Friday, June 4, 2010

"Responsible" Meat Eating

I went to a kitchen store in Brooklyn over Memorial Day weekend. They started up in the last couple of years, gave interesting classes in their tight space, and sold vintage cookware alongside the new. I loved this store. Not only did they have nice tools, they had good aesthetics, and were a small player who gave helpful individual advice. They seemingly had good politics: people rode their bikes there, they taught customers about preservation and reuse, and talked about locally produced food. They sold old school tools like pickling crocks. It seemed like they were a part of the movement to take things back into our own hands, and do them better than big business would.

They still exist, yet I write about them like it's over. That's because they've moved into a big space with a proper kitchen classroom and joined up with another business, a butcher. There's a full deli counter, barbeques big enough to roast whole pigs, and a room that I never fully looked at, because I was convinced it is where they butcher animals, and teach other people to kill animals themselves. I had no evidence, just a vibe. A strong, awful feeling, that came from more than just the smell of the place.
If I think about Brooklyn Kitchen's move from a purely business perspective, I get why they did it. The new space is huge, they can now sell all kinds of foods and conduct proper classes, and the meat will be a draw for a lot of hipsters, who think local bacon is the new black.

Seeing this, acknowledging this, really set me off in a spin.

I meet ex-vegetarians every day who now eat meat because they can get it from a local farmer at the farmer's market or specialized shop. Coffees are being made with bacon, my popsicle guy put bacon in one of his new flavors, Beacon's most popular buying club (traditionally for bulk grains and beans) is centered around local meat. I went into a shop for a vegan cookie the other day, and boar soup was on the menu.

Twenty years ago I went to brunch at a Seattle vegetarian restaurant on April Fool's Day. Their menu for the day included "easter" rabbit, spotted owl, sea turtle soup, all in fancy preparations. Gullible, I got upset before getting the joke. It didn't seem farfetched enough to me, I guess, and seems even less so now. These days, it seems practically everyone thinks it's okay to eat animals.

Except that we know better. We've read the China Study and the new U.N. report. We know how animals raised for food affect the environment, hunger, and our drinking water. We know that free range doesn't equal being outside, that humane is used all over the place for all kind of practices.
Because I live in a small town and know the farmers who sell meat and the people who buy meat, I know that most often people buy a small fraction of the meat they eat from local farmers. The grossest cheap meat on a styrofoam tray has risen to new heights in hearts and minds: people want to believe it's right and good to eat animals, and that their palettes are king. They get the expensive farmer's market stuff for the cred.

Food is important to me, too, very important. When I took St. John's wort for a stint and lost my appetite, I thought I'd be glad to have lost so much weight. Instead, I missed food, missed eating and tasting and all the pleasure and socializing that came with it.

I'm the worst person to talk about meat-eating because as a long-time vegan and animal rights activist, I won't be seen as level-headed, or looking at all sides. But I swear, if I had an intern, I'd have them research this:
- How much food is produced in the Mid-Hudson Valley that is consumed locally?
- How does that food break down in categories? What percentage are vegetables, fruit, grains, animals?
- How do the resources to produce those foods break down?

It seems to me that there are a lot of farmers who grow tons of veggies, a little bit of fruit, and have enough animals for a few eggs, some goat's milk, and send the occasional animals to slaughter. (Right, send them to a slaughterhouse. It's illegal for them to do it themselves.) My guess is that it would be something like a 90%, 5%, 3%, 2% breakdown. Shouldn't this mean, then, that people concerned about eating local foods eat an (at least) 90% vegetable diet?

1 comment:

  1. A friend sent along this related link, by Sunny Taylor, fabulous artist and fellow Tucsonan: