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The Meat Sheet Explained

January 2, 2011

I’m not the only one who has recently been thinking a lot about the meat we eat.  Albany Jane had a recent post on The Great Meat Debate.  But a lot of the fire in my belly is the result of a post on the From Scratch Club blog that got me int a few interesting debates on Paula Deen’s Facebook page, of all places.

A long time ago I stumbled upon this web video, which I thought did a pretty good job of identifying the big issues in reasonably entertaining way.  But even then I was trying to eat happier meat.

The thing, is I enjoy meat.  If push came to shove, I could live without it.  But it’s so delicious that I would prefer to keep eating it.  But there are some problems with meat.  And I’m getting a little fed up with what is being done to animals in the name of our pleasure and nutrition.

Let me give you the briefest sense about what I mean.

– I think that the animals that will give their lives to feed us, should be given the best lives possible until that moment that they meet their inevitable demise.

– I don’t think it’s a good idea to give routine antibiotics to living creatures, and I don’t want to support that practice.

– I think animals should be allowed to be animals.  Chickens should be able to do the things chickens do, and the same goes for the other animals we eat.

– I think animals should eat the things their bodies are designed to eat.  Chickens should eat bugs.  Cows should eat grass.  No animals should be fed GMO corn, nor should herbivores be fed animal by-products.

– I think animals should be dispatched humanely.  Despite what my religious heritage tells me, there are better, more modern ways to kill an animal with limited stress and pain. 

Surely there are more criteria that could be used for defining meat as happy, and I recognize that these issues aren’t always black and white.  While I might want to support the local family farm and avoid large factory farms, it’s possible that a small rancher might engage in the practices I despise.  It’s also possible, if however unlikely, that a large factory farm could be responsible for producing the meat I seek.

In the last couple days as I have been thinking about New Year’s resolutions, I really wanted to do something about meat.  But all the resolutions I could think of were either too draconian or far too permissive.  I don’t think it’s realistic for me to give up conventionally produced meat entirely.  At least not this year.  And I am comfortable with baby steps.

So instead I’ve committed to trying to cut back on the conventional meat I consume on a daily, weekly and yearly basis.  I’m not committing to a number, but instead I will use 2011 as a year to document my meat consumption.  This way, I’ll have something to look back on and see if I can further reduce conventional meat in my diet in subsequent years.

If you are interested, this ongoing project will be summarized in The Meat Sheet.

Last night I already made my first decision based on this goal.  At a Mexican restaurant, I opted to go meatless instead of indulging in what could very well have been delicious carnitas made from Smithfield pork.

New Years’s Day did start off with meat from Holland Brothers in Altoona, PA.  They are a small local butcher.  My father-in-law believes that they use animals sourced from smaller local farmers, but I have no real verification of that.  Nor do I know anything about how these animals are raised.  So for now, I am compelled to consider this meat unhappy.  Yes, it’s probably happier than most, and maybe after a bit more research I can confidently switch its designation.

Yes, I will allow myself some indulgences.  This upcoming Friday’s Wine and Dine for the Arts will be one of them.

No, I will not rudely refuse the hospitality and generosity of others who may offer me tasty delights that do not conform with this belief structure.  However, any meat whose provenance is uncertain, will need to be assumed unhappy, for the purposes of this exercise.

I know this is not for everybody.

It’s a lot easier to not think about where food comes from.  I’d prefer not to think about it.  But I can’t.  I’d love to eat nothing but happy meat whenever I choose to indulge in animal flesh, but I can’t do that either.  I can however cut back on the things I know I shouldn’t be doing.  And this is my plan for 2011.

If you ever want to check in on how I’m doing, I’ve added a link to The Meat Sheet at the top of the blog.  And if you are interested in participating at home, you’ve got me for a partner.  I’d love to hear about your trials and tribulations as well as your successes.

Happy New Year.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Afsal permalink
    January 2, 2011 12:42 pm

    This is great, I’ve been thinking about this as well, especially now that our daughter is starting to eat solids. My wife is a veg, so introducing meat is my job.

    There’s also a similar sentiment in a Salon article I just read about cheap vs ‘good’ chicken:

    Happy New Year!

  2. January 2, 2011 1:45 pm

    I like to think this is how I eat. Sure, some meats in restaurants aren’t going to be sourced as ethically as possible, but there are moments when I really want to try them. Hard to strike a happy medium, but I think a combo of eating less and better meat at home, with the occasional meal out is something of a middle. Maybe.

