Up until last week, I have been mostly vegan– I ate farm fresh eggs, but otherwise, I ate no dairy or meat. All summer, I’ve talked at length with my (wise beyond their years) roommates about meat consumption. After months of thinking about the issue, I’ve decided to eat locally produced, farm fresh meat. I’m going to use this post to give you a sense of my thought process. Maybe it will resonate with you, as a food consumer.
As you all navigate your way through the wealth of food options here in the States, you may feel overwhelmed. I am often faced with questions like: Whole Foods or Safeway? Fish from a farm, or from the wild? Meat from the farmers market, or from the grocery store? White meat or red meat? Organic or local?
My mom and I talk about these issues a lot, as we’re often grocery shopping together when I’m home. After working at a farm, my opinions on many of the above questions have changed, and I am proud to say that my mom, without having ever worked at a farm, usually makes choices that a small organic farmer would make. Here are my answers to the above questions, and some explanation….
Whole Foods or Safeway? This is tough, because Whole Foods is a corporation like any other. They have way more organic produce and really great marketing as compared to Giant/Safeway/etc. However, most of their produce comes from South America, California, etc… meaning that the food almost certainly comes from monoculture farms (farms that only have 1 crop over a large area, which is horrible for the environment), travelled a very long way to get to the Whole Foods location (meaning that lots of natural gases polluted the environment in the process), and were either from conventional, industrial, pesticide using farms or from organic farms that only barely scratch the surface of the word “organic.” Further, underpaid workers probably picked that produce. Still, between Safeway and Whole Foods, I go with Whole Foods, buying only what I absolutely cannot get at my local natural food store or farmers market.
Fish from a farm, or from the wild? Another tough one. Ideally, the answer is NEITHER. Fish from the wild is likely overloaded with toxins from pollution, and a huge percentage of sea life caught from fisheries is endangered. Fish from an industrial fish farm are likely raised in horrible conditions and are killed in worse ones. A lot of waste is produced in the process. So, what to do? The answer, in my opinion, is to seek small-scale, local fish farmers. See this article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=aquaponic-plants-and-fish This stuff is super cool, and really sustainable.
Meat from the farmers market or grocery store? This one is easy. Farmers market!!! It tastes SO much better… so, so, so, so, so. Much. Better. Speak with the farmer about how the animals were kept, and how they were slaughtered. This meat probably has way less bad-for-you bacteria than industrially produced meat that travelled across the country in trucks to arrive in your local grocery store. It may be more expensive, but here’s the other thing about meat: Americans eat WAY too much of it. Every animal that appears on your plate was once a living being. Do we really need to eat meat every single day? Is our survival so dependent on the deaths of sentient beings? What about eating meat twice a week, or only on weekends, or cooking a pound of meat a week and eating that pound throughout? My roommates and I made a pound of goat meat on Monday, and we only just finished it off on Friday.
White meat or red meat? I haven’t quite decided on this one. Definitely not cow meat– it is heavy and difficult to digest. Goat and sheep are better for you. But these are personal choices based on diet and health and what your body craves. Regardless, the meat should be locally, organically farmed by farmers that you know and trust. Which answers the question, organic or local? Local!!!! So many farms are not organically certified because A) it is expensive and B) it doesn’t mean too much these days. Talk to your farmer at the market. Ask: how do you keep these animals? What do you feed them? What slaughterhouse do you send them to, and how do you know it is humane? They will be so happy to answer your questions… and if they’re not, then you certainly shouldn’t be eating their meat.
Okay. So why did I decide to eat local, organically produced meat? Because my body craved it, because animal products are integral to farming (blood and bone are great fertilizers), because I believe that it is possible to respect and value animal life and also eat animals. I hope to eat meat about once a week for now, when I can get it from a local farm. I hope that every bite I take, I’m aware that a life was taken to give me life.
So. This has certainly been a “vegetarian” adventure for me! Here’s the recipe for meatballs that we made with our ground goat meat. It was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS…. Chop leeks and garlic VERY small. Saute them in olive oil. Add chopped dill and salt. Remove from the heat. Mix in bread crumbs, an egg or two, and ground meat. Form into balls. Saute in olive oil, turning as each side cooks. The dill + meat + salt is sooooooo delectable….. serve with baked sweet potato strips and home-made ketchup, and some steamed collard greens.
And, if you read this (ranting?) post about the now misleading name of my blog, then I think you deserve a funny picture. This is me in our red truck, called Gomez:
Thanks for reading! I hope to hear your comments on the controversial topic of this post. Be well!