MY Proposition and Approach to finding a Solution to the Meat Industry’s Perils

When addressing the problems of the rise in meat consumption and its consequences, it is important to enter the solution from a structural point of view. Too many of the proposed amends by the fast food industry, the meat producers and governmental agencies focus on very specific issues within a larger context that ignore the connections between problems. For example, the reaction of the meat industry during the recent E.Coli outbreaks was to spray chlorine dioxide gas on the meat, instead of addressing the unsanitary conditions under which animals live and die. When hogs in factory farms became violent against each other because of the insanity their confined state caused them, the industry introduced anti-psychotics to quell their attitudes. The list goes on, the continual addressing of problems through technocratic solutions is only a way to quell the symptoms of what is a potentially self-destructive system. Ultimately the problem rests on an unsustainable and environmentally destructive trend that must be curved in threat of dire consequences.

In the context of the rise of meat production and consumption worldwide and in developing countries in Asia, the solutions have to come by examining the causes of the rises that have been occurring. If one considers both the realities that urbanization coupled with higher incomes lead to higher meat consumption, and also that the private sector plays a huge role in pressuring markets to sell and grow meat, then it becomes clearer where the solution should emerge from.

If one is going to really come up with a solution to fix the issue of the meat industry, it is going to be directed particularly at the way meat is being produced industrially because this is the source that allows for cheap production of meat. If the prices of meat reflected the true costs of making it, it would be much more of a luxury for many people and would be consumed less. This could be achieved through taxation and removal of the costs that are evaded in production through things like subsidies on crops for feed. This implies more governmental supervision over its private actors—not an unrelated move in context to the larger picture of the unregulated capitalist system that has been the cause for the recent market crash. However, only addressing the issue from an economic point would be incomplete; depriving people with lower incomes and allowing for wealthier people to continue of the same trends of consumption does not solve the problem entirely, although it is a step in the right direction.

The responsibility that developed countries have against developing countries is great because after all, it is their industry that is being mimicked. Developed countries have the power to serve as a model for the negative consequences of the industry they are exporting to the developing Third-World, and ignoring these is a threat to global food security and the environment. One of the angles for this exemplary behavior can be through a change in diet.

Consider some of the trends that have happened in American consumption of meat. If one takes the post WWII dietary campaigns that advocated for meat consumption and a modern phenomenon of the Atkins diet, it is clear that these have an influence on the increase of meat consumption. At the same time, the growing population of the vegan and vegetarian movement in the United States demonstrates the opposing trend of discontentment from the American public. Both of these examples shed light on the fact that a country’s diet can be influenced by forces greater than individual choices—sometimes it is the media, sometimes government propaganda. A greater awareness from the public about the dangers of industrial meat consumption in terms of health and the environmental consequences is necessary and this can come in the form of activism, dissemination of information and directly through educational programs. It is in the power of governments, particularly in cases like China that has such control of its dissemination of information, to inform people about the risks of consuming and producing industrial meat.

Public awareness and the reflection of true costs would help steer consumption in a better direction. The problem that looms over lies in the fact that the vertically integrated Mega Meat Conglomerates have taken such control of the industry and bent the rules to their advantage aided by the government itself, that having a reflection of true costs is unlikely. Accepting the fact that change is not going to come from the industrial meat producers themselves, it must be supported by the international bodies of regulation, the World Bank and the United Nations. It is a problem that cannot be ignored, and one that is growing at unprecedented rates.


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