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Burgers and Cruelty: An American Tradition

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

Here you are!! Reason #2 to cut back on animal products: It's not good for animals.

(For Reason #1 - Click Here!)

Before I dive in, I have a note for those of you likely to be emotionally scarred by my description of factory farming:

I understand if you don’t want to keep reading, BUT know that if you want to shield yourself from knowledge of suffering, that means you are a HIGHLY EMPATHETIC PERSON. That’s a good thing! Stay with me and be strong. I promise I won’t be too gory.

So, what is a factory farm? Sometimes referred to as a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), a factory farm is defined by as "a system of rearing livestock using intensive methods, by which poultry, pigs, or cattle are confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions." Usually included in the concept is the idea that these animals are confined to TINY cages in which they don't even have full mobility. Another HUGE issue with factory farms is that the animals are in such close proximity to each other, (and sometimes their own waste products, though this is not legal) that disease is common. Antibiotics are frequently used both to artificially speed animal growth and to control disease. I guess this is supposed to be cheaper and easier than, ya know, keeping the animals healthy. Oh yeah, and about speeding animal growth: their growth, maturation and production of secondary products such as milk or eggs is considerably boosted without consideration for how it will affect the animal's health or welfare. Basically a dairy cow that's too young to produce milk is costing you money instead of making you money, so... gotta speed that process up.

These are just the basics that most people have heard of. I'm focusing on cows today, and I'll get into the specifics in a minute.

According to an analysis done by the Sentience Institute (1) some 70% of cows in the U.S. are raised on what are known as factory farms. This number is an estimate using data from the 2017 USDA census of agriculture. I took a look at some of the documents in that census, and of course there is very little information to be found on the health or welfare of the animals or even what kind of farms they're raised in. Mostly it focuses on how money changed hands for all agricultural industries in the U.S.... So I'm not sure how the Sentience Institute did their math or whether or not these numbers actually came from the 2017 census and not 2012 like it says a few times on their spreadsheet. There are multiple possible sources for error, but this was literally the only number I could find on the subject after a couple hours of searching the web.

In fact, I can't find any governmental documentation on farm animal welfare in the U.S. AT ALL! All of my sources on what conditions for these animals are actually like comes from Non-profits and activist sources. What's really shocking is that reported violations of animal welfare standards used to be a matter of public record, HOWEVER, those documents were removed from public view because of "privacy concerns". (2) The source cited describes many scenarios in which public reporting of these violations resulted in real change. The only way to see these documents now is to request it through official channels, a process which can take weeks or months, during which animals continue to suffer, but once again, these reports were mainly for zoos, pet breeders, and research facilities. NOT FARM ANIMALS. It's my personal suspicion that no one in government really wants to get in the way of some great profit margins, and frankly, consumers prefer to turn a blind eye because they don't want meat prices to go up. In the EU, there's plenty of material on common farming practices, what's humane, what's really NOT, and what needs to change. There's a stark difference when you look at documentation from the U.S.

Beef Cows: About 92% of beef consumed in the U.S. is raised right here at home. (3) First of all, a cow would normally live somewhere between 15-20 years. A cow raised for beef slaughter dies at 18-24 MONTHS. That's roughly the equivalent of a high schooler for humans. These cows are often given implants, injected in their ears that slowly release hormones to cause them to gain weight faster. (4) They are de-horned, castrated and branded at a young age, all of which are VERY painful procedures. Officially, it is suggested (not required) that a producer discuss the use of anesthesia with a veterinarian. In no way is it legally required to spare these animals pain. (5) So let's be real here, if your TOP priority is your BOTTOM line, are you gonna even bother with anesthesia? Probably not. A lot of beef cows ARE allowed to graze outside, however, as it saves producers money on feed.

