3-Step Guide to Fixing the Meat Industry

Cam MacKugler, founder of mEAT LOCAL, enthusiastically hunts most of the meat that he eats at home. Folks like Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Pollan, and Jonathan Safran Foer have also been pursuing various ways of eating meat sustainably. Though hunting is generally one of the most environmentally friendly means of consuming meat, it is uncommon these days.

For the meat industry to change significantly, there are three key steps: More consumer awareness campaigns on Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs), phasing out subsidies for corn, and developing more regionally focused, small and mid-sized meat processors.

CAFOs are so squalid it is illegal in many states to take pictures of them. A small first step to changing the meat industry is to simply allow journalists and activists to report thoroughly on how industrial meat facilities operate. In hog CAFOs, for instance, the pigtails are removed because the pigs are kept in such confined space that other pigs would eat the tails and cause infection. Getting this information on the nightly news more often would create significant change very quickly.

Phasing out corn subsidies are also a key, and daunting, impediment to change within the meat industry. Corn subsidies have created a massive oversupply, and as a result, the U.S. meat industry feeds corn or other grains to cows. It is a shame because cows have an extra chamber in their stomach, called the rumen, which allows them to convert grass into protein. Encouraging farmers to return their cows to pasture by removing the incentive for a corn-based diet is a key step because it nurtures healthier animals. For a funny and engaging documentary on this topic, check out King Corn.

Finally, creating incentives for the continued development of small and mid-sized meat processors is necessary to enact change. Meat processors are where meat is converted from a side of beef into ground beef, filet mignon, strips, sausages, jerky, and so forth. In the Northeast, the demand and price for local grass-fed beef is through the roof, but there is a bottleneck on processing. A smart entrepreneur could make a nice living as a mid-sized meat processor with sustainable, humane practices in just about any region of this country.

If these three steps were implemented over the next decade, then Zuckerberg could eat all of the meat that he wants, without slaughtering it himself. Likewise for Mackugler, though he would probably continue hunting anyway.

Photo Credit: Ruthie Schwab