A Dinner Conversation

The scene: My last day at a pediatric clinic. The nurses usually make some food for dinner because the clinic is open until 8pm today. They invited me to join them for soup.

The Conversation (paraphrased):

“I don’t understand organic milk?” A physician made this comment which sparked a mini conversation about animal welfare.

“It’s milk, isn’t it all organic? It comes from a cow.” – physician

“It’s organic because of the food they feed it, it’s organic.” – a nurse chimes in

“You know in Japan, I think, they hang baby cows in a sling their whole lives and feed them beer to make them tender.” “Kobe beef? Yeah, I think it’s Kobe beef” – nurse

“I think PETA would be all over that if it was in the U.S.” – nurse

“Well, if it’s not a pet and it’s not a human…why do they care?” “I’d like to bring some of those cows and raise Kobe beef here. It’s gotta be cheaper than sending it all the way from Japan.” – physician

My point is not to demonize anyone involved in this conversation. However, I think it’s very telling of the attitude towards animals and food among the majority of people in America.

“It’s milk, isn’t it all organic?” No, it’s not.  “Organic” foods don’t make sense to some people because they still have an early 20th century nostalgic view of what a farm used to be. Green pastures and a farmer in overalls leading his cows out to pasture and then hand milking them back in the barn. Things are not like this at all. This website describes what a “modern” dairy operation is like. The benefits of “organic” milk and other products are not clear to people because the assumption is that the status quo is a rosy picture. I’m here to tell you the status quo is an udder disaster. Terrible pun, I know. The status quo treats milk as a commodity. Make the most at the least cost is the mantra of the modern dairy conglomerate. We need happy cows raised on healthy land by caring farmers and farmhands. That’s the answer. Here’s a man, Francis Thicke, who operates a small pasture based dairy farm in Iowa. He’s being interviewed for Perennial Plate.

The Perennial Plate Extras: Interview with Francis Thicke from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

If it’s not a pet and it’s not a human…why do they care?” It’s a tough job convincing people that farm animal welfare is something worthwhile. I truly find it odd that farm animals “don’t count” when it comes to animal welfare in some people’s minds. Sure, the welfare of humans matters. Sure, the welfare of cats and dogs matters. But, farm animals? Come on, they say. Farm animals are for eating and their suffering doesn’t really matter. And are they really suffering? The short answer is yes, they are suffering given the factory farming conditions that are the “norm” in the U.S. And factory farmed animals are more polluting. They’re also less healthy for you. Want an example? How about all the antibiotics used in animal feed? How about all the arsenic used in chicken feed? How about when you crack a pastured local egg open it looks bright orange instead of the pale yellow of a supermarket egg? There’s lot of reasons to care even if farm animals are not your pet and are not humans. My hope is that people slowly start becoming aware of these reasons and then demanding change. The resultant change that must occur becomes self evident once the fallacies of factory farming become evident.

If you’d like to read about real Kobe beef from Wagyu cattle you can do so here. They really are fed beer!