GOOD

Better Meat Requires Better Butchers

We need a new generation of young, local butchers to take up the cleavers and get to work. By now, you're probably tired of...


We need a new generation of young, local butchers to take up the cleavers and get to work.
By now, you're probably tired of hearing about bacon explosions, bacon cocktails, and the big bad bacon backlash that's been launched against overly pious eaters everywhere. It's time to get down to the belly of the matter: If we want to eat meat, we need better butchers in our neighborhoods, so we're not buying meat from distant, unknown sources.

The single most expensive factor in starting a new farm tends to be land, but young farmers raising pigs and cows have another problem: the lack of slaughterhouses and butchers. Unlike fruits and vegetables and grains, which you can take off the farm and sell directly, meat for sale (legally) has to be taken to a licensed and inspected slaughterhouse facility. Then, it has to be broken down into cuts.

Forty years ago, smaller, family-owned slaughterhouses existed throughout the United States. The number of these "very small plants" has declined over the last 10 years, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the industry consolidated into a very, very efficient system. In her book Raising Steaks, Betty Fussell writes that all but a very small percentage of the 30 millions cows harvested annually in United States are turned into meat by one of three major packers. And industry beef producers don't make money on rib eye steaks. They make money on the parts no one wants-value-added offals like pink slime.

More and more people want to know about where their meat comes from, how it's produced, and how it's processed. If you don't want to get food from a huge pork producer who makes more waste than a small city, enhances their pork bellies with sodium nitrite, and trucks the bacon from Iowa to the supermarket, finding someone raising pigs near you isn't enough. You also need to find a farmer whose pigs are slaughtered near you.

Which brings us to the importance of butchery. Not only are butchers disappearing, but the ones who remain are often aging. At last month's Young Farmers Conference at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Arion Thiboumery, 28, who works at the Iowa State Extension, speaks about the needs for serious change to the country's meat distribution network. He has produced a visual guide to buying whole animals and says there's a real value to the new generation of butchers. "Whether it's cutting really nice steaks, making really nice sausages, or curing really nice hams, there's a real craft to it," he told me. "I'm really encouraged by more young people in farming and butchering."

The connection between the way you treat an animal's flesh to the taste and quality of its meat may seem obvious. But it hasn't been acknowledged in the modern meat industry's standard operating procedure. It's time to start caring about the corner butcher-or time to learn to do it yourself.

Photo by Flickr user Mark Coggins under a (cc) license.

Articles

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture