Happy Meat (Day 41)…


I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with vegetarianism since university, mostly aligning myself with the Peter Singer school of thought. I usually cave when there’s a bottle of beer in my hand and chicken wings on the table, or a glass of shiraz in my hand and filet mignon on the menu, but that’s pretty much it. I haven’t had pork in over a decade — watching the trucks full of innocent piglets turn into the abattoir on my way to work every morning (yes, for some reason there’s a slaughterhouse in downtown Toronto) makes me cry inside, plus I’ve always maintained that pig tastes like human … I know, I know, I’ve never tasted human, but just consider this next time you sink your teeth into a pork chop or ham sandwich and you will totally know what I mean.

But while I don’t want animals to suffer, I do believe in small-scale, family-operated farms with cows grazing in the fields and chickens running around spacious coops; animals who are slaughtered quickly and humanely without being transported long distances and made to walk up ramps with the smell of death everywhere. I think it’s natural to eat eggs and dairy too, as long as it’s hormone-free and not genetically modified.

My family has always tried, whenever possible, to get what we affectionately call “happy meat” — that being of the free-range, preferably organic and local variety (actually, there’s a farmer across the pond who calls it this, too). My parents have a great relationship with the cute boys down the street at Oliffe, and I always try to stop by The Healthy Butcher or Cumbrae’s. But I don’t even eat very much meat to begin with (probably only once every week, tops) because I understand its toll on the environment, from the methane to the land required for not only the animals but their feed — on a side note: there’s a fantastic documentary coming out soon called King Corn, which will make the most die-hard Big Mac addict swear off corn-fed beef for good.

So to make a long story short (too late): I’m officially restricting myself to free-range, hormone-free and, when it comes to the cows, grass-fed meat. I’ll also make an extra effort to see that it’s local. In terms of fish, I’ll ensure it’s not farmed and not endangered, but that’s about it for now. And no exceptions to any of the above for restaurants.

Most Disturbing Photo Ever from tombland at Flickr

19 Responses to Happy Meat (Day 41)…

  1. Mrs. Pivec says:

    Glad to hear your making that commitment. It’s one I wish all meat-eaters should and wish they WOULD make.

    As a veg though, I have to say, I think the picture is kind of gross. 🙂 No offense intended… just… eeewwwww.

  2. AH says:

    That picture is very FREAKY, and I’m a “meat-eater” though I rarely cook up meat at home.

    I found your blog via No Impact Man because I heard him talking on NPR today and just finished reading all your previous days. Pretty cool. You’re lucky to live in Canada and Toronto which seems to be pretty green and I’m sure helps your project. I’ll be trying to adapt some of the things you’ve written about.

    I wanted to suggest a couple things too. Consider switching to Lunapads and the Diva Cup for your monthly “stuff.” I’ve heard women nothing but rave about them and they are both insanely environmental. I mean think about the stuff one woman would flush or throw away just over one week a month. It’s astounding. Not only is it environmentally friendly but saves you money. A box of tampons in the U.S. is like $3.50 on sale, so the Diva cup pays for its self in a year. Plus you won’t be putting super bleached chemical-ed stuff up there anymore.

    I can’t say I’ve used these products for my period, but I use Lunapads as an everyday thing and they’re not a pain at all. You could even sew your own if you were up for it.

    And they’re Canadian! http://www.lunapads.com

  3. Alina says:

    I always thought the smiley hams were really creepy… Is that how cheap stuff is in Canada?? If you guys had the prices we have here in the Netherlands, everybody would eat a LOT less meat… I think that kind of creepy smileys are around 10 euros a kilo over here…

  4. Alina says:

    Ooops… never mind… I just noticed the picture is taken in the UK…

  5. David says:

    Hey Vanessa, way to be!

    Eating as you have been for so long is a major contribution for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. Sort of overshadows your latest greenings. Think about it: how does changing lightbulbs compare to the dietary choices/lifestyle you’ve maintained for so long? People whine about the simplest changes, yet diet is probably the most significant (when you factor in all the costs of production, transportation, retail – think of all the refrigerated, and lit, display cases).

    Anyway, good for you. You have much to be proud of … and we, to be thankful for.

