The whole idea of “feeding off of energy” is real. The Debbie Downer in the office, the friend with too many relationship problems, the snoozing science lab partner. You know that commercial that says, Depression hurts? It can affect more than the individual who’s struggling with its daily challenges. Negative energy is contagious. It’s a real epidemic.
So what happens when the food we eat is absorbing negative energy? That same lack of Zen gets absorbed in our bodies, too. Beyond the direct physical diseases that mal-treated meats and animal products can carry into the body, the animal’s sense of struggle might as well be absorbed into the human bloodstream, too.
Dr. Masaru Emoto’s water experiments might be considered pseudo-science by a few non-believers (or, like, by most people). But his findings can’t be ignored. Pollution, or disease, isn’t the only outside force that can reshape water molecules. According to his project’s microscopic photographs, the molecular makeup of water molecules takes a new form when inflicted by negative words and phrases. In return, it appears like a delicately designed crystallized snowflake when treated with calmness and prayer. I kid you not. A monk blessed it.
So if we can feel bummed-out by people’s negative energy, and water totally freaks and takes new forms when scolded, then questioning neglectful factory farming methods’ effects on our taste buds and our bodies isn’t so far-fetched of an idea.
American food culture has taught us to slather lunch meat sandwiches with mayo, drench grilled cheese and breakfast scrambles with ketchup, cover-up tuna with cheese, and soak chicken in Sriracha, sweet and sour sauce, Ranch dressing, and hot sauce. Rather than to compliment a dish, we use condiments to hide what we’re eating. Serve at any standard restaurant, and your tables will have you running for extra ketchup, BBQ sauce, blue cheese dressing, and honey mustard, from open to close.
There’s a reason we say, “It tastes like chicken” to describe just about any taste we can’t put our finger on. What does the average store-bought and factory-packaged “organic” or “free-range” chicken taste like when one bird’s genetic makeup matches all the others, and they’re all raised by the same breeders in the same farmhouses? One thing’s clear: unembellished, it always tastes the same.
Our nation’s farming methods don’t take taste into account. Farmers know that stressed animals fare worse in taste tests. The factory farm line throws pigs into a panic, crying as a result of fear, anxiety, and “stress,” i.e., suffering. Just before slaughter, released adrenaline affects the state of their muscles, flesh, and therefore, meat. By eating meat from an animal consumed by so much negative energy, we are directly consuming that same source of energy: one that can’t be measured in calories, but can be noticed comparably with taste. “Letting pigs be pigs includes watching them grow plump and, I’m told, tasty,” writes Jonathan Safran Foer in his extensively researched book, Eating Animals. “Traditional farms always beat factory farms in taste tests.” We’re not letting pigs be pigs.
If we’re not breeding for taste, and we’re certainly not breeding for nutrition, then the curtain falls: it’s all about price. We focus on quantity in a “let’s feed the masses” kind of way, when really, the masses could use a little underfeeding in the meat department. As Americans become slightly more health-conscious, red meat’s decline only gives way to poultry’s world-takeover.
We call pigs the “animal,” while we, humans, are the ones who know better than to farm and eat them the way we do. We ignore all logic for a primal desire: taste. (Example: “I don’t care, I like bacon.”) But is the taste we’re receiving what we’re bargaining for? Is the average U.S. resident familiar with simple, natural, energized food, or does a cheap-ass Kraft-mentality run the register?
In the documentary series, Chef’s Table, chef Dan Barber takes us to the farms that breed animals and produce for his Upstate New York restaurant, including Barber’s own Blue Hill Farm. ““We need to look at organic data and science when it comes to flavor,” says Barber. “That is the future of really great cooking and really great farming.”
At Blue Hill, farmer Sean Stanton tries his best to focus on “what feels right and tastes good and isn’t just about the bottom line.” His traditional ecosystem-based farming method allows for different animals to benefit one another, rather than only raising chickens by the tens of thousands, keeping them separate from the outside world, and feeding them antibiotics. “My hope is that people will start to recognize flavor. And they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t realize that food could taste this good,”’ he says. “And they change the way they eat. And it’s like a life-changing experience.”
If you want to see how it’s possible to breed flavor-packed, rich food with a side of positivity, Dan Barber’s chapter of Chef’s Table (on Netflix) is the place to start.