What do you do about eating meat?

by SARA on May 13, 2011

piece by piece: deliciousEarlier this week, the New York Times published an online debate tackling the knotty issue of how to make livestock practices more humane. In three states, laws have been proposed to ban taking undercover videos of how the animals are treated. Supporters say it’s a safety risk to the animals to have trespassers skulking about. Detractors–well, you can imagine what they think. Until there’s no longer anything to hide, they feel these videos are important.

The “something to hide” bit points to the larger issue–how abysmally we treat these animals, not to mention how full of hormones, disease, and chemicals they are by the time they reach our stores. How to turn the tide was what the Times aimed to tackle with a who’s-who of experts, from Temple Grandin and the president of the Humane Society to economists and law professors. The ideas were as varied as the contributors–from creating a domestic peace corps for farming to criminalizing cruelty to farm animals. But time and again, nearly all of the experts turned the issue back to us, the consumers, arguing that our dollars were the surest, clearest path to making this health and humanitarian issue a thing of the past.

Having seen the chickens flopping around in Food, Inc. and knowing that drug-resistant bacteria is rampant in store meat (47% of chicken, pork, turkey, and beef, according to a recent study) has gotten me really thinking hard about my choices. I find I eat less meat now, and I’m quite careful about researching where what I do consume comes from. When I’m in New York, it’s pretty easy (people are obsessed with this stuff here), but out in my parents’ town in PA, for instance, it’s trickier. I’m also not feeding a whole family–where I know cost becomes a much bigger issue. Something that struck me about the Times debate is how few solutions the experts had for helping consumers better access these healthier choices. Probably because there are no easy answers.

…until you hear about an approach somebody’s taking and think–wow, that was under our noses the whole time. I’m always surprised, heartened, and inspired by how smart people can be about making things work. So, I’m wondering, how do you navigate eating meat these days? Have you radically changed your habits? Adapted just a few things that make a lot of sense to you? Or are you still working it all out?

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Mandi Morgart May 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I really love Marion Nestle’s blog and keep up with it as much as I can. I’ve also read “Righteous Porkchop” (good for responsible meat eaters), “Food Politics”, and most of the other “food conscious” books out there. There seems to be a great divide between “eat consciously” and “eat economically”. There is a dichotomy that exists with a “conscious AND economic” void. I DON’T LIKE eating factory farmed food, but I don’t have the income for grass-fed, family farmed meats. It’s no secret that the more economically disadvantaged an area is, the more people rely on processed/factory foods, and even corner stores, to supply the bulk of their “nutrition”, because there’s no healthy option. I am so glad that more farmers markets are accepting food stamps now – and I hope it’s closing that gap a bit. But for a family of four, the price discrepancy between whole foods and processed factory foods is enough that families have to choose between their ideals and their pocketbook. And sadly, the pocketbook usually wins.

This issue is expanded on a much larger scale in within our government – contracting with their lobbyist friends to provide subpar food for schools and other institutions, and rigging the “bidding” process, makes it next to impossible for legitimate food sources to even make a play at changing the status quo. I love that many schools have taken to starting their own CSAs or school vegetable gardens as a means of combating this.

Sorry I commented so much. I’m passionate about this particular topic, so I rambled a bit. :)

Cameo May 14, 2011 at 7:48 am

Still working it all out. This is a subject that weighs heavy on my mind. I have drastically reduced my meat consumption since learning more about how abysmally our livestock are treated. I certainly eat more fish than anything else, which of course is also problematic. I am searching for the best, gluten/dairy free, humane/vegetarian, high-protein ideas out there – so I will be interested in the responses to your post!

Camille May 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm

LOVE your comment, Mandi – I relate/agree on so many levels.

Michelle May 16, 2011 at 10:05 am

Where do I stand? I am on my way to plant-based, with my current concentration being on cheese because I love it so! As a Seventh-Day Adventist, I have always had access to the spectrum of vegetarianism that is encouraged not only for purposes of food safety, but primarily for optimal health. Often the issue of protein becomes so forefront at that transition time that many have a hard time continuing their journey. I am a health coach and talk with people from all over the US and am amazed at how many people currently consider this path as well. People not wanting to be on medication, have another heart attack, and reverse diabetes. Truth be told, protein is in practically everything, and is not so tough to get with the proper education. What makes it harder is having a realistic alternative when people try to make this change. It tends to take more time and effort, but can certainly reduce costs when leaving meat off the grocery list. However, it’s not as simple as subbing cheese and veggie meat for your favorite foods if you want the health benefits.

