Sunday, March 6, 2011

Meat-part 1

Just the same as with vegetables and gardening, I get a lot of comments and questions about the meat we consume at home. More so than getting people to understand growing their own food, most have a very hard time understanding why, and how, I could raise chickens or rabbits to butcher them. For some strange reason, people who have no problem at all going to the grocery store to buy chicken, beef, and pork from the meat department are absolutely horrified at the thought of my killing a chicken for a meal. They just have to choose which package they want. Someone else does the "dirty work". The majority of people don't even think about their choice at all. They just grab the biggest package of chicken breasts, or choose the largest steaks, and never give a thought to what they are really buying. Was this animal healthy? How was it raised? Where did it come from? People never think about these things, and most seem to not even care.

It's strange how everyone has become so disconnected with their food. Out of sight, out of mind. Two years ago, Lisa and I went to the local county fair. We did the usual walk through the 4H barns, looking at the animals. We were near the pigs, and noticed a sign hanging on a post. It was a typical cartoon-type picture that we've all seen. It showed the outline of a pig, with all of the different cuts of meat marked with dotted lines. A woman walked by with (I'll assume) her kids with her. She was the kind we've seen there many times. The ones that obviously don't want to be in the barns. The look of disgust and bent up nose made it obvious that she didn't like the smell of the barns. I still cannot understand why people like that even go there. she walked by the same area with the pigs, she noticed the sign. She jumped in front of the sign, holding her arms out to block the view of it from her kids, as if she was blocking Superman from a piece of kryptonite. She was blocking the view so her kids wouldn't be horrified at finding out where their chops and ham they had for dinner last week came from. Some people simply don't know about where food comes from. Others choose to keep a blind eye to it. Others, like this woman, choose to intentionally block any knowledge of it at all from people like their kids. More and more each year, the disconnection grows, even though our consumption grows at staggering rates. For example, the statistics used below are based on just beef and nothing else.

While the United States is only around 5% of the total world's population, we consume 15% it's meat production.In 2009, we as a nation produced 26.07 billion pounds of beef, yet consumed 26.9 billion pounds. While our consumption was larger than our production, we still exported 1.87 billion pounds throughout the year. Imagine what that 26.9 billion works out to be. That is the equivalent of 107.3 billion quarter pound cheeseburgers. In 2009, the US slaughtered 33.3 million head of cattle, and our cattle inventory stood at 94.5 million. Those numbers, once again, to me are staggering.

What is even more staggering is figuring out how much is non usable or wasted between a single full live beef steer and what is actually consumed. If we figure an average sized steer weights 540lbs, the usage below really opens your eyes. While I'm not going to do the math, imagine what those figures would be when multiplied by the 33.3 million head of cattle slaughtered in 2009. I didn't figure out the total amount of waste that 33.3 million head of cattle averages out to be. I don't think I really want to know.

Live weight 540lbs 100% Full size avg.steer
Dressed weight 330lbs 61% Hanging carcass
Saleable weight 250lbs 46% Includes bones and fat
Edible weight 205 lbs 38% Actual cuts of meat
Actually consumed 185lbs 34% Including weight loss in cooking and table waste

I'm sure by now anyone reading this post is wondering where I am going with this. I'm not trying in any way to tell people to become vegetarian. That is not my intent at all. My intent, however, is to try making people realize what we as a nation are doing. I plan to make another post soon about the perils of commercial farming. Their practices are far beyond disturbing. They're disgusting. What I want to do with this post is to get any of you to think about these numbers when you are at the store buying that next meal or next weeks worth of groceries. Consider what you are buying. Are you adding to these figures by buying from giant farming companies, or are you supporting your local economy and buying from a farmer nearby. Sure, even if you buy from someone locally, you are still buying beef. But consider that in the US alone, four companies produce 81% of the cattle,52% of the pigs, and 50% of the chicken consumed annually. When companies like these get that large, a $6.5 billion industry in 2002, they don't care about the animals or your safety. They just want your dollar.

We don't raise our own cattle here at home, because it's obvious, we're just on one acre. We do though, buy beef and pork from a friend who raises them on a large farm with his father. Besides the fact that we know the animals aren't pumped full of chemicals and hormones, we know that we aren't giving our money to corperate giants that want nothing more than to dominate the industry. We do however butcher our own chickens at home, and have raised rabbits for an additional source of meat.It's been almost 2 years since we have bought any meat from the grocery store, and we never plan on buying from them again.

I'm no tree hugger. I will never be the kind to protest at beef plants or tie myself to a tree. But, I can't help but feel a bit guilty that I added to those figures before we changed our lifestyle and eating habits. I'm happy to know that we are not causing that 1 or 2 cattle a year to be somewhere in that mountain of figures. I'm glad to know that my money isn't going to these giant companies that care about nothing but the almighty dollar. And last, I'm very happy to know that I'm not supporting the giant operations that support growth hormones, large doses of antibiotics, and horrible living conditions.........

That one, my friends, will be the next post. You'll just have to wait!


Ki Vick said...

It makes me so sad, and mad to think that people are unable to be honest with themselves that the meat that they eat came from killing a cute animal. If you can't face that reality, you need to not eat meat. And just because you are killing an animal, doesn't mean it should have to suffer a horrible life. That's just cruel.

Chris W said...

Ki Vick-What really annoys me are the ones that simply don't care. I've been told, by quite a few people "I don't care what's in my food as long as it tastes good". Many choose their own ignorance.

Happy Days said...

People don't stop to give the farmers or ranchers a thought. It's quick foods, don't let the kids know where the food comes from or they'll freak out...OMG people...WAKE UP!! Seek out your local farmer or rancher and eat local home raised meats & poultry...too many people eat food that has already been prepared and all you do is heat it up, fast foods and frozen meats full of chemicals. Your right on Chris!!! ...debbie

Chris W said...

My friend Mac actually did the math on the waste...this number is astounding.

"I don't know if you actually did do the math or not, Chris. Or if you just really didn't want to scare people by posting the numbers. lol But.. guess what? I just had to do it. lol So... using the numbers from your post... There are 355lbs ...of loss from the "live" weight of 540lbs to the "actually consumed" weight of 185lbs. Multiplied by the "33.3 million head of cattle slaughtered in 2009" and you get a staggering number. 11,821,500,000 That's over 11.8 billion. That's more than just a few pounds of waste! Talk about an eye opener!"
So....nearly TWELVE BILLION pounds of waste in the beef industry. twelves billion. I can't even begin to wrap my head around that figure.

Ralphy said...

I would like to point out that overall, there really is no "waste" to a steer for slaughter. The entrails, blood, bones, etc., may not be fit for human consumption but in the end run the only thing lost from a steer in slaughter is the "moo". Most of the modern slaughterhouses try to sell every bit of the steer they bought. There are numerous industrial processes, pet food, and even further human consumption derived from the "waste". I saw a video on how geletin is made using hydrocloric acid and tons of cow bones. It's amazing.

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