Our “Willful Ignorance” of Food Sourcing

Modern Farmer is not a magazine I would normally pick up. Damn those Whole Foods checkout lines with their Lana Del Ray CDs and small publications with catchy feature titles!
The cover of the spring 2014 edition of Modern Farmer read, “Dairy Situation: Is Milk Humane?” I was hoping for an article on human digestive development and diet changes due to consumption of milk. I became lactose intolerant when I hit puberty and ever since I’ve been curious about milk. Once it is “milked” from the cow how is it mixed and pasteurized, how is the lactose removed, even the topic of humans drinking another mammal’s milk.
It turns out I was wrong about the topic, but intrigued to read the article and respond either way.
Inside the Milk Machine: How Modern Dairy Works,” by Mark Kurlansky, delved into the painstaking struggle to make small dairy farms sustainable and brought to light the inhumane practices of large-scale factory dairy farming.
Chicken Butt, Resized
Subtle Chicken Butt, Easthampton, MA
According to Kurlansky’s research, as demand for milk grew the breeding of cows developed from simple procreation to genetic grooming. For instance, Kurlansky cites the genomes of the Holstein cow, which, according to the article, have been altered 22 percent over the past 40 years.
Similar to the increased demand for milk is the monumental amount of factory farmed chicken sold in grocery stores. This eTalk, hosted by UpWorthy, details how factory farms use marketing to cover their brutal treatment of livestock. “Farm Fresh” and “100% Natural” are just some of the marketing jargon used by the food industry. In addition, according to the video, 50 percent of all administered antibiotics in the world are used on farmed animals.
The way these factory farms get you, the consumer, to see around their inhumane practices is “willful ignorance,” says the speaker. She adds, “The power of willful ignorance cannot be overstated. This is systemized cruelty on a massive scale and we only get away with it because everyone is prepared to look the other way.”
The message from these two articles is simple: know what you’re eating. Do some research into the brands of food you purchase. Don’t like what you see? Try Locavore, an app that finds local, in-season produce. Or take a drive to and visit your local farms, coops, and farmer’s markets to get your answers from the source.

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