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Caroline Abels' Posts


Humane meat at a rest stop? Good to Go is not a mirage

good to go man
Even Applegate employees are happier than their counterparts at your average fast food joint.

As the tired masses yearning to breathe free -- or just yearning to breathe some fresh air and get off the highway -- staggered into the Milford, Conn., rest stop along I-95 northbound recently, most of them headed towards the McDonald’s or the Sbarro, hungry lemmings about to jump off a cliff of grease, fat, and factory farmed meat.

But my friend Gerry and I, we knew better. We turned left and kept walking, towards a corner of the rest stop dining area where we’d been told we would find organic hot dogs made from pigs that got to go outside, and chicken sandwiches made from chickens that got to act like chickens.

We arrived at the counter of Good to Go and were greeted by the friendliest fast food manager I’ve ever met, Shaun Rowe (pictured above). He told us that Good to Go only serves meat from Applegate, a major company that sells organic and natural meats and prioritizes animal welfare. He also said there was beef chili on the menu made from grass-fed beef from Kinderhook Farm in Columbia County, N.Y. (It’s brought down to the rest stop by Good to Go’s owner, who owns a farm next to Kinderhook and leases pasture to the farm.)

We ordered the beef chili. It was quite tasty. And as we did the seemingly impossible -- ate antibiotic-free, humanely raised meat at an American highway rest stop -- my friend pointed to the McDonald’s and said, “The only thing green over there is the money.”

Read more: Food


Going undercover in the American factory farm

Mary Beth Sweetland, who oversees undercover investigations for the Humane Society of the U.S., holds a photograph of the kind of facility where her employees often work.

She may be the only boss in America who will tell you during a job interview that you really, truly, almost certainly don’t want the job. Go home and think about it, she might say. Reconsider if you need. Imagine what you’ll be doing.

The job, she'd tell you, will involve feces and dirt and animals too sick to move. It will be lonely, smelly, depressing, and exhausting. You'll be spending weeks, perhaps months, inside an American factory farm -- the kind of place that causes manure to leach into waterways and high concentrations of methane to spew into the air -- witnessing alleged acts of animal cruelty and environmental degradation that you can do little, if anything, about. A hidden camera will be your only connection to the outside world, and she -- your boss -- will be your only confidante after you get off work, the only person who will understand if you break down, weep, or just want to quit.

Still want to be an undercover investigator for the Humane Society of the United States? If so, Mary Beth Sweetland, the organization’s senior director of investigations, would start investigating you. From her Vermont home, she’d make sure there’s very little trace of you on the internet, that your name is not associated with any animal rights cause, and that you pass a background check. If she’s confident that the country’s largest animal welfare organization can trust you with a sensitive undercover investigation, you’d be hired.

Read more: Food


‘Food, Inc.’ chicken farmer has a new, humane farm

A version of this post originally appeared on Eat with Care.

Carole Morison in the now-famous Food, Inc. scene.

Twelve minutes into the 2009 documentary Food, Inc., Carole Morison appears on the screen -- haggard, tired, quietly seething. Squinting into the sun, she tells the camera, “I’ve just made up my mind; I’m gonna say what I have to say,” and she proceeds to show and tell.

Wearing a face mask, she steps inside one of her chicken houses, where she is raising broilers for Perdue. Inside she reveals a crowded sea of birds bumping into each other and squawking in agitation. Chickens are shown taking a few steps and falling down -- due to the weight they’ve been bred to put on rapidly. Others are on their backs, gasping for breath inside a chicken house they cannot leave. Carole picks up a few dead birds and throws them in a pile.

She walks back outside, removes her face mask, wipes the dust off her face, and says with disgust, “That’s normal.”

But it’s far from normal today. Carole Morison is still stepping into her chicken houses in Pocomoke, Md., but now the chickens follow her. Rather than flee, they try to roost on her shoulder. Now she doesn’t have to wear a face mask, and she’s hopeful that she may be able to take antibiotics again after years of developing allergies while using Perdue’s antibiotic-laden feed. And in a widely circulated photograph taken for Flavor magazine, she looks 10 years younger than she did in the movie.

Carole today, managing the new farm's pasture.

“Everybody tells me that!” she said in a recent phone interview. "I just look at the new photo and say, man, I need to get my hair cut.”

Last year, in an inspiring turnaround, Carole and her husband, Frank, launched a pastured egg operation on their Bird’s Eye View Farm. When Perdue terminated their contract just before Food, Inc. was released (the reason given was Carole’s refusal to use dark, tunnel-ventilated chicken houses), it seemed unlikely they’d ever get back into farming. On the Delmarva Peninsula, nestled between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, the vast majority of chicken farmers work for big agribusiness, entering into contracts in which they don’t own the birds or have much say in their raising, but are expected to invest in the expensive infrastructure to house and feed them. Carole wasn’t about to do that again.