Sunday, April 8, 2007

Democrat Causes Stir with Bradley's Sausages

I was happy to see the article about Bradley's Country Store's sausage-making in today's Tallahassee Democrat online (Eastside Chronicle). It describes Bradley's sausage-making process from butchering the hogs to stuffing the casings. There were several well-written comments when I read the article this-morning, some of them rather unhappy.

I can see how the descriptions would naturally upset a vegetarian. However, any meat-eater ought to be willing to learn how his/her dinner was treated while alive, how it was killed, and how it was handled after it was killed. Turning a willfully blind eye to the necessary steps involved in getting meat to your plate means that you cannot make truly informed decisions to opt for the sustainable farming and humane handling of livestock.

The Bradley's article reminded me of a similarly graphic article about small-scale chicken processing in the Long Island Slow Food's Edible East End (actually, the Bradley's article is very watered down in comparison -- for a broader readership).

Most consumers would prefer not to know what they are eating. This directly contributes to the prevailing large-scale farming and meat-processing methods that destroy the environment through all stages of production and transport, and torture animals while they are alive.

Unfortunately, now that I am armed with some of this knowledge, I bear a greater burden of responsibility each of the many times I opt to grab for the most convenient and least expensive package of meat from one of our big box grocery stores.

I spent some time learning how to butcher meat and fish in an Atlanta restaurant. Handling the animals, learning the intricacies of their musculature, the differences in texture and fat content from one cut to the next, attempting to make cuts that highlighted the natural beauty of each piece -- all of these things gave me a greater respect for the animals themselves. I felt like I knew them better. I tried to be accurate, to minimize waste, to maximize the value of the animal that was slaughtered for the pleasure of the restaurant's patrons. I felt annoyed when passers-by would poke at a fish that I had laid out on the counter or expressed disgust at the sight of raw meat or the task of breaking down the animal.

I also have a very vivid childhood memory of plucking pheasants in my neighbor's garage. Knowing the feel of the animal and being aware of its life and death reduces my sense of entitlement. I feel more humble and I enjoy my food more.

The more I learn about meat farming and production, the more aware I am of how much energy goes into creating and growing the animal. I hope that soon I'll make a chicken stock from the bones of every chicken I roast (rather than just making stock "when I remember to do it"). I might pull the bones from the stock, pulverize them, and add them to my soil in my garden. Sure would beat throwing my styro-foam and plastic packaging and wasted meat and bones into a landfill. In my mind, it's the waste that's cruel.

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