Tell Me Where You’re From, and I’ll Tell You if You’re Edible.

8 Nov

The other day at work, someone came in to notify us a vegan was coming for our special dinner with the dean.  “Oh, actually I know her and she said she’d eat the pork dish,” Jeff, the dean’s dinner chef, interjected.

“So she’s not vegan?” asked our executive chef.

“Well, she is…but she said she’d eat the pork if we could tell her the farm where it was raised,” Jeff replied.

At first, I laughed, but after some thought, I realized that this woman’s stance on eating animals was more sensible than anyone’s.  Today, many of us are taking the innitiative to eat locally and sustainably raised meat.  But what good does eating sustainably achieve if we go eat a Purdue chicken the next day?  Abstaining entirely from factory-farmed meat or meat of sketchy provenance is perhaps the most powerful way to say “no” to factory farming.  And one step above that is eating only sustainable and local meat.

This bunny knows what's up.

For the past few years, I have been trying to eat more locally and sustainably produced meat.  During high school, living at home with a family of six, I had a hard time convincing my parents to buy organic, local, and sustainable meat.  Such meats were much more expensive, and our grocery bills were high enough without them.  I got my family to watch “Food, Inc.,” and that helped my cause a little bit.  But still, I found my message was lost when my parents continued to buy Purdue this, Hormel that.  Although we sometimes took steps in the right direction, especially when Whole Foods began to sell local and sustainable meat more frequently, we then backtracked by purchasing massive, awkward chicken breast.  Can I blame them for trying to feed our family without breaking the bank?  Absolutely not.  But there are economical alternatives to meat that can put the slow food movement in action (read: vegetables, tofu, and beans).

Although I have always scoffed at vegetarians and vegans, I now recognize the important role they play in the sustainable meat movement.  If we omnivores are the drivers who wish everyone drove hybrids, vegetarians are the guys on buses, and vegans are the fundamentalist bicycle riders.  Although we hybrid ethusiasts strive to lower polution, the bus riders are reducing fuel emissions much more, and the bike riders are on strike against poisoning the atmosphere.  Bottom line: vegans actually lead the hierarchy of effectiveness in the slow food movement.  But that woman at the dean’s dinner table was driving the hybrid: she would walk given the chance  to ride in a regular car, but given a hybrid, she would find driving a fine experience.

the sustainable meat of driving

So I have a new challenge for myself, and I invite you to rise to the occasion and join me in my quest for all that is right in omnivorism: become a vegan (or vegetarian, at least) unless you know your meat (or dairy product) is properly raised and, preferrably, local.  What the hell?  This is a revolution in eating, people!  Crappily raised meat is often more expensive than veggies, legumes, nuts, and tofu, so why not just replace that meat with something lower in cost that you can feel good about eating?  I believe there is no shame in eating an animal you are certain had a good, healthy, and natural life.  The shame lies in eating a bird that grew so quickly on hormones that it couldn’t walk; eating a dairy cow that was so often impregnated to produce milk that, weakened by boneloss, could not even walk to the slaughter house.

crowded coop

Here in Ithaca, I know my meat sources; I am fortunate enough to have a great farmer’s market to hit on weekends.  I have great pork, lamb, beef, chicken, and even bison.  I know that not every place has so many great meat opportunities, but that is where abstaining from poor meat choices comes in.  For example, Cornell requires me to purchase an unlimited meal plan because I live in a West campus dorm.  I know damn well that the chicken in that chicken parmesan is not sustainably raised; each chicken breast is probably as big as my face.  So next time I get dinner, rather than half-heartedly putting one of those wobbly bad boys on my plate, I am going to opt for something else.  Our dining hall offers vegan and vegetarian options, so those dishes are going to get my vote from now on.  Although I never ate much dining hall meat to begin with, here is my conscious effort to abandon it completely.

So, readers, here’s to freaks who are vegan but not really: you make a whole lot more sense than careless omnivores, and to you I raise my goblet of eggnog (made with sustainable grass fed cows’ cream, of course).

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7 Responses to “Tell Me Where You’re From, and I’ll Tell You if You’re Edible.”

  1. holly November 8, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Awesome, awesome post my girl. I am cross posting.

    • Sam November 9, 2010 at 1:38 am #

      Holly made me read this! But seriously, that is a lovely compromise for this fresh, raw vegetarian, who really misses an herb roasted chicken (but I get one when I visit my sister’s farm) or some pulled pork (which I never get because she won’t raise hogs)!

      So how does one find the outlets locally that sell local meats?

      • getinmebelly November 9, 2010 at 4:39 am #

        This really depends upon where you live. Many times, if you are in the farming business or know a local farmer, he or she knows other farmers who raise other animals. Also, since the internet is such a popular way to gather info, you can look up farms in your area online. Farmers markets are also an excellent way to do some one-stop grocery shopping and feel good about your purchases. If you live close to a Whole Foods, many of their butcher counters carry meat raised locally and sustainably with no antibiotics. Apart from that, if you are willing to go a distance to pick up some meat that will last, you can purchase and pick up a quarter, half, or whole pig from a trust-worthy farm and freeze the individual cuts until you are ready to use them. If you can drive to get your meat once a week or so, you could join a meat CSA (community supported agriculture), which allows you to pay for the season and get a share of meat every week. The Piggery, a pig farm near me, has a CSA available here in Ithaca as well as one you can pick up in New York City. There are many options to explore, but then there are that many ways to get your meat on!

  2. Brian C November 9, 2010 at 1:37 am #

    When you say “vegan” are you talking ovo-lacto-abstaining-vegetarian? Or do you mean a more run-of-the-creamery vegetarian? Because I was a little confused by your usage of both the term “vegan” and “vegetarian”…

    • getinmebelly November 9, 2010 at 4:32 am #

      I meant to use both, because vegetarianism could be the first step. However, veganism is ultimately more effective at shutting down poorly raised meat. It’s one thing to drink milk or eat eggs that come from a responsible source, but just drinking milk from anywhere (suffering dairy cows?) or eating eggs from cramped, unhealthy, unhappy hens is another thing entirely. It is not easy to go cold turkey from all these things, but attempting to avoid the factory crap is imperative.

  3. Madison November 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    This was SO insightful. It really made me think twice about eating our chicken today… I hope to one day follow the principles of the slow food movement as closely as possible, but as you point out, it’s difficult to start doing so in college.

    • getinmebelly November 9, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

      Excellent! Don’t eat that chicken. As stressed in “Food Inc.,” every time you consume factory farmed meat, you are voting “yes” for the company. So vote “no!” Don’t vote for animal cruelty and sickness.

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