On route 2 in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont in the town of Danville there is a fairly good sized farm with an incredible view of the mountains. As an example of how good this view is, on a clear day I believe it is possible to see the ski slopes of Sugarbush Ski Area in Vermont and Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire from this town which is just west of St. Johnsbury.
This farm is interesting because on any given day a number of cows can be seen grazing in this area. But I don’t think these are just any cows as they seem almost too proud and dignified to be simple cows. As these are Black Angus cows. On a clear day, especially in early fall just as the leaves are starting to turn it’s a picture of lush green grass, shiny black coats and the vision of the mountains in the distance.
But regardless of how good this looks reality has to set in.
A reality that shows that these Black Angus cows exist for one reason. And the reason is to be slaughtered to bring a market price for the demand. And I’m sure there is demand. These Black Angus have been well cared for and any animal that looks this good has to mean one thing in the words of former President George W. Bush “good eats.”
I thought of this as recently I continued reading the book, The Omnivore’s Dillemma by Michael Pollan which is a survey about the role of food in life. I thought of the farm in Danville and the Black Angus when the book began a discussion of industrial feedlots and the industrialization of beef which is then sold to mass markets throughout the U.S. The conditions in the feedlots as you might imagine are not in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. In one of the chapters there was reference to the labeling of food.
Rather than quote the chapter I’ll pose the question. When you go to the supermarket to purchase a steak what is it that you’re looking for? If the label on the various labels said the following which would you purchase?
1. Vermont certified Black Angus. Free range fed locally produced grain.
2. Feedlot #3490. Sioux City, Iowa. Compliance with all USDA regulations.
Not a difficult decision here. I think most people would opt for the Vermont Angus. Of course the prices for the cuts are different as are the locations where it is sold. Clearly, the feedlots are more competitive than the small Danville farmer.
I guess the question I’m asking is what is the responsibility of the regulator here? Should the truth be on the labels? Imagine if the food actually told the truth? How many people would purchase the $7.95 London Broil at Shaw’s if they knew of the conditions in the feedlots and the industrial feeding of corn to the animals that are on their plate. Even if the Black Angus was $12.95.
I’m confident there could also be an argument to be a vegetarian here and this isn’t what I’m arguing. My argument is for more information.
Perhaps on the exterior of every meat package there could be a simple one word description: feedlot or free-range.
Individuals vote for their elected officials, shouldn’t they be allowed to vote for their food as well?