Friday, February 21, 2014

The Consequences of Purchasing Cheap Meat

Last night, as I was trucking three overflowing bags into the house (gym, lunch, purse - you commuters know what I'm talkin about!), I felt my phone vibrate - *vrrrrrrrrrrr* I stopped on the landing to take off my shoes, coat, scarf - *vrrrrrrr*

I opened the door to a bounding, leaping dog, a skittering cat, and my big girl calling from three rooms over "HEY MOMMA! GUESS WHAT I DID TODAY!?" My little one was successfully screaming over all the other noise, "maMA maMA maMA maMA maMA!" I scooped her up so she wouldn't be trampled by the dog. She poked me right in the eye and said, "EYEEE." Aaron just smiled at me from over the stove -*vrrrrrrrrr*

Oh yes, crap, the phone....

I dug the phone out of my pocket. The lock screen showed I had a text. My little one poked me in the ear and said, "EEEER." My big girl was still shouting from the other room, "I JUST GOTTA TELL YA MOM, IT WAS AAAWWWWESOME!"

I swiped the unlock screen on my phone and pulled up the text. Ruh-roh. My heart sank as I read my friend's words....she'd recently stumbled upon a video of slaughterhouse employees slamming piglets around by their feet and doing unspeakable things to the wee piggies before they'd even been killed.

"I was wondering if you've ever heard or seen this? ....could you help me get in contact with someone so I can make sure this isn't happening anymore...?"

She was completely torn apart by the images and admitted to breaking down a few times. An avid animal lover, she couldn't understand why such horrific actions were necessary to producing and processing our meat products. 

I stood there, holding the little one, telling the big one I couldn't wait to hear about her day, silently thanking Aaron with what I hope was a look of gratitude, and feeling my heart quicken a little. I knew this topic. I knew this topic very well. Even amid all the chaos, I became so, so excited to share my resources with my friend.

I've written about grass fed beef before....but this time, I'm aiming to think a little more "big picture."

What exactly are the consequences of purchasing cheap meat?

I think to answer that question we first need to define what "cheap meat" means. Most of you know I am an loyal patron of Wallace Farms. They are my go-to for all meat products, from brats and burgers to holiday hams.


I've convinced a few friends to order from Wallace and I've found I always need to warn them about the sticker shock. I purchase from the sale section and can normally score some amazing deals....but for the average American, who is accustomed to picking up a $3.99 pack of boneless chicken breasts from the same place they get their fruit, bread, and coffee, there's bound to be a not-so-pleasant reaction when they find out Wallace sells boneless chicken breasts for over $10/lb. That's right. I said over $10 a pound for chicken breasts.

Why are they so expensive? Well, for one, these chickens aren't kept in dark, cramped, confined spaces and fed through tubes. Wallace Farms partners with North Iowa Produce to provide fresh, clean, healthy chickens to their customers. Go ahead. Click on the link. You'll come face-to-face with real pictures of both the chickens and the processing plant.

Do you read what I'm telling you? Pictures of their processing plant. Transparency like this is unheard of in animal production. Just another day for Wallace Farms and friends.

The North Iowa Produce birds live longer, healthier lives, never receive growth hormones, and every single bird is inspected.

Every. Single. Bird. 

So let's add all this up - you've got a bird living in a clean, open-range environment, living twice as long as commercially-produced chickens, eating organic, high-quality food, kept healthy without antibiotics, hand-slaughtered, hand-cleaned, and hand-inspected in a glistening, clean processing facility.....

....are you catching what I'm throwing out here?

They are expensive to buy because they are expensive to make. Those packages you find in the grocery store with the "special" sticker on them, going for $3/lb "today only?" That's cheap meat. Makes you wonder exactly what they needed to cut out to create such low prices.

For some reason, people are quick to pay the extra dollar when it comes to cars, TVs, or other non-essentials, but balk like they're about to be lit on fire when they see high food prices. I get it, don't get me wrong. I spend a fortune on groceries for my family of four....but I do so willingly. This is important. It's like comparing a Nissan to an Audi....except these birds actually feed your body and constitute your biological makeup and physical capabilities as a functioning human being.

So I got over the sticker shock. I found a way to make non-cheap food work - usually in the form of bypassing the pre-cut, boneless chicken breasts and choosing to purchase a whole bird, which sells for much less. Just like everything else in life, you can save a little money when you do a bit of the work yourself.

