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Kitchen Table Talks: The Meat of the Matter

Industrial animal agriculture and meat production and consumption have become central issues of our time. Between 1950 and 2007, per capita meat consumption in the U.S. increased an astounding 78 pounds per person per year and world meat consumption is expected to double by 2050. The health consequences from the overconsumption of meat—obesity, coronary heart disease, and cancer—are now well documented.

The 2006 United Nation publication, Livestock’s Long Shadow articulated the environmental impact of industrial animal production—and a new study further estimates that livestock farming on its own—disregarding all other human activity—could negatively tip the balance for climate change and habitat destruction by mid-century.

Between the serious environmental and public health and food safety issues associated with Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)—known for their disregard for animal welfare, misuse of pharmaceuticals, pollution and mismanagement of waste, and concentrated corporate ownership; the importance of alternatives such as sustainable ranching; and the debate as to whether we should eat meat at all, lies an important conversation worth having regarding our role in meat’s global and local impact. Read more

EPA Intern Offends Sensitive Meat-Industry Souls

An iron-clad rule for government bureaucrats of all ranks: thou shalt not question the American habit of eating more than a half pound of meat per day. The folks responsible for churning out millions of pounds of steaks, chops, nuggets, and burgers–and vast, toxic manure cesspools–are sensitive souls. Hurting their feelings is … mean! From the Hill:

The Farm Bureau is none too happy with the EPA today for publishing a blog post urging Americans to give up meat. Read more

The Year in Meat: 2009

I can’t believe I missed it: the Meat Industry Hall of Fame’s first-ever induction ceremony occurred in Chicago on October 27. And what a night it was: headlined by the illustrious Bill Kurtis—the former CBS anchor who currently narrates criminal justice shows for the A&E Television Network.

Meat industry luminaries including Don Tyson, Jimmy Dean, and the late Frank Perdue were inducted that evening, along with litigious feedlot owner Paul Engler, who you might remember for suing Oprah Winfrey over mad cow disease and getting spanked in court. By all accounts, it was a truly magical evening, what with Kurtis’ gripping keynote address offering up a 30 minute history of the American meat industry.

Despite the glitz, an undercurrent of worry pervaded the event. See, the meat industry was in the midst of its most horrific year on record, being seemingly besieged by all sides. Robert “Bo” Manly, CFO of pork titan Smithfield Foods put it best: “Anything that breathed lost money.” Read more

Expanding the Conversation Around the Meat We Eat

The ethics of meat-eating, and vegetarianism in particular, have gained traction as memes in the press lately, showing that a shift is occurring in our cultural ideas around food. Heritage breed turkeys have been selling like mad for today’s feast, and last week, Martha Stewart was standing behind the stove on her set discussing the book Eating Animals with its author, Jonathan Safran Foer, while preparing a vegetarian casserole. The dish was part of a collection of recipes for her show on preparing a vegetarian Thanksgiving (watch it at that link), and she stated on air that her daughter’s Thanksgiving was going to be a vegetarian one. (She also interviewed Robert Kenner on the program, gushing about his film Food, Inc., and Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, who spoke about the state of farming in America with his usual wordsmithery). Foer had this to say to Martha’s audience: Read more

The New Urban Hens are Often Pets with Benefits

Rain is pounding San Francisco when I visit Kate’s house. We connected online, through a neighborhood group, and I’m stopping by to check out her hens because perhaps foolishly I’m considering getting some of my own. I’ve been puzzling over whether urban hens are pets or part of a living pantry. I have no idea what to expect. But visiting real birds seems like a good enough start. Read more

Food Matters: But Will Everyone Get the Message?

Veteran cookbook author and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman knows his food — and what he dishes out is smart, contemporary and consistently delicious. For years, his books – including “How to Cook Everything” and “The Best Recipes in the World” (his “Chile Shrimp” is one of my husband’s all-time favorite dishes) have been permanent fixtures on my book shelves, and his kitchen savvy has informed my own style of cooking. Read more