Blog Archives

Field Notes: Meat on the Table

The on-going debate about our food has the consumer struggling to make decisions about what to eat. It’s a challenge as the Big Food industry is cheaper and during these tough economic times where every penny counts, it’s hard to pay for more expensive food. It’s true in my household, the downside to all of that, which is where I personally struggle, is how it affects health. Not just in me alone, but more in a we as a society. We may be paying for cheaper food, but we are paying more for health care, medications and the like. That’s not a red or blue issue, that’s just what it is. Either way we are paying more for cheap food.

This battle against the giant is on-going and it’s all over the news, but I think many choose not to look at it, instead we find ourselves buying the crap food at the grocery store because it’s what we can afford. I feel guilty when I buy that pork shoulder for $2/lb, but that $8 shoulder can yield at least 3 meals for my family. I know that damn pig is hopped up on drugs, yet I find myself in a paradox of what I can do. I struggle.

This week’s field notes is about food and mostly meat. These are the stories that I found interesting to this topic.

Big Food fighting GMO labeling
http://grist.org/food/big-food-puts-its-back-into-fighting-gmo-labeling-in-california/

Antibiotics In Meat
http://www.motherearthnews.com/sustainable-farming/antibiotics-in-meat-zwfz1207zhun.aspx

All you need to know to eat good, grass-fed meat
http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/grass-fed-meat-zm0z12jjzkon.aspx

New Cuts of Meat Slash Prices, too
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/foodwine/2018724361_groc26cheapcuts.html

Venison vs Beef
http://www.livestrong.com/article/326549-nutritional-values-of-venison-vs-beef/

Field Notes

There’s been  a lot of reporting in the news lately about our food in both in not-so-good light and in some promising rays . Over the course of the last week I’ve selected a few to pass along and share with the great collective. This is going to be a new catergory I plan to incorporate called Field Notes, where I can pass along what I believe are useful links and/or news stories to share for the common good. It could be monthly or it could be weekly, so come on back and check in on the Waxing Mind.

The meat industry and the concerns around their ‘farming’ practices are once again a topic of an NPR story. Again, it’s all around us and yet we continue, myself included, to bury our heads and then unwrap that cellophane wrapped cut from our grocery store and we still eat it. I’m making progress in moving forward with hunting and fishing my own meat, but it takes time, so my immediate issue is how to fend for it in the mean time.
Assessing Consumer concerns about the Meat Industry

The mere fact that this is even a story and this is even going on, just is so sad. That these PA minimum wage workers use the past dated food to feed their family. There is no need for a food shortage anymore.
School Cafeteria Workers

My wife and I just hit up our farmer’s market this past weekend and it was the second market this season. While we were there we picked up some kale, not really knowing what to do with it, but we also know that its a superfood packed with nutrients. In the past we’ve just sauted it with olive oil and garlic, but I wanted to try something different and then I saw this tweet. Love it when life works out that way. Now I just need to decided which way to try it.
10 ways to Prepare Kale

Even in the face of bad farming practices that are not sustainable or even that healthy. I remain optimistic about the future of farming, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has been doing work to promote progress in the food industry and currently there is the possibility for some changes that US senate is debating right now in  congress for our Farm Bill, for some additional info check out:
Food Revolution

If you are up for the change, and like me, want to support your local small farmer then I’d encourage you to take action here:
Food Farm Bill

The Mindful Carnivore Review

“Hunting brings us into close contact with land and animals. Approached with humility, such contact can help us recall our place in the natural world, reminding us to celebrate all those lives intertwined with ours. Approached with arrogance, it only alienates us further.”

The mere act of eating flesh can be a difficult choice for many. The decision is rife with emotions and rationalizations and any individual who puts any thought into their food chain and ultimately its source is forced to deal with the conflict. Author, Tovar Cerulli, shares his personal experience how he chose to tackle this dilemma head on in his newly released book The Mindful Carnivore. As a devout vegan for a decade he now finds himself stalking the woods in search of his own grass fed organic meat for his family’s dinner table.

