When did eating get so complicated? Each meal we eat represents a choice we have made from intertwined options - a web of family traditions, culture, health, financial resources, the latest fad, geography and even politics. The one option that is off the table is not making a choice – whether you’re eating a home cooked vegan meal or scarfing down an industrial fast food burger, you’ve made a choice whether you know it or not.
I am not a vegetarian. I eat meat, and I have chosen to face the ethical challenges that eating the flesh of a sentient creature presents. So I am choosy about where and from whom I buy meat. I care about how the animals were raised, whether or not they were crammed into indoor facilities and stuffed with antibiotics and growth hormones. I care what happens to the waste the animals produce, and I care about the long-term economic health of the farmers and the viability of agriculture. The choices I make are not perfect, but I can live with them.
So I haven’t bought a Hatfield Meats product in probably more than a decade. Hatfield raises pigs in confined feeding operations that produce enormous amounts of waste. Their contracting farmers have no control over how the animals are raised or what they eat. In fact in many cases, the farmer goes into debt to put up the building to Hatfield specifications, and Hatfield often even places a contracted manager in the facility to run the operation. The farmer is responsible for paying off the debt and disposing of the waste. In return, farmers receive the security of a set price for each pig delivered to market.
So it was with interest I learned that Hatfield will phase out the especially cruel gestation crates for pregnant and nursing sows and move to “free to roam” pig pens by 2022. The change was in response to customer demands that prompted big pork buyers like Costco to signal that they will not buy from suppliers that use crates.
I, for one, need to understand this better before I end my personal boycott of Hatfield. But my choice and the choices of thousands of other consumers to avoid meat produced by inhumane methods has begun to create change.