The Omnivore’s Dilemma…and my own

I know I talk about school a lot lately. Frankly, it’s just one of few things that are at the forefront of my mind right now. Justifiably so, if you ask me. I have a countdown clock on my Facebook…I think I’m sitting at somewhere around 400 days left until December 11, 2010 when at 9:00 in the morning I will happily collect my hard-earned degree and march myself right to brunch for some deserved mimosas.

I went a little crazy the other day, looking at the 2009 graduation announcements and junk. It was pretty exciting. Only three more semesters, and that’ll be me! I never got a class ring in high school because I opted for the letter jacket instead (which turned out to be a rather wise decision given that cheerleading often had me outside on snowy, cold October Friday nights…). Apparently people get class rings for their college graduation? I had no idea. But again, I went crazy and “personalized” a ring for myself (which I’ll probably never get because 1. it’s $700 and 2. do 30-year-olds really get class rings?)…you can inscribe the inside of the ring. I guess most people get their name inside. Mine would say “fucking finally…” Seriously. It would say that.

I have mostly been feeling very anxious about the next several months of my life. It’s going to be a lot of really hard work, more classes than I’ve ever crammed into a single semester. And I’m really excited about it! Except for the part where I have to take a freshman level Biology course to finish out some of my core credits. Grr. I hate science. Almost as much as I hate math, but nothing can top my hatred of math. I’m taking some classes that I’m not entirely amped about – Technical Writing being one of them – but in my effort to get moving along, it’s what I have to do. I’d rather take Magazine Writing so I’m holding out for that, but it’s only offered one semester a year. Hopefully I can get into that.

After so many years of suffering through classes that are both boring and required, it’s nice to finally be taking classes that mean something to me. One this semester in particular is really throwing my world for a loop. I didn’t think it would turn into this, but given the professor, I shouldn’t have been so naive. At face value, it’s just a class about rhetoric and film and how they relate to each other. Oh, how it has turned into SO much more. I am finding a yet-undiscovered passion for food that I didn’t think I had before. True, I’ve long had an affinity for fine foods and healthy foods (which aren’t ALWAYS mutually exclusive, but sometimes), but this class – especially lately – has really challenged me to consider where my food comes from and how it’s made (and treated, honestly).

I’m not going all PETA on everyone. I’m (probably) not even going to go vegetarian…again. But reading about and watching where food (meat) comes from is disturbing and eye-opening. I have always had a big heart for animals. Growing up, we had chickens and geese. Our neighbors had horses, sheep, chickens, turkeys, dogs, rabbits, you name it, most of which were used for either farmwork or for eventual food. And we all had pets. Granted, I had what I have termed “disposable pets” as they were by and large stray cats that lived in our barn. Hey, we lived on quite a lot of property and if a fox or raccoon got one of the cats, well that was just life. And it is.

I have also, for at least 15 years, held the view that cows and pigs and chickens are on this earth for the primary reason of providing us with food. Even when I was a staunch vegetarian for 5 years of my life, I held this view. It would be hard to change my mind.

However, I am also fundamentally opposed to the abuse of animals, pet or otherwise. I am horrified by the living conditions of cows and pigs in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations….doesn’t that just SOUND awful?), not to mention chickens in egg production as well as those being bred for their meat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some bleeding heart crazed animal rights person. But at the same time, is it really too much to ask a few simple things:
1. That animals be allowed to live their lives as animals, grazing free-range on grass rather than being force-fed a corn diet for which their bodies are ill-prepared to manage; and
2. That animals be allowed to die quickly, mercifully and with dignity.

At this juncture, I cannot even get into my major issues with the people running and/or working in slaughter houses.

All of this has really led Todd and me to reconsider how and what we eat. And there are a few ways in which we’ll be changing our habits, effective immediately.
1. We will no longer by produce that is not in season in Colorado
2. We will do everything in our power to purchase only Colorado-grown produce
3. We will no longer buy meat from the supermarket
4. We will only purchase grass-fed meat (I would prefer that the meat also be pastured, but am having some challenges finding that)
5. And if we can find a market for it, we will only buy Colorado-raised beef, chicken, and pork.

On top of the horrific animal conditions in CAFOs, I am also all for supporting sustainability and local economy.
I am not naive enough to think that CAFOs will ever go away. McDonald’s will continue to exist and will likely continue to by their product from the lowest bidder, no matter the human or animal cost. But what I do firmly believe is that I can change myself and I can attempt to change those around me. I won’t thrust my beliefs down your throat. I’ve never been okay with that. But if you want to know why I eat the way that I do, I’ll tell you. I won’t shy away from it.

If you are at all interested in changing the way you eat, I highly recommend doing two things: read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and watch Fast Food Nation (this is a narrative based on the book by Eric Schlosser)

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