Calling all carnivores! The New York Times (NYT) wants to hear from you! In a 600-word essay, a panel of judges wants to review why you believe eating meat is an ethical choice. This is certainly an interesting writing prompt, one that will surely ignite some passionate responses, and I hope you’ll take time to participate.
Now, be warned: the panel of judges may be a bit biased. NYT says they have “assembled a veritable murderer’s row of judges -- some of the most influential thinkers to question or condemn the eating of meat.”
Collectively, the judges are all those who have denounced eating meat and have many anti-animal agriculture positions, so words from farmers and ranchers may be quickly ignored. Judges include: Peter Singer, author of “Animal Liberation"; Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma"; Jonathan Safran Foer, author of “Eating Animals"; Mark Bittman, NYT opinion writer who focuses on the American diet; and Andrew Light, author of “Animal Pragmatism: Rethinking Human-Nonhuman Relationships.”
Despite the obvious slant of the jury, I believe ranchers should be present for this particular conversation. Essays can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and are due by April 8. Winners will be featured in an upcoming issue of NYT. For complete contest rules, click here.
Here are a few things I will focus on in my essay.
- Proper animal care is the responsibility of everyone in the beef production chain. Beef ranchers recognize that ensuring animal well-being is the right thing to do and critical to their operation’s success.
- From pasture to plate, animal welfare is a top priority, and there are six programs ranchers follow to properly care for their livestock including: the Beef Quality Assurance Program, Producer Code for Cattle Care, Humane Handling of Cattle in Transport, Humane Slaughter Act, Temple Grandin’s proper livestock handling audits and continued research on animal well-being conducted by USDA’s Ag Research Service and the National Animal Health Monitoring System.
- Families are behind the foods we eat; 98% of farms are family-owned and operated. A teen growing up on a Michigan dairy farm may have milked the cow that produced your favorite yogurt; a farmer in Iowa may have harvested the wheat to make your favorite breads; a rancher in South Dakota may have sold quarters of beef from the 4-H steer to the local restaurant in town; and a cotton farmer in Georgia may have grown the product to create your favorite t-shirt. Food doesn’t come from a grocery store; it comes from people who care. Get to know these people and hear their stories. Their ranching practices are based on sound science, family values, solid ethics and moral integrity.
- I’m Amanda Radke, a fifth-generation beef producer from Mitchell, SD. I feel confident in eating healthy steaks and burgers because they're produced in a manner that comports with my strongly held beliefs in caring for the animals and the environment. To me, beef is an ethical choice we can all feel great about eating, and in America, we are blessed to have an abundance of food choices at the grocery store. So whether you eat organic, natural, grass-fed or conventional beef, the options are great and the safety and nutrition is never compromised.