Meat Comes from Animals: Deal with It, or Eat Vegetables

A week or so ago, I posted a comment on my blog entry entitled “Alice Waters Goes to Washington,” where I noted that people who whine that they “can’t eat meat that looks like it came from an animal” were a hot button for me.

It is an issue for many reasons, one of which is quite simply this: if you cannot deal with the fact that an animal has to die so you can eat its flesh, then, you shouldn’t be eating that animal in the first place. It isn’t necessary for most humans to eat meat anymore–human knowledge of nutrition and the global marketplace have made vegetarian diets more pleasant, palatable and nutritionally sound than ever before.

So, if you don’t -need- to eat meat for its nutritive value, and it squicks you out to think of eating an animal, then why not just stop eating meat, and while you are at it, stop whining about it?

Doesn’t that make sense? Isn’t that a sound bit of reasoning? Isn’t it nice, tidy and logical?

Ah, yes, but there is a problem with that–humans are not nice, tidy and logical beings, and that is where the issue becomes thorny, sticky and problematic.

The answer I often get from people who say, “I don’t like to eat meat that looks like it comes from an animal,” when I retort, “So don’t eat meat,” is the following sentence, usually stated in a plaintive wail:

“But I like the way meat tastes.”

This always works my very last nerve.

Why are people like this? Why do people insist on eating meat, but complain if it looks like it came from the carcass of an animal–which, even if it is minced and turned into sausage or trimmed into boneless cutlets, or cooked, shredded, ground and pressed into the shape of cartoon characters, is whence all meat comes? Why is it so hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that meat is the product of slaughtering an animal for the purpose of human consumption?

There are a lot of reasons, but I think the main problem, particularly here in the United States, lies with the way in which food is produced and distributed.

It used to be that local farmers produced most of the food of a given locale, and local butchers, grocers and small markets sold that food to the public. At the turn of the century up until the 1950’s most meat animals were raised reasonably close to the marketplace. Small to medium-sized local slaughterhouses and meat markets were common in all cities and towns and in every neighborhood, there was a local butcher shop.

At these businesses, the public could see animals in various states of preparation on their journey to comestibility. Herds of cattle were sometimes driven through town on their way to the slaughterhouse; in my home town of Charleston, West Virginia, they were offloaded from barges on the river and driven to the slaughterhouse owned by my great-grandparents.

The public didn’t exactly go through the Fisher and Fruth slaughterhouse, but once the animals became skinned, eviscerated and headless carcasses, they were sent next door to our meat market. There, one could go in, look at whole sides of hanging beef or whole hogs and either buy the entire carcass, or order a specific primal cut to be delivered to their home, or just pick up some frenched lamb chops for dinner.

My mother and father have photographs of my great-grandfather and his sons and business partners in the butcher shop, with carcasses in various states of being cut hanging from the ceiling and being displayed in cases.

People thought nothing of walking into a butcher’s shop and seeing the carcasses of cattle, calves, sheep, lambs, hogs, piglets, chickens, geese and ducks. Rabbit, deer, goat and turkey carcasses were common as well.

It was the way of things.

People at that time were closer to the source of meat; in fact, people at that time were closer to death in general. When someone died back then, the person was laid out and the funeral took place at home. And often, the relatives of the departed did the job of washing, dressing and laying the person in the casket in the parlor.

And no one thought anything of it–because that is how things were done.

With the coming of the supermarket–(and the funeral home) the public became estranged from death and the its relationship to meat. Meat is now cut far from the eyes of the meat buying public–it happens behind closed doors in the meat department in the supermarket–or, as is often the case now–farther away at a centralized slaughterhouse. Meat is neatly wrapped in tidy plastic and presented in styrofoam trays, which is all so sanitary, cleanly and neat. These plastic-encased, vacuum-packed boneless bits of meat are far removed from the bloody truth that meat is the product of death.

People have forgotten, that in order for us to eat a hamburger, a cow dies. Most Americans live sheltered lives where the fact that in order for us to celebrate Independance Day with fried chicken and barbequed ribs, chickens and hogs must die.

This is utterly alien to my experience. I grew up with those aformentioned pictures of the meat market, framed and displayed proudly in our livingroom. Furthermore, with my own hands, I helped butcher steers, hogs and chickens, and have cleaned countless fish. From the time that I was strong enough, I helped my grandparents produce the meat our entire family ate. And I never thought that there was anything odd about it.

We named our hogs and cows. The chickens–well, when you have fifty of them and many of them look much alike, they are harder, but I still had some that I named every year, because they had distinct personalities or looks, and I could recognize them. We named the steers were were going to eat, and my cousins and I, when we marked the wrapped packages of meat, would put the name on the package, along with the cut and the date.

For example, we had an Angus-Hereford cross steer we named Raisin. So, when we butchered him, we put on the package of a chuck blade roast, “Raisin, chuck blade roast, 11/74, 2 lbs.”

And when we sat down to eat that chuck blade roast, Grandma would say, “This is from Raisin.” And whoever said grace would say at the end, “and thank you, Raisin, for being such a nice steer and making such good meat for us to eat, amen.”

I remember telling that story to some kids at culinary school, when we took a meat-cutting class. Some of them were horrified, and they look at me as if my people were a bunch of barbarians for naming a steer, petting it and feeding it treats through its life, and then killing it swiftly and painlessly, without frightening him, then butchering him, and then thanking his spirit after he was dead for letting us eat him.

These were the same students who objected to learning how to cut up an already plucked, bled, eviscerated, beheaded chicken into cooking parts, “because it is gross.”

Only a couple of other students got what I was saying.

Of course, they had grown up on farms as well.

I tried to point out that the really awful parts were done, but most of them wouldn’t listen. To make matters worse, several of them said at lunch, when we were served beef ribs, “Oh, I hate to eat meat that looks like it comes from an animal. It just makes my stomach hurt.”

I mostly kept my tongue behind my teeth, and my lips clamped shut.

The only students I felt bad for in that class were the two vegetarians. They didn’t even eat meat, yet, they diligently worked to learn how to cut it up and cook it, even though they found it to be distasteful. I had a lot of respect for them, and I found myself volunteering to work with them for the remainder of the class. Compared to the whining meat-eaters in the class, the vegetarians were models of ethical adult behavior.

It isn’t just young people who are confronted by a full side of beef in a culinary class who will make stupid remarks about meat. I have heard idiotic statements at the dinner table as well, by persons old enough to know better.

Once, I was at Zak’s cousin’s house for Thanksgiving, and we were in the middle of dinner, when the rather twitchy lady next to me eyed the turkey platter that was near her, and sniffed as another guest took up the drumstick and tucked in. “I cannot stand to see meat that looks obviously like it is from the animal. It upsets me so.”

She then speared a piece of breast meat from her plate and ate it.

The irony didn’t seem to bother her, but it nearly made me choke.

I swallowed, blinked, stared at the woman, and blinked again. Determined not to make a scene, I opened my mouth and closed it, and looked across the table at Zak’s cousin’s brothers and mother.

Let me explain to you about this family–for several generations they have been involved in the food industry in Baltimore. They had owned and run a restaurant, and at the time of this Thanksgiving, one brother was working as a meat cutter, while the other was a caterer. Their mother, who was sitting directly across from the lady who was still wrinkling her nose at the turkey platter, had grown up in the Jewish community of Baltimore, and had a lot of experience in the food industry.

Her name was Selma. Selma, a lovely older woman, looked down her elegant nose at the other woman, and raised one eyebrow. The corner of her mouth quirked up and she took a sip of wine then said, “Oh, that is so strange to me, because you know, I grew up buying live chickens at the market and carrying them home by their feet. And then my mother or father would butcher them out in the backyard in the summer, or down in the basement in the winter, and I always helped pluck them. They were lively birds, you know–the livelier, the better, my mother always said, and she would wring its neck and then we would bleed it–you know, you have to bleed it all out to make it kosher.”

I glanced at the woman next to me whose face was turning a whiter shade of pale than her shining silver hair. I couldn’t look at Selma too long, because her eyes were twinkling with wicked glee, as she watched the woman squirm, so I glanced at her sons, who had barely disguised contempt written on their faces. But, like me, they stayed quiet, and let thier mother speak.

Selma continued to describe the process of going from live chicken to matzoh ball soup, and then shrugged and said, “And they were the best tasting chickens I have ever eaten. Really, until you eat such a fresh bird, you do not know what you are missing.”

The woman next to me opened her mouth and shivered. “I just couldn’t do that. I don’t know how you could. Just seeing the meat on the bone bothers me.”

Selma fixed her with a strong stare and said, “So then, eat vegetables. There are plenty around to eat–I bet Barbara over there could tell you how to go about eating the right kinds of vegetables to stay healthy.” She gave a barely perceptable wink, and then went back to eating her turkey.

I took the hint and carried the conversation forward to a discussion of vegetarian cuisine and cookery, which then evolved into a discussion of dessert–always a safe topic.

That happened years ago, but it was not the last time I heard someone whine about eating meat that looked as if it had once been alive.

I suspect that I will never stop hearing that particular complaint, at least until humans figure out how to safely clone and culture animal muscle cells in vats, like they do in some of Lois McMaster Bujold’s science fiction novels. I jokingly made reference to that last week, and then this week, was surprised to see a news story on the issue at Sustainable Table.

Until the time that humanity starts growing meat in laboratories, I hope that several things happen.

One, I would like to see more people come to terms with the fact that when they eat meat, they are eating a bit of dead animal. In facing this truth, I would very much like to see more consumers looking into how meat is produced in our country, and asking some very simple questions about the factory farming system, which I believe is harmful to the ecosystem, to the animals it produces, and to human health.

Two, in asking these questions about factory farming, I would like to see consumers seeking alternatives to the meats produced in this manner. Some will likely choose to become vegetarians, and that is fine–I believe that is a very ethical choice for many people, and I support the right of anyone to choose to eat a vegetarian diet. Others will still want to eat meat, but will decide to find other sources besides factory farmed meats.

Finding alternative sources of meat is still difficult in some places, but due to rising consumer demand for organic, grass-fed, free-range meats, more farmers are beginning to step forward to satisfy this growing market. And while prices on some of these meats are higher than the national grocery store average, prices will likely begin to drop as more farmers begin offering sustainably-raised meat.

For information on how to find alternatives, visit The Meatrix, which includes a great Flash animation parody of the film, “The Matrix.” In addition to the film, there are a large number of links on the site to help consumers find and connect with local farmers whose animals are treated in an ethical fashion.

Third, I would like to see consumers just think a little bit more about where our food comes from in general. Not just meat, but everything we eat. Where does it come from? What goes into its production? Why does processed food cost less than fresh food? What are farm subsidies, and who gets them? How does the global economy affect small farms, both in the US and abroad? For a list of books on the subject, check out my previous post, “The Empire Strikes Back”.

Another source of news on all things having to do with the United States food systems and the economy, check out Parke Wilde’s excellent blog, US Food Policy.