  6. river2sea72 says:

    Just a suggestion for more informed seafood coices: Seafood Watch provides printable guides to regional seafood (well, in the U.S. anyway, I’m not sure if there is a Canadian equivalent).

    An interesting statistic I heard is that going veg*an saves 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year while switching to a Prius saves only 1 ton per year (original study here: Earth Interactions – Diet, Energy and Global Warming. I’ve been a vegan for 16 years. That’s a lot of carbon saved!

  7. gettinggreen says:

    Thanks David — you’re right, this will definitely be more significant than my four CFL lightbulbs, and I’m sure it’ll be a little more challenging too, at least when I’m out at restaurants. And I never even considered all the refrigeration needed just to display the meat in stores, good point.
    And thanks river2sea for the Seafood Watch link — I’m less informed about fish standards than meat standards, but considering I eat it at least once a week I should really be looking into the fishies more. Obviously I don’t indulge in Chilean seabass, but I’m a sucker for seared tuna!

  8. Rhett says:

    Excellent post. We, too, have made the commitment to having meat only once a week. I really feel like it’s probably more in line with what family farming can reliably offer, anyway. My father has friends who grew up poor in rural New York who got one piece of chicken on Sunday, and that was it for meat. One note about farmed fish– not all of it is a bad choice. In fact, herbivorous fish, especially farmed in the US where inland farming is so common for herbivorous freshwater fish, is spoken very highly of in chapter 9 of Plan B 2.0 by the Earth Policy Institute. Herbivorous fish, especially catfish and tilapia, are grain efficient to the point of raising doubts about whether tofu is actually more land efficient than catfish. Farmers generally feed these kinds of fish a feed similar to what cows or chickens get (grain and soy mixed) if they’re not feeding them duckweed or plant wastes (like ground corn stalks), and inland farming prevents escapes.

    Farmed shellfish like shrimp are generally a bad idea, and farmed salmon is a nightmare. Salmon are fed mackerel or anchovy meal quite often, so developing a bit of a Mediterranean palette cheapens the grocery bill and is lower on the food chain.

    At some point after we cover gardening in more depth, I definitely want to explore at-home fish farming, since I believe anyone with a balcony and a power outlet can do it and do it sustainably.

  9. ian f. says:

    Very important topic Vanessa. I just thought it worth adding that the best and most reliable “happy meat” in my humble opinion is wild game such as venison, rather than farmed animals. Assuming that it has been legally caught of course (which I would imagine most good butcher shops or restaurants would comply with), you can rest assured that the animal would have eaten healthy, natural food in a natural, free-range environment for all its life. Better than any farmed animal.

    So if one can only get over the shock of eating “Bambi and chips”, its actually very healthy.

  10. JKelly says:

    I ate an ox in Germany on my birthday.. Wait, is that game? It was de-licious.

  11. Lori V. says:

    Boy, Vanessa, that photo is enough to turn the hardest die-dard meat eaters herbivorous! LOL!

    After reading at my site, you know I had this whole dilemma already. Luckily, as I think I mentioned there, I found a local all-natural farm from which to buy our meat (and they refuse to sell venison! Another positive in their favor!). I have to say, all-natural pork tastes completely different that factory-farmed pork; it was really odd (the realization, not the taste). And the all-natural bacon? Holy smokehouses, that is some good stuff! I have to be very careful not to become a “porker” from it! LOL!

  12. J.R. says:

    Other terms: freegan, opportunitarian. (i.e. first para.)
    Another concept: meat reductionist.

  13. […] is what Vanessa at Greenasathistle calls sustainably grown and butchered meat as promoted by the Meatrix people at the Sustainable […]

  14. […] Weird, scary meat faces from tombland via Green As A Thistle […]

  15. Louie Gedo says:

    Hi all,

    In truth, there’s nothing humane about “happy”, “free range”, “organic”, “natural” or any of the other misused (and often euphemistic) terms like these. For starters, here’s why: http://www.Humanemyth.org and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7Gbq3lkKwY

    Since there’s no biological requirement for animal flesh in the human body, carnism, or the eating of animal flesh as an indulgence, is a serious and unambiguous moral question for those reading this and not merely a preferential choice as in which color shirt to wear today.

    Please consider this with objective honesty to yourself.

    Thank you.

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