopping at the boutique fresh foods market.

You're shopping where the budget allows you, and they don't sell cheap grain, inexpensive soy beans or much of a variety of anything but packaged feces, cheap meat and corn byproducts.

Add up bus fare, or gas costs - or just remember that a lot of poor folks don't get to travel to Whole Foods or out to the suburban fruit stand.

What they have access to they can reach by public transit or their own legs. What they can get is literally - really, actually literally - what's affordable and what's available.

And that isn't food that makes middle class yuppoids swoon with self-reverence and happy holistic thoughts.

Posted by Jack Crow at May 13, 2010 11:58 PM

Jonathan,

Jelperman is right. The cost of organic apples, eighteen miles south of my own flat, is large scale trapping and bird killing. And you should see what they do to grow organic blueberries in Maine's north country - both to people and to wildlife.

Using in both places - you guessed it - migrant workers for piece count labor.

Posted by Jack Crow at May 14, 2010 12:06 AM

I can't speak to the vast swaths of this country that I haven't lived in - I'm definitely an urban resident. But I lived in New Jersey most of my life, an industrial wasteland if ever there was one - it's still hard to get organic food there. It was always possible, though, to get a big sack of rice and a big sack of lentils, much cheaper than meat. I'm not suggesting you have to eat fancy hummus spreads or learn to cook with soy-based meats. Many poor people around the world subsist on rice, beans and vegetables. It's not expensive. It's available almost everywhere. It's way, way healthier than eating the shitty meat that is thrown at you.

Posted by saurabh at May 14, 2010 12:40 AM

Jack Crow,

I think we're talking about two different things. What I meant was that it's not impossible anywhere to avoid products of factory meat farms. You're saying (I believe) that it's impossible to eat all organic food.

Pretty much anywhere you can buy non-organic beans and lentils and rice for the same price per calorie and gram of protein as meat. And in fact pretty much anywhere you could organize buying cooperatives that would make food like that cheaper than what you get at a crappy bodega or stop & shop. I'm not saying that that food would be that tasty, or that many people are going to do that, or blaming anyone who doesn't. But things like that did happen not that long ago (sixties and seventies) in the U.S. in very poor areas. What's holding it back isn't that it's literally impossible to afford.

I don't know much about how organic produce is farmed, and maybe some day I'll look into the bird/rabbit holocaust. But for now I won't because I don't buy it because of the price. The delicious blueberries I ate were not organic.

In terms of horribly treated migrant labor, I agree. That runs most of the U.S. agricultural system, meat and non-meat, organic and non-organic, and in many places isn't that far away from slavery.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at May 14, 2010 12:41 AM

"It's essentially impossible for U.S. citizens to opt-out of slaughtering Afghans or strangling Gaza"

They can expatriate.

Posted by Marcus at May 14, 2010 01:07 AM

They can expatriate.

Actually, I think you still pay U.S. taxes unless you change citizenship.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at May 14, 2010 01:22 AM

Well, actually the US Gov demands payment of income tax for 10 years even after you renounce your citizenship (a fact that makes clear that citizenship = indentured servitude). But there is an income tax exemption of about 84K per year if you live outside the country for at least 335 days a year (citizenship need not be renounced.) In most places in the world you won't have to worry about making over 84K a year.

If you did get citizenship with a country not involved in rampant international massacres, that country might protect you from extradition during the 10 year period. I don't know.

Or you could go the Thoreau route and refuse to pay taxes in protest of war, and hope your aunt can buy you out of prison. Or:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Hess

