Inconvenient Truths About Nature, Food and the 'American Eagle'
Today's cuppa: chai spice black tea
Yeah, I know I said I'd be back on Monday, but how could I pass up the opportunity to share not only a pretty gross story from Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs," one of my favorite TV folks, but also give you a heads up for a neat "Nature" special tonight and once again show off the bald eagle pictures I took this past July at the Television Critics Association press tour?
Yeah, shameless self-promoter, I know, but just couldn't resist. Besides, the "American Eagle" documentary is pretty spectacular. Click here to visit the PBS homepage for the episode.
Here's my "Open Letter" column for this week:
During a session for the Nov. 16 episode of PBS' "Nature," called "American Eagle," at the July edition of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, the question came up about showing predation on television.
Filmmaker Neil Rettig, who spent a year and a half filming the raptor symbol of the United States for the episode, said, "One of the big dangers, and we all know this, that we're facing in modern times is the disconnection that young people have with the natural world. It's important that kids see this and understand the whole mechanics and the whole circle of life.
"Anybody that eats chicken or meat that's packaged in cellophane in a grocery store is letting someone else do the dirty work. And if you've ever been to an abattoir or a meat-processing plant or a chicken slaughter place, the eagles are mild."
Just recently, I had a chat with Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel show "Dirty Jobs," in which he apprentices in a dizzying variety of filthy occupations. He gave a wry chuckle when asked how he was doing.
"Slugging through another," he said. "I'm actually recovering, in a fugue state; just came back from a rendering plant."
In case you didn't know, rendering plants recycle dead animals (including euthanized pets), waste from slaughterhouses and rejects from supermarkets into products that can be called recycled meat, bone meal or animal fat.
These products are then sold to be used as protein in animal feed (including pet food).
"After three years of calling rendering plants," said Rowe, "we finally found one that let us in. Now I'm not even sure I want to talk about it."
Pressed for details, Rowe said, "I spent the morning with Lupe, driving around to various farm districts, picking up what he calls 'the deads' -- dead cows. You skin 'em, then you take the fluid out. Then you lower them into a meat grinder, and it's apocalyptic but important in terms of how the whole recycling thing goes. It's the ultimate recycling.
"And you know what, if people are stubbornly refusing to want to know where their food comes from or where it goes, I'm humbly suggesting that they're giving up the high ground to talk passionately about recycling.
"It makes sense to understand how it works, and man, oh, man, this is an eyeful. You know, it's all part of being the sadder but wiser guy.
"There's a whole lot of inconvenient truth in the whole business of getting the burger to the plate."
For the record, even after writing this, a cheeseburger, a roast chicken and turkey pot pie still look good to me. As for Rowe, well, I've personally witnessed the man eating frogs' legs, so draw your own conclusions from there.
Before I go, here's a few more of my eagle pix...