Dairy Cows: Most dairy cows do not graze. Some 10-15% of farmers are moving toward that to cut costs, (and probably at least partially to respond to consumer pressure for humane practices) the rest are kept indoors for most of their lives. When they're given feed that's more nutrient dense, they produce more milk per cow which increases profits. Oh, did I mention that they are often fed animal byproduct... as in pulverized body parts of slaughtered animals? (Too gory?... oops). Technically it's legal to even give them contaminated animal byproduct as long as the contaminant doesn't end up in the milk. (6) Here's some more food for thought: if you've ever been a woman or known a woman, then you probably know that boobies don't produce milk all the time. Neither do udders! Much like humans, cows only naturally produce milk to feed to their young. They start lactating after they get pregnant and stop lactating shortly after their calf stops drinking their milk. The implication? Dairy cows are CONSTANTLY PREGNANT. Around the age of 2, when they're considered fully mature, they're artificially inseminated. Milk starts being produced and harvested about two months into the pregnancy and for a short while after their pregnancy. Today's dairy cows have been genetically altered to produce about 4.5 times the natural amount of milk. Usually they're in pain before getting milked as the udder is very large and incredibly heavy and, ya know, pulling on their skin. (I actually learned that at a tour of the dairy facilities at the University of Wisconsin.) Some supporters of the dairy industry use this as evidence of the fact that cows need us to relieve the pain, without mentioning the fact that we put them in that painful situation in the first place. The cow usually goes through two or three lactation cycles before it dies around the age of 5, a quarter of its possible lifespan. (7) The cause of death varies. The biggest cause of death is "lameness or injury." If they are injured, they're simply put down, no need to waste money on veterinary care. After that, the next highest cause is Mastitis, infection of the udder. Others are simply killed because they don't produce enough milk or won't get pregnant. (8)

What happens to the calves? When the calf is born, the mother has enough time to clean the young calf by licking, but afterward, if it's a female, it's taken away and raised in a small pen. Contrary to some accounts, they DO have enough room to turn around, groom themselves, lie down comfortably etc, however, the outdoor area available to them, generously referred to in the industry as a "run," is about three feet by three feet, the size of a restaurant table for four. Then the calf is likely to have the same short miserable life as her mother. If the calf is male, however, it's usually raised for veal. That's really 'nuf said. You can talk about the humane treatment of "veal herds" all day long, but you're killing them before they're six months old. Rude. Some types of veal require the calf much younger, as little as two or three days old... Slaughtering babies... yummy. This is one of very few foods, that I will WHOLEHEARTEDLY AND PERSONALLY judge you for eating. (Not that this will be particularly devastating to you, I mean, you don't even know me probably... I'm just saying I will.) For anyone who's interested the rest of that list is Foie Gras, and lamb.

But I digress, let's get to the real shit here, why should you care?

Okay, so the conditions cows live in isn't up to the standard you'd want for yourself, but cows aren't people. Does it even make a difference to them? The short answer is we will never know exactly how a cow feels about its life or exactly what it wants out of life, but we know that the cow DOES HAVE FEELINGS and it does have wants and needs just like we do. Cows are highly social creatures, that normally live in herds. Cows that have calves hang out with other moms, and cows that don't have calves hang out together. They have hierarchies and cliques just like we do. Cows even have "best friends" or cow company they show a strong preference for anyway. Cows can experience fear, stress, joy, and contentment just like we do. Some sources claim that cows can feel loss and notice that their friends have left the pasture and not come back. We can never know what it's like to be a cow, which is EXACTLY why we don't have the right to decide that their feelings and needs are less important than ours. We're all just animals, and the fact that we're more intelligent doesn't give us the right to confine and torture them. If super-intelligent aliens enslaved us and used our bodies till we were worn out, I'm pretty sure that argument would fall apart REAL QUICK!

The real problem is that the industry treats them as a commodity, something to be used and then discarded, rather than a conscious individual worthy of respect. An animal that is sustainably hunted or carefully raised in a natural setting with food security and health care might live a good life, and relieve a lot of the ethical burden of consuming these animal products. Still, this would probably mean we have to reduce our consumption, and reserve it for special occasions. It has been tradition in many cultures to thank the animal for giving its life to sustain ours, a tradition I love, but as you may have read in my post about the health aspects of a plant-based diet, it's not even necessary to kill animals to sustain us, perhaps the opposite.

One person giving up beef or dairy won't change the world, but perhaps your compassion and commitment can help influence others. The culture around this issue has been shifting for some time and consumption of these products has gone down drastically since 1995. (9) Together we can create a world with less suffering, and that's ALWAYS something to strive for.

Reason #3 to cut back on animal products is all about CLIMATE CHANGE! Read that HERE

Here's a recipe that requires zero cow! Just cuz you ain't got beef don't mean you ain't got FLAVAH!!! But don't take my word for it, try it, I dare you!

Voila! Sarah's Original Homestyle Plant-Based Chili! (It's homestyle cuz... it's in the style of... my home... which is vegan...ish. But the chili is vegan.) Click the pic for printable recipe!!!

