What Does The Fox Say? VALUE IN NATURE
We often hear the argument about how much resources it takes to make something. The debate nowadays is often around meat – how much water and grain is needed to create a pound/kilogram of meat. In our culture where data is king, we tend to analyze our world in a really linear way. A+B=Z. If you don’t want A, then what can you replace it with so you can get the same, or what looks like the same result? We process the world around us in terms of input and output – what goes it for what goes out. Simple math. But in nature, it doesn’t work like that. The value of an organism is not about the amount of energy needed to create it, rather it is based on the amount of relationships it creates and is connected to. How many others organisms are involved? What is the system of dependencies and symbiosis? Or is there any?
Lets look into the case of meat. First we need to accept and recognize that not all meat are the same. There is the industrial meat – the monoculture of animal protein. Then there is the game meat, otherwise known as hunting. And there is meat from holistic and organic farms, where each animal plays a specific role. Together with the human, they have entered an evolutionary symbiosis, a mutual agreement seeking to increase each other’s chances of survival. I don’t want to get into the debate, at least not now, about the moral ethic of meat, that all meat are the same because ultimately the baseline is animal suffering. I do have my opinion and I will circle back on the topic later. For now, lets go back to our three different meat sources.
We can spend a lot of time analyzing in detail all the resources involved: the amount of land, the food, the water, the environmental footprint, the offset and collateral, the fuel, all the big and little variables you can find to create your equation of input versus output. But lets change our perspective and focus on the amount of relationships each creates, the complexity and depth of these relationships and also the quality and integrity of the outcome.
The industrial meat is produced in an industrial manner. It is isolated. It zones in on what it wants and discards everything else. The animal is not seen as an entity with multiple relationships. Rather it is seen as a product that can be engineered for maximum yield. In that world there is no depth, no complexities. It is extremely linear. It is the industrial mindset. Get from point A to B, maximizing gains and minimizing losses. The quality of the product nor the integrity of the process are the objective. What is important is quantity and as little time as possible. Operations are scaled so the process can be streamlined and the undesirable consequences are ignored and exported. As long as it doesn’t affect the short term goals and quarterly projections and expectations. So industrialized meat demands a lot of resources, creates no relationships and tons of consequences. Quality is low but you have large quantities of it. It is financially cheap for the end users but the real cost is pushed away, out of sight.
For hunting, what we are talking about is sustenance hunting, not trophy hunting. In this case we have a prey and a predator engaging in a chase that has been going on for millions of years. And each has developed a strategy for survival that is rooted in this dynamic – high reproduction and low energy needs for preys, low reproduction and high energy needs for predators. This chase is dynamic. It evolves. The players are constantly trying to outwit each other. Teamwork is a key for success and the community is involved. Nothing of the animal is wasted and its death creates a chain of dependancies. Because it is quite labor intensive, the meat has a high value. The process has complexities and depth. And while the taste is stronger and not consistent, the quality is superior. Hunting is highly time consuming. In summary, quantity is low, but time, quality and value are high.
For the meat coming from holistic farms, when done properly, the complexities and dependencies abound. The relationships are deep. Every organism, every animal and every plant has a role, a purpose and together they achieve a sustainable and productive loop of abundance. It is a process that is time consuming but where the community and quality are priorities. What is the value of an animal in this system? Way more that the resources it needs to live. It is an active participant engaged in an evolutionary symbiosis. In this reality, the meat created has character, flavor, depth and is of much higher quality.
If we look at life with a simple perspective of input / output, we will soon realize that nothing in nature makes sense. Under that perspective, everything would be a waste, even more so humankind. Not even the Universe would make sense. All these stars burning for nothing. All this empty space. Life wouldn’t make sense. What about all the energy a fish puts into laying millions of eggs so that one can survive. Total non sense. But it is also what makes life so rich and full of surprises. Next time you hear a simplistic argument with linear equations that focuses on input and output, take the time to dig a little deeper and find out the benefits for the community, the quality of the product, the longevity of the process and just what kind of experience it creates.