A film screening & panel discussion
Reception to follow
Saturday, January 28
Please join the Fairfield Green Food Guide as we team up with Audubon Greenwich for another educational film screening event in their beautiful space. American Meat is a solutions-oriented macroscopic documentary surveying the current state of the U.S. meat industry. Featuring dozens of farmers across America, the film aims to be an even-handed look at animal husbandry.
The film explains how America arrived at our current industrial system, and shows us the feedlots and confinement houses, not through hidden cameras but through the eyes of the farmers who live and work there. Meet tens of farmers across the country who have changed their life to start grass-based farms, and we highlight every day tangible solutions that people can take, to change agriculture in America. From there, the film introduces the current revolution developing in animal husbandry, led by the charismatic and passionate Joel Salatin from the eco-friendly Polyface Farm in Swoope, VA. More information is below and a trailer is available at www.americanmeatfilm.com.
The screening of American Meat will be followed by a panel discussion about food policy, sustainable agriculture and locally available sustainable meat and foods. Added 1/17: Craig Haney, Farm Manager, Livestock, Stone Barns will be a guest panelist. Craig Haney’s family has farmed for eight generations in the foothills of the northern Catskills. Motivated by a desire to connect our farming past with a sustainable future, Craig studied American social history at The University of Michigan. After graduation, he returned to central New York to farm and teach at The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown. To promote the connections between farming, food and our culture, Craig founded Skate Creek Farm, a pasture-based, organic farm that raises poultry, veal, sheep and swine. As a farmer and the shipping coordinator for Meadow Raised Meats, an association of family farmers who raise their animals on grass, Craig connected people with their food through restaurant, on-farm and Internet sales, as well as farmers’ markets. Since coming to Stone Barns Center, Craig has managed the Center’s livestock program, which is built on respect for the animals’ distinct qualities, as well as their environmental heritage.
Slow Food Metro North and several other event partners are generously hosting a reception. Come enjoy a delicious glass of organic wine while tasting pasture-raised meats from Saugatuck Craft Butchery deliciously prepared by Chef Marc Alvarez of Concierge Foods. Saugatuck Craft Butchery’s products are expertly hand-butchered and sourced from small family farms in New York and Connecticut that employ sustainable farming practices. As a whole animal butcher, they use the entire animal from snout to tail. Concierge Foods, a premier farm-to-door service, provides busy consumers with the convenience of custom ordering farm-fresh foods from sustainable farms for home delivery. Chef Alvarez encourages people to cook at home and eat healthier and publishes a wide range of recipes on the website to support those efforts.
$15/person. RSVP required to Jeff Cordulack at 203-869-5272 x239. Film will begin shortly after 4:00 pm and will be followed by discussion & reception. (Snow Date: Jan. 29). At Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich, CT 06831 http://greenwich.audubon.org
This event is generously supported & sponsored by:
- Fairfield Green Food Guide
- The Metro North Chapter of Slow Food USA
- Concierge Foods
- Saugatuck Craft Butchery
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FROM THE FILMMAKERS
OVERARCHING SUMMARY OF MOVIE: The pieces for a complete shift of our agriculture may — or may not be — moving into place. A new local food system would require hundreds of thousands of small family farms to spring into existence, farms operated by people returning to rural America, people turning in suits for overalls, becoming farmers. It will also require a complete overhaul of our distribution system, one that is predicated on efficient new technologies, and unhampered by bureaucracy. First and foremost, this new system will be dependent on the backbone of the farmers, those ready for hard manual labor, day in, and day out, year in and year out. It may seem like an unlikely vision, but then again, so is every movement that defines a generation. It’s up to us to make the life choices that will ultimately determine the way our food is, the way our culture will be.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE FILM ‘AMERICAN MEAT’
- “Having spent a good part of my life on the farm I am well acquainted with the obstacles farmers face — and it is always heartwarming to me to see how farmers deal with them. American Meat tells a great story about how different farmers confront the challenges in their own environments. Everyone, whether farmers, policy makers, or food citizens, can learn a lot from this exceptional film. FREDERICK KIRSCHENMANN, lifelong organic farmer, Board President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.
- “American Meat offers a thoughtful, engaging look at livestock production in the U.S. Rather than engaging in polarizing diatribe, the documentary respects the personhood of both factory-type farmers and their pasture-based counterparts. At the end of the film, both groups can sit down and have a conversation, which is exactly what creator Graham Meriwether would like to see happen. — JOEL SALATIN, Polyface Farms, Swoope, VA.