Finally, I would like to see recognition of the fact that all of life feeds on life in an endless cycle that has been in existence for as long as our planet has been habitable. In understanding this, I hope that one day, all humans can learn to respect the animals who die so that we can eat meat, and demand that while those animals live, that they be treated ethically and humanely, and that they be killed in as painless and least frightening way possible.

Because, to me, one of the best measures a civilized society is not in how we treat our greatest citizens, but in how we treat the least powerful among us.

There are no beings on earth with less power to resist humanity than domestic animals.

I hope that one day, humanity realizes this, and rises to the challenge of treating domestic food animals with the respect and honor that they deserve.


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  1. You know, that’s not just it. I’m a vegetarian now, but before I was, I only ate chicken breasts and meat with no bones and fish filleted (I still eat fish). It’s a process. It doesn’t make a difference to me that animals were killed to be put on my plate. It just makes me nauseated to think about it. So, don’t think about it? No. It’s tough to look at a plate with a wing of a chicken and not hear a loud, “squaaaak, squaaaaak” in my brain. So I stopped that. It freaked me out.
    I think that animal rights’ activists are ridiculous, though, and that’s where what you’re addressing comes in. The New York Times Magazine did a whole issue about that a couple of years ago, I believe. They wrote about how the concept of “animal rights” is totally urban and that anyone who ever grew up around animals sees a clear differentiation between humans and animals. I’m gonna shut up now because I’ve been rambling for too long.

    Comment by Dina — July 12, 2005 #

  2. Nah, Dina, go ahead and ramble.

    I guess when you say, “animal rights activists are ridiculous,” I agree, though I consider myself to be a person who believes that farm animals do have the right to be treated respectfully and with care and be slaughtered in as painless and ethical fashion possible. So, in a way, I, too, am an animal rights activist!

    But, having gotten into any number of arguments with vegan PETA members over the years, I know what you mean–some of their reasoning and logic–well, it is totally flawed.

    I am glad for you that you became a vegetarian–and you did it in stages. That is the way most people become vegetarians–in stages.

    Me–I have no ethical qualms about eating meat from small farms where the animals are well-treated. I don’t get grossed out, I don’t feel guilty, and I don’t think that I am unhealthy. But, by the same token, nor do I believe that meat eating makes me a better person, or anything like that.

    Humans are built to live on a myriad of diets. I personally think we do best on an omnivorous diet, as varied as possible, but I also think that there are genetic variantions that we need to be aware of. I think that there is plenty of room in our world for people who eat meat, people who eat vegetables and people who eat some of each. In fact, depending on where a person lives being vegetarian may be a more sustainable, ecologically sensible diet, while in other places, eating mostly meat would be the better ecological choice, while in most places, some diet in between the two extremes would be the most sustainable.

    In this matter, I suppose there is no black or white, only shades of grey. Human diets are very much not, “one size fits all.”

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 12, 2005 #

  3. If people weren’t meant to eat animals, God wouldn’t have made them so damned tasty.

    Here’s something from a book I’m extremely fond of. (A Cook’s Tour) If you’ve never heard of/seen Anthony Bourdain, you’re missing out. He’s got that book as well as ‘Kitchen Confidential’ (I’d read KC first)


    It was difficult for me to be polite (though I was outnumbered). I’d recently returned from Cambodia, where a chicken can be the difference between life and death. These people in their comfortable suburban digs were carping about cruelty to animals but suggesting that everyone in the world, from suburban Yuppie to starving Cambodian cyclo driver, start buying organic vegetables and expensive soy substitutes. TO look down on entire cultures that’ve based everything on the gathering of fish and rice seemed arrogant in the extreme. (I’ve heard of vegans feeding their dogs vegetarian meals. Now that’s cruelty to animals.) And the hypocrisy of it all pissed me off. Just being able to talk about this issue in reasonably grammatical language is a privilege, subsidized in a yin/yang sort of a way, somewhere, by somebody taking it in the neck. Being able to read these words, no matter how stupid, offensive, or wrongheaded, is a privilege, your reading skills the end product of a level of education most of the world will never enjoy. Our whole lives – our homes, the shows we wear, the cars we drive, the food we eat – are all built on a mountain of skulls. Meat, say the PETA folks, is ‘murder’. And yes, the wide world of meat eating can seem like a panorama of cruelty at times. But is meat ‘Murder’? Fuck no.
    Murder, as one of my Khmer plans might tell you, is what his next-door neighbor did to his whole family back in the seventies. Murder is what happens in Cambodia, in parts of Africa, Central and South America, and in former Soviet republics when the police chief’s idiot son decides he wants to turn your daughter into a whore and you don’t like the idea. Murder is what Hutus do to Tutsis, Serbs to Croats, Russians to Uzbeks, Crips to Bloods. And Vice Versa. It’s black Chevy suburban (which, more than likely, US taxpayers paid for) pulling up outside your house at three in the morning and dragging away your suspiciously unpatriotic and over opinionated son. Murder is what that man sitting across from you in Phnom Penh does for a living – so he can afford a satellite dish for his roof, so he can watch our Airwolf reruns, MTV Asia, and Pam Anderson running in slow motion down a Southern California beach.
    Hide in your fine homes and eat vegetables, I was thinking. Put a Greenpeace or NAACP bumper sticker on your Beemer if it makes you feel better (so you can drive your kids to their all white schools). Save the rainforest – by all means – so maybe you can visit it someday, on an ecotour, wearing comfortable shoes made by twelve-year-olds in forced labor. Save a whale while millions are still sold into slavery, starved, fucked to death, shot, tortured, forgotten. When you see cute little kids crying in rubble next to Sally Struthers, be sure to send a few dollars.


    Comment by Oberon — July 12, 2005 #

  4. [applauds]
    You just described my opinion entirely.

    Comment by Christina — July 12, 2005 #

  5. Barbara,

    While I didn’t grow up on a farm, per se, I did grow up in the country, and we have, at times, raised our own food. My suburban friends think I’m morbid for having named on of our cows “Lunch;” why not, since that what he was destined for? It doesn’t mean he was less of a pet, albeit a large one that I didn’t exactly cuddle. I have no problem knowing that my food comes from animals; it’s a fact of life.

    However, while red meat and poultry don’t bother me, seafood does. Fish, fine. They’re a little freaky, and I’d rather have them in steaks than whole, but that stems more from laziness, I’m sure. ^_^ Shrimp, crabs and lobster, on the other hand… It’s a little unnerving to see a complete animal, or extremely obvious animal parts (e.g. crab legs) on my plate. It doesn’t help that I’m not terribly fond of the taste of fish or shrimp, so on the whole, I usually avoid them. I assume this stems from growing up in central Illinois, far from any significant body of water.

    Sometimes I wish I could tell off my suburbanite friends like Selma did. I’m proud that you kept from laughing, because I don’t think I could have. “Animal rights” is a totally foreign concept to me. Yes, animals should be treated with basic respect, but animals are not people, no matter how much I think my cat is human.

    Comment by Kari — July 12, 2005 #

  6. Oberon–I like Anthony Boudain a great deal–not surprisingly, and have read his books.

    I agree with him completely–veganism is a diet born of priviledge and isn’t nearly as sustainable as one might think. Yes, it takes something along the lines of five kilos of grain to make one kilo of cow, so the vegan argument is to feed the grain to the people, and that ends the problem.

    Well, no it doesn’t–if you run cattle on rangeland that is non-arable–meaning, land that is meant to be grass, land that if you plow it, it will turn into a dustbowl, those cattle are eating food that humans cannot eat, in a place where humans cannot grow grain sustainably. Therefore, the simple math problem that is usually given as a rationale for every human on earth being a vegan makes no sense.

    I’ll probably write another post about this issue–for while I completely support anyone who wants to eat a vegetarian diet, I do have issues with those who believe that the entire world needs to give up their traditional diets and become vegans like they are.

    Great rant from Bourdain, btw–I loved that one, and totally agree with him.

    Christina–glad to be of service!

    Kari–Selma is an amazing woman. She is one of those older women who is just so elegant, so refined, and yet she so enjoyed skewering this woman at the dinner table. It was an amazing thing to watch, and the main reason I couldn’t laugh was because I was too busy listening to see what would come out of Selma’s mouth next!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 12, 2005 #

  7. Barbara, your post reminds me of sitting to dinner many years ago with my grandparents on the back patio of their small ranch house in Oklahoma, while grandpa muses mainly to himself — but perhaps partly hoping to get a rise out of his city-raised grandkids — “yup, old 209 sure was a good cow.”

    Comment by Parke Wilde — July 12, 2005 #

  8. Hey, Parke–glad to hear my post tugged you down memory lane.

    Your Grandpa sounds a lot like mine–though our steers, cows and bulls all had actual names. It was one of the few things Grandpa was sentimental about–he liked all of his animals to have names.

    The only thing about my Grandpa–is that he could never get a rise out of us grandkids, because we’d agree that such and such a cow tasted right fine.

    So, he’d make a hobby out of any city friends we brought to visit.

    I’ll have to tell the story of my friend who showed up on hog butchering day sometime…wow, did she get an education!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 12, 2005 #

  9. Excellent post. (I found you via Life begins at 30). I grew up in the suburbs, and never gave much thought to where my food comes from until I moved to Maine three years ago. Now I try to raise as much as I can, including meat. We raise ducks for meat, and this year added chickens. The ducks have names, the chickens are interchangeable and all answer to “Chickie” or “Meat Ball”. My friend, who raises cows named “Chuck Roast” and “Biftek” taught me to “know my food”. I love the concept, and shudder at the thought of eating farm-factory meat. Every animal deserves a good life. People live very sanitized lives in this modern era. Not only are we detached from death, we are also detached from life. Thank you.

    Comment by Liz — July 13, 2005 #

  10. ITA, as one who raises their own poultry for eating. Our daughter is 6 and it’s no secret what happens when her dad, grandfather and uncle “play with turkies/chickens” as she says.

    A few years ago a relatives teenage friend was at a family BBQ and seriously thought that hamburger came from a factory. Um, yeah, but it’s not the kind that she had in mind.

    Like your own, when DH was growing up his family named their cows and marked as such when packaging. I remember one of my first meals with them. And Mrs. Moo-moo.

    What it boils down to for me is I feel a lot better eating something which we know where it came from, how it was treated and what it ate and how it lived its last moments.

    Comment by Lynn — July 13, 2005 #

  11. 2 things:
    I’ve raised my own meat too, although I don’t now—I buy local organic, since I now live in a suburb. Your posts about Named meat made me think and I thought out a connection and plan. It’s on my livejournal, and I linked to your blog.

    Secondly, I’ve not had very good success at sending seeds across the border–mysteriously, they don’t get there. There are LOTS of regulations that I’m sure I’m breaking. Sooooo, this Fall when the Weed Slave and I are cutting down I will make a wreath of Upstart Tomatillo and send it to you as a craft(for you to later plant). Failing that I will send from inside the USA when I visit my sister in Boston.

