Tuesday, December 08, 2009

In defense of Meat

An interesting viewpoint here. I say "interesting" I guess to be purposely milquetoast; I largely agree with what Harvey Ussery has to say, but of course, there are boatloads of critiques, glossed-over points, retorts to critiques and counter-critiques to be had, as seems to happen all the time with food. (This is my impression right now of what seems to be the "local-food-backlash", that is, a flurry of academic and popular articles on how local food actually may be worse, from energy efficiency, causing smugness and related moral turpitude, etc. etc. I was flabbergasted when a mathematician shook her head at me when I maintained that, ceteris paribus (all things being equal), local should be more efficient. I think it's pretty much definitionally true that local food is better, all things being equal; a separate question is whether and when they in fact are equal. But I feel like the local critique is as much founded in a backlash as it is in the fact that local is, of course, not an unconditional universally-good free panacea. I still think the science bears out that more local food systems are a better idea, on average, than a far-flung food system. But I digress.)

Worth a read; not necessarily a new argument but a passionately and clearly phrased one, and one that I think I'm on board with (but can't be sure because my mind has been quite hijacked by work for the past several days and is not all with me). Ussery seems like an interesting guy in the Joel Salatin mode (so much so that I was looking askance at his website to see if he shared some of Salatin's more, um, iconoclastic political views); worth looking more into.

5 comments:

Daktari said...

I have watched you struggle with carnivorous guilt, and have maintained my sense of otherness. I have only casually considered the effects of my meat eating, which is to say that I have considered the types of meat that I eat and tried to own the fact that nearly all the meat I buy has come from factory farms using animal practices of which I do not approve.

My primary source of protein comes (in order of quantity) from chicken, legumes, eggs, venison, fish, soy, and a limited amount of dairy products. With the exception of two 1 lb. packages of bacon I buy each year (for seasoning) and 4-5 lbs. of breakfast sausage that I buy at Christmastime, I am not a pork eater. I think I can honestly say that I eat less than 1 lb. of beef a month. Most months, I eat less or none. I do purchase prepared beef broth just because getting the bones isn't as easy as it once was. I have, in my brother, a nearly endless supply of top quality wild game meats, including rabbit, venison, and pheasant.

Chickens are my downfall. I probably buy 2 full chickens a month. When I take a meat dish to an event...chicken. When I order out...chicken. I recently found a neighbor with chickens who supplies me with my eggs for free(for now). I live far enough into the country that I can buy local free range eggs whenever I like.

Ussery is commendable in that he raises his own fowl. I've neither the time, the space, nor the inclination to do so. He's made a lifestyle decision that I cannot. I think most people cannot either.

I have scaled, butchered, and filleted my own fish. I don't have time to fish now, but when I do, I eat my catch. I have butchered a deer and would do so again in return for the free meat.

Short of giving up chicken, I believe that my meat-eating is as low impact as I can make it. I imagine, perhaps incorrectly, that others eat more meat than me.

However, I just want to say that between you and the NWAEGGIES, I have begun thinking about what I eat. You have convinced me to switch to a largely organic food approach. I have reduced my consumption of highly processed foods. It's a slow process, the changes that I've made. Access to a farmer's market, local Co-Op and Whole Foods helps. Access to a forum full of food experts helps a lot.

Anyway, you can feel good about having helped me take baby steps toward a more earth-friendly lifestyle...I guess that means you have earned the right to perform an uncharitable event this holiday season. :p

J said...

Thank you for your comments! It's easy to forget sometimes that just because we haven't changed the whole kit and kaboodle, doesn't mean we haven't changed anything.

However, as an obsessive-compulsive on speaking precisely, I wouldn't say I have "carnivorous guilt." I wish I did, it would make it easier. I don't feel guilt so much as cognitive dissonance. If I had an emotional attachment (or rather, negative emotional reaction) I think it would be easier, but as it is, it's far more mind than gut in trying to change habits.

I also, whether it's because I'm a super-taster (I think I am) or just picky, don't like most veggies. Especially raw veggies -- I find raw broccoli to be inTOLERABLY bitter. I can't imagine why anyone would eat it ever, if it tastes the same to them as it does me. But even cooked, most veggies just don't taste *good* to me. Dousing asparagus in hollandaise just makes it easier to get through, but butter-roasted or what have you, most of 'em just don't taste *good*. Makes giving up meat entirely, or even mostly, difficult. But nevertheless, I'm likely down below 1 lb of beef a month, which I take great solace from -- I was probably at over a pound a week in undergrad, and certainly at least a couple lbs per month since then.

Daktari said...

Wow. I can't imagine not liking veggies. Carrots are like candy to me. Artichokes, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, and peppers. Christ. I could live on peppers alone. Tomatoes. My garden usually contains 42 tomato plants each year. I eat these monstrously large salads--with or without dressing.

My favorite time of the year, eating wise, is May to November with the opening of the farmer's market. From baby spinach to winter squash, I would probably starve to death without them.

Oh but if the only grew something other than apples around here!

J said...

Jesus. I envy you. I think I could definitely be a vegetarian if I were able to honestly wax rhapsodic like you do about it all. It's part of why I think I must be a super-taster; working in food as I have for the past several years, I've had the opportunity to eat a lot of fresh, home-grown, lovingly and locally made veggies and dishes made thereof. It's very rare that, no matter how they're prepared, I *like* the veggies so much that I would, say, seek that dish or veggie out on purpose for a thrill. I really do want to like 'em, but no such luck. Occasionally something hits me the right way, and I'm a fan of spinach and kale in various dishes/forms (I had a boatload of fresh kale from somewhere a couple years ago; kale on my morning eggs every day was quite yum!), but it's the rare exception.

Guess this explains why the farmers' market holds mostly cerebral and social appeal to me... I love getting fresh (veggie) food but not so much for reason of the food itself.

Daktari said...

Funny thing. Other than some rather expensive varieties of lettuce and spinach, I'm not really a fan of greens.

And greens on eggs? I'm withholding judgment until I try it but it doesn't sound particularly appetizing.

Then again, refried beans for breakfast worked in the context of Belize, so who's to say?