Documentaries like ‘Food Matters’ and ‘Forks Over Knives’ have brought more attention to this subject and how other countries begin to exhibit our same maladies when they begin to adopt Western eating habits. Take a look at many detox-type facilities where people go when they are diagnosed with life-threatening disease and you usually aren’t going to see meat on the menu.

All of the research aside, as I transition, I am becoming less fixated on food, more appreciative of quality food, and feel much better physically without dairy and meat in my system. I’m excited to see where this takes me!

SARA May 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Mandi, I’m so glad you wrote as much as you did! All this is such a tough balancing act, and I think it’s so important to hear how it works–and where it doesn’t–for people. I, too, am so glad about the food stamps, vegetable gardens, etc–but I agree it just feels like we could be doing more so that people didn’t have to make so many economic tradeoffs to eat food that’s real. Thanks so much for all the points you brought up here.

SARA May 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm

I’m right there with you, Cameo. Salmon is my new best friend!

SARA May 17, 2011 at 9:59 am

Michelle, you raised a really compelling point about protein being the big hurdle for so many people. It’s interesting, with all the other healthy living tips out there, that there isn’t so much on learning to live with less meat (though one resource I really like for this is the Meatless Mondays campaign). Not that this is the only route to take, but it’s certainly a good one. Thanks so much for your input!!

Rosie May 17, 2011 at 10:54 am

I am a proud omnivore but because I want to eat meat that is as sustainably and humanely raised as possible while being mindful of my limited budget at the same time, we are choosing to just eat less meat. We have many more vegetarian based meals using non-meat sources for our protein. And even my meat loving husband, who used to scoff at our “meatless main” nights, doesn’t even mind anymore.

SARA May 18, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Love it! Thanks, Rosie! I’m curious–what’s your husband’s favorite meatless main?

Dawn June 10, 2011 at 5:32 am

I’m fortunate because I live in Chicago, but local butchers and farmers markets aren’t difficult to find here – so it’s easy to find sustainably-farmed meat. A few co-ops offer meat from local farms as well. Some of the sellers even have prices that would match the chain grocery store. I usually find myself buying more chicken than anything else, which helps with the cost.

greenpat June 16, 2011 at 11:17 am

I have not ate meat in over a year and never will again. I believe that one is not truly enlightened until they realize they can live life without causing any harm to anyone else. We do not have to kill/take another life to nourish ourselves.

SARA June 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I like that the sellers are matching the store chains. That’s such a great sign. Likewise the co-ops. Really good stuff!

Annie July 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Yep, there’s a struggle between my knowledge of how bad, in so many ways, factory-farmed meat is, vs. my wallet (I know that one can think of factory-farmed stuff as expensive in the long term, but…) and love of delicious animal protein!
Humanely-raised, organic eggs are part of a solution, for me. They’re cheap. Especially if you get medium rather than large eggs. And I love eggy main courses–frittatas, quiches (with or without a crust), strata, egg salad…

Greenapt October 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

First as an environmentalist, livestock production is not sustainable. Search National Geographic’s water issue which tells just how much water (thousand+ gallons) and food (50lbs) it takes to produce just 1lb of meat. With millions already without access to food or water we should not be feeding billions of animals. Grass-fed or not livestock production is not sustainable. Next add on the suffering of billions of animals. The suffering you won’t see in Food Inc. and other movies because it’s too horrific. Look on Mercy for Animals for the real truth.
It turns out it isn’t too hard to live a live where you don’t exploit or torture other animals. Don’t eat meat, dairy, fish, poultry—don’t eat animals. Yes, dairy cows suffer too to produce milk and cheese. Many people think cows magically produce milk, they don’t they have to get pregnant and have their babies ripped away for veal. Constantly.

For a better planet and society we should give up the consumption of animals. Our health, environment and billions of suffering animals will thank you.

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