Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The scoop on poop—manure trucked to Indiana from Ohio

Last month my husband and I went to a swanky restaurant for a Christmas company party/dinner. I only somewhat jokingly wondered out loud where the vegetarian entrĂ©e options were as I contemplated whether to order the New York Strip or the filet mignon. I realize that’s an ironic thought since we were in a steakhouse, but I hadn’t had steak in years. I got the filet.

It was good. Delicious really, but I did wonder where the meat came from. I would love for it to be from a sustainably run farm, grass fed and finished, but I doubt that’s the case.

I rarely eat meat for health and environmental reasons, and recently in NUVO I read about one of the issues that the demand for meat, without a responsible way to deal with the waste that comes with it, produces.

Indiana, being the agricultural state that it is, is home to a lot of farms. It’s kind of easy to forget this, being in suburbia, but CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are common in rural areas. CAFO’s are industrial farms defined by having more than 1000 cattle, 2500 hogs or 100,000 chickens.

So the news I read in NUVO was this—the largest inland lake in Ohio, Grand Lake St. Marys, has been severely polluted by manure runoff. The so-called solution from the Buckeye state? Well, import it to Indiana! Unfortunately, our state, not really known for it’s environmental responsibility or prowess, has absolutely no authority to regulate or stop manure importing.

Where does all this, um, manure go? I have no idea. It’s like the old adage, ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ We may not see these CAFO’s, but they exist. So does the waste they produce, and it’s gotta go somewhere.

We really should be invested in protecting our waterways from foul manure runoff. We should care about the health (or lack of) of the animals held captive in these industrial farms. We should lobby against CAFO’s and the trucking in of manure from other states. We should limit our meat consumption for our own health and for environmental reasons.

The Hoosier Environmental Council has some great resources here: www.hecweb.org/issues/sustainable-food-agriculture/resources, and there’s also an Indy Winter Farmer’s Market (www.indywinterfm.org) where you can buy local, sustainable meat.

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