25 October 2007

To meat or not to meat...

Eating meat is definitely more energetically expensive than not eating meat because of what is required to support each trophic chain. Environmentally it is better to eat on a lower trophic chain and be an herbivore (vegan). Let me know if you want an explanation of trophic energetics as an argument for vegetarianism. This post is about my tug-of-war with the decision to currently be a vegetarian or not.

I was a vegetarian for over 10 years but did not make that choice for environmental reasons, or bleeding heart reasons. Or primarily for health reasons. I did it because of disdain for the meat industry. The meat packing industry is horrific and shadows what was a powerful union in the U. S. decades ago. Now severe worker accidents and death is common. The conditions the animals are subjected too is inhumane with overcrowding, medications, hormones, and finally deaths that aren't always swift.

I eat meat now but make an effort to eat meat that is hormone-free, free-range, and that supports better worker conditions. When I was a vegetarian I had the opportunity to eat fish when I was on an invasive trout study. We would kill a catch of fish in areas to collect data and then be told by protocol to toss the carcasses in the middle of the water. That seemed like a waste so me and my crew tried to eat fish often. I would also eat hunting meat that friends would kill then prepare. I learned that a good elk steak is all right, possibly one of the best treats I love to have when I get the chance. However, have you ever looked in a living elks' eyes? So cute! Don't think I don't I understand the bleeding heart argument.

I starting eating meat again when I was training for an endurance event. Then it kept on when I started grad school. And didn't stop there because I had a weird illness that turned out to be an allergy to sugar cane and oats. It has been easier to manage my allergy with meat consumption. So now I am at a point where I can be a veg again, eat little meat, or be a carnivore. The logical thing to do is be a vegan for the environment and humane reasons. However it is easier to have lower body fat composition by eating lean meats, and I do prefer to be toned.

Currently I have the opportunity to attend a chicken preparation workshop with our local organic farm. They need to cull some of their critters and have 10 slots open for the entire preparation of a chicken. You bring a cooler to take it home on ice at the end of the day and go through the entire process. I have all sorts of acquaintances over time with chickens but it is rare that anyone prepares them for slaughter these days. My mother had a big coop for eggs. My neighbor has two chickens for eggs and they are in front of our house every morning. I have a disturbing disconnect between the chicken for eggs and the chicken meat. This is why this workshop seems so appealing.

My fiance was never a vegetarian. When we first met I told him I was considering not eating meat and he was less than supportive at that time. I changed my mind because of eventual food allergies but we have been steadily reducing our meat consumption during our relationship. We try to evaluate our eat-meating every so often and he is even considering a vegetarian lifestyle these days. Our eat meating conflicts are also present with the wedding planning.

For the wedding there will be good veggie food for everyone as well as local catch fish in ceviche. I don't know the source of the chicken but we will have jerk chicken because we will be around an Afro-Caribbean culture and it would be a shame not to. We are going to a Slow Food associated cooking school for the honeymoon and have opted for the course with meat because the animals are raised locally on farms in humane conditions. That seems to be the balance for us right now. Reduced meat consumption, but when we do we try to make it meat with some value.

**Grrrr, I have a previous commitment the weekend of the chicken workshop with the farm. I won't be signing up.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

All very good points. I wish that free-range/grass-finished meats were easier to find and less expensive. Sigh.