Many people like a nice piece of meat. It is healthy. A good piece of meat is full of protein, vitamins and minerals and for those who enjoy it, it is tasty. But does the meat produced in The Netherlands actually deserve to be called meat?
By far the most beef is supplied by dairy farmers. Cows that no longer provide the amount of milk the farmer would like are sent to the abattoir and find their last resting places on supermarket shelves.
There was a time that Dutch farmers took this into consideration. They bred so-called “double purpose” cows. Animals that could supply a certain amount of milk during their productive lives and could also yield an acceptable piece of meat.
Specialism plays a pivotal role in current dairy farming. In Europe a guaranteed minimum price has been agreed with the farmers, which is why cows are mainly bred for milking. This choice of breeding with milk production in mind has - with the help of the Americans, who were much further than Europeans on that point - led to spectacular results.
Ten years ago, the average milk production per cow in The Netherlands was about 6,500 kilo per year. That average production is now more than 8,000 kilo per year. At the extremely specialized farms, a production of 12,000 kilo per cow is no exception. That is about twelve times as much as a cow normally needs to rear a calf.
The productive life of a specialised cow is also finite and all that remains for her is the trip to the supermarket shelves via the abattoir. But her remains, in the form of a steak which can be bought there for around fifteen Euros per kilo, have no taste whatsoever. After all, it wasn’t about meat, but about milk. And you can taste that by the meat, or not!!
The same applies to pig meat. The specialism in pig farm is focused on as high as possible production of kilos of meat per square meter. Meat is sold per kilo, which explains the frequent special offers of “cheaper by the kilo”. It is not about taste or quality of the meat. The pig is a wonderful animal which, unfortunately, is prone to terrible diseases. The enormous outbreak of Swine Flu has had hardly any consequences for the consumption of pork. The consumer continues to eat his chops, and why not? Swine Flu is fatal to the animals, but poses no danger at all to humans.
But is that true? Many news bulletins have shown horrific scenes of the manner in which we “clear” animals that have contracted the Flu. It has seldom been so shockingly portrayed with how much lack of respect modern livestock farming deals with death (an extension of life). And the consumer remains just as lacking in respect, because he continues to eat the meat.
When they are being “cleared” the animals are chased into a special destruction cart, where they are subsequently electrocuted on a conveyor belt. The combination of 110,000 Volt and 3,000 Ampère leads to immediate heart and brain death. Still steaming from the electric current -(“they feel nothing, really they don’t”, you hear say someone say above the screams of the animals. “It is all over before they know where they are.”) -they roll out of the cart. A crane hoists them up, two or three at a time. They sway for a while like bags of industrial refuse, hanging half out of the gripper. This destruction process, so disrespectful to the pigs, went on for several more weeks.
The pig is not to blame if it contracts Swine Flu. It can sometimes just blow in, literally, or a bird or stray mouse can carry the virus in from nature. Further spread of the disease within the sector, is the work of man. Shortly before the first outbreak was definitely established, rumours were doing the rounds in the South of Holland that it was Swine Flu. Huge numbers of pigs were transferred with great speed from the affected area to other parts of the country, and with them the virus. What happened was an absolute disaster for Dutch pig farming. After an extremely difficult period, prices were once again back at a decent level. But to a large extent, the sector was itself the cause of the disaster.
The pig is a dirty, but a useful animal. The pig is an omnivore who eats just everything, as long as it is covered in mud. In this way, in former times the pig was a perfect small scaled scrap disposal unit. But modern livestock farming has made large scaled disposal units of them, with just one applicable criterion: profit. All food leftovers, no longer suitable for consumption by humans, was sent to animal fodder producers. Mixed with concentrates which contained a dubious cocktail of other offal. This swill formed the basis of ham and chops, but this mixture is prohibited nowadays. It must be mentioned here, however, that in the agricultural sector, it is not customary that adherence to regulations is checked by the authorities on a regular basis. It also remains unclear which sanctions would be enforced upon transgression.
Fish meal, blood products and di- and tricalcium phosphate from bones are, however, still legally allowed. Every now and again products are found in animal fodder which clearly should not be there, such as dioxin, processed oil residues or rejected medication.
In the meantime, promoters of the interests of the sector are pushing and pulling behind the scenes to have prohibitions lifted. Following the outbreak of the mad cow disease, use of bone meal was prohibited. A ruling is being worked on to make that prohibition more flexible. New on the menu of the Dutch livestock herds are flower bulbs. Under the motto: “we ate them during the war, so why should we throw them away now?” bulb growers try to conduct negotiations with neighbouring livestock farmers. But there is every reason not to use these bulbs, (which are offal to the bulb grower), as fodder because it has become evident that they are full of the remains of pesticides which are used during bulb cultivation. Another innovation in livestock farming is administering medication via fodder. Pigs and chickens are most affected here, as they receive huge amounts of antibiotics, amongst others, in their food. Controls by the General Inspection Services have shown that the prescribed period between the last dosage of medication and the moment of slaughter is not always adhered to and that the prescribed doses are interfered with.
Pig farming has degenerated to a process industry with an annual turnover of more than 2,5 billion Euros. The provinces of Brabant and Limburg are described in the sector as that part of the country “with a high pig concentration”. Concealing word-use, by which mono-cultures which encourage plagues such as Swine Flu are covered up. Break outs of large- scaled diseases and plagues do not appear out of nowhere in the countryside. They are a direct consequence of our attempts to force animals and plants into an industrial harness. The sector acknowledges that, just as the Ministry of Agriculture does, and assumes that it occurs every number of years. To limit the financial risk for the pig farmers concerned, the Authorities and the business world have amassed and reserved an amount of 50 million Euros as support. To curtail the risk of spreading in the case of an outbreak as much as possible, the Ministry developed a repulsive destruction machine. This has just one criterion: profit. The crane used to grip and lift the affected pigs has been replaced by a bucket elevator whereby the carcasses can be directly dumped in the transport lorries. This means yet another labour-saving development and on the face of it, is less repulsive. Pig farmers love their animals. As long as the slaughter house accepts them, at a price which at least covers cost price. The consumer also likes pork meat, as long as the price per kilo is not too high. This financial motivation keeps both parties locked in a vicious circle. And the meat is paid dearly, especially by the pigs. For the consumer, there is no physical risk whatsoever from Swine Flu, but he has already been morally contaminated. Because, in spite of the very special flavour the sector provided the pork chops via the press, the consumer chewed on relentlessly.