  3. January 2, 2011 2:30 pm

    Whenever someone asks me why I’m a vegetarian, I always encourage them to learn more about the farming industry in the US. The reality is gruesome at best.

    I do applaud your hunt for happy meat. While PETA may frame it as just as animal abuse, it really is human abuse too — we’re harming ourselves by eating animals forced to eat other animals’ excrement, pumped full of drugs and GMO corn.

  4. January 2, 2011 5:30 pm

    I won’t speak for the rest of The From Scratch Club crew, although I know they will be on-board too and I could speak for them, but I am TOTALLY with you on this journey. Bravo Daniel.

    • January 2, 2011 5:36 pm

      I am replying to myself because I hit the comment button too darn fast. I pretty much eat like this now, and I TOTALLY agree with you that a balance can be found- especially when you are at someone’s home… I was a vegetarian for years (not currently) and I always practiced the “I’m eating it here” because, frankly, someone has taken time, money & effort to cook food for my consumption, to “share” a piece of themselves with me… so I will never turn down food. Restaurant meat, that’s another story. I have no problems asking managers where they are sourcing their meats. Since I already have to ask a MILLION questions due to my son’s life-threatening food allergies, what’s one more question- ha!

  5. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    January 2, 2011 5:53 pm

    You mention that chickens should eat what they’re supposed to eat, cows should eat what they’re designed for, etc. I would add that humans should also eat what they have evolved to eat, like every other animal. Humans are supposed to eat frui, vegetables, and meat or other animal protein. They are not designed at all to eat grains, or to be vegetarian. It is every bit as unnatural as fattening cattle with corn for slaughter.

  6. Dianna permalink
    January 2, 2011 9:54 pm

    I am a social meat eater. I eat meat when people make it for me, but not on my own, with chicken as an occasional exception when I am at the Indian buffet or just plain old need protein. When I travel to foreign countries, I eat whatever there is on the menu (talk to me about Slovakia sometime), although I do draw the line at obviously endangered species and octopus. Octopuses are way too charming to eat, unlike chickens. And goats, I don’t eat them either because I used to have goats and goats are also way too charming to eat. I had chickens too, enough said about them. The problem is, the more you pay attention, the more animals seem lovable and deserving of autonomy. And don’t forget the 90%- loss-of-energy-between-trophic-levels rule. With every transfer of one body into food for another body, 90% of the energy is lost. That means if you eat broccoli, you get 10% of its energy available for your body. If you eat a chicken that eats broccoli (chickens eat everything, by the way, not just bugs) you get 1% of the original broccoli energy available to your body via the chicken. Much more efficient to eat the broccoli yourself. In a planet with nearly 7 billion people, this adds up quickly. So if you want to preserve land for things we don’t eat, like pandas and song birds and slime molds and edelweiss, better to eat the broccoli and leave the rest of the acreage for them. Good for you for thinking about it.

  7. speshulk99 permalink
    March 17, 2011 5:28 pm

    I sell locally raised beef, pork and chicken at one of the local farmer’s markets. I didn’t always sell them, but I was a customer of my now boss for years and the opportunity to sell came up and that is how I got to the topic at hand. The eating of meat has many ethical and moral questions that is for sure. All of that said, we are creatures who require protein and meat delivers it in an enjoyable way. The animals from which our products come from are raised the way that nature, no big business intended them to be raised. Our cows are bred on ther farm and are fed nothing other than grass and all of those delicious parts of the food chain we have come to know as grass fed. The cows are meved from paddock to paddock throught the spring-fall months eating whatever greens are available from Mother Earth and in the fall aare special treat as the apples fall from the trees scattered all over the pastures are eagerly eaten by the cows. Our pigs are out in the good weather rutting in the foliage, dirt and are treated to apples, watermelon and a host of other natural goodies. Our chickens throughout the spring-late fall are out side in a grassy area of the farm and are in hoop cages for the nighttime to avoid coyotes and such from destroying the flocks. The hawks, however, can take many birds during the daytime, but hey, they have to eat too. Eating local foods is a way of life, in my opinion. Since reading Fast food nation some 13-14 years ago, the bulk of my edibles come from the farmer’s markets occuring year round in the Albany Schenectady Troy Saratoga Area. Folks like us are supporting local agriculture for many reasons. It may be more expensive to purchase but I feel good about supporting the local farming community. Doing so keeps the goodness here and helping to limit urban sprawl. There are many more reasons to promote local agriculture, try it and visit one of the markets near you.


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