Muscling the Meat Industry: Fuhgedaboudit

meat marketLong ago, in a certain state, I called a certain agency (I am blowing smoke here to protect the obviously guilty) to enquire whether I could legally move a “farm use” (i.e. unlicensed, unregistered, uninsured) trailer from one state into another on public roads. The rather hard bitten sergeant (did I say sergeant? I meant person.) responded by asking, “Are you familiar with (name if state redacted)’s motto?” I said I thought it was sic semper tyrannis. “Do you know what it means?” he asked. Something to do with tyrants, I responded. “No, you’re wrong. It means ‘Don’t F#@k With Farmers.’ You can take that “farm use” trailer anywhere you want and nobody is going to bother you.”

I missed the memo, but apparently the United States has adopted my former state’s motto, now understood as sic semper agricolas. With the implied addition of the adjective “industrial.” Recent evidence abounds.

Exhibit One: In this, the 30th consecutive successful year of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, the state of Maryland had thought to move beyond voluntary guidelines, helpful suggestions and wishful thinking by actually imposing legal restrictions on the dumping of industrial quantities of chicken litter on the ground that drains into the Bay. This is always described, as it was yesterday in the Baltimore Sun, as a problem with “farmers” using “manure” to “fertilize their crops.” In reality, the tycoons who slaughter 300 million chickens a year in Maryland alone dump their nutrient-rich industrial waste anywhere they can, ostensibly using it as fertilizer but invariably over applying it so that the excess runs into the streams and the Bay and the ocean to stimulate algae growth and create dead zones.

Comes now the state agriculture department to propose that fields that don’t need fertilizer may not be fertilized. Farmers rage that they will make less money. Ag department pulls regulation, a spokesman composing this masterwork of weasel words: “”We’re not saying we’re not doing it, it’s just a strategy issue in terms of how you implement it.”

Or, in Latin, sic semper agricolas.

Exhibit Two: Five years ago, the prestigious Pew Commission issued a landmark study of industrial meat production in America. Last month, the equally well regarded Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future reviewed the Pew Report and what has transpired in the industry since.

The Pew report found that the industry was:

  • making excessive use of antibiotics;

  • mishandling the massive amounts of liquid waste it was generating;

  • mistreating animals;

  • cornering the market in the hands of a handful of companies.

The Pew Report concluded that “The present system of producing food animals in the United States is not sustainable and presents an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment, as well as unnecessary harm to the animals we raise for food.”

So how have we been doing in the five years since? According to the Johns Hopkins findings announced a few weeks ago, the meat industry:

  • still uses way too much antibiotics;

  • still mishandles its waste, without EPA interference;

  • still mistreats animals;

  • and has cornered the market in the hands of about four companies.

Or, in Latin, sic semper agricolas.


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One Response to Muscling the Meat Industry: Fuhgedaboudit

  1. Gail says:

    Have you seen the movie “the Bay”? It’s a horror movie but meant to be a serious warning about pollution in the Chesapeake. Apparently Barry Levinson has a home there and became horrified when he learned about the dead zone so the movie was his attempt at educating people about it. It didn’t get very good reviews but I rented it and loved it.