In this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, it is written, “‘I will eat meat,’ because your soul desires to eat meat, you may eat meat, according to every desire of your soul” (12:20). Follows is a list of animals that cannot be consumed and the commandment not to “cook a kid in its mother’s milk.“
Further along in the Torah portion, it is written, “If there will be among you a needy person. . . you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother” (15:7).
In our current society, what is the connection between eating meat and people living in poverty? The people in the US who are raising animals for food consumption are needy people.
Ten billion animals are slaughtered each year in the US– 90% of them are raised at Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Animals raised at these massive industrial sites are referred to as “production units” and they are raised under inhumane conditions. There are four companies that control the meat raised in the US. They don’t care about animals, the environment, farmers, human health or workers. The most important thing is the bottom line for these corporations. Mike Callicrate, a Kansas-based cattle rancher says, “industrial agriculture’s goal is to get rid of farmers.”
Workers at CAFOs and meat processing plants are poorly paid, working in dangerous conditions with little legal protection or any benefits. They usually have limited other work options. “Food costs. . . .have been paid by migrants and other farm workers who see no alternative to exploitative wages and working conditions. These unpaid costs are paid by people who, through no fault of their own, are at the mercy of those with more economic power.”
When I was in college, I was part of a group that supported striking poultry plant workers in a small mountain town in western North Carolina. The striking workers were immigrants who spoke little English and lived in poverty. Local religious congregations, across denominations, provided food and other support to them. The people who came to replace the workers fared no better. They were also poor immigrants who crossed the picket line simply because they had no other choice. They were all impoverished people who needed food and income. They could not get by working at a chicken processing plant.
If you eat animals or dairy products, your choices can help to end the industrial food system. Mike Callicant says that raising and eating food is a collaboration between farmers and consumers. The most important thing consumers can do is to know the source of your meat and dairy. Buy from a small, local farmer. Your money is a direct
investment in a farming family and community, whose livelihood depends on the well being of their humanely raised animals. It bypasses the nation’s four massive meat producers and pays farmers directly. There are several companies (Robariah Farms, Wise Organic Pastures, Kol Foods, and Grow and Behold) selling pasture-raised kosher meat, raised by small ranchers.
The recipe I prepared this week is ratatouille. It’s a simple, delicious and filling stew. The humbleness of the dish is enjoyed by everyone, of all needs. The additional option of tempeh is a great, high protein meat alternative.
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small or medium eggplant, chopped
1 large yellow zucchini, chopped
1 large green zucchini, chopped
3-4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 package of plain tempeh, cut into small pieces, optional
1 large handful of basil, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1.Over medium-low heat, add olive oil to large saute pan. Add onion and cook until translucent, approximately 4 minutes. Add garlic and let cook for another minute.
2. Add eggplant and zucchini. Stir well. Let cook for about 10 minutes. Slight browning is fine but add some water to prevent from sticking. The vegetables will start to soften.
3. Add optional chopped tempeh and mix well.
4. Add chopped tomatoes (including juice) to pan.
5. Keep temperature at medium-low. If the tomatoes aren’t very juicy, extra water might need to be added to prevent vegetables from sticking. Continue to cook until ingredients are soft, approximately 15 minutes. It should be a thick, chunky stew.
6. Add basil, salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and drizzle with olive oil. Serve warm.