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More Cognitive Dissonance from America’s Farmers

Listening to Slaughterhouse Shortage Hits Natural Beef Industry on NPR reminded me of Cognitive Dissonance at the Niman Ranch, wherein I deconstructed the word "sacrifice," as in "We ask the ultimate sacrifice" of animals. Clearly, we ask nothing; we simply do what we want.

In the NPR segment, Amy Mayer reports that suppliers of "natural beef" (as opposed to artificial beef?) can’t keep up with all the demand for their product (grass-fed cows not treated with antibiotics or hormones).

Let’s deconstruct:

  • Carolyn Weiler "lures" her cows into a truck, making it all sound like fun and games. They’re going to the slaughterhouse. (The photo is from Gail Eisnitz’s investigation of slaughterhouses called "From Farm to Fork." Check it out.) 
  • Weiler says consumers "also wanna know that IT has a happy life [and interestingly she nervously chuckles here]–our cows have a (pause) really happy life–and that they’re humanely (pause) killed and processed." The sound of her voice tells me that she either is well-aware that there’s something wrong with what she’s saying and doing, or that once she heard the words coming out of her mouth, she realized how warped they sounded. Perhaps she really did just catch on to the reality that she claims to want a happy life for the cows, yet the only reason they exist for her is so that she can kill them and profit.
  • Over 80% of the country’s beef is processed by FOUR slaughterhouses, and they don’t want to work with small producers.
  • Fires and development buyouts have caused many slaughterhouses to shut down.
  • Mobile slaughter units may be able to fill the void, and they’re cheaper.
  • Weiler has had to truck her cows triple the usual distance, to a slaughterhouse in New Hampshire. Her costs are up nearly 50%, which she passes on to customers who apparently are happy to pay more. There is no mention of the effect of the travel on the cows.

Weiler says that consumers "want" happy meat. She’s providing a product for which there is demand. There is no mention that "humanely killed" is problematice in language as well as in practice. Listen to the segment. Weiler’s voice is telling. Cognitive dissonance is alive and well on small farms in America.

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