Thursday, November 14, 2013

Clarification on my comment about meat

I made a comment on the previous post about not being happy that the girls were eating ground meat at school.  I thought I should comment about that.  It doesn't necessarily have to do with SNAP benefits, although it certainly would be more difficult for an individual on benefits to buy anything but the cheapest meat, but I'll dedicate a few words to it nonetheless.
Several years ago, I watched the documentary Food, Inc.  This documentary addresses the "highly mechanized underbelly" of the US's food industry, which is controlled by a handful of corporations they argue are more concerned with profit than health.   The first part of the film covers the meat industry, while the second part examines the industrial production of grains and vegetables by corporations such as Monsanto.  Both segments are compelling, but the meat part should make anyone think, particularly a parent.  
It tells the story of a mother on a crusade to improve food safety after her 2-year-old son dies from E. coli poisoning from a hamburger.  Her family had gone camping and eaten hamburger patties.  Within days, the son was hospitalized and deathly ill.  He died after his kidneys failed.  Watching her tell her story and then seeing the images of the slaughter houses, of chickens too large to walk, of cows eating feed pumped with toxic chemicals, and of the environmental devastation of waste run-off from factory farms was a sobering experience.  Those images popped into my head every time I picked up a package of regular ground beef or chicken at the grocery store, and eventually I made the change to only buying local meat raised under humane conditions from our food co-op.
Can a single mom with three children on SNAP benefits afford natural meats from animals grown on local farms without any antibiotics, steroid, or hormones?  I don't know what the typical price difference is, but I would guess that it would be enough to make choosing the natural meats hard to justify.  Already a greater percentage of her income is being dedicated to food when compared to people of more average income, and anyway, there is no guarantee that the place where she shops carries natural meats.  They are becoming more common, although I'm not sure Walmart sells them (I did not see evidence on their website and despite being from NW Arkansas, I avoid Walmart like the plague).  Schools also cannot in general afford anything but the cheapest meats as well.  I applaud all the efforts that the National School Lunch Program has made towards improving the quality of the food served, but there is still a cash flow problem.  It is not a profitable business, and those food service managers have to do the best they can with very little.  If more kids (including my own children I should add) bought school lunch, there would be more money for the managers to spend.  As is, there is not.
It's obviously a complicated issue where health is definitely sacrificed to profit.  Watch the movie, but be warned, it may change you. 


1 comment:

  1. Good points. I know that Walmart is carrying more organic products, but I don't know if that extends to their meat offerings. I generally pay between $6-9 a pound for "natural" hormone-free grass-fed etc. meats around here, and that is a world away from the $1.99 specials advertised at the grocery stores. We are lucky to have these meats available to us--I imagine many SNAP recipients live in food deserts where it would be difficult or even to have that choice to make.