Tovar’s tone through the entire book does not come across as preachy doctrine. To me it feels as though we are sitting by a campfire, maybe sharing in a whiskey having a  conversation about what it means to hunt and fish. He shares his personal journey with his trials and tribulations and how he reached such a decision to take up hunting while accepting the consequences associated with those decisions.

“If my existence was going to take a toll on other beings, I would rather exact that toll consciously, respectful, swiftly — and for the specific purpose of eating. I could make a deeper peace with intentional harm, with the kill I had prepared for and chosen.”

After finishing this book I was surprised as I thought it would help me to answer some of my own questions as I reflect on my omnivorous behavior. The reality is that hunting is complicated and his prose presents his own personal reflections which actually opens up further questions for myself. As I look toward the future and I take up bow hunting as what Tovar describes as ‘Adult Onset’ I wonder what my reaction will be in the field as I take the life of another living animal in the name of food. I’ve learned after reading The Mindful Carnivore that intention in the woods must be clear and to respect both the animal and your shot. Never falter on your skills and ability and be completely honest with yourself as to where your draw those lines.

For more information, please visit Tovar Cerulli’s blog: www.tovarcerulli.com

Ethics of Eating Meat

Recently the New York Times posted an essay contest that revolved around the ethics of eating meat. According to their website:

 

Ethically speaking, vegetables get all the glory. In recent years, vegetarians — and to an even greater degree vegans, their hard-core inner circle — have dominated the discussion about the ethics of eating. From the philosopher Peter Singer, whose 1975 volume “Animal Liberation” galvanized an international movement, to the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote the 2009 best seller “Eating Animals,” those who forswear meat have made the case that what we eat is a crucial ethical decision. To be just, they say, we must put down our cheeseburgers and join their ranks.

In response, those who love meat have had surprisingly little to say. They say, of course, that, well, they love meat or that meat is deeply ingrained in our habit or culture or cuisine or that it’s nutritious or that it’s just part of the natural order. Some of the more conscientious carnivores have devoted themselves to enhancing the lives of livestock, by improving what those animals eat, how they live and how they are killed. But few have tried to answer the fundamental ethical issue: Whether it is right to eat animals in the first place, at least when human survival is not at stake.

So today we announce a nationwide contest for the omnivorous readers of The New York Times. We invite you to make the strongest possible case for this most basic of daily practices.

 

I wanted to share, now that I’ve submitted, my essay and thoughts on the ethics of eating meat:

The ecology of the animal environment is cyclical in nature. A predator versus prey relationship exists in our world whether humans participate or not. Humans are animals just with a higher level of reasoning. Regardless of the human’s ability for higher-level cognition or emotions, we all must eat and some choose to eat meat. Further complicating the decision homo sapiens make about food is that they battle a physiological conundrum of being omnivores.

 

Meat, not only as a source of food, but also the process for which it becomes food, has been demonized. Eating meat is not wrong and the delicate ecosystem of meat as food needs to be nurtured just as mindfully as how small family farm produce is grown. The ethos of how and why we choose to eat meat, in my mind, hinges on responsibility. Ethically speaking, it is not wrong for us, as a species to eat meat, just as it is not wrong for any other animal in the animal kingdom to choose to do so.

 

The death of animals in the great American Foodscape is inevitable in the practice of our current food production model, even for vegetables. As field mice get ground up in a combine, or an organic farmer kills a deer for eating his/her produce — it’s just a fact of farming that animals die. If Americans would understand and realize the true cost of their meal then it’s plausible that a moral high ground could be achieved on how meat is tended to in the animal’s life and how the animal is slaughtered. Additionally, if there is consciousness put into the process of raising those animals that will eventually become food, then their death becomes just as important as their life. Better yet, if just once in a person’s life they had to actually go out into the woods and hunt their own food, the resulting understanding for how an animal becomes meat would establish a karmic value for that meal and the ceremony around the dinner table would reflect that gift and sacrifice of food.

