Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
â€” George Harrison
Mmmmmmeat. I love meat. Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, ostrich, elk, rattlesnake, buffalo… all have crossed my plate. My favorite meal at Redfish used to be the carpaccio appetizer followed by the elk medallion entrÃ©e. (They also made a fabulous nut-crusted grouper. None are on the menu any longer.)
Separate thought: I’ve always been an ecologically-minded gal, so I knew that I would score pretty well on one of those online “What’s your eco-footprint?” tests. I recycle, I drive a car that gets good gas mileage, I turn off lights (CFL!) when I’m not in the room, I keep my programmable thermostat set to moderate temperatures, I buy wind power from my local utility, I turn down my hot water heater when I go on vacation.
But I eat meat.
Not just some meat, a lot of meat. Practically every meal. And my eco-footprint? It was through the roof. It takes an awful lot of feed to raise cattle, and it takes an awful lot of land to grow that feed, and it takes an awful lot of petroleum to plant and tend and harvest that feed.
And then there’s this: I have family in Kansas. To visit them, I drive through miles and miles (and miles) of farmland. Crops. Pastures. And feedlots. I usually make the trek for Christmas, when the December chill keeps the feedlot “aroma” at bay. But I drove out once in the summertime for my great-grandmother’s 90-somethingth birthday, and holy mother of God, there is nothing that shorts out synapses like the stench of 80,000 head of cattle on a feedlot in August. My eyes were watering. All the muscles in my face were trying to escape through my ears. My brain began to fight, and wouldn’t let my lungs inhale until suffocating was the only other option. It was disgusting.
Still, I ate meat. Lots and lots of meat.
It wasn’t until I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma that I began to really, truly consider the life of the animal. I knew that American cattle are fed a diet that is very heavy on corn, but I didn’t know that they can’t actually digest it. And so, in order to feed corn to cattle, we also have to pump them full of drugs so that the corn doesn’t kill them. Now, this does not sound efficient to me, but I’m not a rancher. It sure as hell doesn’t sound sustainable. It does sound… stupid. Really, really, stupid. I read about Polyface Farms, where pastures and crops are rotated in order to keep the earth healthy, just like I learned in elementary school. Poultry and livestock roam freely in their pastures, living the lives that chickens and cows naturally live. And everything works hand in hand, like a little machine o’ nature, to keep things going. I admitted to myself (and unenthusiastically to my frienemy, Jack) that hunting, when practiced with care, provides meat from an animal that has most lived that animal’s natural life.
It was all too much to disregard. If ignorance is bliss, education is vegetarian.
I decided to go “flexitarian.” I would eat meat, but only meat that was “humanely” raised. And, while there are plenty of restaurants and markets in Denver that agree with my beliefs, I live in the suburbs. It’s easier to claim vegetarian than to make a fuss or explain this long-winded story to whomever I’m with. So, that’s exactly what I do. Life is easier that way. The rules are clearer, and my dining decisions are cut-and-dried. (Ironic, that.)
Separate thought: One of the few remaining Albertson’s supermarkets isn’t far from The Company Formerly Known As My Employer, and I ran in today to check for Spade-L seasoning (no) and to pick up lunch. While looking through the deli case for an egg salad sandwich, I saw that they had 1-lb. rolls of TAYLOR HAM. TAYLOR FRIGGIN’ HAM. John Taylor Pork Roll. Remember the boxes of Taylor ham that my cousin bought for me back in May? The boxes that I flew home with from New Jersey? Because I can’t get Taylor ham out here? They’re still sitting in my freezer. I haven’t had the nerve to actually thaw and cook them. Because then I would have no Taylor ham! But here is a whole roll of Taylor ham, packed tightly into its fetching, red-and-white canvas sleeve.
Yeah, I had four slices of Taylor ham for dinner tonight. It was crispy on the edges, but tender and salty and juicy with fat. (Oh jeez, the fat. If only it were negated by the nitrates.) It was delectable. Delicious. Succulent. Oh, it was so very, very good. I am sorry, little piggies, for the perverted lives you probably led before heading to the slaughterhouse. I hope there is some karmic consolation that the pork roll you wound up in is so very, very tasty.