Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our Meat Problem is a Corn Problem

 Growing up in Indiana where you could buy an ear of corn for $0.10, you'd think I would've known corn's story. But "The Omnivore's Dilemma" has opened my eyes to our problem with corn. It's so abundant, farmer's sell it for less than it costs to produce but continue to produce more in hopes to achieve an even higher yield so they can afford to make a living farming. Corn farms have led to a monoculture, which has created a problematic ecological shift. Since corn is most often the only crop planted on the soil, the soil must be fertilized (the cheapest way with synthetic fertilizers), which leads to pollution, and during winter months, the barren land is blown away with the wind. In addition, rarely would you see animals on a Midwestern corn farm since the pastures have become fields of corn, not to mention it's much cheaper to raise an animal in a feeding lot.

So what do we do with all this corn? Most of it is used to feed cattle and our other animal friends (It's probably in your pet's food too), which are meant to graze on pastures. In the feeding lot, cattle reside in cramped quarters standing in their own feces and are fed processed corn mixed with liquid fat and other animal remnants. Feeding cattle corn allows them to get fatter faster and be slaughtered sooner. Are you eating this beef? If so, you're also eating the liquid fat and processed corn they once consumed, which is probably not very healthy for our bodies.

All of this is quite disturbing to me, and makes me wonder why we rarely question where our food comes from. If I ever do go back to teaching science, I'm adding "Where does our food come from?" to my lesson plans. Maybe if we educate our children, this "more is better" attitude we'll subside, and we can put our animals back in the rural rather than behind steel doors.

What does this mean for me and my family? Although my husband won't like our reduced meat lifestyle change, maybe he'll understand why this is important to me and support me in my efforts (what choice does he have, right?). Before I continue on about where I'm headed, let me explain when I started making changes. This past Thanksgiving was my first time hosting a holiday party. When I went to the local grocery store to purchase a turkey, I was shocked at how cheap these HUGE birds were. I knew something wasn't right so I did some research and $40 later had a small bird I was very appreciative of for giving his life to us. The following month I hosted a small Christmas dinner and purchased a small standing rib roast (just enough meat to feed the 4 of us) from a local butcher who explained that the beef was from a cattle that lived on REAL ground. What I learned this past holiday season is that eating quality meat that came from a happily raised animal is expensive. But, it's an animal; shouldn't it be somewhat expensive to raise a turkey or a cow (It sure is expensive to raise a dog.)? Meat has become too cheap. My motto is: if it's dirt cheap, it's probably no better than dirt (the kind that's been sprayed with chemical fertilizers and still won't grow a weed).

Where am I headed now?...on a less is more journey, where I appreciate meat for what it truly is and enjoy it on certain occasions when I know it came from a happy animal.


  1. This is why we only buy our meat from local farmers, that are grass fed. We buy in bulk with others from the community which cuts down on the cost.

    I've also read that children that grow up on farmers or close to farms have a higher rate of ADHD due to the exposure to the chemicals and sprays they use on farms. Interesting.

  2. Although I love meat and am not happy that we will reduce it at home, I also have gout so it will help me fight this horrible pain I have :) Plus, I do agree w/ your point in which meat should be more expensive. A cheap hot dog is cheap for a reason. You get what you pay for makes sense all around. I'll support you on this, however can we still eat salmon steaks, organic pork chops (soy sauce/lemon) and organic grass fed rib eyes or fillets every once in a while? *BTW, the turkey and standing rib roast were excellent! :)