So, apologies to those of you waiting for this post with baited breath. To read my first installment on living a vegetarian lifestyle, click here. But to summarize, eating as a vegetarian was easy enough but socially it could be awkward. A lot of people get defensive about their food choices upon hearing about mine. Which is fine. Outside of this blog, I really don’t share my opinions unasked but I think that, generally, if you’re asking my opinion, I shouldn’t have to defend it. So, my skin is getting a bit thicker and I’m perhaps becoming slightly jaded on the whole topic.
As a society, we eat too much animal protein, plain and simple. Our portions have gotten larger. We love the all-you-can-eat joints. Some folks eat meat three times a day. Physically, your body just doesn’t need all that meat. But buying a pound of ground beef at your local Publix is a cheap way to feed a family of four. I get it. But a lot of people don’t realize the greater, non-monetary cost of eating this way.
We imagine our meat and eggs are coming from a place like this:
But they don’t.
Here’s the gist of it: I don’t think anyone sets out for the grocery store and thinks, “Wowzers, I really hope I can score a good deal on some feces-covered chicken flesh that was genetically modified so its legs snap under the weight of its enlarged breasts as it spent the vast majority of its short, terrifying life in a 6”x6” cage just to be eviscerated by a machine and have its disease-ridden innards spread across itself and the birds around it.”
Most people just really don’t know the sad state of our food industry. A LOT of people think they are doing better for their families if they buy “organic” or “all natural” or “grass-fed” meats. They don’t realize the problem is so extensive, special wording on a label isn’t going to change a thing. How your chicken is labeled really means nothing. Yes, the feed may be different but it means very little when it comes to the conditions they were raised (access to the outdoors can mean as much as one open doorway for 6,000 chickens in a warehouse) or how they were slaughtered and processed (inhumanely and under incredibly unsanitary conditions). If the meat is sold at a grocery store chain, there is a 99% chance it came from a factory farm.
Also, do some research on your organic and “cage-free” eggs. You’ll be surprised.
The ethical side of being a vegetarian is tricky for me. I don’t think animals have feelings. I do, however, think that they feel things – sensations, pain, discomfort – and a food industry that does not take this into consideration is cruel and unnecessary. I think God’s creation is magnificent and as a bible-believer, I find it bothersome that we treat the rest of the creation God entrusted to us with such disregard. I don’t think eating meat is wrong. But I do think it’s wrong to do so in the manner thats become acceptable to our culture.
I was also shocked to learn the environmental impact of eating conventional meat. It’s not just bad for our health, but also the number one danger to the environment. Factory farms are responsible for the release of more greenhouse gasses than the entire transportation sector. It doesn’t matter if you drive a Prius, use reusable grocery bags or recycle every bit of plastic in your home. If you eat meat purchased in a grocery store, you are supporting a practice that is greatly damaging our ecosystems. And all those spinach, mango and cantaloupe recalls for salmonella and E. coli? Most likely linked to the massive amounts of fecal waste produced by factory farms.
So eating conventional meats, raised on these large, commercially owned farms and slaughtered in inhumane ways is disagreeable to our beliefs and lifestyles.
But here’s the kicker – not all meat is bad for you. Some meat is a diet is good. It provides B vitamins, omegas and minerals that can’t be easily found in a vegetable-based diet. And, my husband and kids love meat.
So, what is a Momma to do?
Exactly what we were doing, but with renewed purpose and intent. We’re only eating local, farm-raised meats and eggs a few times a month. No grocery store meats, regardless of price or convenience. If we can’t afford to buy meat for a few weeks, then we aren’t eating meat for a few weeks. We’re saving up and spending a small fortune for a farm-raised, happy turkey for Thanksgiving. We’re learning that what we want doesn’t have to come at the expense of others. We’re eating with purpose and intent.
I guess we’re what Michael Pollan would call selective omnivores.
And while we’re at it, we are putting our dollar to use and supporting local farmers – not large corporations with questionable ethics and practices. The small, family-owned farm is in danger of disappearing. I grew up on a dairy farm that was driven out by larger, more mechanized farming, I want to do my part to ensure that lifestyle is preserved for others. Eventually, we’d like to be at a place where we can be more self-sufficient and raise our own chickens and cattle for eggs and meat. But this is a discussion for another post.