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The Carnivore’s Dilemma

A letter from the editor of 5280's September 2019 issue.

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One of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons is titled “Lisa the Vegetarian,” and if you know anything about Lisa’s character, you can imagine the rough plot outline. Half an hour of animated TV about our nation’s often thoughtless meat-eating habits may not sound like a recipe for laughs, but at its finest The Simpsons is both funny and culturally astute. In this particular episode, perhaps the most biting commentary comes in the form of a “Meat Council” propaganda video. As huckster Troy McClure, on-site at a high-density feedlot, explains, “when the cattle are just right”—and here, McClure runs a gloved finger along the back of a cow, sticks his finger in his mouth, and says mmm—“it’s time for them to graduate from Bovine University” and head to the killing floor. Lisa’s solution to the ethical issues tied to meat-eating is to go, ahem, cold turkey. But when journalist Callie Sumlin confronted the same quandary, her reporting led her to a potential path toward sustainable, responsible meat consumption: the regenerative agriculture movement in Colorado. Regenerative ag, as Sumlin details in “The Rise of Regenerative Agricuture in Colorado”, is a term that describes farming and ranching practices that aim to restore the earth. These operations are expensive and time-intensive, however, and the result is that the grass-fed steak you can now buy directly from a Centennial State ranch costs significantly more than the same cellophane-wrapped cut at the supermarket. Local producers are working to break down that barrier by improving efficiency in their processes and educating consumers—but whether or not the movement is able to wrangle market domination away from big ag in the near term, it’s certain that these ranchers’ efforts would make Lisa proud.

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