It seems there's been a spike in the anti-meat movement. The blogs are abuzz with all the reasons why we shouldn't eat it, and they're all entirely correct. We've all seen Food Inc., and I totally get it. There's almost nothing good about the way (most) meat is bred, fed, raised, processed, stored, sold or eaten.
The pendulum is definitely swinging toward a more ethical approach to North American food production and consumption, and not only where meat is concerned. We aim to turn back time, to the days when you'd eat only what was available to you, what came from the farm down the road or the butchershop in town. It wasn't an option to eat bananas from Ecuador or feedlot beef from Texas. Then came trucks and trains and airplanes, bringing us our every (misguided) desire.
Our grandparents' generation was blindsided by the convenience food of the 1950s, so they fed it to our parents and started us down a dangerous path. I mean, it wasn't their fault, it was marketed and presented as the future of food and seemed the right way to go. Then the world got a whole lot smaller and we could get ground beef from somebody other than Joe Butcher, at a tiny fraction of the cost.
Then things went bananas. Populations skyrocketed, we became McDonald's-dependent, and our "food" started coming from government-friendly mega-conglomerates. We abdicated all of our personal responsibility. Whoops. Now we want it back.
And so instead of canned vegetables and TV dinners, we're buried in a sea of buzzwords: organic, local, free-range, pesticide-free, local, 100-mile, blah blah blah. All fine and well, but what does it all mean? Often, nothing, unfortunately, and the onus is really on the individual to make decisions that suit them.
The fundamental problem is that we've given up nearly every juicy ounce of our decision-making power where food is concerned. What were we thinking? So here we are attempting to turn back the hands of time, Little House on the Prairie-style. We fancy ourselves 100-mile experts and feel haughty with organic eggs in our grocery cart, a trip to the farmer's market pushing us to the front of the Great and Thoughtful Citizen pack. But I can't help but feel like we're not in control of these decisions either. We're a bandwagonning people, and this is just another angle.
So I've decided to keep eating meat. I like it. I do. A New York Striploin is one of the great gifts you can give your mouth. But have I become more thoughtful of where I buy it? Yes, mostly because I want a good steak, not something on a Styrofoam tray nestled amongst plastic grass. Do I still turn a blind eye to certain realities because I'm not quite prepared to spend $35 on one steak? Suuuuure. But we're getting there, one so-called-organic-egg at a time. And as long as I spend a few thoughtful minutes considering the things I ingest, even if I sometimes make the wrong decision, I'm okay with it. I mean, how self-righteous can I be when Doritos regularly pass my lips?
So, if I have a point, it might be this: Do what you want, people, but do it with enough integrity to say you did it on purpose.