Whether ethical omnivore or vigilant vegan, most eco-minded foodies agree on one thing: Factory-farmed animal products are bad news all around. That point of agreement is what Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety (Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat) aims to unite and rally its readers around.
Gristle is a new short collection of essays with celeb-appeal. Moby edited the booklet — with the help of Miyun Park, executive director of Global Animal Partnership — and the contributors are eco-celebs from all fields. Famously libertarian Whole Foods CEO John Mackey argues for an end to farm subsidies that make factory farmed meat so cheap. Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe pinpoint the connections between increased meat production and global hunger. Christine Chavez and Julie Chavez Rodriguez, granddaughters of Cesar Chavez, rail against the worker abuses that factory farming allows.
The powerful essays look at factory farming from many other angles, too, from human and environmental health perspectives, land use and value concerns, and community impacts. Gristle makes a powerful argument against factory farming, boiling down the many problems created by cheap meat into an easy-to-read, engaging 140-page booklet.
Gristle’s contributors generally bring in strong facts and figures as the basis for their arguments — which is why Gristle is weakest when a few contributors over-argue their points. While most environmentalists and health advocates agree that Americans consume an unhealthy amount of meat — and that factory-farmed meats especially are the cause of many food-borne diseases — a few of contributors simply juxtapose the worst American diets with the healthiest vegan diets and argue that the latter are what we should all be aiming for — without ever considering a more moderate Pollan-esque ominivore diet (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”). “Animal-free diets are the most healthful,” claim Sara Kubersky of MooShoes and her husband, Tom O’Hagan, in their essay, without even a cursory discussion of ethical omnivore diets or the many indigenous communities that have lived in healthy coexistence with family farm animals for generations and generations.
Still, Gristle makes a valiant effort to offer many perspectives — including an essay from Paul Willis, manager of Niman Ranch Pork Company. And overall, Gristle’s effort to find points of agreement among the disparate voices is admirable and effective as a catalyzing tool against factory farms.
Gristle is available in paperback now for $13.95.