Open Your Eyes//Tyler Gambill

Have you ever looked at a menu at a restaurant and noticed that everything has meat in it or an option for meat? Meat is everywhere. I love eating cheese steaks, steaks, prime ribs, ribs, bacon, hamburgers, sausage, nearly every kind of meat I enjoy eating. There is nothing like a good steak cooked medium rare, it is perfection. Most of us know about how that meat then gets digested in our bodies, but most of us don’t think about how our food went from a living animal to our meal. I think we’ve all seen the news reporting about a murder or other violence crime as well. What could menus and murder possibly have in common? Both have an incredible amount of violence associated with each other. The murder to violence connection is obvious, but the violence to menu connection is more subtle because when was the last time anyone met their meat before they ate it. Awareness is the fault in our system, we are made aware of violence and crimes against other Americans through the media, but the real violence that affects us is the violence committed in our meat and poultry industry.

For the last few months in my Critical Thinking and Writing classes I have been learning about the gritty details of the American meat and poultry industry. If you couldn’t tell from the last paragraph I am an avid meat eater and have been my whole life. It doesn’t seem like dinner without some sort of meat involved. But then I met my meat.

This video shocked me more than I thought it would. I knew that this industry would be inherently violent, because we must slaughter animals to be able to get their healthy meat. I am not sure what I was expecting through watching this video, but after I was mad at the entire food system, because nothing should be treated in such a cruel way. I was unaware of just how bad the industry was, I was one of the people that thought they were all raised on massive pastures in the Midwest. This video put a lot of things into perspective for me and helped me to look at things from multiple angles, because sometimes we can’t see everything with just one glance.

In a survey I conducted in my residence hall every person that I asked people if what free-range chicken meant they believed that it meant that they were allowed to be outside most of the time and allowed to walk around. An actual free-range chicken by USDA standards is “a chicken that has been allowed access to the outside” (Meat and…) Santa Clara University has some of the brightest students in the nation and these students do not know how their food is treated. I could walk up to anyone of those students and they would know about the lastest murder and all would know about September 11th.

Why is it that we have intricate knowledge of events that do not apply to our everyday life like violence, but we don’t know how our food gets to our plate. How did we get so disconnected with our food? We are at the most technologically advanced time of our race and we are now so far removed from the basics of our life that they are not being fulfilled to the extent that they used to. The documentary Food Inc delves more into the treatment of animals on these so called farms. To put into perspective how a common farm animal like a chicken is treated, lets apply it to people. You are born and placed into a cage that you will spend the rest of your life in. This may seem like ample space for awhile, but you grow twice as fast and quickly the four by four cage seems smaller and smaller until you get to the point where you cannot stretch out fully. Over they years your cage has been filling up with your own waste and you’re about ankle deep in whatever you’ve been eating your entire life. Once you finally reach maturity, you are finally taken from this cage and thrown into a strange environment and strapped in by you feet and systematically killed. What kind of life would that be? Not a very full or happy life. The most shocking thing about this is that this is the industry standard and from this process we get all of our chicken products.

A scene from Food Inc that stuck out to me when they were trying to get farmers to allow the cameras inside their chicken houses to see what it was really like. These farmers are all under contract of the huge chicken manufacturers such as Tyson and Foster Farms and many were told to not allow cameras into the houses. One farmer did allow filming and what was inside thousands upon thousands of chickens living in their own waste and living among other dead birds. It was loud and chaotic and nothing like the green pastures we think of when we picture a farm. This is what a farm is today, a factory, getting the most product in the most cost effective manner. Today that involves manipulating chickens to grow bigger, faster, and using less feed. We are changing chickens to fill our demand for chicken.

People used to be worried about food, in 1928 Herbert Hoover promised “a chicken in every pot”. A promise like this now would be meaningless, because we have more than enough chicken now. As soon as it no longer became a struggle to get food, we put that issue on the back burner and it was left unattended and now it is out of control. Our focus is on what we see in the media, the rampant violence that appears across America.

September 11, 2001 is a day that lives in infamy for Americans, that morning the nation was gripped in fear as they watched the terrorist attack unfold and three thousand souls perish on that fateful day. Everyone had there own experience with this day for me, the gravity of the situation hit me many years after and I felt scared, I had a feeling that things like 9/11 shouldn’t happen here, but it happened anyway. That was the fear that nations was trapped in in the months and arguably years about that fateful day.

This event is more recognized than where our food comes from. We eat food everyday three meals a day and most of us are so uninformed with how our food go there, but we can give out specifics on what happen September 11, 2001. Or knowledge on food is extremely sub-par and we allow the system to get away with its continuing violence, because we are preoccupied with other violent acts we see through the media.

We have such an essential gap in where our food comes its brings up the question of what else do we not know of that could be affecting us at every moment? Americans need to be more aware of what is happening right here in the United States instead of focused overseas on the Wars and oil. We need to prioritize as people what is important to us. We could only benefit from healthier animals and in turn the animals would benefit from a happier healthier life.


“Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms.” Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms. USDA-FSIS, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.

Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Magnolia Pictures, 2008. Documentary.


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