    Keep ranting!

    Comment by wwjudith — July 13, 2005 #

  12. Nice rant, Barbara.

    BTW, long time no mail. How’re things? (If you have no idea who I am, I’m the brainstormer from Bangalore 🙂



    Comment by Udhay Shankar N — July 14, 2005 #

  13. I think there is a simple solution. Poke them hard in the eyes. They can’t see the meat so their complaint goes away and you get the added benefit of giving them a sound poke in the eyes, which makes you feel better. Simple eh? 🙂

    Somewhat more seriously, these are they same people who whine about everything in general. “Oh we are loosing the ozone layer!” while they fire up there 8 gallons to the mile land behemoth SUV. They seem to have this need to have something to whine about. Almost like real people needing air. Usually the best thing is wait till they find their new “cause of the week” and it will pass.

    Interestingly I do know a vegetarian who gave me the best reason I have ever heard for not eating meat. I asked if it were a medical thing or a moral one, he replied “No, I just don’t eat meat I didn’t hunt down and kill myself..” Now /that/ is cool!


    Comment by Bryian — July 14, 2005 #

  14. Liz–I agree with you–not only are some detached from death, they are detached from life. Death is intrinsic to life–they are two parts of the same cycle. One cannot have life without death or growth without dissolution.

    It is the way of things, whether Americans like it or not, and I think that by shielding ourselves from these realities, we lose valuable understanding and experience. We become mired in our own illusions about life, rather than experiencing life directly.

    Okay, I will cease with the Buddhist ramblings now.

    Lynn–glad to meet you, and Mrs. Moo-Moo, too. And I am glad to know that my family were not the only “barbarians” who honored the named animal who gave us food and life.

    I agree with you–that the best security is knowing where your food comes from and what goes into growing it, whether it is animal or vegetable in origin.

    Judith–it is always good to see you again! Do me a favor and either email me a link to your LJ or post it in a comment here. That would be great–I want to know what you are up to!

    Udhay!!!! I do too remember you! How are you! I am sorry we got out of touch–are you still on BS? I will have to look up your email address so we can catch up.

    Bry–the smiting in the eyes thing is too tempting sometimes. And I agree, some folks just need to whine. Why? I don’t know, but they like to anyway.

    Great story about the vegetarian, too.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 14, 2005 #

  15. I actually think the whole, “don’t want to eat meat that looks like meat,” is part of something even bigger.

    It’s conditioning. I’m not going to go all “conspiracy nut-job” on you and say that anyone’s intending it.

    But lets look at it this way. Over the past 50 years or so, with the industrial and post-industrial systems coming and going…We not only got further away from our food, (what you mentioned in that you can’t go into a butcher shop anymore and see meat on carcasses. In fact, carcass has developed such a negative connotation these days. Carries the implication of a rotting, putrid thing,) but our food is moving away from being ANYTHING identifiable.

    We’ve gone from roasts and whole chickens to hamburgers and chicken nuggets. And as we progress further, we end up will less and less actual beef and chicken in our beef and chicken.

    I think the “don’t want to eat meat that looks like meat” is a byproduct of this trend.

    Now, I have an hour and some change drive to work every day, and so traditionally do a lot of “Eating on the road,” which unfortuately means McDonalds and the ilk.

    I quit eating that crap pretty much cold turkey during Spring Quarter, and I’ve noticed a substantial change in my metabolism and health.

    I think I’ve had McDonalds once since then, (because it was there, it was open, and my blood sugar was dropping like bowling ball.) I could barely choke it down.

    I mean, McDonalds and Burger King ALONE are justifications for veganism. That IS disgusting, and I don’t even want to THINK about how the slaughter and processing was handled. Most folks don’t have, can’t afford, or are just to dim to notice things like farmers markets, and see how animals SHOULD be dealt with in both life and death.

    They just see the mad cow and KFC boycott scares on the news and THAT’S their world, (just like the Terrorist alerts and such. That’s not truth. It’s ratings. Rant over…Sorry.)

    Anyway, I think there was a point or two I was trying to make in there somewhere. 😉

    Comment by Dan — July 14, 2005 #

  16. Hi Barbara!

    I have to say that I went down to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and it was closed. We did get in to see the Schoolyard Garden. The kids were thrilled to look at all of the plants and structures around. There was a photographer taking pictures of a woman there and we met her and had pictures taken with her.

    It was ALICE WATERS!!! I couldn’t believe it. I posted a photo on my blog if you want to see.

    Joan Dye Gussow has a great discussion about the whole idea of not eating animals as a way to save them. I don’t have the book in front of me, but she basically says that if you think that not eating animals keeps animals from dying, you are deluding yourself. Animals die when you their habitat is overtaken by farmland being cleared, they are killed by farmers who need to keep the animals from eating their crops, etc.

    The book is ‘This Organic Life’ and it is wonderful!

    Cheers to your ‘rant’!

    Comment by Farm Groupie — July 14, 2005 #

  17. Hey, Dan–you know I agree with you. I do think it is conditioning–not necessarily on purpose, but humans do have short memories, and not very many are endowed with what is known as taste memory. We forget what good chicken tastes like, and so we like processed crap like Chicken McNuggets–because we have no clue what a real piece of fried chicken really tastes like.

    I look at what people buy in the store–and very little of it is fresh, unprocessed food. Even the “fresh” meat you get in the store has had stuff done to it that butcher shops didn’t do back in the day. All of the pork has been brined–which adds moisture and flavor back into the bred to be ultra lean pork–but in adding water, the processors are cutting costs. The consumer is essentially paying for water, not meat.

    As for fast food. I know that is the reality of most people. I know. And I hate it. Why do you think I harp on it in my blog so much? I hope that in throwing stones into the blogosphere, like this little rant, I can create some ripple effects that move outward and affect people in places I don’t even know, and maybe they will throw a stone and make more ripples.

    It is just my way.

    Hey, Farm Groupie–great handle!

    First of all–I adore Gussow’s book, “This Organic Life.” One of the things I am going to start doing once a week or every other week was post a review of a book on the subject of sustainable living, sustainable food and that sort of stuff. Hers is going to be one of the first, because she makes so damned much sense, and I want more folks to read what she has to say.

    Secondly–you got your picture taken with Alice? Cool! That is totally awesome–she is one of my influences as a chef and a culinary educator. The meal we ate at Chez Panisse years and years ago is still one of the most memorable I’ve ever had–and it wasn’t fancy–it was just really good.

    Awesome–I will come check out your blog!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 14, 2005 #

  18. Hey Barbara –

    udhay at pobox dot com will get me just fine. 🙂


    Comment by Udhay Shankar N — July 15, 2005 #

  19. Thanks, Udhay! When I get back from the wedding next week, I will definately send an email out to you!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 15, 2005 #

  20. Very well said. In some countries nobody thinks about this stuff because eating meat is the norm and nothing more obvious than the fact that it is an animal product. The problem with people in this country is “guilt”. People feel guilty(not to say stupid) for doing something that is regarded by others as unwise. There is guilt in eating butter, salt, sugar and “meat”. Expressing indignation outloud, for everyone to hear, makes them feel relieved, exempted from shame because this way they tell others that although they choose to eat such things, they are “aware” (like broadedminded people) of the implications. Hipocrisy!!!

    Comment by Anonymous — July 15, 2005 #

  21. Thanks for this post!

    Comment by Pamelamama — July 19, 2005 #

  22. Hello, Anon–hypocracy is irritating no matter what form it takes. Whether it is a meat eater refusing to acknowledge that an animal dies so she can eat that burger or a vegetarian who says they are vegetarian and then eats fish or chicken, yet still calls themselves vegetarian.

    Excuse me–what trees to fish and chicken grow on, exactly?

    And hello, Pamelamama–and you are very welcome. I hope you stop back by in the future–I have more such essays burbling around in my brain.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 19, 2005 #

  23. Barbara,

    Excellent post. I haven’t read your blog before and I’m glad I found it.

    I particularly remember eating Maude and her first calf, Brown Cow when I was growing up. That beef was tough, but mighty tasty.


    Comment by Kevin — July 21, 2005 #

  24. WOOHOO!! – and – HURRAY!!! would you mind writting a book for me please? so I could show some of my idiot vegan friends (nto to say vegans are idiots nor that idiots are vegans)??

    I’m so sick of people picking and chooose what is “gross” and what isn’t? bugs are gross and inconvienent so thy should die – but bunnies and chickens are cute so they shouldnt’? having grown up ona farm I pomise you chickens are the meanest animals I’ve ever seen! but thats another rant.

    I’m going to link from my blog b/c this is the best post I’ve read in days! =)

    I’ve tried for years now to explain this to my mother who can eat all meat except deer b/c “they are too pretty.” everytime anyone eats dear she says under her breath “oooh… ughhh.. their so beautful” but i’ve seen her wolf down bugers and chickens in a heartbeat. as if her muttering under her breath some how relieves her of guilt.
    if she did this b/c she felt the deer were not raised with harvesting in mind I could respect that. but it’s honestly b/c she thnks they are cuter than the rest.

    so now I suggest we should all choose our diets based on the new wave vegetarianism: only eat ugly animals.

    Comment by mourningjoy — July 22, 2005 #

  25. I am glad you found my blog too, Kevin. I have to admit to being consistently amazed at how far and wide this particular essay/rant/post has travelled out through the ‘net. I do hope you continue to read and find other stuff of interest to you.

    Mourningjoy–the issue with only wanting to eat cute animals comes from people who have never been around a lot of domestic farm animals. Even when you raise them ethically, organically, and free-range, some types of farm animals are not pleasant creatures. You are very correct about chickens–I used to have scars on the backs of my legs from where a rooster attacked me with his spurs when I was about eight. (Grandma’s response was eloquent–we ate him for lunch. He was tasty.)

    Hogs can be nasty, too. They can be cannibalistic, and some of them will attack people and if they happen to kill them (and they can), they will eat them.

    Cattle–well, some cows are nice and others are not, but a bull is always a creature who commands respect. They are hideously strong, huge, and often quite ill-tempered. There are exceptions–one of my grandparents’ bulls, whom they named Ferdinand for this reason–was so gentle we kids could lead him by his halter.

    Another one, Daniel, was viscious–so much so that he chased Grandma through the field, she jumped the fence–you would not believe an older lady could run so fast or leap so nimbly–and treed her. He went through a barbed wire fence to get to her.

    Daniel was sold on to a man who had no wife–he hated women. A misogynist bull–weird, huh?

    I am working on a post about veganism–it is held up as the “ideal” diet by many people–the solution to the hunger of the world, but in my opinion, this is a fallacious argument which does not take into account localized sustainable food supply. I am being very careful in writing it, however–I want to make certain that my math is correct–and–I want to make it clear that I have nothing against vegans or the choices that individual vegans make.

