One Bad Day

As children, most of us never consider the lives and deaths of the cows, pigs, chickens, and whatever else that eventually became our hot dogs and lunch meats. As we mature, we become aware of concepts such as vegetarianism and organizations like PETA. We're introduced to terms like “factory farming” and “organic” and learn what effects those things have on our diets as well as the world around us. Depending on where and how we were raised, this learning process can go many different directions, some ending relatively quickly, some continuing into adulthood. Some of them take us unhindered through the meat aisle of the local supermarket. Some of them take us to a picket line outside a slaughterhouse. As adults, most of us settle into a comfortable routine that falls somewhere between those two extremes. Realistically, if we eat meat at all, most of us fall on the meatier end of the spectrum.

The ease with which information is passed around today leaves very few of us blissfully unaware of the more unpleasant aspects of the meat industry: cramped living conditions, unnatural diets, genetic modification, and their combined environmental fallout. While this is enough for some people to swear off meat eating entirely, most of us wind up turning a blind eye to the whole situation and going about our lives more or less unaffected. Every once in a while we'll drive by a cattle feedlot on the side of an interstate highway and wretch at the overwhelming funk of concentrated animal waste. Occasionally someone we know will mention a documentary about food that we, “really need to watch.” In these isolated incidents we may consider for a moment that the meat we buy at the supermarket, all shrink wrapped and anonymous, may actually be the product of something we don't feel good about. This is usually as far as it gets. We still buy steak from the supermarket because it's cheaper and easier than going to a small butcher and if breakfast comes with a side of bacon or a bowl of fruit, you know which one you're going to choose.

This project highlights the side of the meat industry that isn't often seen. It shows an intimate portrait of the side that doesn't present its customers with ethical dilemmas. There are a number of farms and ranches scattered throughout the states that raise animals in the ways we all like to believe they're raised when we look at labels showing green pastures and red barns. There are butchers who work with these farms and ranches who take pride in the quality of their work rather than the quantity of their product. This subtle and underappreciated system gives a third option between apathy and abstinence: eating meat doesn't have to be a conflict of conscience.