aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Know your food - why I bought the cow
Yesterday we had a party to celebrate, honor, and eat some of cow #9: 68 burgers and 6 Boca burgers (nearly 10%, we had a vegetarian station set up).
I’ve been meaning to write the definitive post on why I bought cow #9, but as I put it off and put it off the task grew larger and larger and I realized that there are so many reasons (a click on my Food link will give a good sampling) that there can be no definitive post. What I can simply and honestly say is that the most important among all those reasons was that I could know that this cow, #9, had a good life. And I could know that this cow, #9, had a humane death.
For the party we had pictures of cow #9, and pictures of the abattoir (slaughterhouse) in which he was killed, hung all around the grill and food areas so that people could see and better know what they were eating. As people reacted to those pictures I kept saying, again and again, “know your food.” In that phrase I tried to consciously echo Michael Pollan’s call for glass walls in slaughterhouses.
I reminded my friends that we want to see into the kitchens of restaurants and behind the meat counters of supermarkets at least in part so that we can see for ourselves the condition of the places our food comes from. And so, I said, let’s also look our meat in the eye and dare to see inside our slaughterhouses.
I’m convinced that if we all knew where McDonald’s cheeseburgers come from we would make some different decisions. I know where my cheeseburgers came from because I sat with the man who killed our cow. I know, too, that there are no easy answers about the food we eat, but what I’ve come to believe is that not asking the questions is the worst answer of all.
So now I’ve got to go make some burgers for lunch… The photo above is of our dogs, Baci and Jake, jumping up to see inside the trunk of the car on the day I brought #9 home from the abattoir.
MORE FROM MY COW CHRONICLES: Cow update: The T-Bones!
You are what you grow
Michael Pollan in today’s NYTimes Magazine argues, persuasively, that the Farm Bill should more rightly be called a Food Bill. Here he writes of its impact on immigration:
To speak of the farm bill’s influence on the American food system does not begin to describe its full impact - on the environment, on global poverty, even on immigration. By making it possible for American farmers to sell their crops abroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the farm bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria and therefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, to migrate to the cities - or to the United States. The flow of immigrants north from Mexico since Nafta is inextricably linked to the flow of American corn in the opposite direction, a flood of subsidized grain that the Mexican government estimates has thrown two million Mexican farmers and other agricultural workers off the land since the mid-90s. (More recently, the ethanol boom has led to a spike in corn prices that has left that country reeling from soaring tortilla prices; linking its corn economy to ours has been an unalloyed disaster for Mexico’s eaters as well as its farmers.) You can’t fully comprehend the pressures driving immigration without comprehending what U.S. agricultural policy is doing to rural agriculture in Mexico.
Are historically Black colleges good for Black students?
Steven D. Levitt summarizes research by Roland Fryer - “his life’s mission to understand every aspect of the economic life of Blacks in America” - and Michael Greenstone on the issues of who attends historically Black colleges and whether it helps:
Here are their key conclusions:
1) In the 1970s going to a historically Black institution was associated with higher wages and higher graduation rates than going to a traditionally White institution.
2) By the 1990s, however, the return to graduating from a historically Black institution fell by 20% relative to a traditionally White school, so that in the 1990s there was a premium associated with going to the traditionally White school.
3) The answer to that reversal does not appear to be due to a change in the mix of students attending the two types of schools, or to differences in expenditure per student.
4) Rather, it appears that the traditionally White institutions have evolved to better serve the needs of Black students.