I am a bit of a documentary junkie. Now that we have Netflix on instant streaming, I watch one whenever I get a chance. The latest, and perhaps one of the most interesting ones I’ve watched recently is “Food, Inc.” If you haven’t seen it, put it on your ‘to-do’ list!
Basically, it’s a documentary about the big business of food. For starters, it makes you grossly aware of how much of a factory system it all really is. They’ve taken farming and raising livestock and poultry and made it a mechanical, indoor affair. A few major multinational companies have controlled and monopolized the industry for financial gain, while everyone else is basically on the losing end of the stick.
For starters, farmers have lost control of their farms in their attempt to maintain contracts with these multinational companies. One of the most disturbing points for me was seeing chickens raised in these completely windowless buildings, never seeing the light of day. They are “grown” to maturity in 43 or 46 days rather than the usual 3 months (thanks to hormones and the feed being used).
In addition, many who work for these industries are exploited and underpaid, particularly in the beef slaughtering and packing industry. Many are immigrants and put up with these abuses to feed their families.
Now, we as consumers suffer because practices are unhealthy, both for the individual and for the environment. I’ve always known it was unhealthy to some extent, but seeing these practices really gives you some perspective. The top 4 beef companies control over 80% of the industry, so they create the rules, and these rules make for the quickest and cheapest output, with the largest financial return. Your health, your safety, is secondary.
For a long time, I’ve debated the halal meat issue, and a part of me still wavers from time to time. But this definitely makes things clearer. First, I will take aside the issue of whether it is fard to say “bismillah” at the time of slaughter. Animals under this system are mistreated without a doubt. They sit in dark, confined areas, ankle-deep in their own feces. Some may argue that halal butchers get their animals from the same place, and who knows, some might. However, from the way it appears, these farms are generally controlled by Tyson or Perdue or one of the other big players in the industry. The local halal butchers I deal with either have their own farms, or get their poultry and livestock from Amish country (I’ve inquired on numerous occasions). So, I have some comfort in knowing the animals will be treated at least somewhat better than what was shown in this documentary as standard procedure for supermarket meat. In addition, many are now taking measures to raise or procure hormone free, antibiotic free, vegetarian fed animals for their halal meat businesses.
Another big eye opener for me was the way mass-produced slaughtering is conducted. Your one package of ground meat in a supermarket is composed of hundreds of different cows. So if even one of them is contaminated or has e.coli, because it’s mass-produced in one large facility, you’ve just exponentially multiplied the number of people who will potentially exposed to that contamination vs. getting your meat from one animal at any given time. In addition, borderline sick animals are just given more and more antibiotics so they can stay in the running for slaughtering. Some become resistent and are really not quite right for eating, but they get mixed in the bunch. It’s far from ideal. Halal meat in its current state might not be ideal, but it’s definitely a better, safer option.
Anyway, if you get a chance, watch it. I think part of my appreciation of documentaries lies in that it’s easy, visual access to information that is normally swept under the rug. It’s enlightening. While all can’t be taken at face value, it opens up certain topics for discussion and encourages additional research.
Happy watching 🙂