Last Monday I attended a film screening in the Telfer building. The film was a documentary called “American Meat” by Graham Meriwether and the event was sponsored by our school’s garden club and environmental club. People came because they were interested in the content of the movie, but it didn’t hurt that Chipotle provided a free dinner!!!
“American Meat” was about the meat industry in America and the problems it is facing in the modern consumer market. The documentary also addresses the growing trend among farmers of using more humane animal raising practices such as “free-range” cattle farming. A number of farmers (ranging from pig to chicken farmers) were interviewed and followed around their farms to show their day to day activities. The documentary told the story of many farmer’s troubles with the big business industries that they distribute to cutting down their production. For example, many chicken farmers in North Carolina lost a lot of money and racked up huge debts when their main distributer, Pilgrims Pride, began cutting down on business. Many had to declare bankruptcy and farming towns quickly became ghost towns.
On a lighter note, there may be hope for the American food industry in the way of “grass based farming.” Fifty nine billion pounds of meat is eaten in America per year and, as of now, only a small amount of that is grass-based. However, it has been theoretically proven that it is possible to raise grass-based meat for all of America. A pioneer in this type of farming is the owner of Polyface Farms Joel Salatin. He uses grass-based farm techniques of his own design. Polyface Farms is so successful on these methods that they created 20 full-time jobs without the help of the United States government just in the last year. They are also their own distributor which means that everything they sell goes back to the farm and the people who run and work it.
If we want to feed the Unites States with “grass-based” farms we will need four million people to start farming with those methods. It is difficult to convince people to go this route because commodity production is more economic and many people can’t afford organic or “whole foods.” However, the future is brighter as more and more farmers are switching.
This event was an excellent way to become more educated about the state of the American meat industry as well as eat some free Chipotle. I plan on coming to any future screenings done by our Baldwin Wallace environmentally friendly organizations.