So now we know what I mean by "cheap meat," but we still haven't addressed the consequences of purchasing said meat. I'm almost afraid to. Most of you won't like them.

A few weeks ago I commented on a Facebook post in which a reader asked the group, "where can I get affordable meat?" My comment was pretty wordy, so to summarize, I focused on how meat is supposed to be expensive and we don't need to have it every single day to be happy and healthy. Cutting back and investing in a local farmer is the way to go...blah blah blah. One lady really didn't like that. She piped in with a comment that went something like this:

Aren't you so fortunate to have the time to worry about such things. Meanwhile the rest of us aren't wrapped up in social issues and are just trying to feed our kids.

I didn't even know what to say (shocking, I know), so I left it alone....but her comment has stayed with me. Some of you will, like this woman, feel that I am making a big deal out of nothing, or being a "food snob" who is out to make everyone feel bad about themselves and their choices.

I am telling you, as an ex-blue-box-mac-n-cheese addict, this couldn't be father from the truth. I loved cheap, processed foods. Honestly, like any good addict, I still have a taste for them most days. They remind me of when I was growing up, before all this organic stuff took hold. I like a twinkie and McDonald's cheeseburger just as much as the next person and it wasn't until I really dug deep and found out the truth about our food system that I began to break away from processed, commercialized food.

I'm far from perfect and my intention is to share what I've learned, nothing more, no judgments. 

So here we go.

When you purchase cheap meat, you vote to continue commercialized meat production.

1. Your dollars support inhumane living conditions and slaughtering techniques for the animals you're about to consume. These animals are beaten, terrorized, and sometimes never see the light of day. They're fed a variety of things (including some "vegetarian feeds") that often make them sick and wracked with pain. They're injected with antibiotics and sometimes dragged into the processing plant because they're too ill to walk. For those of you who could care less about animal welfare and just want a decent burger, here's a little factoid for you: animals killed under high-stress conditions actually taste worse than those killed humanely. 

2. Your dollars tell our nation's leaders it's ok to give us crap food. Your money supports governmental leaders who have relied on our ignorance to line their pockets for decades. These leaders do a crap job at ensuring the stability and safety of our food.....and they are depending on you to not give a hoot and just purchase the cheap stuff. I don't want to get too political here, but in short, the very leaders appointed to save your food are often profiting from the pharmaceuticals you need to stay alive once that food makes you sick. 

3. Your dollars support the unfair treatment and pay of ranchers across the country who feel forced into choose between losing everything they have or partnering with a commercialized production entity like Tyson. These farmers often come from generations of other farmers who appreciate and respect their crops and animals, but ultimately need to provide for their families. When you buy a $3 chicken breast, you're cheapening the value of a rancher's hard work.....animals are expensive to raise, expensive to keep healthy, and expensive to slaughter. Not only do your $3 chicken breasts set low market rates, but they make it nearly impossible for ranchers to break free when they want to start doing things the right way.

4. Your dollars support food filled with chemicals.


Hard to read, so let me type it out for you: cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, and sodium nitrate

Now I know, I know. We naturally produce nitrates and they're found in vegetables and even uncured meat is often packaged in celery juice, which contains nitrates. But here's my deal......don't put crap I can't read on my food packages! There is no way I will even remember what chemical I am trying to avoid when I'm staring at 14 other chemicals I can't read.

What even is sodium erythorbate? Wallace doesn't use it - apparently it isn't necessary....so to goes back to the question my girlfriend texted me last night.....why do it, if it isn't necessary?






5. Your dollars are taking away from our kids' future. Each time you spend on cheap meat, you move further away from the possibility that our children and children's children won't need to worry about this stuff. The only way we can solidify a safe and healthy future for the next generation is to support efforts moving in the right direction - this means buying from local farms who take the time and money to invest in smart practices. This means shouting responsible farming methods to the four corners of the earth and volunteering to pick up your friend's meat order just as long as she orders from Wallace. This means skipping a few non-essential purchases to allow some wiggle room in your grocery budget. This means making the conscious decision to be fully aware, fully awake, and fully responsible for knowing where your food comes from.

