Be That Guy Who Asks About Where the Meat Comes From

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Unfortunately, most of our food doesnt come from the idyllic Sequatchie Cove Farm in East Tennessee
  • Unfortunately, most of our food doesn't come from the idyllic Sequatchie Cove Farm in East Tennessee
Earlier this week, my friend, Brittney Gilbert (formerly of Nashville and now of San Francisco) pointed me to an interesting blog post, "The Meat Seeker’s Mission," in which San Francisco author Sarah Agudo describes a nearly-two-year-long quest to find out where restaurants in the Mission district obtain the meat they serve. She didn’t intend to spend two years working on this project; she had no idea that it would take as much time and diligence to find out answers to what she thought was a simple question. But as she notes, the information did not come freely. And a third of the restaurants she queried refused to tell her at all. The others, she noted, “did so reluctantly and with some suspicion.”

Why? A lot of reasons, I’m sure, but perhaps most of all because they don’t want customers to think about it too hard once they know. To think about how they’re frequently using factory-farmed meat of dubious quality (often sourced through distributors). The kind of meat some people wouldn’t even buy in the store when they have the opportunity to purchase better-quality meat. But people should be thinking about that meat and how cheap (or not cheap) it is.

I don’t believe meat should be a cheap commodity. But in the United States, it certainly is (now). Back in the 1970s, government leaders wanted to reduce the amount that Americans spend on food in relation to income (a noble idea). What happened, though, is that legislation encouraged the advent of factory farms, many of which grow corn and soybeans. Not for the consumption by fellow Americans, but largely for meat farming and export. So we’re using our vast resources to grow food to feed other food (livestock) or to feed other countries, instead of growing nutritious food for our own people. And critics say the resulting cheap food from factory farms is causing all kinds of problems, including health crises, from diabetes and heart disease (via high-fructose corn syrup) to widespread e. Coli and salmonella outbreaks.

Though the U.S now enjoys one of the lowest spending levels on food as a percentage of income (but one of the highest on housing), it turns out that 1 in 5 children in this country still experience issues related to not having access to the food they need. So we still haven’t achieved the goal of providing affordable food to our citizens, much less affordable food that is nutritious.

So, what can we do? Start asking where the meat comes from. Some restaurants note the sources on their menus or on signs inside the restaurant. But at others, think about asking. If the supply chain becomes more transparent, the likelihood that more restaurants use “good” meat will increase. And as the demand for good meat rises, more suppliers will seek to meet that demand. Moving away from megafarms will result in moving back to local farms for our food. Meat will be more expensive, but then vegetables and grains will take their (rightful) place on the dinner table. And more farms will grow food to feed people rather than other food.

Maybe we should all be this guy:

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