Years ago, I remember a Wendy’s commercial with these three older women looking at a burger and saying, “where’s the beef?” Today the question is not where the beef is, but where does it comes from?. I have been thinking a lot about compassion the last few weeks. One of the questions I have been grappling with is when are the times I have not been able to be as compassionate as I would like. It started when I began to make a list of “missed opportunities” to show compassion to others. I realized that one of my behaviors was the choices I was making about what food I purchased. In my head, I agree with the farm to table mentality and want to buy nothing but organic and grass fed, farm raised protein products. I have watched and shown my students too many videos on the factory farm and the inhumane treatment of animals.
Anyone who has watched any documentary such as Food, Inc. is aware of the effect our food choices have on how farm animals live. Whether it is chicken, beef, pork, or fish, factory farms raise these animals in which that are inhumane and seriously impact their welfare. When I look at the sheer number of animals that are farmed for food worldwide (over sixty billion) and I realize that over 9 billion of those animals are right here in the United States, my heart saddens and becomes heavy. Over sixty billion animals are farmed for food worldwide every year, over 9 billion of which are right here in the United States. “Ninety five percent of all these factory farmed animals in the US are broiler or ‘meat’ chickens. In fact, the US is the largest producer of broiler chickens in the world.”
So often we make choices in the grocery store that passively contribute to the harm of these animal’s lives. This was where I have found myself facing and having to explore that missed opportunity to show compassion. I am mindful that the grocery store I shop in, Wegman’s, carries organic, wild, and grass fed animal products. I look at them, consider them for a moment and then fall back into my path of least resistance. My rationalization, which is a valid one, is that I cannot financially afford the choices, which would allow my money to vote on the side of compassion in world farming.
Living on a fixed income, I am always looking for ways to stretch my dollar. Until today, I used the rationalization of the cost differentials between the meats we most commonly consume in our home. For example, the family pack of free range chicken breasts are $6.99 per pound vs. the family pack of factory raised chicken breasts (although they are not labeled as such) at $1.99 per pound. The wild shrimp are $19.99 per pound vs the farm raised which are $10.99. As I have sat here and prayed my way through this, I remembered a quote by Shirley Caeser who said, “I may not be able to sweeten the entire ocean, but I can take a pitcher of water and sweeten that.”
Perhaps I am at a place where I must continue to find that balance between being showing compassion in world farming and showing compassion towards my budget and myself as I seek to learn how to make more compassionate choices for all that are low fat and animal friendly. Perhaps my solution is to reduce our consumption of animal protein so that we can afford to buy cage free and wild products. In the meantime, I will continue to do what I can to show compassion for all animals affected by world farming and compassion for myself as I figure it out.