SOME NUMBERS FROM THE FILMMAKERS (please note: #5 & #6):
- Each year the average American eats 48 pounds of pork, 60 pounds of beef, and 82 pounds of chicken. In total, it is over 59 billion pounds of meat.
- Only 1 percent of the 59 billion pounds of meat comes from animals raised outside, on grass.
- Organic certification require that the animals eat all organic feed, be antibiotic free and have access to the outdoors.
- Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms in Swoope, Va. produces 319,000 pounds of meat on 1,550 acres by rotating several different animals across the same acreage.
- It would require 286 million acres of land to produce all of America’s chicken, pork and beef using Salatin’s techniques.
- There are more than 1 billion acres of pasture and cropland in the U.S., so theoretically it would be possible to raise all of America’s meat on small pasture-based farms.
- It would require an estimated 4 million farmers to begin farming this way to meet America’s meat demand. The average age of the American farmer is 57.
- U.S. government pays $15 billion a year in subsidies, much of which goes to the biggest farmers and agri-business, particularly those in corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and cotton.
- U.S. farm subsidies cost the average American taxpayer $112 a year.
- Much of the subsidized crop is fed to animals, which keeps the cost of meat artificially low.
- Polyface Farms receives no money from U.S. farm subsidies, but grossed $2 million in 2010, with 20 full-time positions
- Commodity chicken farmers, who don’t own their animals, get 8 cents of every dollar spent; farmers like Salatin who sell direct to their customers get to keep the entire dollar
- Chipotle, the fast-food restaurant chain, sources all of the pork for its Harrisonburg and Charlottesville, Va. stores from Polyface Farms.
I. WHAT COMMODITY FARMERS SAY IN THE MOVIE:
CHUCK WIRTZ, HOG FARMER, WEST BEND, IOWA:
I think farming, quite honestly, brings us closer to God than any other vocation there is out there because you get to see the wonder of His creation every day…
Do we love our pigs? Yes, we love our pigs. But do we understand what God created them for? Absolutely, They’re meant to be food. They’re meant to sustain us…
If you take a single parent, working mother of a young family, just trying to feed the family, what she needs is inexpensive healthy protein…the commodity world meets that.
ELDON GOULD, HOG FARMER, MAPLE PARK, IL.
We control what the animal gets, when it’s going to get it, it’s consistent from one animal to the next. A lot of that is driven by the consumer. Consumers don’t want to go to the meat case and get a piece of meat that looks like this today and tomorrow it’s going to be something different.
DAVE STRUTHERS, HOG FARMER, COLLINS, IOWA
it’s just drained so much money because we have to keep borrowing money based on what the future may hold, and we don’t know for sure what the future may hold… I think it’s going to be those with the deepest pockets who are still going to be there and I don’t think my pockets are deep enough.
SAM TALLEY, CHICKEN FARMER, SILER CITY, N.C.
It’s gratifying to me to know that I’m helping feed the world. That might seem simple-minded but it does fill a void in my life, that I’m helping feed people that, if it weren’t for people like me, you and everybody else would be hungry.
It really makes me sad to come in here and see these empty houses because I’m used to baby chicks being in here… It cost me $17,500 every two months that these houses sit empty. When I started my business I had it structured where I would be out of debt by the age of 65, and now I’ll be 75. Pilgrim Pride’s not promising us that they’re going to continue to put chickens in any houses.
JOHNNY GLOSSON, CHICKEN FARMER, PITTSBORO, N.C.
I’ve never known anything but agriculture. Cattle, poultry and hay that’s been my life literally. In fact, I’m living, I’m sleepin’ in the same room I was borned in 72 years ago…They [Pilgrim’s Pride] rank you with everybody else and they average your feed conversion, mortality. When your chicken don’t weigh [as much] compared to the man you sold with that week, it can hurt your money. Of course, that’s the name of the game.
LARRY RUPPERT, HOG FARMER, CURLEW, IOWA
When the big operations came in they had contracts on the other end which were better deals than we could get. The little guy kind of moved out. Small towns have just suffered. There used to be grocery stores but they couldn’t make a go of it. Neighborhood’s kind of dried up, building sites were torn down, people had to move elsewhere for jobs. But we’ve still got a post office.
Every year goes by you see another building site bulldozed down, gone. I can drive past places where, when I was young, there was a house there. Somebody lived there. If you don’t have people, your school systems die, the community dies.