 

The battle of eating meat and the ethics that surround it are solely based on the fact that we as a species of animals have the mental aptitude to decipher right from wrong. There are many reasons why one chooses to eat meat, but whatever those decisions are it shouldn’t mean the omnivores are wrong. All living beings die, either by the grace of nature or by the hands of a predator, so grab a fork and a steak knife and dig in.

My Quest for Meat

The long downward demise of our food system is not only a disgrace, but also rather alarming. Catastrophic decisions have been made in how our nation farms both for produce and meat. The nutritional value of produce has dramatically decreased over the years due to pesticide usage. Produce and meat recalls no longer shock society and are becoming more and more normal. Hormone’s, such as RBsT, are changing how our children develop and obesity/diabetes among Americans is now reaching critical levels. None of this should be new news, I believe we are all ‘aware’ of it. Authors such as Upton Sinclair, Rachel Carson, Steven Rinella, Hank Shaw, Tovar Cerulli, Novella Carpenter and Michael Pollan have lamented on this subject over the years. The question I ask myself, is how can I affect change in my life and with my family to eat healthier and more sustainably — not just organic?

 

My thoughts on this subject have been caught in a mental wave pool since 2005. These thoughts are always near the forefront of my mind but they fluctuate back and forth and there really is no escape or outlet. The more I contemplate the status quo the greater I find a massive internal paradigm shift. I want to be mindful about what I put into my body and how I care for my body so that I can live a long healthy life with those that I love.

 

In this light, I am choosing to start bow hunting. There are numerous reasons that I’ve arrived at this decision. Those mentioned previously, but more specifically I want to be completely honest with myself as to where my meat comes from. Wild game is truly free range, and grass fed lean meat. Can I look the animal in the eyes, take his life, and then later serve him on my dinner table? I will choose which animal to harvest, and I will be responsible for placing my kill shot as merciful as possible. This is a great responsibility that I will take seriously. In bow hunting the great challenge is achieving close proximity to your target. Typically bow range is less than 50 yards requiring great skill and patience, therefore in my mind leveling the playing field. It is not the ‘thrill of the kill’ that I look forward too, if it was all about the ‘thrill of the kill’ then I probably would have a job at a slaughterhouse where I could fulfill that thrill. People may wonder how can you kill a defenseless animal? They are not defenseless, the environment of the wild and laws of nature are based on a lifecycle of predator vs prey. Comments regarding how hunting is bad seem like an oxymoron — especially if said from those who choose to get their meat from a supermarket. Those animals are defenseless; they live in jam-packed fenced pens and are force fed grains with growth hormones so they can get fat and ready for slaughter. Ultimately, the large agra-business model, puts value on getting to market as fast as possible and less on quality. Equality in the wild does not exist, as man is only king of the food chain in the supermarket.

 

Hunting provides an opportunity for humans to face mortality and realize that death is not an abstraction, but rather a condition of living. Urban life has separated us from wild places, numbed our senses to death and further distancing our understanding of food sources. Therefore, our emotional awareness and our own actions of sourcing food have been anesthetized even though the end product still supports death. The cognitive disconnect between cellophane wrapped choices at the butcher counter and the process it took for that meat to arrive to that counter should be a considered by anyone who choose to eat meat. I am choosing to have a visceral participation in the wild, not just as a tourist, but as a way to provide food for my family.

 

In this day and age, our food cost will only continue to rise. The current large agricultural model is based on food miles and with the skyrocketing price of oil it is just a given that we will be paying more for the continued decline of quality food down the road. I’m looking to try and break free from the current model and institute a sense of independence. As a man who was raised in a non-hunting household, I have not taken this decision lightly. It’s been almost 2 years of investigating, thinking and processing emotions on the ideology of hunting that I’ve come to this. I say all of this as I’m not necessarily looking for approval, maybe a bit of understanding, but more importantly I deeply believe that we should all examine and question our sources of food both individually and collectively and make thoughtful decisions on how we choose to fuel our lives and our families.