Blue Hill Pigs
I recently had dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns
. Blue Hill is unlike any restaurant or farm, it is probably the closest thing to a veritable Garden of Eden. Every pig on Blue Hill Farm has 1/2 acre of land to romp and roll through and 1-2 farmers each to raise them, this is how most of us would wish our livestock was being raised.
In reality, most of the meat consumed in the U.S. are raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). Here animals are confined for more than 45 days in small spaces with no access to pasture or freedom to graze, a far cry from the cleared forests at Blue Hill.
In recent years more attention has been brought to the conditions of industrialized farms. Although chefs and animal advocates have been lobbying for decades to improve the quality of American farms, the recent vegan trend spreading through Hollywood due to writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer
and actresses like Natalie Portman seem to have made a greater impact. Regardless of the reason for the public's sudden concern for livestock, many of the resulting changes in the industry are positive. However, the problem with the public drawing their opinions from PETA propaganda and uneducated actresses is that they may not be ready for the changes they've asked for.
The reason why the American food industry has become heavily dependent on CAFO's is due to the high demand for cheap meat. The prices for meat are set by the market, and the industry will cut any corners to produce meat at that price. In an Op-ed in The New York Times
, a former hog farmer discussed the mixed signals farmers receive from the market. People are demanding more humanly treated meat, but they don't want to pay for it. CAFO Pigs
Recently, the U.S. pork industry
began the process to move away from the use of tight cages for pregnant sows. This change is in response to the changing opinion of the market. Moving to group pens means rebuilding barns, hiring more employees, increased veterinary care, and a higher mortality rate. (Sows can become aggressive towards each other) All of this will result in a doubling of the cost for pork, for nothing close to the Eden-like conditions of Blue Hill. Blue Hill can afford to pamper their pigs because of a 30 million dollar donation courtesy of David Rockefeller
and they still charge their diners over $200 for a twelve course tasting with only three ounces of pork.
Due the influences of celebrities and trends, people have blindly begun to demand more humane meat without fully understanding the real cost of meat production. A small change like group pens costs big bucks, a cost ultimately passed along to the consumer. The changes in public opinion are good for the environment and good for the industry, but the question is whether or not the trend can survive the impact on American's pocketbooks. Will you be willing to pay $10 a pound for a pork chop?