After 401 days of blogging about “the big picture” of what we eat and the impact that it has on our world, one of my most-referenced journalists is Mark Bittman of the New York Times. Like me, Mark fully understands the big picture. Unlike me, he’s chosen not to become an activist to bring about rapid change. But, his routine articles are making a difference.
In the past week, Mark has published one article about pigs and their gestation crates and one about chicken and their best hope for ending the suffering of over 8 billion a year in just the United States. The answer, according to Mark, is fake chicken. They’re doing such a great job of making “chicken” out of soy these days, that they fooled Mark almost every time in a series of taste-tests.
Of course, I have my concerns about fake chickens, fake eggs, fake hamburgers or anything fake for that matter. Two concerns:
- Not as healthy as whole plants. Fake meats and cheeses are highly processed and typically contain way too much sodium.
- Just get over it, already. How can you possibly free yourself to fully enjoy the tasteful bounty of flavors and textures of the natural foods for our species—if we continue to try to make “cheesy” imitations of the animal-based foods for which we weren’t designed?
On the other hand, Mark is showing people how they can have their chicken and eat it too. They can free themselves of the guilt of complicity involving the horrid treatment of roughly 50 billion “broilers” worldwide AND they can still have their chicken wraps, nuggets and the essential “chicken soup” for when they get sick.
So how are these fake chickens made? Ever seen an extrusion process in an aluminum factory? While there is a 5-minute video of Mark in the New York Times article, here is a one-minute version of essentially the same process. I will have to admit that it’s a HUGE improvement over the hormones, antibiotics, torture and feces associated with the traditional chicken “manufacturing” process.
Back to Mr. Bittman. I like the way he wrapped up the article—touching on the big picture impact of raising all those billions of factory animals. From the article:
I don’t believe chickens have souls, but it’s obvious they have real lives, consciousness and feeling, and they’re capable of suffering, so any reduction in the number killed each year would be good. If that’s too touchy-feely for you, how’s this? Producers have difficulty efficiently dealing with the manure, wastewater and post-slaughter residue that result from raising animals industrially; chickens, for example, produce about as much waste as their intake of feed.
Then there’s the antibiotic issue: roughly 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in this country are given to animals, which has increased the number of antibiotic-resistant diseases as well as the presence of arsenic in the soil and our food.
The health issues: Nearly every test of supermarket chicken finds high percentages — sometimes as high as two out of three samples — of staph, salmonella, campylobacter, listeria or the disease-causing antibiotic-resistant bacteria called MRSA.
The USDA on the bandwagon? Even the Department of Agriculture is now on the side of plant-based diets. Its “Dietary Guidelines” say “vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes.”
And almost all unbiased people agree that less meat is better than more: for our health, for the environment and certainly for the animals treated as widgets.
Then, there’s the pigs. Since that Chipotle Grill video, there’s been quite a bit of news lately about the huge food companies’ actions to force food producers to eliminate the use of “gestation crates” for sows within the next three to five years.
As if that is going to reduce the overall suffering in factory farms by more than a fraction—sounds a lot like lip service to me. The article led off with news about Compass Group, USA:
The Charlotte-based U.S. branch of the company runs roughly 10,000 dining facilities at hospitals, senior living centers, schools, colleges and universities, corporate offices and entertainment and sports venues around the country, and purchases around 38 million pounds of pork every year.
How about that? Compass buys 38 million pounds of pork every year and much of it is served to patients in hospitals across the land. The serving of disease-promoting foods in hospitals is pretty clever marketing—raising the odds of keeping all those “disease care” facilities full of people. Now everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon; from the article:
Last month, McDonald’s announced that it is requiring all of its pork suppliers to submit plans for phasing out gestation crates by May, at which point the company will likely set a timeline for eliminating the crates from its U.S supply chain (2017 would be a reasonable guess). Compass-owned Bon Appétit Management Company also committed last month to eliminate gestation crates(and hen battery cages) by 2015, while Smithfield, Cargill and Hormel are all making efforts to reduce their use of the crates as well.
So do you think these actions are going to do any good? Take a look at this short (less than 3 minutes) video and get a first-hand look at what continues to happen to pigs who never see the inside of gestation crate.
When do we end the madness, give the poor suffering animals a break and start taking charge of our own health by making an ultra-simple lifestyle switch to eating whole plants? For your convenience, the two articles:
Thanks Mark, for helping to move us in the right direction.
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—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com
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