Posted by Marcus at May 14, 2010 01:57 AM

War is paid for AT THE PUMP more than it ever will be on Income Tax Day, and the WHOLE world pays for it. Any where YOU may live, if YOU buy gas or other oil products, then YOU BUY war. Its the way THAT industry works.
I work in the cattle industry on occasion, raising calves. they have a good life on the pasture here with mom for the most part, BUT I know they go to feedlots once sold, and that's not so good.
I like animals and am careful to be kind to them while in MY care. Personally, I look at a LIFE being raised to be killed and eaten is not going to be that swell a deal all the way around. Ranchers are generally good to their animals as they are a livelyhood and an investment. They deal with the animal from birth to sale, usually 6 months to a year and so get to know the animal somewhat. Middlemen, slaughterhouses and meat packers pretty much quickly pass the animal down the line as fast as possible to YOUR plate in order to maximize profits.
I've worked in the Egg Industry also. Chickens are packed 5&6 to a cage and can barely move. They are pumped full of feed suppliments to produce more eggs and after 6 months or so, shipped off to the soup companies packed in crates on a truck.
I've worked in one ground opperation where the chickens run around free and I go around to the nests and gather eggs. That was in my teenage years, long ago. Although I'm sure such opperations still exist I personally haven't seen one in MANY years.
Industrialization in farming, as in everything else, has been cruel all they way around. Cruel to the animals, cruel to the land, and cruel to the people.

Posted by Mike Meyer at May 14, 2010 07:12 AM

I struggle more with dairy products, which seem to be produced in conditions almost as horrifying as meat itself.

Worse actually, in many cases. Cows don't produce milk if they don't have calves, and we don't get the milk if the calves live (unless you feed them on substitutes made from the ground-up carcasses of other cows, which is how we got BSE). Non-organic dairy produce is ethically worse than foie gras, and the organic stuff is not much better. (And no, I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian. Sorry, but the suffering of other creatures is an unavoidable part of life. We can try to minimise it, but we can't escape it.)

Posted by Dunc at May 14, 2010 08:08 AM

I pretty much stopped eating meat after living in Taiwan a few years and realizing how yummy Chinese veggie food is. But I still eat a little fish, because you really need fish oil, and anyways they don't have any feelings, like the song goes. And I can't give up my chocolate pudding, so milk is still in. Sorry.

Posted by godoggo at May 14, 2010 11:28 AM

Jonathan Scharz

"You really have to be a sociopath to be a corporate executive or corporate lawyer today."

--That's not the problem at all, and I assume Caruso has stolen your identity. The problem is that you DON'T have to be a sociopath to be a corporate executive or corporate lawyer today. (Of course, there are times and places when you have to ACT LIKE a sociopath, but many if not most of the corporate guys manage to stay out of those times and places.

Posted by N E at May 14, 2010 11:36 AM

Putting aside all dispute about causes, right now it seems pretty easy to see that whatever is going on in American culture to make such a huge number of people fat and stressed-out and angry and confused and violent isn't good, and people growing a few vegetables in their yard and trying to eat fresh food instead of bags and bags of crap might help.

I highly recommend that people watch Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I love that guy.

Posted by N E at May 14, 2010 12:23 PM

Regarding regional differences across the US: I moved to Texas from California and it has been much more difficult and expensive to eat well here. Food is more expensive, especially for anything not processed and packaged. It is trickier to find bulk grains at the supermarkets, but there are some specialty and ethnic stores. Anything organic is VERY expensive here.

Back in California, hunting was my family's main source of meat, otherwise we ate vegetarian. But that isn't an option in feudal Texas. No public land and hunting is for rich folks only (once in a while I mange an invitation for some meat harvesting, but the freezer is never very full). I've been bad lately and have been buying meat, but we do try to limit it. I have friends who manage being vegan here in West Texas, and that is a feat.

At least I have room, soil and climate to have a good vegetable garden!


Posted by pulaski at May 14, 2010 01:21 PM

Jack Crow-

I am the father of a family of four with, and this is going to sound crazy, a $75 per week budget. And we're all vegans!

-----

Dunc-

The suffering of other life forms may be an unavoidable part of life, but isn't trying to minimize why most vegans are vegans?

-----

To everyone who tries to justify eating meat by complaining about the damage to the environment caused by growing vegetable matter-

Let's not forget the amount of vegetable matter grown that is used for feeding the animals we feed on.

Posted by Jim at May 14, 2010 05:15 PM

"Let's not forget the amount of vegetable matter grown that is used for feeding the animals we feed on."

Fair point. Even out here in the land of shortgrass it is dang hard to find beef that has not been finished on grain.