You don’t see the community grow with families, you don’t have as many young families, especially on the farms
With the economic crash we’ve seen, we’ve basically created the perfect storm for the hog industry to actually implode upon itself.
JIM WIRTZ (CHUCK’S BROTHER) HOG FARMER, WEST BEND, IOWA
The prolonged time period of this depression lined up with the economy has just been more than a lot of people can take. When’s it going to turn, I don’t know. How many casualties are there going to be, I don’t know.
CHUCK WIRTZ (WHO TRIED TO SHIFT SOME OF HIS OPERATION TO ORGANIC/ANIMAL WELFARE COMPASSIONATE):
We started down this path with the promise that we were going to have an organic contract. We need to market 330 pigs a week…that’s a lot of pork. I need a Whole Foods, I need a Costco, somebody’s who’s reputable, and so far no one’s been willing to step up to the plate and say, ‘we would like to buy those 330 pigs a week if you raised them organic.’ …because if they would, we would do it in a heartbeat.
II. WHAT SUSTAINABLE FARMERS SAY IN MOVIE
JOEL SALATIN, POLYFACE FARMS, SWOOPE, VA.:
(To a group of students) We’re standing here amongst hundreds of tons of cow manure and what do you smell” (Several students say, ‘Nothing’)
Nothing. All right this is compost. They’re [pigs] grinding this up into a huge aerobic compost pile without any petroleum. There’s no spare parts, no time on our part. The pigs are doing all the work and they’re in hog heaven!
Our birds- we move them every day to a fresh spot, they get to eat grass, they get grasshoppers, bugs, a place to run, fresh air, sunshine, and more fully allowed to express their chickenness…where we got this we looked at Nature- and the way Nature sanitizes behind herbivores is- birds!
We have this idea in our country that in order to be economically sound you have to sacrifice the environment, and I’m suggesting that the two can actually be synergistic. But what it requires is thinking 180 degrees outside of norm. I hope you’re beginning to understand on the scale we’re doing things there is no reason for a confinement house in the country, in the world, anywhere.
PAUL WILLIS, NIMAN RANCH FARM, THORNTON, IA.
I was born and raised on this farm. When I was about 10 years old, we raised outdoor pigs in those days and I kinda learned how to do it…what we’re doing here, I guess you would say, is really a return to raising food rather than raising commodities.
MATT GALLAGHER, SANDISFIELD, MA.
I got turned on to Joel Salatin, read his books and it all made perfect sense to me. We decided to move back here and just give it a go. We built a couple of the portable houses, got them out on the pasture and it was amazing when we first started moving these pens back and forth. About two weeks later there would be just a bright green landing strip of grass, easily six inches taller than the grass where the pen had been. The next time we let our sheep and our cows into that paddock they ran straight for that fresh, tall, beautiful grass.
GEORGE VOJKOVICH, CATTLE RANCHER, SEDRO WOOLEY, WA.
Over a couple of years of time we got our health back, the whole family, I did, my heart, I haven’t got no problem with it any more. We started producing food for the family…
I was as redneck as redneck could be. I’d never been in one of those fruit and nut stores before. Now I go into the hippie stores- now I am one of them.
EIKO VOJKOVICH, CATTLE RANCER, SEDRO WOOLEY, WA.
Cattle are meant to eat grass and nothing but grass. And they’re a lot happier. Don’t let anybody else kid you. When they’re happy, they’ll tell you.
JON McCONAUGHY, DOUBLE BROOK FARM, HOPEWELL, N.J. (FORMER WALL STREET FINANCIER)
In terms of my passion, it’s the farm. I want to be on the farm every day. I love being around the animals. The ‘aha moment’ for me getting into farming was the idea of how much we consume that is processed and the effect of that processing on our health…we know exactly what goes into everything that we raise, and therefore we can feel completely confident in what we’re eating. Deep-rooted in all of us is this desire to get back to what we know is being healthy and what we know is right for the community. I think eventually when I leave wall street I won’t miss anything.