    I just want to explode some common arguments for veganism as the “best” most “sustainable” human diet for the masses, because I think that essentially, most of these arguments are based on flawed views of what a local sustainable food supply really is, and how one goes about creating one.

    Thanks for linking to my blog, btw–again, I am starting to lose track of where all this post has gone and been linked. I never expected such a widespread response to it when I wrote it–it started out as a riff from an off the cuff comment I made.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 22, 2005 #

  26. Gotta love trackback. Now a real life stranger (that I know about) has seen my site. 🙂

    Barbara, my post doesn’t even begin to show how I feel about animals as food. My post seems negative and somewhat flippant about the whole dealio. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the millennia of cultures that have lived from the land, from animals, vegetables, grains…in a sustainable way. I sometimes envy my grandmother who can stand to gut a chicken and use the entire bird for multiple dishes. This used to be out of financial necessity. Now it’s just habit and good sense. I don’t have the stomach for it. I don’t even have the stomach anymore for scary violent movies which are all make up and stunts.

    When I was little, my brother would eat my meat, and I would eat his vegetables. We haven’t changed much in 20 years. I’m sure it’s because I didn’t grow up having to know how to do those things. I regret that fact and the fact that if I was thrown in the woods and had to survive, I’d be screwed.

    I also have a huge amount of respect for Alice Waters and what she’s done in her community. I had a great dish at Chez Panisse, a pork chop I believe. But I especially loved the blood orange salad. I’m hoping to take some basic cooking classes soon, but I’m not sure how I’ll handle hacking up a side of cow. Maybe I could go the vegetarian route? Those classes have to be somewhere. The main problem is that it’s no fun to cook for one.

    In the same vein, I enjoyed reading about the fact that veganism might not be better for the earth. (I don’t remember if this was a comment on your post or in your post.) I see a ridiculous number of people calling themselves vegetarian who only eat crap like sweets with no nutritional value. I’d like to see your essay/book on that when you’ve got all your ducks and facts in a row.

    Happy trails to you. ~ Sarah T.

    Comment by Anonymous — July 29, 2005 #

  27. Hey, Sarah–

    You are right–you sound like a good candidate for a vegetable based diet. And that is good–I am not sure where you live, but you can usually find classes in vegetarian cooking at places like health food stores, Whole Foods Markets, Wild Oats, the YMCA or YWCA, and through adult education programs at local parks and recreation or through community colleges or universities.

    The thing to remember with vegetarian diets is to try and eat protein from more than one source per day, and to eat enough protein to build and rebuild your own muscle tissues and connective tissues in your body. Protein is made of amino acids–and the only protein that has all of those amino acids is animal based. You can be a vegetarian who eats animal products–an ovo-lacto vegetarian, and that will help with your amino acid intake, but another thing that you can do is to eat complementary proteins–eat grains and beans. Or nuts and grains. What amino acids the grains lack the seeds or beans have, and vice versa.

    You don’t have to eat them in the same meal, or at the same time, just try and balance it all out in one day.

    When I was very young–I was like you. Part of it had to do with my mother cooking meat until it was dry and shoe-leathery, and part of it was that I just loved vegetables so much, I would prefer them to meat. My preferences were so strong, my Mom took me to the doctor and said, “She barely eats meat, but she eats every vegetable in sight. What should I do?”

    And the doctor (an old country doctor with spectacles, no less!) pulled down his spectacles and looked at her over them and said, “Do you know how many mothers come to me and say, “How do I get Susie to eat more vegetables? She won’t touch them. Thank God for your predicament and leave the kid alone. When she starts growing, she will crave meat and will eat it. And by the way–do you overcook it? Because if you do, it is no wonder she doesn’t want to eat it.”

    He was right on all counts. Once she stopped overcooking it, and once I started hitting serious growth spurts, I craved it, but I never stopped eating lots of vegetables, too.

    The comment I made about veganism is in one of the comments on this post. I will post about it in August–and yes, I may write a book based on some of these essays–they seem to be striking a chord among people.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — July 29, 2005 #

  28. Nice to meet you, Faith!

    Jeni’s ice creams! Omg! I crave her Queen City Cayenne something awful. I am trying to talk her into either selling some of her stuff to restaurants here in Athens or opening up a branch here. WOW, is that stuff great!

    Thank you for the comment on Buddhism and Christianity–the two have much in common, in reality. A lot of my own ethical constructions are Buddhist, though they are also strongly informed by my Protestant childhood.

    If I am ever in Orlando–I will take you up on that offer. I have had very little South Indian food, and I liked a good bit of it, though some of it I didn’t. And I couldn’t tell if it was that the rendition was not good or the food was just not to my taste or what.

    Some of the rest of it was damned fine and wonderful, though.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — August 25, 2005 #

  29. Exquisite information on culinary school. I have a culinary school secrets blog if you want to see some cool stuff.

    Comment by Anonymous — September 13, 2005 #

  30. If people weren’t meant to eat animals, God wouldn’t have made them so damned tasty.

    Gosh, Oberon, that’s a knee-slapper, let me guess – you fire up that old gem every time the topic of vegetarianism comes up. Let me tell you, as a veg for over 20 years, I sure never get sick of hearing it.

    Your post is very angry and it sounds like you really want to be angry at someone, so vegetarians came into your sights as a symptom (or perhaps even the cause) of all that’s wrong with the world. I’m wondering how many vegetarians you have actually met or gotten to know without your preconceptions getting in the way.

    A lot of vegetarians are genuinely concerned about the planet and many have come to their decision only after researching high density farms, processing plants and slaughterhouses. They are trying to do something, and from reading the other entries here, I think we are generally in agreement that there can be horrible and torturous conditions at some of these “farms”.

    As a kid, I hunted and fished in the remote areas where we lived and I have dressed more kinds of wild game than most people I know. I don’t really have a problem with people who catch their own food, or at least manage to keep it in their mind that they did have to kill something to get it. I think the cheap factory meat and processes that are a requirement to keep fast food and by-products profitable is unsustainable and will end up hurting us all in the end.

    It also seems that you have a problem with complacent wealthy people, but somehow you have equated this to vegetarianism. A choice that by itself represents at least the willingness to sacrifice something to improve conditions for others, as opposed to just talking about it. Believe it or not, sometimes just starting on the path of respect for all living things, can eventually lead to the urge to do something for other people too. At least it’s a start.

    If we were all paying the real price in habitat and species loss, permanent land destruction and general environmental damage, very few of us could actually afford real meat of any kind, but those issues don’t really get discussed when the caricature of vegetarians that you (and many other people) seem to have is where we have to start from.

    Also, read some of the other posts from vegetarians here, and see if it doesn’t give you at least a reason or two to rethink your position.

    Comment by milovoo — September 14, 2005 #

  31. Thanks for the great post. This really summarizes and illuminates a lot of the hypocracy of meat. I too have been infuriated by the weak-kneed cellophane society that accepts balona and abhorts a t-bone.
    Personally I am mostly a vegetairian, though I eat seafood. The choice for me is clearly about what I would be comfortable doing. I don’t think, barring extreme hunger, I could put down a cow. So I’m not going to have someone do my dirty deeds in a dirty factory. It’s just bad karmic business. I have no problem fishing though as this is something I have done frequently.
    I do not deny that meat tastes, well like nothing else. I do miss the taste every day. I just doubt I have the nerve to slaughter a mammal when there are so many vegetarian options.
    Thanks again for the post. Lots of great anticdotes.

    Comment by woodenpidgeon — September 19, 2005 #

  32. Hello, milovoo–it is amazing to me how many people are still coming across this entry.

    I don’t hold vegetarians in contempt–to me, the decision of what one eats or doesn’t eat is a personal one, and it ought to be respected.

    I very much agree that factory farms are a problem–and if we didn’t have them pumping a bunch of low-quality, questionably unhealthy, unsustainable and artificially inexpensive meat into the marketplace, we probably would have a lot more vegetarians for reasons of economics, if nothing else.

    It would not harm Americans to eat less meat; it certainly would not harm us to eat higher quality meat, too.

    Woodenpidgeon–I have helped kill animals most of my life for food. I think that if one grows up with that–it isn’t so hard to deal with. I think that the squeamishness that people in our supermarket society show is hypocritcal, and maybe that if they thought more about what they were eating, they wouldn’t eat so much of it.

    I mean, if it bugs you to eat an animal–well, bloody well don’t eat it, and I will applaud you for it. But for goodness sake, don’t eat it and shudder over it–that seems utterly without any sense to me.

    And–I am still amazed at the fact that I wrote this post so long ago, and people are still reading it and coming here to comment on it.

    Thanks for all the comments, folks!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 20, 2005 #

  33. Barbara, I’ve only skimmed through most of the comments so forgive me if I’m repeating anything that has already been said. I agree completely with the idea that we should try to remain aware of where our meat comes from and I also decided long ago that – for me at least – it’s important to acknowledge that life and death are strongly intertwined.

    I live in Paris, where it is still possible in the Fall to see a wild boar hanging in front of a butcher’s shop, with a little cup under its snout to catch any blood that drips down. We have skinned rabbits in the windows and calves’ heads on rotisserie machines. So I’m pretty comfortable with the idea that meat comes from animals.

    However. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago in a nice sheltered world, I am still squeamish about actually killing anything myself. Or choosing which one will be killed. I don’t like choosing the live lobster that will be on my plate. Or killing fish. Or even killing spiders, if it comes to that.

    Am I a wimp? Yes, I suppose I am avoiding some of the logical consequences of my meat-eating existance. I would guess that if I were in a starvation situation I’d get over it quickly. But I’m lucky and I can pay someone else to do my dirty work.

    And I hope you won’t think less of me for it.

    I promise I won’t whine about it or imply that it means I’m “sensitive”. Because I’m not: I’m squeamish.

    Maybe at the end of the day, that’s part of the problem we have with these whiners? To me their plaintive cries always seem to have a touch of “I’m too civilized for that”!

    Thanks for writing such a great post – it really made me think about myself and my own attitude!

    Comment by Meg — October 12, 2005 #

  34. Think less of you, Meg? Hardly!

    You know what you are eating and where it came from. You know that animals die so you can eat them. Just because you don’t have steady hands to do the deed yourself, you -acknowledge- it and look it in the face and are honest about it.

    That doesn’t make you a wimp.

    There always have been people who can do the deed of killing animals so others can eat. I am one of those folks, and there are many others of us out there. There is no shame in not being able to kill another creature. In fact, I say that if you aren’t sure at all, you should not try–because if you hesitate, often you cause more pain than if you steel yourself and just do it.

    I would like to live where I could see wild boar in a shop window! Or, at least, I’d like to visit!

    (The skinned rabbits and calve’s heads–those I know from. Wild boar–now that is neat!)

