Ag Reporting and Eating Meat (or Not)

When I was a kid, I would fish for brook trout in the foothills south of Reno, Nevada, with my dad. We would hike a mile or two up dusty trails then bushwhack through sagebrush and manzanita to reach the narrow creeks that snake through the Carson Range. 

We usually caught at least one or two fish before heading home to bread and fry them, cutting the heads off but leaving the tails. To this day, those tails are some of the most scrumptious bites of food I’ve ever eaten. 

Many years have passed since I last went fishing. I became a vegetarian when I was fourteen, but that doesn’t mean I scorn hunters and anglers. Quite the opposite – done ethically, it’s one of the best ways to consume meat. And, as recent Daily Yonder reporting reveals, efforts are being made to make hunting more accessible to women, who are outnumbered 9:1 by men. 

While my vegetarianism may have started with fourteen-year-old stubbornness, I’ve stuck with it as an adult because of what I’ve learned about meat consumption while reporting on agriculture, which is breathtaking in its ethical extremes. Some of the best and worst companies I’ve come across work in food. Rural communities have borne the brunt of and reaped the benefits of both extremes.

In the past couple weeks I’ve spoken with small poultry farmers from New England and the Midwest about proposed salmonella regulations that could affect how they do business. I won’t spoil too much for you – read the full story here – but my biggest takeaway from our conversations is just how vital the small farmer is to food security in the United States. 

During the beginning of the pandemic, small producers put food on grocery shelves while large companies scaled back production to protect their pocketbooks. We could have faced an even larger crisis had small farmers not been there to help feed America. Yet, small farmers continue to struggle as big corporations edge them out of business. 

With just a few corporations in control of large portions of the meat sector, our food system is less diverse and resilient than it needs to be. As the effects of climate change grow more extreme, small food producers may become lifeblood as we adjust to a world that will likely bring many crises, all at once.

There are two criteria I need to meet if I ever decide to become a carnivore again: possession of a hunting and/or fishing license, and meat options that don’t have the word [insert: big meat company name] stamped on the label. 

But until I feel so moved, I’ll remain vegetarian.

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Have my Rural Partners Network updates gotten old yet? Well, there’s more news: USDA has opened up supervisory community liaison positions in Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Ideally, new hires would be from the communities they serve. 

More specifically, USDA is “looking for people who recognize the assets and opportunities that exist within our diverse rural populations.” Links to the jobs and more information on the opportunities can be found here

Applications close December 23, 2022.

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