Although I’ll admit that I went to see the screening of “American Meat” last Friday mostly because I wanted a free Chipotle burrito, I have to say I’m very glad I went (regardless of the fact that I saved a few bucks on a fajita bowl). After learning in classes and hearing through the media about the woes of our industrialized farming industry, I was honestly expecting the movie to consist mostly of de-beaked/de-clawed chickens, sickly pigs, and mutilated cows. Although the mistreatment of animals in an agricultural setting is one of the problems with our meat industry, I was pleasantly surprised by the different take this film took on the issue, focusing more on the policy and system of meat production.
From this perspective, many of the farmers included in the film are depicted more as victims of a broken system, rather than greedy mass-producers. The narrator explained the history behind animal farming, that mass production has become the only way to keep up with demand leaving farmers with no autonomy against the big companies that supply the animals. I couldn’t help but empathize with these men. Through the film, I could see that these farmers that many often blame for our crisis are simply doing their best with what they have. They aren’t careless or cold-hearted. They aren’t even unlikeable. In fact, they’re the ones who provide our country with food and they deserve all the credit this film gives them. The problem stems from the unsustainable system of meat production and not with the farmers themselves.
Joel Salatin seems to have a solution to this problem with his sustainable meat management. His radically different way of farming seems to be the silver bullet for the meat industry, allowing his animals to express their “chickeness,” “cowness,” or “pigness” to the greatest extent while not using much more land area than a conventional farmer His system also allows farmers to be diversified in the animals they produce which helps prevent them from being completely dependent on one market or another. I’ll be curious to see if it catches on in the near future. The panel after the film mentioned, a movement like this requires the involvement and conscious decisions of both farmers and consumers like us. It seems good in theory, but only time will tell if sustainable meat production like Joel’s will truly become the norm…
Rachel Sweet (Biology), accompanied by a butterfly while working on a Natural History Tour at Cedar Bog Lake, MN.