We’re finally to a topic near and dear to my heart. Meat. Unfortunately, Michael Pollan didn’t have anything good to say about it. At least not in this chapter. In fact, he basically did the equivalent of taking a perfectly good rib eye steak, stomping on it, dragging it through the mud/feces, then really grinding it in there with the sole of his shoe. I don’t mean to shoot the messenger, but thanks a lot, Michael Pollan.
I guess it’s not really new news that cows in industrial feedlots don’t have good lives. Though they spend their early months out in the country, they’re then brought to special fattening factories designed to bring you meat as cheaply as possible, by whatever means possible. Pollan writes:
“America’s food animals have undergone a revolution in lifestyle in the years since World War II. At the same time as much of America’s human population found itself leaving the city for the suburbs, our food animals found themselves traveling in the opposite direction, leaving widely dispersed farms in places like Iowa to live in densely populated new animal cities. These places are so different from farms and ranches that a new term was needed to denote them: CAFO—Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.”
In other words, ghetto. Pollan goes on to describe the living conditions of these animals, which include, but are not limited to, filth, squalor, a highly caloric yet malnourishing diet, and drugs. Sounds vaguely familiar. Force-feeding the cows corn, which their bodies are not designed to eat, means they are riddled with health problems. Compound that with crappy medical insurance, low test scores, and high unemployment, and you're not looking at an optimistic group. And although the teen pregnancy situation seems to be under control, you can pretty much count on all the young, bright ones being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We haven’t done a great job dealing with this plight for human populations, so I doubt the cows stand much of a chance. However, since I know that I personally have contributed to this situation by eating large quantities of disgusting-yet- somehow-still-delicious CAFO beef, I’d like to be a part of the solution. Growing up in suburban Boston as I did, my suggestion is this.
If cheap corn is the problem, and I think Pollan is saying that it is—that we can’t afford NOT to feed every living creature government-subsidized corn—we need to find not just a source of cheap grass to compete, but free grass. And I know just the place. The suburbs.
We’ll just bus the cows from their midwestern slums right into the posh coastal suburbs. We can use the old Boston school buses with the tinted windows you still see every once in a while so the Kow Klux Klan doesn’t hurl corn cobs at them as they drive by. Then we’ll set the cows loose on all those juicy green lawns. Maybe not so much where I live, but over there on the right side of the tracks. They’ll munch away, then move on to the other side of the fence where the grass really is greener.
You homeowners with the good school systems might object at first, but think of all the money you’ll save on landscaping fees. Plus, the system is self-fertilizing, and with the absence of lawnmowers, the only thing to offend your ears will be the occasional bout of cow flatulence. A small price to pay for a better world, I think.