This is a classic chili recipe minus the meat! Medium spicy, and super savory it’s the hearty comfort food you need with more of the nutrients you need, and less of the stuff you don’t! I have lots of suggestions in this recipe for stuff you can throw in to change it up, but take this and make it your own! Message me, if you find the perfect addition, I want to try it. It’s Gluten Free, Soy Free, and Dairy Free (duh) if you’re lookin’ out for that stuff.

Beans (Make ahead of time)

You can use whatever beans you want. I used 2 cups of dry pinto beans (made 4 cups cooked) and 2 cups of canned black beans. You could use kidney beans, great northern beans, navy beans, whatever you prefer.

If you need to make this in a hurry, use canned. They’re already perfectly tender. Just rinse and go.

If you prefer dry, just make sure to soak them overnight like it says on the package.

After you soak them, change the water and boil the heck out of them for at least an hour until tender. They don’t have to be all the way done if you have time to simmer your chili (recommended) cuz they can finish cooking then, but you want them most of the way there. Nothing takes away from the chili experience like crunchy, starchy beans. Make sure you add a good amount of salt, and optionally some dried chilis and bay leaves, don’t be shy.

After you cook them CHANGE THE WATER AGAIN. Don’t use that for your chili, it’s got all kinds of hard-to-digest fibers in there.

And that’s it! Set the beans aside for now.

Everything Else

· 16 oz White Mushrooms (Cubed, Try King Oyster mushrooms if you can get them!

· Stuff to Marinate Mushrooms (Soy sauce, liquid aminos, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke etc. You want it salty and meaty)

· 3 Tbsp Coconut Oil (Use refined, it’s not supposed to taste like coconut)

· 1 Onion

· 4 Cloves of Garlic (Minced or Pressed)

· 1 Carrot (2 if you really like carrot)

· 1 Poblano Pepper (You can roast it in your oven first or just dice it and throw in your pan)

· 1 Tbsp of Cumin

· 1 Tbsp Ancho Chili Powder (Now is not the time to wuss out, this is where the flavor is!)

· ½ tsp Ancho Chili Powder

· Dash of Cayenne Pepper

· Dash of Black Pepper

· Dash of Oregano

· 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste

· 1 tsp Better than Bouillon (if you don’t have it, use some veggie stock instead of water later)

Okay, mushroom marinade, whatever you decide to add to that, mix it all together BEFORE you put it on the mushrooms. I really recommend like 4 drops of liquid smoke, but you can’t put that directly on the mushrooms and expect it to be evenly distributed.

Also, 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil get added to the marinade.

Add your completed marinade to the cubed mushrooms.

You can let them marinate overnight, or just let it soak for like 10 minutes, depending on what you have time for.

Throw the mushrooms in a large Sauté pan over medium high heat. Once they’ve released a bunch of liquid add the onion and the carrot.

When the onion starts to get translucent, add the poblano, garlic and all of those spices.

Let em toast for just a minute or two (don’t burn them) then stir in the tomato paste and Bouillon paste if you have it. You may have to add that last bit of coconut oil now to prevent sticking.

Mix it in well. That whole concoction should be thick and saucy now. Stir it around and let the tomato paste cook for a minute.

Transfer your sauté stuff to a large soup pot with the beans and add 4 cups of water or broth.(If you have some flavor stuck to the bottom of your sauté pan, you can put someof the water in there first to deglaze.)

The Whole Shebang!!!

Simmer everything together for at least an hour. Keep an eye on this! It can thicken and burn on the bottom, so stir occasionally and add water if necessary. I added 2 Tbsp of nutritional yeast by taking a little broth out of the pot and putting it in a small bowl, then mixing the “nooch” into that very well before adding to the big pot. Adds a nice oom-pah-pah.

I also like this with a nice brown beer added to the stock. YUM! Alternatively you could try this with cinnamon, or other herbs, or maybe some vegan chorizo! (would probably be a soy product, so watch out)

Right at the end, check and see if it needs salt, but hopefully you’re having it with some salty tortilla chips, so take that into account.

Serve it up nice and hot!

Optional Toppings:

· Green onions

· Cilantro

· Vegan Sour Cream (Try Tofutti, it’s good.)

· Fritos or tortilla chips

· Diced white or red Onion… you know the drill.

  1. Percentage of animals in the U.S. Raised on factory farms.

  2. Public record of animal welfare violations removed.

  3. Where does our beef come from?

  4. Hormonal implants in beef cows.

  5. Guidelines on humane treatment of beef cows

  6. Animal byproduct in cow feed (page 36-37)

  7. Lifespan of dairy cow

  8. Causes of dairy cow death

  9. Stats on cattle

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