Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What about the roadkill?

It's an interesting thing: eating roadkill is almost taboo in our culture, yet, whenever I seem to bring it up in conversation (it happens more often than you'd think), I get plenty of people who admit either doing it themselves, or what a good idea it is. My parents ate road kill when they were poor, (they suggest cutting away the bruised meat as it has a bad flavor and texture). Seems like common sense to me.

January brought two tidbits to my RSS stream:

1) This cute, understated stop motion video about factory farming, and, 2) An essay about the environmental impact of where we (as in North Americans mostly) get our protein. It's one of the better blogs that I've read recently on the subject, but it still has too much of the hand-waving "oh what are we to do!" mentality. And really, I don't blame them; all the empirical work on the carbon-footprint of food is being done on industrial-style food systems. There's very little attention on anything remotely "outside the box" (including, apparently, hunting, which is almost always left out of these discussions even though it's a significant source of animal protein in the US).

I want to hear more about farmed tilapia. I want statistics on animals grazed on marginal land that couldn't be used for crops. I want to hear more about grass-fed cows. I want studies about backyard chickens and fish ponds and goats. About pigs fed on restuarant waste and slaughtered at home 100 feet from where they they were bred and raised. About hunting/fishing/trapping wild game for food. About urban roof-top farms. About targeting invasive species for consumption.

The Ominvore's Dilema is a good book, but most people seem to come away with only one message: eat more plants. So few people seemed to pay attention to all the interesting little details the discusses.

I live 5 miles from several CAFO feed lots, I've helped drag dead calves into their kill pits; 10 miles from one of the largest rivers in North America and one of the richest salmon runs outside of Alaska; 30 miles from 50,000 acres that used to grow wheat, but now the government is paying the landowners to lie fallow for the sake of wheat prices; 100 miles from the Tillamook cheese factory's co-op of dairy farmers; 250 miles from where I grew up, where the bulk of my animal meat was wild-killed deer and elk or pork and lamb raised by neighbors

I'm glad that it's becoming more mainstream to think about where our food comes from, and the quality of life of the animals we eat. But I want more. More attention to nuance and to thinking outside the box, more consideration on how complicated these issues are, and more research studies on food systems that already are thinking outside the box, and have been for years, thank you very much. Less of the black and white. Less of the blame being slung at farmers who are barely breaking even, even with government subsidies. Less finger-wagging at middle class families who dare to buy non-organic eggs. Less of the continuous, simplistic chanting message from certain quarters repeating over and over: "plants good, meat bad".

It's all well and good to get wide-spread attention on CAFO-type animal husbandry, but not if no one sees (or utilizes) the myriad possible alternatives.


Retrieverman said...

Not only that, it's actually unhealthy for some people to be vegetarians.

We're going to have to find ways to promote sustainable agriculture, with meat animals coming from a variety of systems.

This one sounds unappetiizing:


But at least it's a start.

I don't think for a minute that it's a solution, but it's an idea.

CyborgSuzy said...

I suspect the poop burger was a gimmick from the very beginning. It's got to be way more energy-intensive to extract protein from human waste than to, say, use the waste as fertilizer and allow bacteria to do the extracting.