Meat and milk

The Times (South Africa) - - Horo­scopes & Food -

What the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve over. As food pro­duc­tion be­comes di­vorced from our sight and un­der­stand­ing, our choices are ever­more made by what we’re pre­sented with at the point of pur­chase, freed from any hint of back­story if it con­tains un­pleas­ant­ness (and swarm­ing with back-story when it suits).

Iron­i­cally, our cur­rent food­ism al­lows us to imag­ine that we’re in tune with our food pro­duc­tion. But be­ing on good terms with the tat­tooed ar­ti­sanal baker round the cor­ner is not the same as know­ing how grain pes­ti­cides are af­fect­ing ground-wa­ter. Dairy eat­ing ver­sus meat eat­ing is a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of how out-of-sight-out-of­mind op­er­ates.

Vege­tar­i­ans who avoid meat for eth­i­cal, en­vi­ron­men­tal or health rea­sons are of­ten not aware that you might as well just eat them both or avoid them both. The end prod­uct on the su­per­mar­ket shelf doesn’t hint at it, but they’re sim­ply two sides of the same coin.

The lives of both beef and dairy an­i­mals are grim — dairy cows just have slightly longer grim lives. A feed­lot diet makes med­i­ca­tion nec­es­sary to con­trol and pre­vent disease. Apart from the usual dis­eases brought on by an acid-form­ing grain diet, dairy cows may also en­dure mas­ti­tis, in­fec­tion and in­flam­ma­tion of the ud­ders.

It’s not about meat ver­sus dairy. It’s about the nitty gritty de­tails of both, the stuff the eye does not see

Whether feed­lot or pas­tured, dairy cows must keep hav­ing calves if they’re to keep pro­duc­ing milk. Af­ter giv­ing birth, cows are sep­a­rated from their calves in dif­fer­ent ways, and the par­tic­u­lar farm or feed­lot you’re sourc­ing from will de­ter­mine (to the ex­tent we can guess) how trau­matic a process that is for both par­ties. Gen­er­ally, smaller dairies who know their cows are in­clined to man­age this process more gen­tly. There are many com­pli­cated rea­sons why this sep­a­ra­tion is al­most un­avoid­able, in­volv­ing let-down re­flexes, io­dine on ud­ders, milk­ing rou­tines and more.

A few tiny dairies keep the cows with their calves and share the milk, but they’re rare. Cows are usu­ally kept as milk and calf pro­duc­ers for around five years, be­fore be­ing used for their meat. Any male calves they give birth to are usu­ally des­tined for beef, veal or breed­ing. If you eat dairy, you just need to be cool with all this.

As for waste, feed­lots — whether dairy- or beef-ori­en­tated — pro­duce ma­nure which con­tains more E.coli than pas­tured ma­nure and is hugely en­ergy-in­ten­sive to trans­port and get rid of. Some fig­ures put the emis­sions on feed­lot dairy at al­most 50% more than pas­tured dairy. None of it’s pretty, but bot­tom line it’s not about meat ver­sus dairy. It’s about the nitty gritty de­tails of both, the stuff the eye does not see.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.