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — October 12, 2005 #

  35. […] I started reading Barbara Fisher’s Tigers and Strawberries food weblog this summer, after a feisty post of hers about squeamish nonvegetarians started getting pingponged around some farm weblogs I read because I am a big ole hippie. I am a former veg-head, and holy crap, I love that post, so I started reading Barbara regularly. That gal can write, and hell, that gal can cook. She is unapologetic about loving to cook and doing it all really damn well. […]

    Pingback by notageek » New Year, new wok — January 1, 2006 #

  36. hmm, the squeamishness need to be overcome. when i was younger i had to handle animal carcasses out of necessity. my mother was wroking and back then u could not get ready chopped chickens in the supermarket.

    now when i need to kill live crabs for a dish, or clean out a fish, i try not to think about it too much, and try to get it over and done as soon as i can. someone need to do it.

    also. for the “vegetarians” who eat fish, i know mammals are cuter, but fish feel pain too. so what is the logic?

    Comment by deeaimond — January 6, 2006 #

  37. Deeiamond–

    Most people are not born with the ability to kill another living being in order to eat it. Most people are born with natural empathy and the unwillingness to cause pain.

    That is a very good thing. I would hate it if it were the other way around.

    (Mind you, empathy has to be nurtured from an early age, or it will dissipate rather quickly, but if nurtured and taught to let that natural empathy blossom, a child will instinctively dislike the thought of causing another being pain, whether it is another human or an animal.)

    However, what happened with me, was my grandfather, knowing that I was so empathic as to weep over a rabbit caught by a dog, taught me to kill with empathy.

    I remember when he taught me to clean fish. “You caught the fish, and you want to eat it,” he said. “So, you have to kill it. And it isn’t right to kill anything in a way that makes it hurt worse. When you kill to eat, whether you hunt, fish or slaughter in the barnyard, you kill quick and clean.”

    He taught me to, in one stroke, cut the head from the still living fish.

    It is hard to do. It is awful the first time. The first time, I cried, because I was too gentle with my first stroke and had to cut twice while it flopped with its head half off. The second one is better.

    Grandma tried to intervene and get Grandpa to let me alone, but he said, quite truthfully, “Dean, dammit, she has to learn–one day she may be responsible for feeding a big family, and if she is going to do that, she needs to know how to kill an animal properly.”

    Comment by Barbara — January 8, 2006 #

  38. Just found this article thanks to Ilyka Damen. Good read – thanks.

    I’m a lifelong city dweller and have never had to kill my own food, so my question is: how do you do it quickly and as painlessly as possible? Chickens and fish, I can see how it’s done. But how do you deal with a cow or a sheep?

    Comment by Annalucia — January 11, 2006 #

  39. Hello, Annaluca, and thank you for commenting–I hope you read a bit more around here. (And thank you, Ilka–I noticed that quite a few people have wandered over from your blog here.)

    Generally, one stuns the animal before killing it. This is not true for kosher or halal butchering–the animal is usually immobilized in stanchions (uprights, like a very narrow stall, with chains to hold the animal still), and then the rabbi or butcher, with a prayer, and a very sharp knife, cuts the animal’s throat in one swift motion. The caratoid is severed, and the heart pumps the blood out, and the animal blacks out within seconds. The only pain felt is that stroke of the knife.

    Ethical non-kosher and non-halal butchers and small farmers, as I said before, stun the animal as carefully and completely as possible in order to make them insensate before cutting the throat. (The reason that kosher and halal butchers do not do this is for religious reasons–the animal’s heart must still be beating in order for the blood to be properly pumped from the body. In my experience, most careful halal and kosher butchers are just as ethical and careful–if not more so–than other butchers–so do not take my words to mean that I disapprove of the throat cut as the means to kill an animal while it is conscious… more on this later.)

    Stunning can take many forms. My father’s father, who worked at his father’s slaughterhouse for years, was the one who stunned the sheep, cattle, and calves. They offloaded the animals from the barge onto a chute. As they came down the chute, my Pappa hit them a sharp, heavy blow on the back of the head with a hammer or cudgel. This knocked them out quickly and cleanly. Their bodies were taken by his brothers, and they cut the throats. What Pappa did was render them unconscious, while the throat cutting done by his brothers was the killing stroke.

    At my mother’s father’s farm, stunning was done with a gun, either a pistol or a rifle. One of my uncles was given the task of shooting the animal (who was kept in the barnyard, so they never had to go through the fear of being transported to a strange place) in the very back of the head. The bullet entered the brain, and in one shot, they were unconscious, and my grandfather, after hoisting them up on a chain, upside down, would cut thier throats. (My uncles always got to shoot them because they were the good shots–Grandpa never could hit the broad side of a barn with a gun, unless he used it as a club.)

    That said–let me explain a bit more.

    The way that kosher and halal butchers do it–with one knife stroke–is very difficult to learn, and it takes years of practice. This method is also still used by small farmers on goats, sheep, some hogs, calves and some cattle. It takes a steady hand, and someone who has done it for years to teach you for someone to do it right the first time. If you do it wrong, and miss the caratoid, the animal suffers great fear and anquish, and the person who buggered up the killing does, too. It is not a simple thing to do.

    The stunning method is a bit easier–if you are a good shot or if you know exactly where to hit an animal on the head and have good upper body strength to do it. This is the method I have actually seen done most often, and I have seen with my own eyes that the animals do not seem to suffer undo stress or pain.

    The way it is done in modern factory farm slaughterhouses–both of my grandfathers would be ashamed to see it, and I remember both of them telling me as a child how bad that was. The assembly line methods, the electrodes, the hanging cattle by their back legs while they are still conscious and thrashing–it is a travesty, and I do not hesitate to say it is evil.

    That is why I do not eat meat from conventional grocery store sources. That, and the meat I get from smaller producers tastes much better, and supports the smaller farmers and the local economy.

    Maybe I should just haul off and write an essay on how to ethically slaughter animals–since a lot of people don’t really know how it can be done.

    Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the really good question! Come back again!

    Comment by Barbara — January 11, 2006 #

  40. Hi, got here from your post in food_porn; congrats on the nomination – it’s a fantastic piece. I try to avoid supermarket meat when I can, but on a uni student budget and spending most of my time studying it’s difficult. But yeah, don’t quite understand the ‘I won’t eat it if it looks like it came from an animal’ thing.

    Whilst the line someone commented with about not eating meat you’ve killed yourself is very clever, I think they key thing for me is that I know I don’t have the skill to kill an animal humanely, the way small farmers and kosher/halal butchers do it, nor do I really have the means to do so. So I’d prefer to leave it to the people who know how, with a definite preference for the people who will do it ethically.

    Comment by Jennifer — January 18, 2006 #

  41. Wow. All I can say is that you’ve written one of the most logical and thought provoking articles about this subject that I’ve read in a long time.

    As a committed omnivore, I feel strongly about meat. I want my meat to taste good. Therefore I will buy it from local producers, I prefer organic, I don’t want factory farmed cr*p, and I don’t want it preformed into cartoon characters. I buy it on the bone when possible. I buy proper butchers sausages, I buy offal and I make stock. I feel as strongly about fish coming from sustainable stocks.

    I’m very lucky. I’m not in the US, I;m in the UK. I have a local farmers market which provides some of the best meat around, or the local market which has a thriving set of butchers and fishmongers.

    What I want is more expensive than the pre-processed stuff. So I eat less of it. I am healthy thank you very much. I eat tonnes of vegetables, and base meals around them (unless it’s a roast dinner in which case the meat has to be the star.)

    And I don’t understand why this is so difficult to do, or think – because I wasn’t brought up in the country. I was brought up in the town, and now live in a city. I may never have raised a cow and taken it to slaughter – but I want to know that my cow had a “cow” life as opposed to a “factory” life. I believe animals have rights – the right to shelter, the right to food, the right to water, the right to space, and the right to live a natural and stress free life. The right to a painless death, and the right to respect as it’s a living creature.

    Meat is murder? No. Meat (in this context) is the product of a symbiotic relationship between man and beast. The question I keep asking such vegetarians is “ok, so we stop eating meat. What happens to all the animals, that are no longer required to feed us and so are no longer financially viable. Specimum herds in a zoo? And the rest? They wouldn’t be left to die off naturally – they’d be slaughtered in droves and the carcasses left to rot in the fields. They can’t be “set free” – they’re domesticated and no longer able to survive. You’re proposal would result in the extermination of billions of animals, and many would become extinct. What’s moral about that?”

    I would suggest as good reading material “The Meat Book” by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – a man once ranted about in the press for killing, cooking and eating grey squirrels – by people who probably had no clue that thousands of squirrels are poisoned every year in the UK as a pest. Especial kudos goes to the woman who said that “anyone who killed a squirrel should be made to eat it” – which as the show was a cooking program, and the man is a TV chef showed just how out of touch with reality she really was.

    Comment by Kath M — January 19, 2006 #

  42. Hello, Kath–

    When I was last in the UK–seventeen years ago–I saw butcher shops that still had partial and full carcasses in the windows in parts of London, and in Bath. Sure, there were grocery stores about with the plastic wrapped meat like we have in the US, but there were still the more traditional butchers where you saw that what you were eating was most certainly a dead animal of some kind.

    I have had that same arguement with PETA people–I am an animal lover. I love my cats, my dogs, and my other pets I have had over the years. I also loved our farm animals, and took good care of them. When I say–what will happen to all the farm animals if we don’t eat them? They have said–oh, people will keep them as pets. This tells me that a lot of these animal activists haven’t the foggiest notion of what most farm animals are like. Some of them are not that friendly, and they certainly are not small enough to keep as pets.You are right–most of them would be slaughtered. And without them–what sort of food would our cats and dogs eat? Dogs are omnivorous and can get by on soy protein, but cats are carnivores and cannot. So what then?

    The thing is–most PETA activists aren’t that knowledgeable about animals, the environment and the ecosystem. They are simply very passionate, emotionally driven people who want to do the right thing. They are just usually not very realistic–they are idealists.

    Comment by Barbara — January 19, 2006 #

  43. Barbara, FIRST of all, I want to tell you that your blog looks gorgeous!!!! I love it! SECOND, Congratulations because you WON!!!! Yes! Hugs from Panama 🙂

    Comment by melissa_cookingdiva — January 23, 2006 #

  44. A well deserved award! Congratulations,Barbara!

    Comment by Sailaja — January 23, 2006 #

  45. As a long time memeber of PETA (People Enjoying Tasty Animals), I have to say that Barbara not only hits the nail on the head but drives it home as well. Get over yourself or move on to veggies!

    Comment by Scott — January 23, 2006 #

  46. Excellent, excellent, EXCELLENT post.

    And I get it. But that’s because I grew up in the country and my dad had a farmer friend who raised cattle for slaughter. Oh, wow, I never had a better burger than the Bubba burgers we had that came from Bubba.

    Also, my father was a hunter. I watched him hang the dead deer from my swingset. I watched it’s carcass hang in his garage and him butcher it. It made meat for our family.

