The recent exposé of the inhumane treatment of cattle in a California slaughterhouse and the subsequent request by the FDA for the company to recall it’s beef, much of which is sold to school lunch programs, has caused quite a stir. It’s no surprise; the video is gruesome and heartbreaking. Vegans and animal rights activists, as well as those who eat meat but are anti-CAFO (contained animal feeding operations), are up in arms – again, no surprise.
As a result, there is one helluva a debate going on. Vegans are using the scandal as an opportunity to do a lot of self-righteous finger-pointing, as are the anti-CAFO folks, while vegetarians and meat-eaters who are stuck with shopping at the local grocery store out of necessity are put in the awkward position of having to defend themselves.
Falling resoundingly in the last category, I have a question for the vegans and “locavores” (people who think everyone should eat only locally grown, seasonal produce, meat, eggs and cheese – a group I wasn’t even aware existed until very recently): Just what the dickens am I supposed to eat? Because, no matter what I eat, I’m going to piss someone off. I’m already on the bad side of the raw food nutjobs by doing the unthinkable and cooking my food.
I like to think I’m a good parent, and I’ve already acquired an extensive list of what we can’t eat and how much we can’t eat of what we do eat. We rarely eat out and never eat fast food. Preservatives and trans fats are all but verboten in my home, and when I can bring myself to allow my long-suffering family something that is full of refined sugar and flour, it’s something that I’ve made from scratch – not from a box. Quite frankly, I don’t want to give up meat. As a human being I reside, quite happily, at the top of the food chain, and I really and truly do believe that people are omnivorous. We have evolved to eat meat. My youngest son is convinced of this – getting him to eat anything that isn’t meat, milk, cheese or a chocolate chip cookie takes an act of congress.
That being said, I also understand that there are things I can feed my family in place of meat. This is assuming, of course, that they’d actually eat it. I don’t care how cheap something like textured vegetable protein or soy milk is, it’s going to get pretty damn expensive in a big hurry if no one will consume it. And then there’s the anti-soy people who would probably gladly eviscerate me for even thinking about feeding a growing child – and a growing, male child, at that – soy products.
As for the “support the small, humane farmer” faction, I have this to say. In light of the recent scare-mongering involving the presence of hormones and antibiotics in my poultry, meat and dairy products, I decided I’d try to buy as much local, organically-raised food as I could. It only took one look at boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $16 a pound to put an end to that. I’m sorry, but when eggs from inhumanely treated chickens cost $2 a dozen I’m already in enough shock at the grocery store. I’m not going to consider $10 for a pound of ground round, even if it does come from a cow who is fortunate enough to have spent its life eating what it’s supposed to be eating – grass. I have a finite amount of money, people, and some of it needs to be used for things other than food, believe it or not. It won’t do us a bit of good to eat wild, pacific salmon (assuming it doesn’t have unacceptable levels of mercury in it) if we’re living in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere.
Then there’s those of you who feel we should eat only locally grown, seasonal produce. Where do you people live? It must be somewhere warmer than where I am, because every bit of vegetation in a 200 mile radius of me is buried under half a foot of snow; it has been for about 3 months and will continue to be for at least another four weeks. The only thing locally available here are the squirrels that have broken into the bird feeder and the rabbits who are intent on ruining what is left of our landscaping. Of course, I could solve two problems quite neatly by killing and eating the squirrels and rabbits, which are both local and free-range, but that takes me back to square one and I’ve pissed off the vegans and animal rights activists again.