Posted by pulaski at May 14, 2010 06:31 PM

Um NE, about Jamie Oliver:

http://www.alternet.org/story/146354/how_tv_superchef_jamie_oliver%27s_%27food_revolution%27_flunked_out

Posted by Jenny at May 14, 2010 07:15 PM

Jenny

Gupta has a lot of good points, but what's Jamie Oliver supposed to do? He's not Jesus, he's just a cook trying to get people to stop eating crap, and to stop schools from teaching kids to eat crap. I don't really expect his show to change much, but he's doing something. I suppose he could have stayed uncontaminated by media and commercial interests to remain pure by just posting a blog post instead, but I forgive him.

Posted by N E at May 14, 2010 10:59 PM

Quorn is a vat-produced fungal food substitute. I will accept eating quorn when the alternative is mass starvation...til then there are God-created plants that we can eat if we want to be vegetarian.

Posted by seth at May 15, 2010 12:13 AM

NE: That's not the issue, the issue is Jamie didn't focus on the social factor of what's causing kids to eat unhealthy such as the lack of access to health food, the lack of knowledge about gardening, the many junk food advertisements aimed towards kids, etc. He should've focused on these and instead, he fucked up by forcing his food onto kids without introducing them to it. Not to mention shaming the obese family with his fucking classism.

Posted by Jenny at May 15, 2010 02:33 AM

Quorn isn't that weird - it's just new. Nobody thinks twice about cheeses, which are pretty weird bacterial curdlings of milk protein. People guzzle down bottles of spirulina, a strange blue-green algae. And, frankly, eating the flesh of another animal - its muscle fibers, tendons, blood vessels, nerves, etc. - is pretty goddamn weird.

Posted by saurabh at May 15, 2010 04:44 AM

I think Dennis had the most irrefutable idea here: we should go back to scavenging our meat off the carcasses of other predators' kills, like our ancestors. Scaring away other motorists from the roadkill would also be good exercise.

Posted by buermann at May 15, 2010 04:59 AM

Jenny

"Not to mention shaming the obese family with his fucking classism."

--I call bullshit. Classism is a cute word (but I like 'lookism' better). But he didn't do that, and he isn't even an upper-class guy. He doesn't sound like one, isn't one, and didn't act like one. And, I note, the "shamed" family seemed to like him and he them. Should he have told them it's okay to kill yourself with food? Should he have just said nothing?

Sure Oliver could have gone into what's wrong with the whole culture, but come on, he would have had to follow my recommendation and do a blog post, because that wouldn't have been on ABC or gotten far in the schools either. He did his part, even if it didn't/doesn't work. Nothing is stopping you from teaching everyone about health food and gardening and more, and if you are, more power to you. We all know that TV shows don't change the world.

Posted by N E at May 15, 2010 09:35 AM

I still think you folks - while you have great intentions - are taking a way too facile approach to this issue.

It comes across as evangelical, and it doesn't speak to the real world, everyday conditions of working and poor people, in America.

Jonathan,

I only used organic as an example because I have direct experience with it. But, as an experiment, I'd like to see the results on an organized drive to get Americans to live on beans, rice and oats as their staples.

I don't think it will succeed because it treats with the leaf of a tree as if it were the root.

Posted by Jack Crow at May 15, 2010 03:40 PM

Jack Crow:

as an experiment, I'd like to see the results on an organized drive to get Americans to live on beans, rice and oats as their staples.

I don't think it will succeed because it treats with the leaf of a tree as if it were the root.

I agree. But I think we've been saying the same thing all along. As I said above, it's not literally impossible for people to afford, but very hard in practice due to bad or no supermarkets, no education, lack of time and a toxic advertising environment. Those things are more the root of the problem, along with the massive subsidies for crap. I'm not discounting the difficulty of overcoming those things, or blaming anyone for not doing it, but just making a narrow point about how much food costs.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at May 15, 2010 05:08 PM

Jonathan,

My apologies for misunderstanding.

With respect,

Jack

Posted by Jack Crow at May 15, 2010 06:02 PM

"I call bullshit. Classism is a cute word (but I like 'lookism' better). But he didn't do that, and he isn't even an upper-class guy. He doesn't sound like one, isn't one, and didn't act like one. And, I note, the "shamed" family seemed to like him and he them. Should he have told them it's okay to kill yourself with food? Should he have just said nothing?"

How about actually getting them some fucking medical help? the girl had fucking liver spots for chrissake.A healthy diet would've done them jack shit.

