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''That's a handsome looking beef you've got there.'' (NYT)

March 30, 2002 11:25 AM   Subscribe

''That's a handsome looking beef you've got there.'' (NYT)
Long and involved explication of something I've always wanted to do: raise a cow from birth to slaughter inside of an american factory farm. How does a cow get from being a cute little cow to my dinner plate? Is it safe? Is it moral? Is it yummy?
posted by zpousman (31 comments total)

 
Request to all metafilterians out there: Can the discussion of this article come after you at least read some of the article? I'd rather see interesting comments about the system that watch this turn into the usual "that's why I'm a vegetarian" / "that's why I eat vegetarians!" argument.

There's plenty of good quotable sentences throughout the article... cut and paste away.

This is my first post, so be gentle.
posted by zpousman at 11:33 AM on March 30, 2002


This sounds like a post for meatfilter.
posted by xammerboy at 11:35 AM on March 30, 2002


lKnew a preety girl who would not eat anything that she claimed she could not kill and prepare (skin etc) herself. I asked her why she drove a car she did not build or live in a house she did not build. She was a vegan and a chain smoker. Ah, well. We all have our oddities. The main thing is conceal the poor and the dying and the animals we slaughter. Serve fish with eyes out. Just enjoy it and don't worry abut a thing. Just stay happy.
posted by Postroad at 11:48 AM on March 30, 2002


Zpousman: you chose a superb article to kick off. Kudos to you. It's long, it's from tomorrow's magazine and is eminently debatable.

I defy anyone to read this profoundly shocking article and not think how cruel, stupid and absurd this way of eating, earning money and living is.
Although the author is far from a vegetarian he serves the cause well, by taking aboard us carnivores and all our cherished assumptions. Ugh! Specially the part of how it's supposedly innocent consumers - the conveniently anonymous "market" - who are cattle-driving animals and us away from nature and humanity.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:25 PM on March 30, 2002


Postroad - Please mail me, I've a private question.

Apologies to the other readers...
posted by NortonDC at 12:30 PM on March 30, 2002


Just an anal point of order: people eat the guys, not the gals. It goes from being a steer to a steak and from a cow to a shake.
posted by dchase at 12:35 PM on March 30, 2002


Assuming No. 534 continues to eat 25 pounds of corn a day and reaches a weight of 1,250 pounds, he will have consumed in his lifetime roughly 284 gallons of oil.
(this oil would come from fertilizers for the corn)

i thought that quote was a little disturbing, anyway the whole article is really good and not biased i thought. i think it puched me over the edge enough to stop eating meat. beef has been gross to me for a while, but chicken-factories have their own problems too...
posted by rhyax at 1:23 PM on March 30, 2002


Funny it didn't take any finely crafted Peta blitz to get me to tentatively swear off cow. I was just reading Sinclair's The Jungle and swore off pig a couple of weeks ago. Chicken and fish for me thanks (which have their own arguments for eschewing). But those prawns. Prawns just may become the undoing of civilization as we know it.

Okay. Hyperbole.

Oh, and great link!
posted by crasspastor at 1:31 PM on March 30, 2002


I'd love to read a similar analysis of the economics and realities of chicken factory farming. It's clear that as a foodstuff beef has become repulsive for numerous reasons. While vegetarianism has tempted me on many occasions, the difficulties in controlling the carbohydrate content of vegetarian meals has always kept me away. For now, limiting intake of meat seems to be working.
posted by shagoth at 1:34 PM on March 30, 2002


"A U.S.D.A. microbiologist has discovered that switching a cow's diet from corn to hay in the final days before slaughter reduces the population of E. coli 0157 in its manure by as much as 70 %. Such a change, however, is considered wildly impractical by the cattle industry."

What is USDA doing about the E. coli problem? Vaccine development, improved detection capabilities and monitoring of plants, warnings about meat handling, since the water on your cutting board could spread the bacteria. No mention of the corn-fed / hay-fed alternative.

Eating less beef = less e coli, fewer hormones / endocrine disruptors entering the drinking water supply.
posted by sheauga at 2:09 PM on March 30, 2002


Great link, zpousman.

The next time I eat at McDonald's I'll be comforted by the fact the company looks out for the welfare of the steers it eventually grinds into hamburger. Am I being sarcastic? Honestly, I have no clue.

Miguel, I didn't find this article profoundly shocking at all. I'm curious as to how differently those of us in North America and those of us elsewhere react to it. I have a feeling those of us who are brought up with the expectation of cheap meat won't be as disturbed by this piece as those living in places where standards and processes may be slower and stricter.
posted by mrbula at 2:31 PM on March 30, 2002


Oh, and that site mentioned in the article looks pretty intersting as well.
posted by mrbula at 2:38 PM on March 30, 2002


lKnew a preety girl who would not eat anything that she claimed she could not kill and prepare (skin etc) herself. I asked her why she drove a car she did not build or live in a house she did not build.

I'm sure you understand the difference between ability and moral comfort. "being able" to do something may refer to either; I'm sure your friend was stating that she wouldn't eat a creature that she would have trouble killing and skinning, not one she lacked the skill to properly destroy.

posted by mdn at 4:12 PM on March 30, 2002


incidently, I spent the last week on a cattle ranch in southern Chile, where they grow "organic" meat - I put that in quotes as it's not purposefully organic, but simply that they do it the way it's always been done down here.

It's cowboy country, and this time of year (early fall) they have the annual branding. Watching them rope the cattle, choking them so they spit and their purple tongues stuck out, then dragging them to the middle to pin them down and cut their ears with a big pair of scissors, and then burn a symbol into their hind quarters - well, seeing it live reinforced my vegetarianism, even though I know that's not how it's done in the US.

