While network television is rarely a topic of discussion here, Sunday night’s episode of “The Simpsons” proves that awareness of industrial agriculture practices might be growing in the minds of Americans. When Bart joins 4-H (it’s slogan on the show: “4-H: it’s still a thing”) in order to drive a combine, he finds himself caring for Lou, a runt calf, for a competition at the county fair. What Bart learns when Lou wins the blue ribbon, though, is that first prize means a first-class trip to the feedlot and the killing floor.
Of course, this being “The Simpsons,” a plot to save Lou is hatched and hilarity ensues. In this case, Bart doesn’t “have a cow, man,” he saves a cow. But before the happy ending, we head to the feedlot where hundreds of cattle are literally stacked on top of one another and Lou is found bloated with growth hormones. That’s not to say that the episode ends in serious reflection or comment (Lou is sent to India to escape slaughter, after all), but the fact that the writers took on the subject may serve as a small sign that some messages about big agriculture are beginning to take root in our culture.
And it’s true, by the way, 4-H is still a thing. In fact, it’s a thing that has—in Sonoma County at least—a connection to Slow Food. Slow Food Russian River has helped establish a 4-H heritage breeds club, one that is helping to reintroduce heritage turkey breeds into the marketplace. This past November the convivium and the 4-H members processed and distributed 200 turkeys in the Russian River area. So heads up, Bart! Sending the cow to India is one way to “save” it, but if you want to save the whole breed, you’ve got to (as Slow Food USA Ark of Taste Committee Chair Poppy Tooker would say) eat it to save it! Just ask the kids at 4-H in Sonoma….