Have you ever stopped to think about where your meat comes from? The USDA says that roughly 8-20 percent of U.S. meat supplies come from foreign sources, but also said that only the portions that are imported directly as meat are obvious.
“While it is relatively easy to track the amount of meat imported by the U.S. (2.1 billion pounds of beef and 0.8 billion pounds of pork in 2011) and the number of livestock that enter the U.S. (2.1 million cattle and 5.8 million hogs in 2011), it is more difficult to estimate the amount of meat produced in the United States from animals that originated abroad. ERS estimates derived using data on imported livestock by weight category and assumptions about animal growth patterns and the timing of production from imported animals show the share of domestic production attributed to foreign-born animals is significant and trending upward.” – How Much U.S. Meat Comes From Foreign Sources?
We have become very disconnected from our meat. Food blogger and author, Jamie Schler wrote on the Huffington Post about going shopping with her French husband in the U.S., this was his first trip the States.
“He glanced over the display: perfectly aligned Styrofoam platters each holding a perfectly cut, sliced and trimmed steak, chop or burger, each as gorgeously and evenly red as a fine bottle of Bordeaux. Clear plastic stretched across the surface of each piece of meat, displaying to, yes, perfection the item now shiny and smooth, as shiny and smooth as the waxed apples and eggplants over in the produce section. My husband turned to me, shaking his head in disappointment, and said, “You Americans really do not want to know that you are eating an animal, do you?”- This Little Piggy Went to Market: Where Does Your Meat Come From?
And he is right. Ask most Americans where the meat they are eating came from and they will tell you a name of a grocery store, and that’s all the information they can give you because that’s all they know. And chances are, we don’t really want to know where the meat came from or how it got to our grocery stores.
“It’s one thing to pick your own strawberries or buy green beans and fresh corn at the local Farmers’ Market, but it’s very different when you talk about where that New York Strip Steak or pork loin came from. Do you want to have the conversation about the way chickens are raised before they are braised in your Le Creuset Dutch oven? Probably not. As Allison Bryant told me, “If you knew how those chickens were raised, you would probably eat more red meat.”- Honor the Animal
Is it possible to break away from this American habit of not knowing what we are eating? Yes it is, and it’s not as hard as you may think. Buying local meat not only helps you have connection with your meat, it also helps our local economy. A much larger amount of the money you spend on local food will stay in the community and help strengthen it. It’s also likely safer because a lot of meat bought in grocery stores can contain meat from multiple animals making it hard to track if there is a problem. Local meat means you can also make sure that the meat is raised in a way that meets your standards.
You can find local meat in many places around the state. Locally owned natural food stores, like Native Roots Market in Oklahoma City, often stock local meat and can let you know where it came from if you want to know more about it. Even some chains around the state have local meat at times. Farmer’s markets and straight from the farms is another great way to get local meat. And one of the best ways to buy local meat is the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. All of the food they sell is local and they always disclose where the food came from and give you information about the farms. When you order from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative you know you are helping support Oklahoma’s farmers and ranches
As food recalls become more and more common, maybe it’s time to take cue from the French and get to know our food a little better.