I recently ran into an old friend whom I had not seen in a while. After a few moments of catching up on our husbands and our kids, my friend cautiously approached the topic that we both had been avoiding. As a “friend” on Facebook, she has seen the pictures of my family and read my status updates; however, my friend could not make the connection between the Amy she knows in life and sees on social media with the “processor” title included in my profile. I could not help but panic and sputter when this dear friend asked me the very simple question…”What exactly is it that you do, Amy?”
What exactly do I do? How do I explain my job to this friend in a way that is simple, yet also accurate? Do I tell her that I slaughter and process animals for meat? Even to me, these words invoke images of old-school horror movies or those Sara McLachlan commercials with the sappy music….no, that isn’t the correct response! Do I tell her that I partner with local farmers and ranchers (including my husband) in the final stage of meat production? While certainly accurate, this response still does little to dispel the myths plaguing our modern meat industry. The silence was awkward as I struggled to respond.
While I am still not sure exactly what response I finally uttered, in the past few weeks I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on this exchange. It wasn’t some stranger asking…this was my friend! She prayed with me during my dad’s previous battle with prostate cancer; she congratulated my daughter’s FFA accomplishments…this person knows me! Therefore, why was it so difficult to tell her the truth of my profession?
It is time that the veil of secrecy surrounding our nation’s meat industry is removed. Consumers are demanding more transparency from their food sources, and it is up to people like me – the farmers, the ranchers, the processors, the packers, the distributors, and, yes, even the government – to come clean about what is happening in our fields and facilities. While we all have different roles and use various methods of production, each of us has a responsibility to tell the truth of our operations.
I have never met anyone involved in the food industry with a desire to harm consumers, animals, or the environment. However, I have also never met anyone involved in the food industry – or any industry, for that matter – who has not made mistakes. We teach our children to be kind to others (even if they are different from ourselves) and to always tell the truth (even when there may be negative consequences). Therefore, it’s time that we take this same approach with conversations surrounding our food.
Sadly, there is not one blog post or single conversation that can explain the history of our food supply, the challenges of our current industry, and best way to feed our world’s growing population. However, hopefully by telling my story about the struggles and the successes my family has encountered in our attempts to bring safe, local, and affordable meat to North Carolina, this veil of secrecy can start to be removed.
And, maybe…just maybe…I will find a way not to panic the next time someone asks me, “What exactly is it that you do, Amy?”