    I’ve watched him kill squirrels and I’ve helped skin them and remove the innards. (I actually like doing that. My family thinks I’m demented for it.) I’ve killed fish in humane manners and helped clean them.

    I get it.

    When I eat, I also give thanks to the animals and plants for giving its life that I might live.

    Thank you again for a wonderful post.

    Comment by C4bl3Fl4m3 — January 24, 2006 #

  47. Jennifer–I missed your comment.

    I think that having skilled butchers to kill meat is a perfectly ethical way to handle the issue. I don’t have a problem with there being ethical butchers in the world to kill meat for those whose hands are not steady to do it themselves.

    Believe me–it is not a simple thing to learn. It is hard. But, as both my grandfathers told me as a child, if you are going to kill an animal, do it right, do it painlessly and do it quickly, or don’t do it. Leave it to someone who can do it for you.

    Thank you, Melissa–I will tell Zak (my husband, and the one who did the artwork and design of the blog) that you said it was beautiful–and thank you for the congratulations, too.

    Thank you, Sailaja!

    Scott–thank you for the PETA member vote of confidence! Wow–that blows me away! Thank you again!

    And C4bl3Fl4m3–you are welcome.

    I have personally killed fish many times–very quickly and humanely, and I once killed a squirrel that my mother hit with a car, and it wasn’t dead yet. I got out of the car, saw that the poor thing’s back half was crushed. I had a butterfly knife in my pocket, so I opened it, and laid my gloved hand over the back of his head, and stabbed him in the back of his neck and severed his spine in one stroke. He died instantly, and suffered no more pain.

    Poor little guy.

    As for removing innards–I can’t say that I like it, but it doesn’t much bother me. Chicken innards smell bad, and pig intestine, if you don’t restrict feed, is pretty stinky. But, you know–that is the way innards are–and if you butcher animals, you know that, right?

    Thanks for coming by my blog. I hope you stop in again.

    Comment by Barbara — January 24, 2006 #

  48. Ahem, Barbara. It’s an excellent post, but double-check Scott’s expansion of the acronym before you get blown away.

    Comment by persimmon — January 24, 2006 #

  49. Great post. I’ve been mostly-veg for several years for reasons of avoiding factory meat (and the expense of real meat and my dislike of handling it). You’ve inspired me to do more thinking about the general sustainability of my diet — it’s too easy for me to get lazy now that the factory animals are out of the picture for me.

    Comment by Alexis — January 24, 2006 #

  50. Oh, well. Scott, you got me. Persimmon, my friend, now you see what late night euphoria does to me–makes the ability to actually read go out the window! Thanks for the head’s up. I should have known better. The last actual PETA member I had a discussion with called me a murderer for eating meat, so I should have known better. 😉

    Of course, I keep threatening to write about how sustainable a purely vegan diet would be (not, in my opinion) and haven’t done it yet, because I figure that the howls of protest will be greater than my ability to cope. However, I think that after this week’s Chinese New Year celebration and Morganna’s birthday bash is done, I will probably take that issue on in a lengthy essay as well.

    Been a while since I sat down and wrote a real essay.

    Alexis–I applaud you for not eating meat if it disturbs you to handle it. That is pefectly laudable. But yes–always look into the sources of your food, even vegetarian, because it may not be as harmless to your and your environs as you may thing.

    (Besides, questinging things is good for a person.)

    Comment by Barbara — January 25, 2006 #

  51. Congrats on your award, and I totally agree with you!

    My moment in hipocrisy here is mainly that I won’t eat whole crawfish or shrimp. This is partially because I prefer not to have my food looking at me, but mostly because they are underwater cockroaches.

    My new year’s resolution is to try to buy more organic and local foods as much as I can afford. I have a black thumb, so sustaining myself veggie wise is cruelty to plants.

    I was vegetarian for a while when I was little, and kept it up for a while. Then I decided I like meat. It would be a pain in the butt for me not to eat meat, as I am hypoglycemic and allergic to tree nuts. And I’m not a huge fan of beans. I also enjoy a good steak.

    What makes me really irked is when vegans and vegetarians buy that fake meat crap. There is nothing on this earth that is more disgusting than a not dog. Yes, give up meat so that you can buy ridiculously processed, chemical filled, meat shaped soy-product. I’ve tried them, and they taste much like wet newspaper soaked in liquid smoke. Gardenburgers and black bean burgers are different, because they’re made from food.

    “If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it’s another nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity.” – Bill Vaughan

    That’s pretty much how I feel about vegans. It’s the cool thing to do. I feel, however, that raw vegans are particularly stupid. I don’t think I need to explain why. If fire was good enough for the caveman, it’s good enough for me.

    My mom told me a great story when I was little and was grossed out by making meatloaf or something. It was in the 70’s and my mom visited her Granny Bonnie who lived on a farm. When she asked my mom what she wanted for dinner, my mom said chicken. Granny Bonnie took my mom outside, grabbed a chicken, cut it’s head off and let it run around, and then plucked it, etc. and made my mom help. My mom was a vegetarian for a few years after that. She eventually got over it.

    Comment by Chels E. — January 26, 2006 #

  52. Chels E.–I don’t think it is hippocritical to not eat an animal that you think of as unsanitary, like a bug. If that is how you view shellfish–then that is okay. I generally won’t eat uni (sea urchin) because it is a filter feeder, and if you get it from bad water, it tastes like a sewer. I had that happen once, so I won’t touch it again. ICK!

    I have a post around here called “Barbara vs. The Raw Foods Diet.” It pretty much is my entire indictment of the raw foods movement and how much of it is founded upon belief that has nothing to do with even shaky versions of science and how often adherents to it promulgate out and out lies in order to spread their eating disorder.

    I also happen to think that eating more raw vegetables is good for people, and we should do more of it–so there we are.

    I am a nonconforming nonconformist, I suppose. 😉

    I adore the story about your Mom! Made me giggle!

    Glad you stopped by–hope you stay and read a while.

    Comment by Barbara — January 26, 2006 #

  53. Great Article on Eating Meat

    “Meat Comes from Animals: Deal with It, or Eat Vegetables.”

    Trackback by Rich's Bassin' Blog — January 29, 2006 #

  54. Perfect blog setup. I never installed blog software and need to for my theme on data disk free recovery ware.Do you have to upgrade your blog code often? Is it simple to do?. Virgin Blogger, WADE

    Comment by disaster recovery template — February 9, 2006 #

  55. Hi! Yet another late arrival via food_porn. 🙂

    I enjoyed this essay immensely. I’m going to go read some of your others in a minute, but wanted to tell you that I loved the story about the lady at Thanksgiving dinner. It reminded me of a story my sister likes to tell, and I’d like to share with you.

    My sister was out to lunch with several of her co-workers one day. Included in the group was a very outspoken and pushy vegan who had a irritating habit of trying to make you feel guilty about eating meat. Torture! Suffering! Murder! … that whole routine. And when the plates showed up, she started in, this time on the only guy at the table. “Urgh, how can you eat a *steak*? That’s a slab of rotting flesh, don’t you realize? Some cow had to die for that. You caused an innocent animal to suffer and die just so you could harden your arteries. Don’t you feel *anything*??”
    Her victim, who was looking with some bemusement at his lunch, answered, “Actually, yes.” Vegan-woman swelled with self-satisfaction, but before she could say another word, the young man- who was a rancher’s son, had worked with cows his entire life, and held no fond memories of them whatsoever- took a big bite of steak, smiled at Vegan-lady and said, “I feel… revenge.” }:>

    Comment by Kit — February 9, 2006 #

  56. That is an awesome story, Kit! Thank you so much for sharing! I will have to tell Zak to read it, too!

    Comment by Barbara — February 15, 2006 #

  57. I think that it is wrong to eat a animal. I am a vegitarian. I think that the animals can talk, but in their own way. We have 5 dogs and 1 hamster and 1 cat and 1 bunny and 1 turtle. We love them all, and how could you kill such sweet animals. I think that it is very wrong.

    Comment by Brittany — February 20, 2006 #

  58. Well, Brittany, I am happy you have made a choice that makes you happy and feels ethical to you.

    However, I feel that it is not ethically wrong to eat an animal, if it was treated well when alive and killed in a humane fashion.

    I am not sure why you would think that I would kill and eat your dogs, hamster, cat, bunny and turtle, but, I wouldn’t. I certainly wouldn’t eat anyone’s pets.

    I don’t know how much experience you have had with cattle, pigs, chickens, and other livestock raised for meat, but not all of them are by any means sweet creatures. Some of them are deadly dangerous, actually. Hogs, when given a chance will kill and eat a human. Not every hog, of course, just the mean ones.

    Cows will not eat people–they are fully herbivorous, but some of them will have no compunction about running a human down and crushing it to death, just for venturing into the field where the cow lives. (This is mostly true of bulls, but I have known a few really mean cows in my time.)

    You can think that it is wrong for you to eat animals all you like, but I do not think it is right for you to pass judgement and say it is always wrong for all people to eat animals, because, frankly, what people eat is a very personal choice.

    I do have one question–what do you feed your cat and dogs? If you feed them pet food–it comes from animals. Does this bother you?

    Comment by Barbara — February 20, 2006 #

  59. I was raised on a farm. Beyond me and my sisters my parents also raised goats. From the time that they were born most of the wethers were tagged as butcher animals. It didn’t keep us from naming them, playing with them, and even occasionally kissing them. My favorite “pets” as a child were named Wavy-Gravy, BBQ, and Picnic. There was no confusion where they were headed.
    I’m an omnivore and I intend to eat meat. I agree, and applaud! If someone cannot stand the sight or thought of their meat coming from a live animal… Eat vegetables.
    Thanks for the article and comments! Great!

    Comment by Rebeca — March 3, 2006 #

  60. […] Tigers & Strawberries » Meat Comes from Animals: Deal with It, or Eat Vegetables “And when we sat down to eat that chuck blade roast, Grandma would say, “This is from Raisin.” And whoever said grace would say at the end, “and thank you, Raisin, for being such a nice steer and making such good meat for us to eat, amen.”” (tags: eating_meat food_blogs) […]

    Pingback by Erin S. O’Connor » Blog Archive » links for 2006-03-03 — March 3, 2006 #

  61. An outstanding article and subsequent discussion. I greatly enjoyed reading it and will be referring a number of folk to read it too.

    Growing up on a semi-retired farm with my parents and my grandfather, who trapped and hunted, I was always familiar with the whole cycle from live animal to food on the table or to leather and fur. My grandpop was proud of his skill and kept photos of his catch. Even though living in the 20th century, I feel I grew up in the 19th (or earlier), at least compared to most folk I’ve met since.

    I never thought this unusual until years later when I was showing friends around my home and pointing out my grandfather in the many pictures, and my sister and I with a dead bobcat. My friend’s wife, faintly, said, “Oh… more pictures of dead animals.”

