I’ve just finished watching the film, Fast Food Nation. Many years ago I read the book, and I’d forgotten a few of the horrors described within, but this star studded Hollywood rendition did a great job a reminding me of the unsettling personal, societal, ethical, and community side effects of an industrialized food system. The movie evokes a range of emotions, from rage to horror, empathy to frustration.
As I watched the movie chronicle the dehumanizing effects, commoditization and industrialization has had on the North American beef processing industry, I began to regret my occasional participation in fast food burger consumption. We’ve all been there, driving on the highway, stopping at a service station with miles to go and, a growl in our tummies.
Prior to starting Culinarum I had never seen how meat was processed. To me, meat came out of a package. I’d never stopped to think about how it got there. Since starting this business, I’ve had the pleasure to visit several small family run abattoirs to witness what rural Ontario community meat processing is like: 5 to 6 staff that kill, bleed, skin and gut 10 to 15 animals a day, by hand for their local farmers. It’s small potatoes compared to the multi-national, industrialized meat houses that are featured in Fast Food Nation. But these small provincial abattoirs are so essential in the communities they serve, and to eaters like us who are interested in sustainably raised, humanely treated animals. With only a few folks on hand to handle the animals, it’s easier to trust things are done right, safely, and you know they are mindful of the tasks they perform.
Our meat may cost more, in part because it’s grown, processed, and tended to on a smaller scale, but also because real people — people who remember a cow is a creature of Mother Nature and not just an end product, people who are connect to the farmer and the community who will eat this animal — process this gentle beast. They are responsible for its quality and safety. Small scale meat is traceable back to the source – one butcher, one abattoir, one farm, one cow.
As meat eaters, at some point, we all have to face the reality that something died for our dinner. A living breathing beastie ceased to exist for our nourishment. And before it was called a chop, a steak , or stew, we refereed to it as a pig, a cow, or a sheep. I think it’s important for us to reflect on this next time we sit down to dinner, and for all the folks along the food chain who participated in helping my steak arrive on my plate to remember that fact.
Over the last two years, Culinarium and our customers have joined the fight to save our small provincial abattoirs. Progress has been made, and some funding is now available for abattoirs to help them upgrade their facilities to meet ever changing provincial requirements that are geared to bigger processors. But there is still more we can do.
Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to find out more on the progress our petitioning has made
Click here to download a petition post card, if you have not already done so. Every voice helps.