Condemn chicken consumption, or let it fly
By Grace Brown, Opinion Contributor
Animals are often raised as no living creatures should have to exist. (Wikimedia Commons)
Eliminating meat, among other foods, from our diets has become an increasingly popular trend in contemporary society. Today, everything seems to be labeled, with tags ranging from vegan to gluten- and casein-free, or sourced from animals raised on a purely vegetarian diet. But what difference does it make to us as consumers, or to the planet, or even to the animals?
In reality, eating meat is bad for none of them. However, most people are unaware of how to purchase meat, cheese and other animal products ethically. This is through no fault of their own, as businesses advertise to the best of their knowledge and ability to improve the alleged appearance of their product and consequently increase sales.
Regardless, the sleazy advertising techniques of corporations should not deter consumers from purchasing the food staples they adore and rely on; they simply must be equipped to defend themselves in the war zone of industrially manufactured food.
Genetically modified food is a battle in and of itself. Most consumers are aware of the associated health risks and environmental detriments of these goods, such as augmented allergy development and insurmountable amounts of food waste.
Yet even when prepared with this knowledge, the public can be lured into the trap of the illustrious health promised by vegan, vegetarian or lactose-free diets. Those abiding by a gluten-free diet are pushed to consume more corn products, laced with hydrogenated vegetable oils and Frankenstein crops genetically mutated beyond recognition. This point is made not to attack diets intentionally withdrawn from any particular food group — hell, I follow a legume-free, corn-free, dairy-free and pork-free diet myself, which drives my family members crazy at holiday parties.
The truth is that people are too easily scared away by marketing gimmicks from food that can be made good for not only our bodies, but for the environment and even the animals as well.
Industrial-scale farming is dangerous in any capacity, as GMO wheat and corn cause more allergies in younger generations every day and irresponsible irrigation techniques leave thousands of acres of farmland desolate in the country’s great plains. Even “responsibly farmed” seafood is plagued by unnaturally skewed omega fatty acid ratios, poor muscle development and antibiotic-laden feed.
However, the most alarming example presents itself in the cattle and poultry industries, where animals are raised as no living creatures should have to exist. Crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in warehouses and cagelike structures, they are unable to move freely and properly grow to maturity, especially as they are fed hormone-boosted feed intended to accelerate their maturation in order to turn profit faster.
Most often, these animals are raised on corn feed, sometimes blended with the remains of their own species as a cost-cutting tactic despite the obvious potential for illness it breeds. This is opposed to the more intuitive diets the animals might choose in nature, such as grass for cows or bugs, worms and plants in the case of chickens. So much for the appeal of that “vegetarian-fed” bird…
More significantly, the confined nature of their dwelling space results in an excess of fecal build up; more often than not, the animals are ankle- or thigh-deep in their own excrement, depending on the species.
This explains the hot debate over the issues of antibiotic use in animal feed; without it, the animals would likely become infected and die, thereby killing both the company’s profits as well as the national supply chain. On the other hand, increased antibiotic consumption has gradually increased resistance to antibiotic medication in the human race, posing a threat for when we do sincerely become ill.
If animals were raised in a sufficiently unrestricted setting mimicking the characteristics of their natural habitations, numerous problems would be resolved. First and foremost, with outdoor access the animals would be able to move freely and develop adequate muscle composition while simultaneously allowing them to feed naturally from their surroundings. Secondly, this frees them from surviving within their own feces, thereby eliminating the need for antibiotic application.
Lastly, the inhumane practice of shutting up and shuttling around animals until it is time for a mass slaughter would be abolished. Likewise, the need for innovative solutions aimed at reducing the anxiety of animals during death — such as designs constructed with the goal of separating them from one another in death in order to retain blissful oblivion through the process — would be eliminated by allowing the dispersion and gradual selection of individuals for slaughter with reduced urgency.
The described practices align best with the operations of small-scale, organic farms, many of which can be found locally throughout the United States via physical means (i.e. farmers markets, farm visits) or virtual media (i.e. subscription services or delivered produce/meat boxes).
Therein, this not only supports local industry and improves economic circulation within one’s own community, but moreover provides consumers with a more trustworthy outlet to send their hard-earned money. Even if environmental sustainability or ethical treatment of animals is insignificant to consumers, they can be guaranteed a higher quality and healthier product by shopping locally.
For those who are concerned about sustainability and equality for all living beings, local farms likewise provide a better choice than most non-meat alternatives. Soy-based products such as the Impossible Burger and Chick’n Nuggets are mass produced in industrial factories — similar to how cattle are raised and harvested. Additionally, they provide less nutritional attributes than their meat alternatives, and for a higher cost. The toll taken on both consumer bodies and the environment are equivalent, regardless of their choice to consume meat or not.
Obviously, it cannot be expected of industrial-scale farms in America to adopt the methods of small-scale and independently owned farm operations. The reduced profitability of their expedited production process would result in a severe spike in unemployment as well as prices market-wide on staple food goods. Grandmothers everywhere would be rioting over the ridiculously raised cost of ground turkey, beef and the like — same with college kids trying to buy hotdogs made of God knows what…
That being acknowledged, the best any consumer can do for themselves, their bodies, the environment or the animals so loyally relied upon for nourishment and sustenance would be to support farmers, fishermen and other food producers in the local economy to the best of their pocketbook’s ability.