Hacking Meat is an online conversation exploring how can information and technology be used to hack (or reimagine) a more sustainable, profitable and healthy future of meat. Join the conversation and share your ideas or product requests in the comments, on Twitter using #hackmeat, on Facebook or at the Hack//Meat hackathon happening December 7-9 in NYC.
By Paul Shapiro of The Humane Society of the United States
As we look to the future of the meat, two things could hardly be clearer:
Why? Because simply put, the volume of animal products we consume and the ways in which we so routinely abuse farm animals are both unsustainable.
As the nation that eats more meat per capita than virtually any other on the planet and where the toll of suffering imposed on animals in factory farms is all too apparent, it’s time for Americans to stop digging the hole deeper with our forks.
More and more climate experts are reaching the same conclusion: we need to raise and consume fewer animals for food. Simply put, animal agriculture, chiefly factory farms, is responsible for nearly one-fifth of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and is recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”
That’s one reason New York Times columnist Mark Bittman notes about the benefits of concludes: “By reducing the amount of meat we eat, we can grow and kill fewer animals. That me
ans less environmental damage, including climate change; fewer antibiotics in the water and food supplies; fewer pesticides and herbicides; reduced cruelty; and so on. It also means better health for you.”
That’s also why The Humane Society of the United States promotes such ideas as “Meatless Mondays.” Eating with a conscience is as simple as the “Three Rs”: beginning with reducing our consumption of animals, refining our diets by avoiding products from factory farms and replacing animal products. That, while insisting on better treatment of farm animals, sets the right course for the future.
It’ s important to remember that the nine billion land animals we’re currently raising for food annually in the U.S. are often treated in ways so abusive that few consumers would want to even bear witness to their mistreatment, and, if they did, would likely not support it with their consumer dollars.
Whether it’s gestation crate confinement of breeding pigs where they can’t even turn around for months on end or genetically manipulating chickens to grow so fast that they can barely take more than a few steps without pain, inhumane practices have become systemic industrial animal ag. These aren’t isolated cases or individual acts of cruelty; rather they’re standard operating procedures in the industrial pig and chicken industries where farmers have been removed from husbandry and their farms turned into factories.
Many family farmers have been decrying these inhumane practices for years both because of animal welfare and the negative effects factory farms have on rural communities. And their message is getting out there: As more Americans learn about how most farm animals are treated, the greater the call for reform continues to grow.
So let’s celebrate a better future for all of us: farmers, animals, consumers, and the planet alike. Building that better future is as easy as taking a stand—the next time we sit down to eat.