The Culture of Meat

Podcast: 'Deconstructing Dinner' launches Livestock Lost series with an inside look at factory slaughterhouses.

By Jon Steinman 5 Jul 2008 |

Jon Steinman is producer and host of Kootenay Co-op Radio's program Deconstructing Dinner. A new podcast with notes is posted here every Friday afternoon. All Deconstructing Dinner podcasts can be found here

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[Editor's note: This is a summary of a podcast you can download or listen to from this page.]

The Livestock Lost series will examine the business of meat, dairy and egg production in far more depth than has already been done here on the show. It will examine the known and unknown dangers of cheap factory meat -- a staple of most North Americans' diets -- and the challenges of finding alternative sources.

On this first show of the series, we hear from Toronto author Susan Bourette. After going undercover at the Maple Leaf Foods slaughterhouse and processing plant in Brandon, Manitoba, Susan became deeply disturbed at the state in which meat, animals and workers are degraded in this industry. The experience led her to embark on a journey to learn if meat still holds any cultural significance in North America, or if it has simply become an industrial commodity. She titled the product of her journey "carnivore chic" because, as Susan discovered, meat eating does continue to be a cultural experience in some areas of the continent, while in others, the practice is only just becoming "cool" again.

Food safety scares as well as animal welfare, human health and environmental concerns have no doubt given Canadians many reasons to rethink where our meat comes from. There's just one problem: meat that may be safer (that which is healthier, more humanely produced and has less of an overall ecological impact) is not always readily available. This is especially the case in British Columbia.

Prior to October 2007, it was legal for a British Columbian to show up at a farm and purchase meat from a farmer. That choice is no longer afforded to anyone because all meat sold in the province must now be processed at a federally or provincially licensed facility. Many areas of the province are without such a facility, and, as a result, farmers across the province have been closing up shop and/or considering an occupation change.

Meanwhile, the provincial government continues to promote local food!

Deconstructing Dinner first covered British Columbia's controversial new meat inspection regulations in May 2006. The topic was revisited in 2007, and will again be discussed in the Livestock Lost series.


Susan Bourette, author, Carnivore Chic (Toronto, Ont.) -- Susan is an award-winning writer with a reputation for investigative journalism. Formerly a reporter for The Globe and Mail, she is now a freelance writer.

Corky Evans, MLA Nelson-Creston/NDP opposition critic for Agriculture and Lands, New Democratic Party of British Columbia (Winlaw, B.C.) -- Corky Evans was elected as the MLA for Nelson-Creston in 1991, and was re-elected in 1996. He was once again elected to represent his constituents on May 17, 2005. Corky has 10 years experience as an MLA, during which time he served in many cabinet portfolios, including minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. He now serves as opposition critic for Agriculture and Lands.

Jenny MacLeod, secretary, District "A" Farmers' Institutes (Gabriola Island, B.C.) -- The District "A" Farmers' Institutes represents all farmers' institutes on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Powell River.

Tony Toth, former CEO, B.C. Food Processors Association (BCFPA) (Vancouver, B.C.) -- The BCFPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to representing all segments of the food, beverage and nutraceutical processing industry, and to co-ordinating common industry activities and resources under one umbrella. The organization was asked by the province to manage the implementation of the meat inspection regulation changes announced in 2004. In August 2007, Tony Toth was interviewed by Connie Watson on the CBC's The Current. Segments from this interview are featured.

Audio Clips

"Meats With Approval" (1946), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  [Tyee]

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