The Reality of Our Meat Industry
The Rural Blog points readers towards a video that is hard to watch, but ultimately very important. The video was put together by the American Meat Institute and the legendary professor Dr.Temple Grandin and it details the entire process of processing beef cattle for market. If you are unfamiliar with Dr.Grandin’s work I would point you towards the movie version of her life story which is a must-see in my opinion. The short version is that Dr.Grandin is an animal science expert who helped reform the meat processing industry because her autism allowed her to better understand how cattle reacted to the process. She has been a leading advocate for the humane treatment of market animals for several decades and many of her ideas can be seen in use in the video.
The video comes with a warning which I reiterate here:
“We do want to caution viewers that the scenes are graphic at some points. In an effort to provide true transparency, we are shining a light on the complete process.”
I have been hunting for 25 years and in that time I have seen hundreds of animals killed. Even with that experience, this video is hard for me to watch. There is a stark difference between killing an unsuspecting animals in its natural environment and the factory process of slaughtering animals for market. The actual moment of the animal’s death is more quick and painless than the death of an animal in a hunting situation, but the detachment and efficiency of the process somehow makes it seem more unpleasant from my perspective. Odd how that moral reality plays out.
While the first time I hunted, killed and ate an animal was important to me, the most important experience of my life as a meat-eater was something totally different. In my teens we helped neighbors slaughter hogs every December for several years. Each time we would spend two days on their farm, the processing beginning with the animals being dispatched and bled and ending the next day with hams and bacon being hung to cure in the smokehouse. Deer and rabbit and other wild game were an occasional treat for us, but I watched those hogs be transformed from living creatures into things I was used to eating regularly. That created an important perspective I carry today.
Like many families my own household struggles with the moral implications of eating market meat. We worry not just about the safety aspects but also the moral baggage that comes with it. I wish I could say we only bought meat raised under the most humane circumstances but the truth is that much of the meat we consume comes from a process similar to the one in the video. This bothers us but it also isn’t practical both monetarily and logistically. So we do what we can. We buy cage-free chicken and eggs. I have started exploring the option of getting meat from our farmer’s market, but again, it is expensive.
I think the meat processing industry has greatly improved and I see nothing in this video that gives me pause. For me the point of moral pain is in thinking about the lives of market animals prior to slaughter. Many spend their entire lives in less-than-ideal conditions and on that front we can do better. The bargain though is that we as Americans will have to be willing to pay more for our meat and I don’t see us there yet as a nation.