What a timely discussion. It was announced today that with their purchase of National Beef and Smithfield Foods, Beef Division, the Brazilian beef giant JBS SA is poised to take control of 1/3 of the American Beef Market.
While Washington debates interrogation techniques, inside our food industry, "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment ("torture") is the norm. (Should we really regard animals with any less respect than our fellow humans?)
If we are going to eat meat (and I certainly intend to), there is an alternative to the industrial farms and feedlots (that I've seen across the United States and Canada.)
We can choose to support family farmers and ranchers raising organic, grass-fed meat. One example is California's Niman Ranch brand (http://www.nimanranch.com/control/main/), representing an association of 650 family farms, who CEO Jeff Swain claims adhere to the mantra "no added hormones, no antibiotics, no animal products in feed, ever."
But before you order that hamburger, you might want to read this Independent UK article (http://www.alternet.org/environment/74031/) about cattle ranching in Brazil, a prime driver of deforestation in the Amazon Basin. Deforestation has been cited as the second greatest contributor (behind CO2 emissions) to Global Warming. (And when deforestation leads to cattle ranching, the Global Warming impact is compounded with methane production.)
The growth of global fast food chains in "developing countries" is subsidized by their most affluent markets, in North America, Europe and Japan. Even though Brazilian beef may not be imported for their U.S. restaurants (due to opposition from American ranchers), Brazilian beef may be used to supply their other markets. Deforested tracts of Amazon Basin are also a major source of soy bean feed demanded by industrial farming operations.
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