6. Your dollars contribute to the rising cost of healthcare and national epidemics, including obesity and diseases we don't even know about yet. You can't complain about the rising cost of healthcare while downing a Big Mac. I've done it. I've been a complete and total hypocrite. These food industries are literally killing us....but we allow them to.

7. Your dollars are contributing to environmental annihilation. Commercialized food industries choke our natural resources and pollute our wilderness. Can you imagine how much infected cow poop is absorbed into the earth when one 2,000-head feedlot sets up shop in the middle of Pastureland, USA? Waste runoff....bacterial growth.....chemical byproducts.....this is not a pretty picture, people. This is hell on our planet and completely preventable.

And that is the point. It all goes back to that question.....if it isn't necessary, why do we do it? Why is it done? My personal opinion? Money. It always comes down to money, doesn't it? It's cheaper for the people profiting from these terrible practices. I'll tell you what. I don't want to waste one more dollar supporting their lifestyles. Not one more.

Food purchasing is more than just your budget, your taste preferences, your dinner plate. Every dollar you spend is like casting a vote.....a vote that cascades across the country, into the laps of our corrupt food regulators, into the future of our nation, into the well-being of our planet. Consumers set the standard for business. That's just simple economics.

So....after alllllllll that......I hope I've shed a little light on how your choices are so much more than a social issue, or a personal preference, or a trend. What you choose to eat is all of those things and so much more.

To voting wisely - and as always, thank you for reading! :)

I am never compensated for my posts and don't make a dime from this blog. To order from Wallace Farms and learn how they work, visit here or here. Those of you in my hood (you know who you are) - I'd be happy to pick up for you if you'd like! Just need you to order :)

Jen
jen@jenniferludwigsen.com

10 comments:

  1. Great article. I will say I am a super frugal person and save money everywhere I can and food is of course one of them. Last month we got a few steaks from Wallace and they were incredible!! And not that much more than we would normally pay. Thank you for providing awareness on this issue. Definitely makes me think.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading Sarah :) I am so SOOOO glad you ordered from them! The more we support them the better they can do - which translates to better food and living for us! :)

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  2. good post.I have been doing a better job of eating things that aren't processed, with ingredients I don't recognize... but I still haven't spend the extra money on meat. Something to consider. Stopping over from SITS

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    1. Thank you Kim! It's hard because mot consumers don't even know where to begin....we've all gone to the grocery store, picked up some food, gone home, and eaten it. As our population's health changes and shifts, however, we're beginning to notice the consequences of food additives and production methods. One day it's "eat low-fat!" and the next we hear "eat full fat!" We're told to stay away from certain cosmetics, cleaners, pollutants, and chemicals....all thing I know I grew up knowing and using and consuming. The whole "where's it from" process is really a new thing for most Americans. Luckily, as word gets out, the movement is gaining momentum. All you can do to stay ahead of the changes is to learn, research, and do the best you can to consume responsibly. Thank you so much for reading and awesome job cutting back on the processed foods!!

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  3. Great post! I have been buying grass fed meat for a few years from a farm in WI. Yes, it is more expensive but not only do I feel better about using it, it tastes better - a lot better. And if you're hung up the cost of a chicken, make stock out of the "leftovers". You can get a lot of meals out of one chicken if you make stock and it is so easy to do.

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    1. Thank you!! I love your chicken stock idea and never thought of that before - what an awesome use of resources. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading! :)

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  4. Great post! I don't eat meat often but try and purchase grass fed beef. I think I don't mind the extra expense because I don't eat it often.

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    1. It tastes sooooo much better, too!! A win-win for those who don't eat it all the time - the novelty and deliciousness is awesome!

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  5. Great post and great points! And, I'm glad to hear you still crave crap. It makes me feel better. I do, too, and even eat it from time to time. The difference is that we don't keep it in our house and don't consume it on a regular basis.

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    1. Thank you Lisa!! And YES absolutely.....we are far from perfect around here. Funny story, I was trying to cut the grocery budget down by $50 last week and succeeded.....but then went and spent $30 at Chipotle and got a regular old greasy pizza the following night. Epic fail!

      I just do the best I can and, like you, work to keep that crap out of the house. We live in a super crap-filled country, there is no way I can avoid it every single day and sometimes, my cravings just get the better of me. No shame! Flaws are kinda cool ;)

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting :) Appreciate it so much!

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