Monday, January 6, 2014

The cheapest meat wins, no matter what the cost

One of the local farmers around here writes a blog, and a recent entry talked about how she purchases meat for her pets to eat.  She talks at length about the price of the meat, speculates about its sources, and laments the fact that it's not as cheap as it used to be.

Now I completely understand the choice that people make when they are counting every dollar and feeding their family, and if this was a situation where she couldn't afford food at all, I'd probably give her a pass.  but
this is a woman who spends quite a bit of time and money caring for her flock of sheep (cosmetic surgery on 10 year old sheep!), and appreciates local people who pay higher-than-average prices for her own production -- but doesn't apparently make the connection that her choice to use almost exclusively confinement-based meat on price alone makes her, in my opinion, a hypocrite.

Here's the quote:

"Though I would love to ensure my dogs only eat fresh, local, naturally raised, grass-fed beef; I also can’t justify spending hundreds of dollars a month to feed them! "

How about you put your own money where your customers do?   Right back into the local economy, and to support the local product that you think is the best choice for the dogs and the environment, too?   You don't think that your customers can find cheaper lamb somewhere else, for instance?  Or perhaps you think that the local farmers don't need the business.

She advocates the purchase of either confinement-based poultry from Purdue (who purchased the Draper brand in January of 2013) or ground up downer cattle from doug the meat man.

Of the two meat sources she advocates, I'm more bothered by the downer cattle; if there's any chance at all of a cow making it to the human food chain, and the higher prices that are paid, it'll be sent there.  So I don't know what disqualifies the cows that make up the "not for human consumption" meat that is sold, but I would be concerned that it could be animals that died within required withdrawal periods for slaughter -- antibiotics or other drugs administered too shortly before death for the effects or drugs to wear off -- sick animals, animals that couldn't stand or walk, or animals that have parasites that can be transmitted to humans or animals that have had their carcasses condemned as inedible for all sorts of reasons.  Since it's ground beef, whatever the causes of each animals death doesn't really matter because it's usually made in large batches, so in most meat packing plants every batch gets some of every animal that is being processed -- you get the full meal deal with every package!  The website for the meat company lists "respiratory failure due to exposure" as the cause of death of most of the beef, but I'm not sure exactly what that means.

The chicken that she advocates consuming is very probably contaminated as well.  I discussed this with her at length, in the comments section of this post.   Bottom line is that I like the chicken better because it has the USDA inspection possibility.  With the downer cows there's no human-level food inspection at all and the standards for animal food are lower.  Who knows that that plant looks like.

On the website for her farm she gives some pointers for how to pick a farm you buy your lamb from:

"...if you can, visit the farm and evaluate: is it clean and well-run? Are the animals healthy and well cared for? Does the farmer appear to know a lot about sheep? Sometimes people farm as a hobby and don't mind if they lose money; in this case, you might be able to buy a nice lamb for $100. Most often, those $100 lambs are priced low for a reason- the farmer needs to get rid of them quick, out of desperation, or before they perish because they are in ill health! So buyer beware, one bad meat purchase can turn you off for a long time. It pays to be careful where you buy!..."

But the worst part about this is that I'm pretty sure that those standards don't apply if you are buying on price alone.   Downer cattle are sick, diseased and by definition unhealthy.  That's what you should buy.  But she advocates not buying on price because... well, higher prices mean better quality?  I'm confused.

There is something to be said that exposing everyone in your household and farm to contaminants constantly will have an effect on your immune system, but she takes it to the length that she doesn't wash her hands much, which I can't imagine myself doing.  First thing I do when i get done working is wash my hands.     Here's the quote:

"... I actually try not to wash my hands too much. I subscribe to the theory that if you keep your challenge load high, your immune response is better than by constantly trying to protect yourself from exposure to any and all pathogens."

The bottom line appears to be that the cheapest meat wins.  Contamination, cost to the environment, animal health and human health and providing a market for the factory-farm rejects -- none of that matters.  Price is the only criteria that makes the cut.

Oh, but wait.  Buy local sheep because they're raised local and by someone who cares!

You can read the post that inspired this one here.


Anonymous said...

I was disgusted by the idea of drinking milk from a warty ewe's warty udder, then I got to the part about not washing her hands. It betrays a basic ignorance of biology: if you are on a farm, your immune system and your personal microbiome are already encountering many "challenges" every day. Not washing your hands doesn't actually improve your immune system; it just means you eat a lot more feces than do people who wash their hands.

Warts in sheep are usually viral in nature, and in an older sheep, signify a suppressed immune system and possibly infection. This isn't a sheep that should keep breeding.

I don't understand why she doesn't just feed her dogs homegrown lamb.

Bruce King said...

There's no way that I would have spent that kind of money on a 10 year old ewe; most shepherds would have just culled the animal outright vs investing that kind of money in that old an animal, but it's her hobby and that's the sort of stuff that people do who aren't focused on a profit.

That ewe would have fed her dogs for a month or two.

Hector B said...

Reading the post in question it’s not just that she doesn’t care that much where her dog’s meat comes from, it’s that she doesn’t care where what she eats herself comes from either. She says she used to buy chickens for $3 to $5 a whole bird from a large scale producer. That’s rather surprising from somebody that raises poultry and tells you all about the benefits of pastured raised animals.

It would seem her goal is to have as many pets as possible, rather than farming.