Some philosophical musings on eating meat

It may seem strange that, as a meat-eater, I have and recommend vegetarian/vegan cookbooks.  Or that, sympathetic as I am to that mode of eating, I still eat meat.  So a bit of background and philosophy.

My parents grew up as farmers.  My grandparents were all farmers, and the farm I remember was an old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell-type family farm, where, for the most part, animals roamed free in pastures or had generous-sized pens. As I noted in my other blog, one of my own experiences as a two-year-old was feeding pigs from the back steps of our farmhouse. Eating meat from animals we had raised was a perfectly normal experience for us.

On the other hand, I have great ethical objections to the cruelty visited on most animals raised for slaughter in modern “factory-farm” agribusiness.  I appreciate that many people choose a vegetarian/vegan diet to avoid being complicit in this cruelty. I would seriously consider eliminating all meat consumption if this were my only source of meat.

So I am thankful that I have access to meat from animals raised in more natural conditions. Not far away is a Rowe Farms outlet. And once a week I can get to the farmers’ market sponsored by the West End Food Coop.

I am also conscious that most of us eat too much meat.  The average North American eats more meat than kings of medieval times.  The planet cannot sustain a global population that demands so much meat.  In most eras of human life (including hunter-gatherer societies) meat supplemented a diet consisting mostly of fruit, berries, roots, nuts and grains.  Until the 20th century the average European had meat only on festive occasions. In Asia, the tradition has been to use small amounts of meat as flavouring in dishes consisting largely of rice and/or vegetables.

During the the World Wars I & II, in addition to rationing, governments promoted “Meatless Mondays”, and this was observed not only in many homes, but in hotels, restaurants and diners.  Today there is a move to revive this tradition to help us with a different problem: the struggle to maintain a sustainable planet.

“More greenhouse gasses can be prevented by going meatless one day a week than by eating locally seven days a week.” Nancy Callan, member, Board of Directors of Earthsave

Going meatless just one day a week reduces your carbon footprint by 28.5% for the whole week.

So although I haven’t eliminated meat from my diet, I have shaped my diet more and more along the following principles:

  1. Eat less meat.  Currently fewer than half my main meals of the day include meat.  It is even more rare for other meals. And of the meatless meals at least half are fully vegan.
  2. Most of the time, use meat as flavoring rather than as the focus of the meal.
  3. Use meat from naturally (preferably organically) raised animals.

I have found that by following these principles, I have a dish like Pork Chops and Brown Rice, very seldom, but really appreciate it when I do.  Pork chops is, for me, a favorite comfort food and a special treat now that I have them so rarely.