    We also kept chickens for eggs and meat. When I was a child, a very large (to me then) leghorn rooster attacked me. (I too bear a few scars still, like someone else here posted.) He was roasted for next Sunday dinner. He had been abusive to the other chickens as well and we were well rid of him in the yard. Most folk I tell that tale to look at me with a mixture of horror and disgust, or a rather condescending attitude – while eating their fried chicken from KFC.

    While I do not slaughter my own meat now, I would have no compunctions about doing it, if I had to. I just don’t have the skill to do it well. I prefer to buy kosher, not from religious scruples, but simply from the skill they need to use the methods they use.

    I was pleased to see a reference to Bujold and vat grown meat. (Heinlein, amongst others, used the concept earlier, but not as well in my mind.)

    I brought up the concept to a friend of mine who is a would-be vegan, but he was horrified at the thought of “artificial, factory produced meat.” I’d really like to get him to go see what we produce now in factory farms. It is artificial, factory produced meat, but it is sensate too. At least vat grown tissue wouldn’t feel. So, I doubt this method would eliminate the objections.

    I have added this blog to my regular reading list. Quite impressed, not just with this article, but with many of the others. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

    Comment by Dan Jenkins — March 5, 2006 #

  62. Welcome, and thank you for stopping by, Rebecca and Dan–great to hear from you.

    Dan–I totally reach the feeling as if I grew up in another era than everyone else–there is a lot about how I grew up that was very 19th century! Or, at least, earlier 20th century than when I was born!

    I think that Bujold’s books really get into things like vat grown meat in a more visceral sense, because her characters do a lot of eating, and talking about eating. Her whole culture-clash between Barrayar and Beta is a very fertile setting for exploring issues of food, where it comes from and how it is eaten without getting preachy or too technical and boring.

    And of course, in addition to the vat grown meat, there is always the bug-butter….an absolutely ingenious idea, if you ask me. (Yes, I would eat it. Even if the bugs looked disgusting.)

    Interesting that the vegan friend was horrified at vat-grown meat. I talked about it with a carnivore friend and he was equally horrified–it is unnatural, “frankenmeat” to him. Not to me. I think that, once muscle tissue can be grown in sheets and exercised so that it gains texture and flavor, I would definately eat it. The first products they are going to do are ground meat patties and processed meats like “chicken tenders,” which I don’t eat anyway, so I may not get to taste vat grown meats in my lifetime. But I have no doubt that my daughter will have the opportunity in her lifetime.

    Glad to hear you are going to be a regular reader! Thanks for coming by and commenting, and I hope to hear again from you soon!

    Comment by Barbara — March 6, 2006 #

  63. First off: fantastic essay, and I agree entirely. I’ve never slaughtered an animal before, so I don’t know if I could — one never knows until the opportunity presents itself — but I actually enjoy cooking and eating meat that looks like it came from an animal. What’s the fun of cooking if you can’t get your hands messy, if you can’t tell what it is you’re making? Honestly, I’m more squeamish about what comes out of a tomato.

    One of my pet annoyances is the relative difficulty of getting healthy food in poor urban areas — the nearest supermarket to me has the most pathetic produce section I’ve ever seen, and this area isn’t even that poor. Plus, the meat section is full of the fattiest, least nutritional cuts of meat, all from huge factory suppliers that use God knows what chemicals and hormones in their processing, and people load their carts with it in these huge bulk sales because it’s cheap and satisfying. There’s a reason America has so many poor people with nutritional deficiencies and obesity problems — it’s damn hard to get cheap, healthy food, and a lot of people don’t exactly know what to do with it even if they can get it, because they’ve never learned. At least we have a grocery store within walking distance — a lot of really poor areas, you’re limited to a) take-out food and b) whatever they’re selling at the Quik-Stop.

    From The Meatrix, I learned that the local food co-op has just this year started selling organic free-range meat products, along with an expanded vegetable selection — they’ve always tended to be an expensive yuppie store, but nowadays it seems they’re moving away from “$3 organic boxed mac-n-cheese” and more toward “normal food that comes from animals and plants.”

    Since graduating from college and setting up housekeeping, I’ve been guilty of buying factory-produced meat because it is cheaper and much easier to find. However, after reading this piece, I’ve decided to purchase a membership at the co-op, buy more food there, and start volunteering. Serendipitous, it seems, that I’d be reminded of the importance of supporting humane farming practices at the same time that the co-op really started moving in that direction.

    Anyway: thanks so much, for this piece and for reminding me what I personally can do to support a cause I believe in. I’m going to go read the rest of your blog now. 🙂

    Comment by Sibyl — March 7, 2006 #

  64. Shoot, I almost forgot:

    Back a while ago, my dad and some co-workers were in a conversation, and one of them was doing a Pangloss routine about how wonderfully everything works out in the world. Here was his main point of evidence:

    “Isn’t it great that animals have this, y’know, meat tissue that we can eat?”

    “You mean muscle,” my dad says.

    “No, no, not the muscles, or the organs — I mean meat tissue, you know, the stuff that doesn’t actually do anything. I just think it’s a sign of how great this world is, that these animals have tissues they don’t need just so we can eat it!”

    At which point my dad, attempting not to laugh in the poor man’s face, explains to him that “meat tissue” does not exist. You’d think he’d just been told that Santa Claus wasn’t real. “We eat MUSCLES? EEEEEEEEEEW!!!”

    The kicker? The guy was in his thirties and had a master’s degree in chemistry.

    Comment by Sibyl — March 7, 2006 #

  65. Sibyl–welcome! I am glad you liked this piece–I am still amazed at the number of people who have read it, still read it and are still responding to it–I think this is probably one of the most popular essays I have ever written.

    Secondly–Meat Tissue? WHAT? An MA in chemistry? Don’t chemists have to take oh, maybe a basic biology class or two somewhere in there? I mean, when I was a zoology pre-med student, I had to take chemistry, so uh, isn’t the opposite true? And if he did take it, did he take it on ANOTHER PLANET? Omg!

    Thirdly, and most importantly–I am glad that I inspired you to join the co-op and I am glad that they have started working towards carrying whole foods that are locally and ethically grown. That is great–hearing stories like yours really makes me feel like all of the writing I do is worthwhile.

    Thank you for stopping by–and comment or email anytime. I really appreciate it.

    Comment by Barbara — March 7, 2006 #

  66. Funny, I was just rereading Bujold’s “A Civil Campaign.” I really like her work because she addresses a lot of such issues thoughtfully, but without making a sermon of them. Plus her characters are folk I’d like to know.

    Bug butter wouldn’t bother me either. Hey, we eat honey and comb. (For that matter, I eat shrimp & lobsters – they are pretty ugly looking bugs, if you think about it.) Vat grown meat tissue (also known as “muscle” 😉 logically ought to address ethical concerns of vegans and carnivores, as well as being healthier as it would be produced with far fewer antibiotics, hormones, and such. But, logic has little to do with most folks behavior.

    It’ll probably take a big marketing push and then we’ll wind up with McLarkies (cultured larks’ tongues from McDonalds) or some such.

    Too bad, I’d be quite happy to have a vat in my pantry: “home grown meat for the 21st century.” At least I’d know exactly what went into it. That could be a grassroots revolution, if it ever takes place that way.

    Welcome to the 21st century, but hang onto your 19th century perceptions too. The wider a baseline anyone has, the more perspective they can apply. If folk only know the one way things are now, they’ll never realize the range of possibilities – and what can be better, or worse.

    Thanks again for your blog. I’ve been reading my way through it and am thoroughly impressed. As well as inspired to cook more & better.

    Comment by Dan Jenkins — March 12, 2006 #

  67. Hello, again, Dan. Coincidentally–I just finished rereading A Civil Campaign again–that is my favorite of her books, for many reasons, but this time I was rereading it and looking at how much food appears in the novel. In fact, in looking back at several of her novels, there is a lot of food and eating. This leads me to believe that Ms. Bujold herself probably enjoys food and eating, and has thought a lot about it, which is part of what makes her writing interesting to me.

    But you are right–bug butter is like honey–which Mark of course points out in the book, and it is so fascinating to look at the emotional reactions–that are the same emotional reactions our friends had to the idea of vat-grown meat, played out in fiction.

    People are instinctively wary of new foods. Our global economy of the 21st century has broken down a lot of barriers when it comes to unfamiliar foods, but I do think that most people’s instinctive aversion to new foods is natural, and quite possibly an evolutionarily beneficial emotional reaction.

    I agree with you–it is good to be part of the 21st century (with a head filled with 23rd century ethics), but to also have roots in the way of life of the 19th century. It leads to a certain flexibility in thought and knowledge that I find to be–evolutionarily advantageous. 😉

    Comment by Barbara — March 12, 2006 #

  68. Your essay exactly describes why I’m a vegetarian. Now I know where to direct people if they ask why I don’t eat meat/poultry/seafood – Thank you!

    Comment by Anna — March 14, 2006 #

  69. Glad to be of service, Anna! You are quite welcome–and good on you for choosing to be a vegetarian.

    Comment by Barbara — March 14, 2006 #

  70. […] So instead, we have to flash back to more issues re: meat. To set the tone, consider Meat Comes from Animals: Deal With It, or Eat Vegetables, or closer to home, Peter’s response to a vegetarian. […]

    Pingback by Roving Gastronome: The Blog » Blog Archive » Best of RG III: Meat, meat, meat! — May 15, 2006 #

  71. Hi Barbara,
    I got to ur blog to see the Spice ir right round up and ended up at this post.
    I am a vegetarian, and was brought up that way. But now its more out of a personal choice, as I cant get myself to eat flesh. When I see meat on the plate, the picture of the live animal flashes into my mind and that stops me from eating it, so I abstain from meat all together.
    Your post is exactly what I would love to tell my meat eating friends who say “I can eat food which has meet nicely cooked and ready to eat, but I cant chop it myself and cook… thats just gross..!!”. A few also go on to argue…”How can people eat beef, its from a gentle animal like Cow”, but have no qualms eating chicken…!! Its like the two threads in their brain never meet up to make common sense. You have to realise how meat is got to its delicious juicy state and then go on to eat it ONLY if your OK with the process it undergoes to get there.
    Another arguement is, “Now-a-days animals are not chopped to bleed to death like before, now we have sterilised industry atmosphere with machines doing the job without cruelty” The thought process cudnt get weirder than this one..I think it comes out of people desperately looking for excuses to eat their meat subconciously knowing that their mind does not like it..!!
    Great work at dealing with a delicate issue like this one in such a logical way.

    Comment by Priya — July 17, 2006 #

  72. The human race has dug itself into a whole. The only way out is to dig further.

    Not really, but I just like saying that.
    That was a really good rant. Credible information. I myself have never raised animals. I admit that sometimes I think about how I don’t want to eat meat, but I do like the taste. And I’m not sure that, being 13, my parents would take me seriously if I told them I wanted to become a vegetarian.
    But becoming one is not the only answer. As you said, it would be better to just make sure that we were humane, if large scale agricultural factory farms, and the like, even know what humane means.