Posted by Jenny at May 15, 2010 06:18 PM

Dr. Jenny

Err, it was "medical help" that told her she had a liver spot, for chrissake. Not being a doctor like you, i only have a lay opinion that extreme obesity maybe isn't helpful to liver problems, but I sort of suspect telling her not to eat potato chips wasn't all the doctor did for her. It just wasn't part of the show, which wasn't about her liver.

Posted by N E at May 15, 2010 07:28 PM

Actually, extreme obesity probably causes more medical problems than any other extant phenomenon in the US. Fun fact: leading cause of amputations? Diabetes. That's right - when diabetes gets bad enough, blood flow slows in the extremities, and you tend to accumulate bleeding sores and other injuries that result in the limb having to come off. Nice! And adult-onset type II diabetes, the kind caused by "metabolic disorder", i.e., way too much adipose tissue, is fully reversible just by losing weight. So, yes, helping someone eat better, and thus hopefully losing weight, is excellent medical help. Of course, if you really are a doctor, you probably never learned any nutrition in medical school, so I excuse you for not being aware of this.

Posted by saurabh at May 16, 2010 12:34 AM

Jon :

Niman Ranch meats are not factory-farmed.
Tasty, guilt-free, but expensive.
I know one of their hog farmers; about half his farm is restored Iowa prairie and wetland.
And his hogs run free and forage on the other half most of the year.

All :

If there were fewer humans on the earth, there'd be no need to take such extreme measures to feed them. Monsanto, factory farming, the oil gusher poisoning the Gulf -- all just symptoms of human overpopulation.

Posted by joel hanes at May 16, 2010 10:23 AM

So this has inspired me to google about ways to make instant pudding with soy milk. I've found three suggestions 1) mix it with silken tofu, whatever that is 2) use less milk 3) freeze it for fudgesickles and whatnot.

Incidentally, I know he's a complete wacko on a lot of topics, but I still think Alex Cockburn's 3-part "Short History of Meat" is one of the best things on the net on this topic.

Posted by godoggo at May 16, 2010 12:56 PM

The overpopulation argument is hooey. It might be believable if resource consumption was directly proportional to population, but it's not. The

Posted by saurabh at May 16, 2010 03:29 PM

I am liking Nell's post in comments (comment number one) so much that I will repeat it -

Comments: Holocaust, Inc.

My recommendation is to start by eating a lot less meat, and to buy only humanely raised and slaughtered chicken, pork, beef, and lamb. It's a good deal more expensive, but that's less of a problem when it forms a much smaller part of the diet. (Stir-fries, curries, etc.)

Small-scale, close-to-market livestock farms are an integral part of a sustainable food system.

This isn't relevant for people who have philosophical or religious principles that bar meat consumption. But for people whose main concern is the health of the planet, the well-being of the animals they do consume, and the healthfulness of same: no need to give up meat entirely. Cut down, pay attention to the source, support humane and sustainable livestock raisers.
Posted by Nell at May 13, 2010 09:23 PM

Posted by Elise Mattu at May 17, 2010 04:12 PM

Here is a study comparing the number of animals killed to produce 1 million calories in 8 food categories: http://www.animalvisuals.org/data/1mc/
Setting aside arguments about methodology, it seems clear to me that eating animals harms far more animals than not eating them. This should be self-evident, but I hear this argument a lot.

No matter how many squirrels, birds, and rabbits were killed to bring you your berries, there are far, far more killed every hour to cater to the appetites of humans. Additionally, "humane slaughter" is an oxymoron. If someone killed your significant other, but was very polite about it, would that make it OK? In any major city in the US (and in lots of not-so-major cities) being vegan is really just a matter of deciding to do so. Yes, it can be expensive, but no more so than eating meat, and is often less so if you stay away from processed food.

I like eating good food - a lot. There are a ton of great veggie recipes online, in addition to all the cookbooks around. You might try The Post Punk Kitchen (www.theppk.com) or Bryanna Clark Grogan's blog (http://veganfeastkitchen.blogspot.com/). I often have good results by googling for "vegan NAME_OF_FOOD_I_LIKE recipe".

Heck, if you're ever in DC, send me an email and I'll be happy to cook you a meal (I assume you can see my email address from the post, if not, let me know & I'll send it to you.)

Posted by wellnab at May 17, 2010 05:54 PM