April 23, 2020 3 min read

Well, we're still quarantined, and we're still rolling with our online ordering system. It's working! A quick reminder - if you were a Meat CSA member in our old Farmigo system, it's time to switch. We're just under two weeks away from Farmigo being a thing of the past, and we couldn't be more excited about the change.

Brooks' Opinion: Why is there no meat on the grocery store shelves?

Today we want to share a bit about the anomaly of so many of you demanding better at a time when the shelves at Costco and other box stores are literally devoid of meat. It's a serious problem that started decades ago and is now proving the final case for big slaughter plants NOT being a sustainable solution to feeding regions.

Large plants are literally not operating right now because they're all but tiny cities. Think about butchery on a mass scale - it's reverse manufacturing. A huge plant where one thing is broken down into many things (unlike manufacturing where many little things are assembled into a larger thing). This requires (wo)manpower...and lots of it, in tight quarters. Several plants have already gotten into trouble for pushing the limits forcing employees to work while sick - am I surprised? No. Who do you think is working in these plants? Only workers who don't have many other options - when's the last time you heard a kid say, "I want to work on a high-speed slaughter line when I grow up!" For more on this, check out the book The Meat Racket, written by long-time customer Christopher Leonard - it was eye-opening for me!

So the big guys have been abusing migrant and poor labor for decades, and this time it bit them in the butt when their "expendable" labor was all but hospitalized. Meanwhile, conventional beef and pork and poultry producers are waiting in the queue to drop their animals at the next megaplant. Well, they can't. And now these farmers will be forced to put their animals down themselves -because the cost of feeding beyond the exact date they're ready is too much for this precarious system of tiny margins. I knew about this weeks ago when a local Mennonite asked to use our butchering equipment on an entire broiler house that was to be gassed. Now it's playing out nationally. Livestock prices are rock bottom.

Surely these animals can all be directed to the smaller plants, right? Well, turns out there aren't any left, because they were regulated out of existence in the 90s and 2000s. And try starting a new one- see how many years it takes off your life (ask me how I know!). Not to mention the sheer volume of animals is far too great for anything but many, many small plants dotting a region (as there should be).

We're SO thankful for our small processors who had personal conversations with us from the start of the quarantine about how to best make this work. We processed some extra animals, enlarged our freezer, and made sure we were ready in case they had to shut down for two weeks. They still may have to, and we may have a gap in supply - but we know they've got our back and we have theirs.

This is a sustainable model! Two small businesses who sink or swim together and so rely on honesty, trust, and a give and take on both sides to make things work. This is how GOOD FOOD gets in your hands, and this is how business should work (and used to work) everywhere. 

If there's anything we can screw up after all this, it's being complacent about the desires of the moneyed few who will beg for the return to the status quo. The system they've built around themselves of environmental destruction for some extra cash is reprehensible. We don't need it again. What we WILL need is more Americans in skilled labor positions like butchery. Believe me it isn't a dream job, but it is a good job if you are fairly compensated and know it's good food you're working to produce - not some pseudo-food commodity to be half-wasted because it's insanely underpriced and no one cares where it came from.

Let's make this one change among many that we demand! Good food produced by honest labor in clean facilities. We can and we must for a future that works for everyone.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting local foods,

~Brooks


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