I do seem to have pork on the brain more than usual these days. It's not intentional, it just kind of... happened. There was my first article (on pastured pork) in this month's issue of Acres USA. Then I had a lovely chat with Bev -- of EcoFriendly Foods -- while picking up some breakfast sausages and taking a little footage for my mobile market fundraising video a couple of weeks ago. (Speaking of which, have you donated yet? Hmmm? Have you?) Then a series of coincidences led me to Seth and Jon, the cool cats behind White House Meats, with whom I shared a pint and quite a lengthy discussion at the Mardi Bus happy hour earlier this week. I do like bacon. And those local, sustainable pork shares are pretty reasonable. Mmmm, Berkshire....
Well. Last night I had planned to have dinner with my dear friend Susan. But alas, she woke up yesterday morning feeling sickly and we decided to reschedule. Wouldn't you know it, this meant that I would in fact be able to attend the screening of Pig Business downtown (and the panel discussion and happy hour that followed) that I had been spreading the word about. It turned out to be quite a night.
After only just barely refraining from audibly badmouthing the security guard who insisted that I leave my nalgene bottle outside of the Capitol Building -- this same innocuous bottle that had traveled around the entire country lashed to the front fender of my bicycle and had joined me without incident on a number of, ahem, airline flights, which I would think would indicate that it, when emptied, would gain admission to such high-security-risk settings as a documentary screening in a public visitors' center on a Wednesday afternoon -- I made my way through the metal detectors to join the throngs, securing one of the few remaining seats in the packed auditorium. After some opening words and an appeal by the ever passionate Robert Kennedy, Jr., the lights went down. I watched in horror as atrocious animal cruelty, unbridled greed, and "corporate kleptocracy" unfolded. (How does Bobby Kennedy come up with these terms? As a former English teacher, I can't help but admire his exceptional vocabulary. "A+, Mr. Kennedy.") The film focused on Smithfield -- the largest and most reckless purveyor of pork in the country, which recently expanded abroad to begin crushing pork farmers in Europe, most notably in Poland. (I know, mom, I know.) It was scary to watch folks on camera hardly bat an eye as they talked about the need for more meat, how these giant hog factories were necessary, even good for their economy and their countrymen. How about... eating less meat? How about the health and environmental concerns, if not of the animals, at least of those very countrymen? I got pretty worked up.
Needing a stiff drink afterwards, I joined a bunch of other sustainable foodie friends at the evening happy hour a few blocks away. After a nice bourbon and ginger ale and a few nibblies featuring some of Bev's famous pork, I pinned a food bus button on the pastured pork farmer himself and began to feel a little better. Sure, our country's meat production system is terrible now, but we can fix it. Even my small voice, my personal choice to only consume responsibly-produced meats, makes a difference. I refuse to buy factory farmed meat. And so did the guy next to me. And the lady on the other side of him. And probably most of the people in that room (or at least they're way more likely to avoid it after watching that movie). Sure, we're not changing the system overnight, and many policymakers at home and abroad are in the pockets of these large CAFO executives, but as more of us vote with our food dollars what kind of agricultural practices we support, we begin to take back control of the system that feeds us.
What difference does it make where your pork chop comes from? Actually, it's kind of a pig deal. Don't you want to support an operation that looks like this?
[photo courtesy of Sarah Willis, Niman Ranch]