The Missouri Theatre in Columbia was packed with a variety of people, young and old, urban and rural, Thursday, Oct. 11. The diverse crowd waited patiently as they snacked on complimentary Chipotle chips and guacamole. In the auditorium, the lights dimmed, and director Graham Meriwether took the stage to welcome everyone and thank them for attending the screening of his new film, “American Meat.”
“American Meat” features a variety of production hog, cattle and poultry farms around the U.S. The documentary shows how the practices of production farmers vary between grass farming and the techniques of confinement farming. It also places an emphasis on the importance of family farms.
A common theme of the film was that the taste of a true farm-raised animal is better than that of one that you can pick up in the store. After trying a free-range chicken, one participator in the film said she felt that it had a better taste.
One farm featured in the film was Polyface Farms. Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farms, practices grass farming that rotates various livestock from pasture to pasture, each animal benefiting from the previous. They sell eggs, chicken and pork to individuals, as well as businesses, such as Chipotle.
Another featured farmer was confinement hog farmer, Chuck Wirtz. Wirtz manages his farm with his brothers and son. The Wirtz family farm is an example of one that is expanding to produce an organically raised product. To be able to suit the wants of these consumers, Wirtz has changed his practice from a confinement hog barn to a semi-confinement barn that allows hogs to be both inside and outside all year round. He stated that after the animals had been able to be exposed to the outdoors they were sick less and required less medical care.
Questions arose from the audience about the contents of the film following the viewing. The audience was able to ask a panel of experts that included a representative from Chipotle Mexican Grill of Columbia. Chipotle is a strong supporter of the film.
Meriwether is a documentary journalist who works to inform farmers, ranchers and other people who are curious about environmental challenges we face today and how they can be corrected in the future.