In anticipation of renowned butcher and author Adam Danforth coming to town, here are some thoughts on the Slow Meat movement from board chair and small farmer Claire Luff. She and her husband raise slow food – including ethically-raised Slow Meat – at Finn Meadows Farm in suburban Cincinnati.
Slow Meat in Porkopolis
For a city that was once known as “Porkopolis” there actually aren’t that many pig farmers around here…
In the 1800s, Cincinnati was the home of the first modern pork processing plant, and pigs used to be herded through the city streets. Later, the processing plants were subject to scandal and government regulation as the terrible working conditions and inhumane slaughtering practices in Cincinnati and Chicago were revealed through the work of activists such as Upton Sinclair.
At least those pigs were raised on pasture in the Ohio countryside, as opposed to modern day pork.
The vast majority of animals raised for meat in the United States – nearly 10 billion domesticated livestock in 2005 – live out their lives in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Laying hens are packed 9 to a cage; sows (female breeding pigs) are kept in farrowing cages where they cannot turn around; cows are fed grain causing acidosis in their rumen creating the perfect environment for E.coli to live; hogs are raised on slats over their own excrement.
All these animals live very stressed lives, which leads to negative behavioral changes such as pecking at other animals, more disease, and more antibiotic usage. The environmental consequences of CAFOs are all too real as well: manure lagoons and slurries cause major pollution of our air and waterways; antibiotic resistance not only in farm animals but up the food chain; and feeding animals corn and soy actually increases the amount of land needed to raise them.(https://www.slowfood.com/industrial-meat-devouring-planet/)
There have been very real human consequences as a result of these agricultural practices too: health problems, the pork market bottoming out in the 90s, buildings blowing up. A farmer in Indiana once forgot the turn on the fan of his CAFO pig building, and turned on the light switch first. The methane gas build up overnight was so high that the simple mistake of forgetting to turn on the fan first caused the air to ignite and the building to burn down. The farmer lost everything, and the pigs either drowned in their own excrement or burned. (This is not just an urban legend, the author actually knows this person.)
Despite government regulations attempting to provide more humane slaughter and better working conditions, the meat-packing industry hasn’t really slowed down since. In the United States today, there are 4 very large beef packers, 4 main pork packers in the US and 4 main chicken packers. These large firms have cornered the meat packing market. Consolidation of meat packing plants often means poor working conditions and inhumane slaughter. Fortunately there are people such as Temple Grandin working to change the slaughter conditions, and organizations such as Human Rights Watch standing up for the rights of slaughterhouse workers. But, for those that do raise animals conscientiously, it’s increasingly difficult to find small abattoirs to custom-slaughter locally raised animals in a humane manner. Here in Cincinnati, many small producers have to drive hours to find an appropriate government-inspected facility.
Slow Meat is meat raised humanely, naturally and with minimal impact on the environment. It is a fair deal for producers and processors. It is public understanding and appreciation of meat’s value.
The work continues in the effort to impact the way meat is produced. Slow Meat is a movement that aims to change these problems by raising awareness in order to change purchasing behaviors. As consumers, we have the power to change how our food is produced by voting with our forks and choosing not to give our dollars to companies that do not represent our own values. You see, the power of voting with your fork also has consequences.
What You Can Do
Use the CORV guide to find a producer who:
-raises their animals on pasture utilizing rotational grazing
-feeds their pigs and poultry non-GMO grains, or minimizes the use of grains
-feeds their cows 100% grass
-let’s the animals they raise do what they were meant to do! Pigs dig, chickens scratch, and cows munch
-free range: animals actually are outside ranging (be especially careful with this claim, since the
USDA defines it as the animal “has been allowed access to the outside” which could mean a 1 ft square doorway in a large CAFO chicken house.)
The price of meat that is produced locally and humanely will be more expensive than industrially produced meat, but think about what your investment gives. A bit more money will:
-pay the farmer for the extra work necessary in giving the animals a better life and better food
-a quick and humane end to the animals lives
-assistance in keeping small butcher shops open and thriving
-a more nutrient-dense diet for you and your family
We here at SFC don’t agree that the individual can only make a difference in the food system “when pigs fly” – together, we can make the impossible possible in our city! Support your local Slow Meat producers this week and every week (and don’t forget to ask questions to learn more about how the animals were raised).
For more information, check out: