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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Going Meatless - What's Your Reason?

by Kate
Living A Frugal Life


There's a lot of talk on green-themed blogs about vegetarianism and reducing meat consumption. People come to this topic out of many different concerns - health, ethics, environmental degradation, and frugality, among others. All of them are valid motivations. Nonetheless, diet is a very personal topic, and it can be a very divisive one as well. I've yet to meet anyone who enjoys being lectured about their dietary choices, their financial affairs, or someone else's religious convictions.

But a meatless meal seems to be fairly free of contention, so long as we don't get on a soapbox and assert that our own reasons for eating less or no meat are The Right and Proper Worldview. As I mentioned, I believe there are many good reasons to abstain from meat consumption at least for some meals. It doesn't matter to me very much why people eat less meat. I'm happy to discuss any good reason for doing so, as long as it doesn't put people off the idea altogether. So let's talk about some of those reasons.

I found that having a large garden and keeping laying hens naturally steers me away from preparing meat-centric meals. With a lot of effort invested in growing vegetables and producing our own eggs, you can be sure it's a high priority for me to use up those ingredients. Preparing meals centered on vegetables and eggs naturally crowds out some opportunities for meat-based meals. In this case, reduced meat consumption is an unintended consequence of taking more responsibility for our own food production. It's an unintended consequence we hardly notice, and don't mind at all. Eggs supply plenty of protein, so we're never at risk of running low on that nutrient. We eat better because we enjoy the superior quality of our homegrown food, not because we're dutifully giving up something we enjoy in order to settle for "health food."

Out of both a desire to save money, as well as a sense of respect for the taking of animals' lives, I think it's important also to stretch meat as far as it will go. Meat can be an accent and a contributing ingredient just as well as it can dominate a dinner plate. No part of an animal need be wasted. Making stock from animal bones give you a "second helping" of the meat that would otherwise be lost. A vegetable soup made with meat-based broth but no other meat is sort of veggie, but also sort of meaty. We get that bonus animal protein without the need to raise, feed, and kill another animal. Consuming the (unjustly) less celebrated bits of an animal, such as the organs, tongue, cheeks, tails, etc, not only stretches a budget, but it also precludes the travesty of killing an animal only to consume a few select parts.

It's also costing the planet too much to produce the quantity of meat that the current human population chooses to consume. If there were only 500 million humans spread around the world, we could probably eat all the meat we wanted with few repercussions to the planet. That simply isn't the case with nearly 7 billion of us. Not only are we despoiling the environment through the incredible concentrations of manure concomitant with factory farms, but the grain that goes to feed industrially raised animals, bought and sold as it is on the global market, literally deprives the poorest of our human family the ability to feed their children. There is indeed enough food at the moment to feed all the people on this planet, but not if we feed a huge proportion of that food to animals (or worse yet, our cars).

Then there's the human health angle. Those of us in over-developed societies eat too much industrial meat for our own good. We're suffering from excessive levels of heart disease, colon cancer, obesity, and any number of other diet-related diseases. Almost all meat sold in the US comes from animals on industrial feedlots fed genetically modified corn, which raises a whole host of other insufficiently understood human health concerns. Not to mention, GMO crops are doused with incredibly high levels of pesticides which critically threaten honey bees. Honey bees provide crucial pollination for one out of every three bites of food the human race consumes. Pigs and cattle are routinely pumped full of sub-therapeutic antibiotics. (In other words, they are all given antibiotics routinely, just to keep them alive in disgusting conditions, rather than on an individual basis if a single animal happens to get sick.) This gives rise to alarming strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Eating a hamburger every other day may mean that there's no effective treatment for the pneumonia your grandmother comes down with. It may mean that the life-threatening food poisoning your toddler contracts after eating ground beef can't be treated with any antibiotic we now possess. Industrial meat undermines not only human health, but also our medicine.

I've been reminded by the Meatless Monday Challenge that it takes a relatively small change in the diets of millions of people to add up to huge knock-on effects on a global scale. If every US resident who now eats meat went meatless once per week for a year, it would result in a savings of 12 billion gallons of gasoline and 13 trillion gallons of fresh water, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution. The idea of going without meat one day per week is hardly radical or new. Indeed, it was for all intents and purposes the law in Europe for many centuries. The Catholic church now holds Catholics to meatless Fridays only for six weeks out of the year. For many centuries Catholics were required both to fast and to abstain from eating meat on Fridays year-round, and on many other holy days. And for much of European history, what the Catholic church dictated had all the force of state law. The Orthodox churches likewise required periods of dietary restraint of their adherents. Though there were variations to this rule by region and era, no person in Christendom was a stranger to fasting or meatless meals. If you're of European descent, your ancestors lived this way for many generations. Would it be a true hardship for us to do the same?

Don't get me wrong - I don't ever envision myself as a vegetarian, and I'm not asking anyone to become one. I believe that animal protein is something that Homo sapiens sapiens evolved to consume. Healthy, natural meat is good for us. There have been human cultures that subsisted almost 100% on animal flesh and animal products. While I very much respect the ethical choices of vegetarians and vegans, I have no personal qualms about killing animals for consumption, and have done it myself. (Raising them in unspeakable conditions, treating them cruelly, and the callous wasting of any part of their bodies are the things I can't stomach.) As Sharon Astyk pointed out recently, there is no such thing as a bloodless human diet which is also sustainable. Without animal manures, or massive inputs from petroleum-based fertilizers, no soil on this planet can indefinitely support grain or vegetable cropping. We are all responsible, whatever our dietary choices, for the deaths of other creatures. Yet there are still ways to mitigate the harm we must do to keep ourselves alive.

How do I resolve these issues? My personal choice for the time being is to buy meat only from local producers who keep their animals on pasture, treat them humanely, never use hormones, and only use antibiotics when an animal actually needs veterinary treatment. In this way I can and actually do know the people who raise my food, and I know they give a damn about what they sell to their customers. I pay a fair price for this meat, which is significantly more than I would pay for industrial meat purchased at the supermarket. This means my money stays in my community and supports practices I believe in, and that meat makes up a smaller portion of our diet than it would have ten years ago. I waste no part of any meat we buy, even to the point of burying the bones in my garden to add nutrients to our soil. On the rare occasions I eat out, I usually opt for a vegetarian meal unless I happen to know that the meat comes from a local ethical farm. When we do eat out, I prefer to patronize restaurants that carry such meats, and I make a point of ordering them. Eventually I would like to take more responsibility for the meat we consume by hunting and/or raising meat rabbits.

I'm curious to hear from all of you about your approach to eating meat, or not eating it. What are your dietary choices, and how did you come to them? Have you changed your diet in response to concerns about food safety, frugality, ethics, or for other reasons? Are you currently in the process of changing your diet? If so, what challenges are you facing? Please share in the comments.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

We don't eat red meat in our house because I'm allergic to it. We also don't eat pork or shellfish because we're kosher. We eat alot of plant proteins, fruits,veggies, seeds, nuts, legumes etc. I also have to admit that I like the total on our grocery bills than on my friends'.

megan/mason said...

We don't eat meat because neither of us think that we could kill an animal for ourselves. I just think that if I wouldn't be willing to do it, I probably have no business eating meat in the first place. I used to buy boneless, skinless chicken to cook--anything with bones made me squeamish, so that probably should have been a sign. I don't have any issues with people who are willing to raise animals for meat as long as they do it mindfully and respectfully--and really, the same goes for people who grow vegetables. Even as a strict vegetarian, I have way more respect for small ranchers who free range their animals and don't use antibiotics than I do for large corporate agribusinesses who grow massive fields of pesticide coated GMO crops and have no respect for the soil.

And, while I have found near-veganism to be cheaper (we buy in bulk), I do think our attempts at eating local would be much easier here if we were willing to eat meat. It's all a trade off and you just have to do what feels right for you.

-Megan

Hathor's Bath said...

I am one of those people who is incapable of digesting vegetable proteins (and no I'm not going to 'try harder'; if my body is rebelling violently, I listen to it). I purchase quality meat with more flavour rather than quantity - I've actually found that chicken breast meat tastes boring to me, and therefore I eat a load of it, where eating chicken thighs instead has more flavour. Chicken breast is popular and therefore free range white meat is mad expensive, but the thighs and legs aren't as "trendy" and therefore much cheaper to buy.
Because my son is a bit of a carnivore and his limited diet can be hard to cater for as he only eats certain foods, so the majority of meat I buy is actually for him - he's never had junk meat however (he knows what a real sausage tastes like), so I always buy the best for him, and I'll go meatless a day or two so he can eat a full protein.
I do not eat beef for somewhat the same reasons you state; beef cattle just aren't that "native" in the UK till recently, and a lot of it gets wasted. I feel that raising cattle up a lot of ground where other animals can actually manage to function on much less ground and produce even more meat; and since those animals are more indigenous, they don't do quite as much damage. The landscape here is good for sheep, for goats, for pigs, and for deer, but not really for large herds of beef.
I'll never cut meat entirely out of my diet but I at least try to make it count when I buy it - there is a bison farm here (yes, that's not native either, but they graze on what was formerly beef country!) and bison meat is actually even lower in fat than chicken, packs a huge amount of iron and is much more digestible. It tastes of home to me, and when the annual pow-wow is held here, the owners of the farm give the hide, horn, and bones to the tribes that come to gather here, so none of the animal is wasted. That's something I can support wholeheartedly.

Anonymous said...

We eat small servings of local bio-dynamic red meat twice a week, and free-range chicken once a week. I used to buy a pack of two chicken breasts but now buy a whole chicken (for the same price!) and make stock from the carcass.

The rest of our meals are legume based with the occasional fresh fish. Eating seasonally and as locally as possible has challenged me to be more creative in the kitchen; a challenge which I'm enjoying!

Cath

Kathryn said...

There are two reasons i don't eat meat, & they border along the line of what megan/mason said.

I couldn't kill the animal myself, therefore i don't believe i should eat the meat.

What made the transition for me however, from "rare, occasional meat eater" to "only fish, pescatarian" was that we eat with my ILs fairly frequently. (We stay with them 2 nights a week while working near their home.) She only buys the inexpensive, mass-marketed, factory-grown meats. I believe this is terribly unhealthy & hate the cruelty i know those animals are subject to. I have in the past purchased grass-fed, organic meat & she won't use it. (I tried the, "Since i'm at work & can't cook, at least let me purchase the ingredients for you to use" method, to no avail.)

The only way i could see to "fix" the situation was to stop eating meat, for she doesn't understand the difference.

Intellectually, i do believe that grass-fed, organic meat is healthy for humans. Emotionally, however, i know animals have personality & i have trouble eating meat, knowing this.

I follow a blog where they raised a steer for beef. She talked about how playful the steer was & how he wanted attention & petting (rather like a dog) when she went outside. That steer is now in their freezer & while i don't want to be critical, i don't "get it." How can you eat an animal that you knew & that had personality?

So, largely my reasons for becoming vegetarian/pescatarian (not vegan) are emotional/romantic.

belle said...

I stopped eating meat over 20 years ago when my then teenage daughter became passionate about 'animal liberation', and I learned about the dreadful way that animals were kept and killed. Later, my developing spiritual beliefs supported my decision not to eat meat....my mother in law likes to tell people 'if it had a face I won't eat it' lol

I can accept eating animals that are raised ethically the way you describe, and celebrating the animal's life by eating all of it, I have friends who raise their own pig and chicken meat, and if I was going to eat meat again, this is the only meat I'd want to eat. I'm fortunate though that I do well and thrive on vegetable proteins.

I've started eating eggs again in the last few months because I tend towards depression, and need the b12 vitamins, but they're 'my' eggs, from my girls, and I know what they eat, and that they have a happy life.

I don't push my choices on people, I don't mind having a meal with friends who are scoffing down steak or whatever, but if people ask 'why', I'm happy to cite the information similar to what you've written about. Some people think about it, they might not stop eating meat, but they think about the conditions it's been reared in, and look for alternatives....can't ask for more than that.

Nanette

~Molly~ said...

We frequently have meatless meals, at least twice a week! I love a big pot of pinto beans and they don't have to be seasoned with salt pork to be delicious.

Our family has been red-meat(beef) free since 1998 for the most part. Every few years we have a roast or beef hamburgers but I usually regret it because they make me feel horrible. In the past two years we have started getting a cut of beef(usually a roast) every several months from the dairy we get our raw milk from. Its antibiotic/hormone free, organically fed. I order chicken and turkey from a local free-range/antibiotic/hormone free producer.

I would not be able to kill an animal but the nice thing about our differences is that I don't have to. It doesn't bother me that someone else is able to do that job.

Molly

cpcable said...

Meat is still a part of my diet, but it is no longer in the starring role of the meal and it's not included every day. This was mostly a financial decision--once I made the decision to only eat ethically raised local meat, I simply couldn't afford to eat it as often. Luckily, I haven't missed it and a positive side effect is that I've had to eat far more vegetables to make up the difference and I am notably healthier because of it. Win-win.
-Courtney
alifesustained.blogspot.com

viggie said...

Excellent topic! I've been vegetarian for health reasons for some time. As my lifestyle changed it made sense as part of my frugal push too. Now that I'm urban homesteading it also makes sense as it allows me to produce most of my own food and attain a high level of self sufficiency as well.

thesimplepoppy said...

Both my husband and I grew up in completely vegetarian households, so even though now we won't claim to BE vegetarian, we mostly (99% of the time) do eat that way. I think if we ever got to the point where we were really homesteading with chickens we would probably eat some chicken. I'm not squeamish at all, I know I could kill an animal for us if need be, but having grown up meatless, and since both of our tastes still lean that way naturally, we simply keep it at that.

danielle said...

Kate--what a fabulous summary of your meat/ meatless stance and the overall meaning and impact of eating animal protein on the planet.

I, too, am a light meat eater as I basically felt terrible when I was an accidental vegetarian for a few years.

I eat poultry from a CA company that is somewhat closeby and has solid practices and substitute animal protein frequently as well with seitan, beans, millet, etc.

I'm also interested in trying the bison I've heard rave reviews of at a nearby farmer's market in L.A.

Earthgrlie said...

I became a vegetarian when I was 14, a friend shared some literature with me on how animals were treated before they were killed for food. My reasons have changed over the years, but over 20 years later I'm still a lacto- ovo vegetarian. I couldn't imagine any other way of eating for myself. My husband does eat some meat, and seafood. Our children are being raised as pescetarians.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

The biggest change in our household was my husband adapting to a frugal farm concept of not having meat at every meal, since his parents owned a meat market. I grew up not eating meat at every meal simply because it is expensive even if you raise it yourself.

He has gotten used to the idea that meat may be a condiment, not the centerpiece and is now fine with that, however his family is NOT on board with this way of thinking.

Being meat purveyors has also allowed us to pull our pets out of the pet food grid also. Our dogs and cat can eat meat that we have raised, and they also get a daily dose of bone broth. Much more economical, and it keeps the vet at bay.

Great post Kate!

Anonymous said...

I stopped eating meat about 13 years ago due to the antibiotic issues and also eating too much beef over a vacation and feeling slightly poisoned by it. My son and husband did not want to give up meat totally,so I kept cooking it (unhappily) for them. Now I am able to get beef and chicken raised humanely and without chemicals/antibiotics unless needed. I still do not eat meat but am starting to lean back towards it. I figure my body will tell me what to do. I also pay more for my meat than I would at the store but feeding my family well is the most important thing and we eat many meatless meals so it is not the main event at all meals. For now this works for us.

Annodear said...

I'm what I consider a 'natural vegetarian' (altho I eat fish~ lol). But srsly, I had my first steak at age 18 and my first piece of fried chicken at age 23. And I come from a 'meat and potatoes' family. I ate hamburgers and hotdogs as a child but was otherwise quite picky.

Was a vegetarian for 4 years in my early 20s, and started again 5 years ago in my late 40s (after pigging out on a sausage pizza and feeling like crap the next day. Also, incidentally, I was handed a PETA flyer that day, and just stopped.)

I don't like the whole idea of meat, and am perfectly happy with alternate forms of protein. I feel good about my choices on a global scale, too, but like I said I eat fish, so technically I'm a pescatarian. But most people don't know what that is, so I just claim vegetarianism with a caveat. I come from a 'fishing family', and would certainly be able to catch, clean and cook a fish. Can't say the same for chickens or anything larger, tho. I also feel good about the not shedding blood thing. I like eggs and cheese, but mainly drink soy milk. Except for the half and half I put in my coffee.

You're right~ it *is* a personal issue and very complex. I do what feels right for me. I don't even like the soy products that are too much like meat!

Diane said...

I think a lot of people are now not only concerned now with animal welfare but the industrial food system and the hormones, chemicals etc that are included in the animal produce and which end up in us if we eat them.

Mrs. Anna T said...

I haven't touched meat or chicken since I was 10 years old. I discovered bones in my meat and was too horrified to keep eating :)

Now, I don't believe it's wrong to eat animals, but I do believe, like you said, that they ought to be treated decently. Since I can't afford healthy natural meat, I don't eat meat at all.

My husband isn't a vegetarian, but he only eats meat once a week, on Shabbat. He got used to eating very little meat while he was growing up (simply because his parents couldn't afford it). A bowl of thick, rich soup and a slice of bread with hummus or butter can make a simple but satisfying dinner.

April W said...

I have been a carnivore all of my life. About two months ago, I realized that every time I ate pork, I got sick. A couple of weeks ago, I found out that I am pregnant. Obviously, the baby is a vegetarian, because two weeks ago, all meat started making me gag. I don't even really know how to be a vegetarian, so it is odd. But, I've gotta eat something.

Anonymous said...

I'm not real sure how using manure for fertilizer is harming an animal, But I do agree with the rest. (Maybe I didn't read it right) My daughter is a vegatarian, and to work around her we have far less meat based meals than we have in the past. She doesn't think animals should die needlessly to feed us. So to support her decisiion we sometimes have to fix seperate dishes and I alter the whole way I used to cook. It has been so hard. Anyone have suggestions for a good vegatarian cookbook?

Kate said...

Anon, it's great that you support your daughter's decision. I recommend How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Very well written and covers a wide range.

As for the manure on fields issue, I didn't explain it very well, though Sharon's post does. It works like this: any managed animal herd, whether for meat, dairy, or fiber, is going to consist of more females than males. The males are almost all killed, and some of the females will be likely be killed too, at least from meat herds. So any managed source of animal manure is going to involve killing some animals. Thus, sustainable grain and vegetable production still requires killing animals.

In nature wild animals with evenly matched genders will suffice to replenish soils. But when we work soil as intensively as we need to in order to raise the food we eat, wild animal populations (even if we allowed them free range in such fields - and generally we try not to) could not replace the nutrients we remove by way of the harvest.

Big difference between nature and agriculture, particularly when agriculture must support a human population of 7 billion. In order to produce that quantity of plant matter, we need a lot of animal manure to compensate.

louisa @ Recycle This said...

I was vegetarian for most of my 20s.

I stopped eating meat not for ethically or health reasons (well, not *just* for those...) but because I realised my diet was really boring when completely centred around meat. My small-town family had quite a conservative menu while I was growing up and because of some early fussiness, I was rarely challenged to try new food and so ate an absolutely minimal variety of dishes & vegetables. When I was about 22, I started to realise how much I was missing out on but couldn't trust myself to avoid tasty-yummy meat when it was on the menu so I stopped cold turkey (pardon the pun ;) ). I now eat meat again but not every day, and my diet still includes a lot of the exciting, varied foodstuffs from my veggie days.

I try to be as honest with myself as possible about the meat I do it - to remember that it was a live animal, to think about the conditions in which it was raised and how it was slaughtered etc. I'm keen to face the realities of raising & butchering animals for meat - I think it's the only way I'll be comfortable eating meat in the long term - I shouldn't expect someone else to do it for me if I can't face doing it myself. Our first chickens arrive in a few weeks so I guess we'll see...

Mrs. Anna T said...

By the way, I have the same qualms about industrial eggs and dairy products, as I have about industrial meat. The chickens and cows are raised and kept in substandard conditions and pumped full of hormones.

For eggs, we plan to get chickens, and I'm very excited about it. As for dairy, we have a local goat farm where we know the animals are treated decently. The problem is, their products are so expensive. So we're just trying to use less dairy.

Tree Huggin Momma said...

I purchase my meat from a local farm with pasture raises its beef without hormones or anitbiotics. They also have pigs and when the ham and bacon are available I purchase it.

The meat is only slightly more expensive (as I buy it in bulk and use all that I am given).

This Christmas I made the mistake of purchasing my prime rib from the butcher I have used for years before this farm, because I thought it would be to costly to feed 10 people on pasture prime rib, but her price was only $2 more per pound and so worth the extra cost.

I am dedicated to purchasing all my meat hormone and anitbiotic free, and cruelty free. This will mean less meat in our diet. I have reduced our meat gradually and often have meat play only a part in a meal (stews, casseroles) or even meatless.

I really like Lentils as a substitute for ground meat and so does my family. They like sloppy lentils better than any sloppy joe, and I am searching for a sausage seasoning recipe I like to make lentil patties to replace our sausage (as this is the only product I buy commercial).

jay said...

Interesting article.
I've been lacto-ovo vegetarian for 3 years, so its been a long time since I've eaten any animals. I did this for health and conscientious reasons.

I recently started down the path of low fat raw vegan (similar to fruitarian or frugivore). I know that many would not understand this lifestyle, but it really has the least impact on the environment compared to many other diets.
I feel healthier now and have more energy than I ever did as a meat eater.

Also there is evidence that too much protein is the cause of many diseases in the western world. Eggs are indeed a high source of protein for the non meat-eater. But all plants have protein too! And in the perfect percentage to meet the human body's requirements. The health implications of having too little protein are nothing compared to having too much. (I have the sources of this information for anyone interested)

Aubrey said...

I was vegetarian for 14 years because I read every piece of propaganda put out by PETA. Then, while pregnant with my 4th baby, I (shockingly) suddenly craved meat very intensely. Husband & I did a huge amount of research, & learned that there was a whole other side to all of PETA's claims. Who knew??! LOL I never did my research- I thought every single food animal was tortured & the planet should be vegan, just like PETA said. I laugh at myself now, but that's how I lived for 14 yrs & raised my first 2 kids! Now, we eat only humanely raised & butchered meat from farmers we know, & real farm eggs. We're also learning how to do our own butchering because I also believe that if you're going to eat it, you should experience killing it. We don't eat meat more than a few times a month & never eat factory farmed meat at all. So, most of the time I still eat vegetarian & use all my old vegetarian cookbooks.
Awesome post!! And thanks for linking to Sharon's as well, I enjoyed that one, too!

Karen said...

i eat a mainly vegan diet. for anyone interested in this lifestyle, i recommend an excellent book called The World Peace Diet. It addresses, in detail, almost every point you can think of in the argument "to eat or not to eat?" meat ....

i try hard not to judge others' food choices, and am heartened that more and more people are turning to locally/humanely raised and slaughtered meat.

I mainly eat a vegetarian/vegan (occasional cheese, but no dairy or meat or fish) diet largely because of health concerns. But I also think our excessive "need" for meat is killing the planet ... whole forests in the amazon are being destroyed to construct cattle ranches. CAFO's account for most of the world's energy/water consumption ... and meanwhile, while we feed our insatiable appetite for meat, some third world people are going without the most basic of necessities: water. just some food for thought .... pun intended.

Karen said...

two other quick points i'd like to make:

the commercial fishing industry is worse than CAFO's .... lots of sources everywhere to read more about this, i can't even begin to list them here. before i went strict veg, i went pescatarian for a couple of years but would never eat fish now knowing all that i've learned.

.... and i eat more as a vegan than i *EVER* did as an omnivore. more variety of foods, many more fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and seeds ... and my taste buds are much more sensitive to the subtle tastes of veggies in their naked form .... i've learned how to use spices in ways i never knew existed, as well. it's not a bad life, all in all. :-) and i take supplements every other day so i'm not missing a thing ....

Alison said...

I was a vegetarian about 20 years ago for about 10 years. At that time, I called myself a "lacto-ichthyo" vegetarian because I ate dairy, eggs and fish. I stopped eating meat partly because I read about factory farm animal treatment, and partly because I didn't enjoy my mom's cooking (I was 14).

I had grown up spending weekends with my vegetarian dad (lacto-ovo - "nothing that used to have a face"), so I enjoyed beans and tofu based meals.

In my early 20's I lived with a deer hunter, so I changed my diet to include "wild meat." After re-developing a taste for red meat, I started sampling conventionally raised meat, and decided I could no longer claim the title of vegetarian.

Now I have two sons and a husband who are all 'picky' eaters, so my veggie meals are few and far between. I try for only 2 or 3 dinners a week that focus on meat-as-main-course, but I've had next to no luck with getting my family to eat tofu, and getting my kids to eat more than a handful of vegetable varieties.

So we have 'brinner' a lot (breakfast for dinner - eggs and toast and potatoes), and quesadillas with refried beans and cheese. I will often have chicken one night, then use the bones, etc for soup stock the next night (although my 'picky' kids won't eat soup).

Unfortunately, I am too low-income to be able to afford organic meat at the grocery store, but this year my husband and I are looking at the possibility of buying a side of beef from a local farm.

I got over my squeamisness about dealing with raw meat, bones, etc, when I lived with the hunter. He also fished and hunted ducks - once I eviscerated and plucked a wild goose all on my own - I was so proud!!

Now I just need to get over with my squeamishness about actually killing an animal for food. We're looking for a new rental this summer and aim to find a place on at least an acre, which will meet local bylaws related to keeping chickens. If it all works out with the right timing, I'm going to take on broiers this year (or next?)

For me, it's about moderation and ethical choices - my personal ethical standards, and no one elses.

Great post, Kate :)

Ria said...

I'm trying to be more conscious of the meat that I eat. I've boiled it down, for me, to meat with meaning, and meaningless meat. Meat with meaning is meat that I worked for in order to eat. Not just by working for an hour and taking my wages and buying burgers, nor by raising the animal itself. But taking the time to prepare and cook the meat myself in the meal, it gives me proper time to remember that a life was taken to help sustain me and that i should be grateful for it and not waste it.

Meaningless meat is a fast food hamburger, deli meat, stuff that I don't have to do anything to or work for in order to get my hands on and consume. That stuff comes so easily that it's easier still to forget that the salami sandwich used to be connected to life. It has no meaning beyond a snack, convenience food, and I want to avoid that line of thinking.

Being thankful for my meat and remembering where it came from also helps me avoid waste. It's a lot harder to justify wasting meat when you remember that you're wasting a life. Even the bones, as you said, don't have to be wasted if you know what can be done with them.

Damn The Broccoli said...

I am a confirmed meat eater and am unashamed of it, however I do believe in a fairness to the animal.

My partner and I have been lucky enough to find a local organic farm that not only butchers it's own meat but the animals are slaughtered only 3 miles from site meaning there are no long journeys in cramped lorries for them.

Our emphasis is on quality of life for the animal and the impact our meat has on the environment. I have to drive 10 miles round trip to the farm so I know all the meat I buy has travelled no more than 11 miles in it's life and there are only 16 food miles overall. A win win until I can raise my own.

I agree with the points about killing your own animals and in my world everyone who eats meat would be forced to slaughter and clean an animal to remind them what they are eating. I was horrified at the weekend when my niece declared she didn't like eating chicken as she didn't like to see them killed so she only ate chicken dippers. It really didn't occur to her that this processed food was the same thing as the little birds!

I know more than one or two vegetarians though who are reassessing vegetarianism's role in their low impact life. Many of them eat pulses and beans that are shipped many food miles and even worse soya proteins that come from gm stock! This is leading many vegetarians to think about the move to ethical local meat as it is environmentally more conscionable to them!

As with many things in our style of life it is hard to choose the best path and anything you come up with will have an equally compelling counter argument. Free range meat does not consume anywhere near as much fuel as one crop will for instance.

It makes it incredibly hard to make any choice let alone try and tell others why they should think about it! Which comes back very neatly to your point that we have to choose ourselves for our own reasons.