Not a book for vegans, but an educational book about the business of meat
I liken this book to Marta Zaraska’s Meathooked. A nonfiction book by Forbes journalist Chloe Sorvino and published by Atria Books (a division of Simon & Schuster), Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed, and the Fight for the Future of Meat is an educational and insightful book about the meat industry in America. How it got to be what it is, and what Sorvino thinks should be next.
I for one, think that it can be useful for vegans (especially if you run a vegan business) to learn about the meat/seafood/dairy industry to remind ourselves of what we are up against. While Sorvino is not a vegan and doesn’t seem to want to be one, she emphasizes that change is needed in the US meat industry, and proposes how this could happen.
Here are some highlights I found interesting:
- The book starts off talking about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on meat plants. How it affected business and drove the fear of a meat shortage.
- Sorvino talks about the rise of Tyson Foods, Cargill and Smithfield. When meat packing turned into boxed beef in smaller cuts, that’s when CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations) came to be in 1976.
- Tyson, JBS, Cargill, and National—the top 4 meat producers in the US—are all owned by Marfrig in Brazil and they control 80% of the beef industry (page 43). How do you feel about that, Americans?
- Independent cattle producers sued Tyson in 2004 and were awarded $1.28 billion, but Tyson won the appeal. Walmart is its largest seller, which dictates the price of beef.
- JBS entered the market, acquired companies, and got involved in political interference through bribes.
- Sorvino outlines cases of Indigenous and female Black workers being assaulted and injured while working for these and other meat companies.
- There have been bans on Brazilian beef because of it being tainted and spreading BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), AKA mad cow disease.
- Smaller meat processing companies that feed their cows grass use all the parts of the cow: heart, liver, kidneys, oxtail, etc. (I say, if the animal has to die, nothing should go to waste.)
- Farmworkers and family members have been poisoned by fumes on hog farms and drowned in hog lagoons (a fact not talked about enough). The waste pollution in rivers and streams affects BIPOC communities, and the ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphorus used to clean plants make their way into water too.
- In the US, 3 million people contract antibiotic-resistant diseases and 35,000 of them die (likely more) each year.
- Antibiotics are fed to make animals gain weight so they can be killed sooner (efficiency = profitability). This is not only bad for our health, but for soil too.
- 40% of “antibiotic-free” labels on meat are false.
- Sorvino touches on the WHO’s declaration of meat’s links to cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund also suggested we should consume red meat up to 3x per week and little (if any) processed meat.
- There is more demand for bison (buffalo meat) than there is supply.
- Sorvino highlights Cooks Venture, which creates better quality chicken using cover-cropped, non-GMO grains and by allowing chickens free range. It is the only chicken producer with a genetic operation, meaning that it breeds through selection.
- Chapter 13, “The Dumb Money Driving the Plant-Based Boom,” goes into the billions that are being invested in both lab-grown and plant-based meat.
- She talks about the rise of Beyond Meat and Josh Tetrick, founder of Eat Just, who experienced drama with executives and his board. She expects the meat industry to “kick back and watch the whole thing fizzle out.” (page 176)
- She also talks about Impossible Foods using GMO soy and that concentrated pea protein (which Beyond Meat and many other countries use) isn’t necessarily sustainable.
- She touches on other plant-based alternative companies who’ve received millions of dollars and the fact that they won’t all survive.
- Regarding the “lab-grown meat freaks,” she talks about how these companies were founded, the ethics behind lab-grown meat, and Bill Gates’ investment in this space (as well as in plant-based protein).
- She has a lot of respect for mushrooms, and ends the section about meat alternatives with this statement: “But what we’re left to decide between, online and on shelves, too often falls short. Finding alternatives supported by locally based and economically viable supply chains remains the best route.” (page 224) Can’t argue with that.
- Sorvino ends the book talking about how she worked a few days at a chicken slaughterhouse, and how we and other companies can make a difference: Become a Benefit corp, support Black farmers and soil health, or create a public food program, food hubs, and/or local supply chains.
- Personally, she eats meat from farms that disclose how animals were raised and slaughtered—which doesn’t come from grocery stores. While farmers’ markets sound like they are great places to buy local food, they aren’t reliable for food producers.