I’ve got a lot of things on my mind lately (and, no, Georgia isn’t really one of them. TN is South enough for me, thank you). It all started a few years ago when I read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. Then, about a year ago, a PETA representative handed me a brochure on the way to a college class. I tucked it into my bag to peruse later, if at all. I looked at it and was horrified by the pictures of animals and how they are treated by our meat industry. I told myself that I should become a vegetarian because the treatment of animals, of which I call myself a lover, was utterly disgusting. I bought a book called “The Gradual Vegetarian” but never got around to reading it.

I recently read an article in Harper’s magazine about the pork industry – an examination of the brutal, almost Brave New World-like manufacturing and breeding of animals for standardized meat. We, the consumers, expect to go to any grocery store in our country and find the same pale pink rectangle pork chops looking up at us under their Saran wrap blankets. This demand for homogenous meat has resulted in a mechanical, heartless industry where pigs live and die in a small indoor stall, forcing them to stand in one direction, eating on one end and defecating on the other end for their entire (unnaturally) short lives.

Then, coincidentally, I saw ‘Super Size Me’ which, if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. It examines the corporate God otherwise know as McDonald’s and its “food” that is far from good for you (did you know that after 9 weeks their french fries don’t decompose?). What’s worse than selling fatty, over-processed food and utilizing underpaid, non-Union workers, is how it markets to children. Kids are vulnerable and are still developing their tastes, which corporations exploit for their own benefit. They see kids as a means to an end – the end being huge profits if they can create a market in children who will continue to buy for the rest of their lives. I’m not saying that kids (or adults) are held at gun point and forced to dine at McDonald’s or any other fast food chain, but the huge, multi-billion dollar corporations monopolize television commercials and now sponsor everything from sporting events to elementary and high schools, making it very difficult for local, independent restaurants to compete.

My first reaction to the article and the film were to finally become a vegetarian. I really don’t know if I can make such a drastic change to a 30 year-old established diet, plus Huz doesn’t want to become one which would make dinner-making a pain. I may eventually make the switch, but for now I will start by becoming a better consumer. I’d like to buy meat that is organic and grain-fed (did you know that cows, pigs, chickens, etc. are fed ground bones and guts of other cows, pigs, and chickens?). Ideally, I’ll start buying meat from a local farm that specializes in the humane treatment of animals and is organic, like this one. Eating organic fruits and vegetables would also be a healthy step so that pesticides and growth hormones are longer part of my diet.

It’s funny, but thinking about having a child has really been an incentive to make these changes. For one, I want to offer a healthy environment for a growing fetus, but I also want my child to be a conscious member of society who thinks about her food and where it came from before purchasing it or taking a bite of it. So that’s my new goal, folks. I want to be a better consumer because I am partly responsible for the meat industry and the fast food empire. Why? Because I buy their products. If I don’t like those products or how they are being produced and marketed, I shouldn’t be buying them.

[Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I’m reading “Fast Food Nation” which is VERY eye-opening about how our food market works. I highly recommend it.]