ROBERT KLESSIG, CATTLE FARMER, CLEVELAND, WI
We spent $35,000 renovating that old barn to a confinement calf barn to raise calves and it’s basically a concentration camp for calves. That highly mechanized farming system dragging all the feed into the barn, dragging all the manure out, and keeping our cows in confinement, it looked really impressive on paper, with the production we were getting…but we were replacing our cows at a rate of 50 percent a year…
(AFTER SWITCHING BACK TO GRASS FED CATTLE)
A funny thing happened. We started increasing numbers by crazy amounts and we started selling excess cattle to confinement neighbors who were happy to buy them. You don’t need the infrastructure, you don’t need the buildings, you don’t need the machinery- this is a great stepping stone for a young guy to get into agriculture.
III. SUSTAINABLE FARMING AS PART OF CULTURE:
DANIEL SALATIN, CO-OWNER, POLYFACE FARMS, SWOOPE, VA. (SON OF JOEL)
I thought about going to a desk job for about a couple of seconds… Great for some people, for me, my makeup, I need to be outside working. That’s what I love about farming. You do wear a lot of hats and it allows you to have interests in a lot of different things that you can do throughout the year.
CRAIG HANEY, SUSTAINABLE FARMER, LIVESTOCK PROGRAM MANAGER, STONE BARNS CENTER FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE, POCANTICO HILLS, NY
Those are skills that haven’t been valued or eneeded in our society in the last 50 years. We’re trying to recapture some of the knowledge that has been lost and then learn it ourselves for the first time.
RYAN O’HERN, APPRENTICE, STONE BARNS CENTER FOR AGRICULTURE,
POCANTICO HILLS, N.Y.
It’s kind of funny how we’ve all found our way to agriculture. And in college none of us really knew anything about it. There’s a big happening going on right now with people getting into gardening and farming.
DAN CARR, APPRENTICE, STONE BARNS CENTER, POCANTICO HILLS, NY
There’s this whole new resurgence of young farmers and i really want to be a part of it. I never really envisioned myself at a desk job.
If you could get paid a nice wage for working with your hands, something that was healing, if you look back at the end of the day and say, ‘I really accomplished this’ , clean air, sunshine… It doesn’t get much better than this. Would you give up your globalist-agenda, Dilbert-cubicle job?
STEVE ELLS, FOUNDER AND CEO, CHIPOTLE RESTAURANTS
I arranged to see some confinement factory farm hog operations. It was dirty, smelly, cruel place so I decided we would only buy pigs that were raised humanely, that were given access to pasture or raised in deeply-bedded barns, never given antibiotics or growth hormones. These kinds of food are traditionally available only in high-end restaurants or at upscale grocers. And I wanted this kind of food to be available to everybody. We put this pork in all of our restaurants and the response was great. The customers loved it.
Our relationship with Chipotle has been very rewarding. We’ve more than doubled the amount of pork that we’re raising and producing on an annual basis. It’s been the difference from pigs being kind of a side business for us to a full-time salaried operation now with the size of the amount of pigs that we’re running. It could totally change the landscape if more restaurants of this caliber would decide to do this.
SHERI SALATIN, DIRECT SALES MANAGER, POLYFACE FARMS, SWOOPE, VA.
A buying club is a group of food buyers in a certain location that can place online orders and we actually deliver these orders to them at a host home where they all meet…it’s a way to get healthy food into those metropolitan areas that are starved for fresh meat and fresh veggies.
JIM DUNLOP, SUSTAINABLE FARMER, WATSONVILLE, CA.
The customer signs up for a season, and they pay in advance. The CSA [community supported agriculture] I work with, the folks pay in advance for eggs. It works out really nice for the farmer. The farmer can get paid up front, like in February and that’ll get ‘em money for seed, for fertilizer, for compost, and for all of his expenses, most of them anyway, up front
DEE LANDIS, CO-OWNER, MEADOW RUN FARM, LITITZ, PA. There just weren’t enough hours in the day to get all that done. And we just ran out of energy a lot of the time. Nobody knows your name and it’s really hard to market something that nobody knows about, even if it is a good product.
(AFTER WHOLE FOODS STARTS BUYING THEIR PORK)
It takes a certain load off your backs when you’re out of debt and you don’t have that kind of looming in the back of your mind. .
PHILIP LANDIS, CO-OWNER, MEADOW RUN FARM, LITITZ, PA. I’d say they’re (Whole Foods) about half of our annual sales. While we’re going to a lot of little markets it’s nice to have pigs going consistently to one (customer). It makes managing that little detail much easier.
