There is a lot of press going around about the so-called swine flu lately. I say "so-called" not because I don't believe it exists, but because I think the name is inflammatory and does not credit the actual origin of the virus. I believe we should rightly call it the FFF, Factory Farming Flu. Check it out:
You could accuse me of being an HSUS fangirl, and you would be correct. HSUS has been investigating the conditions on these so-called farms for years. (So-called? Again? Say what you mean, girl!) Farms conjure pastoral images of rolling fields, red barns, and a wholesome family trying to earn an honest living. No matter which way you slice it, the places where animals are raised for eventual consumption are not farms: they are animal sweatshops.
Real farms still exist, but a small (but growing) percentage of our food actually comes from them. Some farms (GASP!) even raise their animals humanely, with a clean environment, access to the outdoors, freedom to engage in natural behaviors, a warm place to sleep, plentiful food and a quick, painless-as-possible death. I have heard it said that there is nothing humane about raising animals for the slaughter. While I agree in principle, encouraging animal welfare with our purchases is at least a step in the right direction. Others say you should raise your food yourself. I love this idea, but it really is a full time job, and it requires you have a fair amount of space and the ability to use it freely. I would wager that a vast majority of US citizens lack at least one of these luxuries.
To aid in your shopping, a quick Google will reveal that there are many organizations that offer humane certifications to farmers. It's a cool idea, but these certifications and inspections don't run cheap. and would be incredibly expensive for most small farmers to implement. Some grocery stores, such as Whole Foods or PCC in Seattle, have their own set of standards for the products they carry. I look for these certifications during the dead winter months, when my local farmer's market is closed. My preference is to be able to actually talk to the farmers, learn about their visions of humane animal care and sustainability, and make informed purchasing decisions based on this information. With farmer's market season coming up, I would encourage others to do the same. If you find that you eat a lot of meat in your household, order in bulk from the producers: you will likely find you can get fresh, organic, humane, local and sustainably raised meat for about the same price per pound as the factory farmed meat available at your local grocery store. You can feel better about the treatment of the animals, and you will not be contributing to the WHO's workload with your meal choices.
(Incidentally, I did not troll the HSUS' website and steal their idea. I read an article several days ago about the first person to contract the FFF, and it mentioned his close proximity to a US-owned factory farm. How convenient! The connection in my mind was instant, and I've been soapboxing to my husband about it for days. Seriously, ask him: www.ceohno.com )