One of the issues I never gave much thought to before writing Eating for Beginners was slaughterhouses–by which I mean how many there are, where they’re located, and what kind of red tape they have to deal with to process meat. Like many people, I was more concerned with how my meat was raised than with where and how it was killed, or what the expense in both time and money was to farmers when it came to slaughtering. I assumed that if I was choosing meat raised by responsible people, I was also avoiding the kind of horror-show slaughterhouses portrayed in movies like Food, Inc, and so I never bothered to consider much beyond the farming and feeding aspect of raising animals.
My eyes were opened when I spent time at Lovejoy Brook Farm in Vermont for the book, where one of the big issues that came up was how many slaughterhouses in the farm’s vicinity had closed. The result was hours and hours of interstate driving (and the ensuing gas bills) in order to have the animals killed and minimally processed (since applewood and the other places that buy from Fancy Meats from Vermont, the company Lovejoy Brook sells through, generally buy their animals whole). I was there in the winter of 2007, and apparently things have only gotten worse, not better. I was distressed by this article in yesterday’s New York Times, which basically lays out exactly the same problems I heard about back in 2007 (though of course I’m happy the issue is getting attention. One of the biggest frustrations I found in Vermont was small farmers’ feeling that no one with any real power was interested in hearing about the obstacles they faced, and yet all those people wanted to eat local since it’s now the thing to do). I wrote about mobile slaughtering units last fall, and it looks like maybe at last the issue is getting some much-deserved attention.
In sort of unrelated news, there’s a great post over on Sam Fromartz’s ChewsWise blog about the new Jamie Oliver show, Food Revolution, that has the food classes chattering away, including a link to the first episode. I highly recommend checking it out.