MICHAEL HURWITZ, DIRECTOR , UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET, NEW YORK CITY Farmers markets are actually providing opportunities for farmers to sell directly to customers. And thus having that food dollar go where it should go — to the producer, no middle man, no distributors, and actually get that full retail dollar…
Knowing that you’re actually supporting a family, I think one, makes you feel better about the food that you’re eating, two, makes you feel safer about the food you’re eating, that it’s not through this anonymous, industrially produced food system.
JEN SMALL, CO-OWNER, FLYING PIGS FARM, SHUSHAN, N.Y. SELLS AT UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET
If you’re going to produce a higher quality product, it costs money to produce it — a lot of money. So I have to sell it at a high price. And the only way I can get that high price is to sell directly to people because a distributor would want too large a chunk of that food dollar. We would not be in business without direct sales to the individuals at the farmers market and the chefs in New York City.
STACEY MURPHY, OWNER OF FOOD CO-OP, BROOKLYN, NY
It would be amazing if every egg that people bought they could come and see the chicken who laid it…I think that’s much different than going to say- a grocery store and having something prepackaged with a label… and you don’t really know what the label means. Here you can ask the farmer directly about the chicken.
V. WHAT CHEFS SAY IN THE MOVIE
DAN BARBER, CO-OWNER AND EXECUTIVE CHEF, BLUE HILL RESTAURANT AT STONE BARNS, POCANTICO HILLS, NY
The best way to assure that the farmer is getting top dollar for every pig that he or she is raising is to buy the whole pig. A chef for most farmers is quite attractive, because it’s one transaction. They drop it off at the door, and they get paid. If you’re going to farm, make a connection with a chef.
MARK NEWSOME, CO-OWNER AND EXECUTIVE CHEF, JOSHUA WILTON HOUSE RESTAURANT, HARRISONBURG, VA.
I understand the pitfalls that farmers go through every day. Something happens out at the farm, or a hailstorm occurs, and it knocks down production on a certain item, that I’m not able to get it this week, that’s ok. I’ll take what they have and then in weeks when they’re in abundance I try to utilize as much as I can and I think that’s a philosophy that chefs and restaurant owners need to kind of gear towards but I realize from the financial aspect of it, it can be difficult.
VI. WHAT AGRONOMISTS AND FOOD ADVOCATES SAY IN MOVIE
FRED KIRSCHENMANN, LIFELONG ORGANIC FARMER, AUTHOR, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW FOR LEOPOLD CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, AMES, IA.
Once you’ve made the investment to build the facilities to house those animals then you’re caught and you have to do what the company that owns the animals wants you to do. Because if you don’t have the animals you don’t get income and you’ve still got the costs of paying off your mortgage on the building. And it’s not just farmers who are caught up in these vertically integrated systems. It’s our whole industrial model.
FRED KIRSCHENMANN: (ON THE DECLINE OF SMALL RURAL COMMUNITIES AND THE AGING AMERICAN FARMER)
Where’s that taking us as we go into the future? We’re going to have a human capital problem on our hands and particularly at the very time that we have all these challenges coming at us. At some point, it’s not going to work, and then, everybody’s that’s in the system is going to have to change, and it’s going to be vital for us to have the alternative models that they can then transition to.
What I’m seeing in the next generation of young people- they realize that their future is going to be challenging. Now the good news in this, is that we now have for the first time a new generation of young people that want to farm.
ROGER HOROWITZ, AUTHOR, FOOD HISTORIAN, CURATOR, WILMINGTON, DE.
The kind of meat production we have now is developed after government support through various measures, through investments by companies with a great deal of interest in it, and all of this investment has gone towards the application of chemicals and advanced scientific techniques to animal raising. Virtually none of this money has gone toward organic methods, or other kinds of methods of food production. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect that research in this area along organic lines will have results and could result in more productivity.
DAVE MURPHY, CO-FOUNDER, FOOD DEMOCRACY NOW!, CLEAR LAKE, IA
(ON DISPARITY OF FARM SUBSIDIES, MOST OF WHICH GO TO AGRIBUSINESS)
Factory farms are allowed $300,000 to build a massive manure pit. A farmer who’s raising his pigs in pasture, he’s not getting $300,000 to help improve his pasture, or his fences or whatever. …So there’s a disparity.
LISA STOKKE, CO-FOUNDER, FOOD DEMOCRACY NOW!
If our government system is willing to support farmers when they grow corn and soybeans, it should be willing to support them when they grow produce.
The biggest impact you can have, beyond changing your diet, is making sure that you know where your local and state and federal elected officials stand on a specific issue.