The Meat You Eat by Ken Midkiff:
In The Meat You Eat, Ken Midkiff writes a compelling and often disgusting tale of political, social and environmental destruction. This short book gives a descriptive overview of the industries behind our meat, dairy, fish and eggs, including a look into the personal stories of just a few of the lives, and livelihoods, touched by these mass productions.
Perhaps the most disturbing details provided are the political schemes of mega-corporations who have the nerve to refer to themselves as "farms" and the CEOs as "farmers". The money behind these corporations is immense and their ability to swing votes is evident. From the EPA's granting "safe harbor" to the most violative CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), despite their exceeding safe emissions levels for air contaminants; to a series of state house bills introduced that effectively inhibits local lawmakers from passing laws against corporate farming and their adverse affects on the local environmental conditions; agribusinesses gain unfair and dangerous control over communities and environmental agencies alike.
The unsafe work conditions are another huge concern. Cranking out the highest number of products in the shortest amount of time comes at a price for employees. The Meat You Eat describes how agribusinesses have nearly a 100% annual turnover rate, meaning hardly a single employee lasts longer than a year. Employees, often undocumented and exploited immigrants, are paid extremely low wages and never reach the point of earning medical insurance, saving the corporations millions but costing literally both life and limb when fast production ends in injuries or deaths.
And then there is quality: Animals living in unhealthy conditions cannot be healthy themselves. Riddled with antibiotics to keep them (rather unsuccessfully) from illness in tight, dirty quarters, fed appetite enhancers to increase their consumption of unnatural feeds, and kept from exercise or normal animal activity or environments, the consumers pay the price with contaminated products. Frustratingly, the food safety issue is passed onto the consumer, who gets routinely blamed for improper preparation.
What I found most lacking in The Meat You Eat is information on sustainable practices and their benefits. With a vegan or vegetarian diet being only one alternative, and not the one the book necessarily advocates for, organic farming holds many more alternatives and benefits than one scant chapter can describe. No information was given on the higher quality, taste, texture, or nutrient levels of sustainably raised animals for meat, eggs or dairy. Hardly a sentence explained the lack of illness, disease or contamination of such products. Also, little information was spent on calling people to action, with very few examples of consumers winning the battle against agribusiness.
The Meat You Eat is certainly not a manifesto. It is chocked full of information against corporate farming, but it is far from inspiring or empowering consumers in their ability to take action. I'd highly recommend it to anyone unsure of the evils CAFOs, with their political wielding and unethical, inhumane practices, as well as for loaning out to interested friends and family. But for a bit of What-do-I-do-now inspiration, I'd suggest following it up with a book like Real Foods: What To Eat and Why by Nina Planck.
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