    I’m just thankful that the number of people demanding humanely produced food is growing.

    Comment by Kate — July 25, 2006 #

  73. Welcome, Priya and Kate.

    Priya–anyone who thinks that modern methods of agriculture and slaughter are more humane on the whole are not really dealing with reality. I actually think that the old fashioned ways of raising animals on grass and with room to move and engage in their natural behaviors is a more humane way of raising them–and I tend to think that our slaughterhouses have a long way to go before they can claim to be completely humane. The speed at which workers are forced to go in slaughterhouses is neither safe for the workers nor humane either to the workers or the animals.

    I don’t get the, “who could eat a gentle animal like a cow” but “chicken is okay to eat” logic? First of all, not every cow is gentle (some of them can be very dangerous animals–espeically bulls who get territorial and will try and run humans down who encroach on their territory) and secondly, most chickens are not that savage. In fact, having cuddled both cows and chickens, I do have to admit to having been attacked by one each of each species–and the bull did not injure me, but the rooster did. (The rooster clawed me with his spurs–attacked without provocation–the bull chased me, but I got over the fence and he left me alone. My grandmother killed the rooster right after the attack, and we ate him, and the bull–well, he went on to go through a fence to tree my grandmother, so he, too, was killed. We ate him, too.)

    There is very little logic to most people’s positions when it comes to food–which is sad, because I think that logical thought is a good way to deal with life.

    I applaud you for your stance on vegetarianism–it is obviously working for you, and please, do send your meat-eating but not necessarily logical friends here to read. Maybe it will help?

    Kate–thank you for commenting. You have plenty of time to decide on becoming a vegetarian; until then, do what you can to eat as healithily as you can, and see if you can interest your parents in more humanely produced meats. But, until you live on your own, it is hard to have complete control over what you eat.

    I am very glad you found this essay and enjoyed it–and I, too, am thankful that the number of people calling for humanely produced meat is growing. I think it is a good sign for our society that people are once again becoming aware of where our food comes from and have started asking questions relating to our food supply.

    Good luck to you!

    Comment by Barbara — July 26, 2006 #

  74. thanks for the much needed info,i’m using it in a debate!

    Comment by conor — January 20, 2007 #

  75. Hi Barbara! I’ve been poking around your blog for a while, but this is my first comment. I love your recipes and essays.


    {And whoever said grace would say at the end, “and thank you, Raisin, for being such a nice steer and making such good meat for us to eat, amen.”}

    is my favorite part of the essay, I think. What a concise example of how eating meat does not have to be unethical or wrong. How can you better show respect for the animal that fed you? Kudos to your family for raising you this way. It reminds me of a scene from the movie “A Far Off Place.” Two young teens are traveling across the desert in Africa, after their family has been killed. Their guide is a bushman who has been friends with the girl. On the way he hunts a springbok for them. After killing it with an arrow, he kneels down beside it and says a short prayer, thanking the animal for giving its life so the three humans can live. So much for “barbaric” “primitive” cultures!!

    I’m a dedicated omnivore, as someone else said. Well, at the moment I’m on a strict vegetarian diet to lose weight, ha ha! But generally and as a scientist I feel humans evolved to eat a variety of foods including other animals. Just because we now “can” survive on a vegan diet doesn’t mean we are obligated to, or that it’s best for us. but we ARE obligated to treat animals with respect and compassion in the manner of their life and death.

    When I’m done with my diet, the first thing I’m going to do is find sustainably raised MEAT to eat! Oddly enough, I live in the “garden state” yet see little locally produced food in my local shops. I’ll investigate this further once I’m eating meats again, but I’ll also pose this question for you:

    Thanks for your explanation of butchering methods in the comments. I learned quite a few things didn’t know before. I have found some ranches that raise sustainably and humanely raised, organic, grass-fed beef that will ship frozen orders anywhere in the country, so that takes care of beef if I can’t find a good local source. Is kosher chicken (or any kosher meat for that matter) a good alternative to general factory farm raised chicken, if I can’t find locally raised chicken to eat? At the very least I will know it’s more humane.

    And thirdly, from my experience I can add to the commentary on people who don’t want their meat to look like it came from animals. Urban and suburban people in this country have developed extremely bizzare ideas and emotional relationships to animals. I’ll agree with the comments above about the bizarre inability to eat or kill an animal that is “cute”… I spent one year in college, as a bio major, as a zookeeper intern. In the aquarium. Our aquarium happened to be in the same building as the big cats (leopards, panthers, pumas, etc – all but the lions) and the primates. The same zoo patrons who would ask me, whenever I came “out front” to check on a tank, if I were feeding the sharks soon – practically salivating with bloodlust to watch the feeding frenzy – would call the zoo to complain if one scrap of fur or entrail was visible in the cats’ habitats from it’s meal of a rabbit it had eaten that morning. The rabbit, by the way, was a frozen bunny that was thawed before feeding. The cats never got live prey.

    I did not then and do not now understand how these people could be such bleeding hearts “oh the horror” over the poor (frozen, HI already dead) rabbit yet feel nothing for the cat itself. The zookeepers had to feed the cats at very inappropriate times so that there was time for the cat to eat, be moved, and then clean the enclosure of “leftovers” before the zoo opened to the public so no whiny patrons would get upset. Bad for the cats and bad for the keepers. God forbid we give them live prey – something they would enjoy immensely and which would give them a chance to exhibit natural behaviors and get some physical and mental exercise. Zoo animals do things like pace, chew on inedible objects, and practice self mutilation and eat their own feces out of boredom. Yet give them something to do (like tear up a rabbit carcass and stow away some choice bits for later) and the public screams bloody murder.

    And then the same public would very much like to know if I am maybe going to feed the pirhanas now. Please? give them a live goldfish? Because that would be awesome!

    I do not understand people. At all.

    Comment by Kate#2 — March 3, 2007 #

  76. This is exactly why I raise my own food. I keep chickens, rabbits, and a dairy goat (due to kid any moment now, hoping for twins!) because I felt that if I couldn’t take responsibility for my meat, I didn’t deserve to eat it.
    I still eat out, but at least I appreciate what went into my dinner. In the next few years I hope to be able to take all my family’s home-cooked meat from birth to plate. Well, except for saltwater seafood…don’t think I can manage that. 😉 I did read something about freshwater prawn raising though…..

    Comment by Maven — April 12, 2007 #

  77. […] What am I to make of the American way, then, of meat eating? Lately I’ve been reading about a strange phenomenon where people will happily eat meat as long as nothing about it reminds them that the meat actually came from an animal. They eat things that have had all bones, skin and funky innards carefully trimmed away, or have been transformed into sausage or hamburger. They don’t want any reminders that the steak or hamburger or whatever was once a living being that was up and walking around. They don’t want to think about blood, butchery, and guts. There are children who are convinced that milk comes from…a box. Or the store. Certainly not any kind of animal. This is not an attitude I think much of. I could rant about it here, but Barbara Fisher over at Tigers and Strawberries did it a lot better. […]

    Pingback by The Meat of the Matter @ — April 27, 2007 #

  78. animal rights activists aren’t all wrong. the way animals for meat are treated and handled on most mass market farms requires attention. conditions ranging from unsanitary (absolutely disgusting) to cruel are a harsh reality.

    but there’s free-range, local, vegetarian fed, kinder alternatives and that’s a good thing.

    i’ll cut up anything without a face/fur. not quite there yet. but i won’t eat anything bigger than a chicken. i’ll cook anything for my family, though.

    Comment by jasi — December 18, 2007 #

  79. Jasi–I cannot abide what goes on in CAFO’s–the technical term for industrial meat farming is confined animal feeding operations. Not only are these places pits of despair for the animals, they wreak havoc on the environment, poisoning the water and air, but they are also unsafe for human workers, AND produce meat that is not safe, either.

    They are all around bad as far as I am concerned, which is why I don’t support them. All of the meat we eat at home comes from local, organic, free-range producers who give a damned about their animals–they love them and care for them the way I was taught to by my grandparents.

    I do understand not eating meat, though, and I applaud you for your decision not to do so. If you cannot–then you shouldn’t.

    Comment by Barbara — December 18, 2007 #

  80. Wonderful! Everything rocks when all of you are around!

    Comment by Jenna Al-Jaff — April 21, 2008 #

  81. Hi I am Roxas and I think its curl to eat indangered animals like bears and whales and tiger and snow tigers and lions and jagars and much more and rhinos and more so lets do whats best and eat cows and sheep and chickens and more undangered animals but not horses they help us years ago and thats before people made global warming so this is why I love animals and wild animals so all theses animals i have named that come form the wild are being use as animents and carpet no they deseve better then that they need to be more of wild animals like lions rhinos tigers and snow tigers and bears and cheetahs and jagars and giraffes and meakats and sun bears whales sting rays and clawn fish and prawns and eels and sea snakes and jellie fish thank you for lisening to me today.

    Comment by Roxas — June 18, 2008 #

  82. […] Tigers & Strawberries » Meat Comes from Animals: Deal with It, or Eat Vegetables – view page – cached A week or so ago, I posted a comment on my blog entry entitled “Alice Waters Goes to Washington,” where I noted that people who whine that they “can’t eat meat that looks like it came from an animal” were a hot button for me. Tweets about this link […]

    Pingback by Twitter Trackbacks for Tigers & Strawberries » Meat Comes from Animals: Deal with It, or Eat Vegetables [] on — July 15, 2010 #

  83. Do farmers ever become emotionally attached to their livestock and feel remorse when they are eaten?…

    This essay is a great perspective from someone who grew up on a farm. I think farmers can care about their livestock consistently with the understanding that their animals are destined to become meat.

    Trackback by Quora — December 28, 2010 #

  84. […] Tigers & Strawberries » Meat Comes from Animals: Deal with It, orA week or so ago, I posted a comment on my blog entry entitled “Alice Waters Goes to Washington,” where I noted that people who whine that they “can’t eat meat that looks like it came from an animal” were a hot … It is an issue for many reasons, … So, if you don’t -need- to eat meat for its nutritive value, […]

    Pingback by Plating strawberries | FatCityJamband — March 23, 2011 #

  85. I am happy I ran across your site on google. Thanks for the sensible critique. My wife and i had been just getting ready to do some research relating to this. I’m thrilled to see these kinds of great information being shared freely out there.

    Comment by Andrew — September 20, 2011 #

  86. Remarkable things here. I am very glad to look your post. Thanks so much and I’m taking a look ahead to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

    Comment by london backpacking, backpacking london, backpacker london, london backpacker, backpackers london, london backpackers — April 16, 2012 #

  87. […] to ignore this fact. Oftentimes these are the same folks who don’t wish to be reminded that meat comes with a face attached to it.And yes, at times, food is a vulgar business. Fungus, molds and decomposition are used in various […]

    Pingback by Vulgarity and Ambrosia | Accidental Hedonist — May 8, 2012 #

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