As with any animals, if you hang out with one for a little while, you get a feel for their individual nature. If you don't look too close, they're all the same, but I found even a few minutes watching them in the gate (before they were released to be roped rodeo style) gave me a sense of personality for a lot of the young cattle there.

Of course that's not the issue here, and after reading this article, what I saw down here seems positively wholesome, even though I found it kind of sickening. I realized part of my reason for being vegetarian is being against the mindset of earth/animal domination that the cowboys tended to hold so strongly to. This cheaper system extends that domination. And of course, consumers are happy to take advantage of it as long as they don't have to look. I wonder if this article will affect people at all...

THat autistic cow lady wrote a book, right? I think I read it. REally interesting world comprehension / view...
posted by mdn at 4:37 PM on March 30, 2002


Took a quick scan(hey, it's long), and this seems similar to an article I read about a year ago in Harper's(I think) using a couple of sheep instead. The author had named them Lunch and Dinner to try and remove herself from them. It didn't really work, but she went through with the whole thing. Was kind of interesting watching someone get over their social conditioning about this sort of thing.
posted by Su at 5:00 PM on March 30, 2002


Just an anal point of order: people eat the guys, not the gals. It goes from being a steer to a steak and from a cow to a shake.

Having grown up on a 4000 head feedlot in Iowa, I saw and did most of the things talked about in this article, albeit on a smaller scale. We had both steers (former boys) and heifers (still girls) in the pens. Steers were more desirable. In flusher years, dad would carve one up in the garage and give chunks to the neighbors for christmas. Grandpa was in an ad for one of the major antibiotic brands. He always wore a cowbot hat, which always seemed like a bit of a stretch to me, personally.
posted by marling at 5:40 PM on March 30, 2002


how cruel, stupid and absurd this way of eating, earning money and living is

1. Cruel: The article didn't make it seem like there was a lot of wanton cruelty. What I've heard of the way egg-laying hens are kept, or veals are raised, sounds a lot worse. Of course, the general fact that we feed ourselves with critters raised in concentration camps is disturbing, but this is nothing new.

2. Stupid: To the contrary one has to recognize that what is described is a very rational and efficient industrial system of production. It only appears stupid if you take a (somewhat questionable) long view. Health, environmental, political, moral aspects of our car-based economy are at least as questionable.

3. Absurd: What was once a luxury is now acccessible to far more people. This is far from absurd. If you suddenly tell a housewife that she must now pay two or three times as much for steak as she used to, she may find that absurd.

disclaimer: I'm a (somewhat fallen) vegetarian
posted by Turtle at 5:52 PM on March 30, 2002


Grandpa .... always wore a cowbot hat"

Yikes!!
posted by Catch at 6:04 PM on March 30, 2002


Meatfilter.com eh? I thought it was going to be something telling me about the choicest of meats, filtering out the Grade B or lower steaks, flanks, and whatnot. How disappointing. Too bad the darn thing makes me scroll horizontally on my 1024x768 screen. Oh well.

crasspastor: The Jungle. Gah. Horrible book(in terms of characters, plot and writing quality), but also socially valuable. Too bad the FDA (which was created by T. Roosevelt and Congress as a result) is essentially worthless nowadays.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:03 PM on March 30, 2002


meatbot = oops
posted by marling at 7:41 PM on March 30, 2002


Could it not be a pseudo-Karmic balance, when the cruelty that is applied by me to the cow (sorry, steer) comes full circle 20 years later as the cruelty that is applied to me by the carcinogen? Few humans die as hygenically or pain-free as a meat cow, and I speak of this having seen the boltgun in action (UncleUncleFes is a butcher for 40 years, I did a summer in the abbatoir in high school).

Beyond that, I suppose I would ask: is this really a problem per se, the moral issue it purports to be, or are we simply transferring our inability to weed Cruelty (capital C representing the platonic form) from the human psyche to the more easily definable and potentially rectifiable "beasts of the field"?
posted by UncleFes at 9:22 PM on March 30, 2002


nope.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:27 PM on March 30, 2002


Mmmmmmm...processed steers....(drool)....
posted by davidmsc at 4:51 AM on March 31, 2002


I guess you didn't read zpousman's request in the first comment, davidmsc.
posted by kv at 5:34 AM on March 31, 2002


Im a steak-loving red-meat eater but after reading this Ill never look at it the same. But the NYT article mentioned Eat Wild a kind of grassroots movement (pun intended) which I checked into and found a local farm that sells pasture raised beef and Ive allready put an order in for a 12lbs mix of frozen cuts to see how it is. Its the hormones and anti-biotics that make me wonder.
posted by stbalbach at 6:23 AM on March 31, 2002


Wow, unclefes was a butcher, I used to be a baker....Are there any candlestick makers on MeFi?
posted by jonmc at 8:15 AM on March 31, 2002


I made candles as a kid. Does that count?

Animals are food. It's a predator-prey world out there, and cows is prey. Eat 'em with good conscience.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 AM on March 31, 2002


I made candles as a kid. Does that count?

Works for me. Fes'll get the tub ready.
posted by jonmc at 10:06 AM on March 31, 2002


Animals are food, plants are food. And if humanity was truly commited to recycling, I would be food as well.
posted by Darke at 2:26 PM on March 31, 2002


If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise, Darke. Grizzly will have no ethical dilemmas when it comes time to nosh ya.

Can't say I'd want to eat your flesh, though. Too many pesticides, drugs, food preservatives, and other shite in your flesh. I only eat organic. :-)
posted by five fresh fish at 6:53 PM on March 31, 2002


kv: I guess you didn't read zpousman's request in the first comment, davidmsc.

Yes I did. I just didn't care. I wanted to contribute. So I did. :-)
posted by davidmsc at 1:14 AM on April 5, 2002


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