Thursday, July 22, 2010

To Meat, or Not to Meat, that is the question

Newsflash: I am not a vegetarian. However I am a Jonathan Safran Foer fanatic, and as such, I want to read everything that he writes. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is my favorite book of all time. So, I was somewhat sad to learn in 2009 that JSF's next book would not be another amazing novel, but instead would be a book about the animals that we consume, called Eating Animals. This book came out in November of 2009, and the fact that it took me until July of 2010 to read it is a testament to my reluctance. The fact that I read it at all is a testament to my devotion to JSF.

A few months back, Jonathan was on the Ellen show, and I wanted to see him, but forgot to set the DVR. Then I learned that one of my neighbors would also be on the same show, so I figured out how to set the DVR remotely from my office [insert pat on the back here]. It still never occurred to me that my neighbor would be on the show BECAUSE of Jonathan, but in fact she was. She talked about how he had changed her life and made her more healthy. Here is a link to Jonathan's part of the show - neighbor omitted. Jonathan said a couple of things on the show that stuck with me. The first is that just because he may sometimes fly in airplanes, that does not mean that he's going to stop doing things to help our environment. The analogy being the vegetarian who one day eats a piece of bacon, and then goes back on the meat wagon because they gave up. That made sense. The other was that if we each refrained from eating meat for one meal a week, it would make the same difference environmentally as if we took 5,000,000 cars off the road. I was not ready to give up meat, but I could trick my family into eating a meat free meal one night a week easily. That I would do.

After reading the book, I will always think of food differently. Until now, I had thought that it's better to eat chicken than red meat. Wrong. It may be less fatty, but the chickens are treated much worse than the steer. I also refused to eat veal, because I didn't want to eat a baby animal. Little did I know that just about every piece of meat that I buy in the grocery store is from an animal that is less than a year old. I am still not ready to give up meat, but I am ready to pay more for it. By buying the chicken at $1.99 a pound, I am rewarding the factory farmer for saving money. If, instead I buy "organic" I may be doing something better. If I manage to actively seek out chicken that was allowed to walk around freely outside (note that "cage free" does not mean that), I will have to pay a fortune, but it may be worth it.

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver a couple of years ago, and was shocked by what I learned there. Jonathan reiterated some of Barbara's claims which I thought must have been exaggerated at the time. Barbara spends at least a full chapter talking about teaching her turkeys to mate, since the entire species had lost its breeding instinct. She then also had to teach the mothers to care for their eggs, since they had no idea what that egg was or how it got there. Shocking but true, almost 100% of turkeys are artificially inseminated. There's a turkey farm not too far from me, where I have seen the turkeys walk. I don't know if they know about mating, but if they can walk, they are better off than most. I think I will call now to order for Thanksgiving. If Eating Animals is as popular in your area as it is in mine (some of my great delay in reading the book was actually due to the number of holds placed on it at my library), turkeys who get outside will be much in demand this year.

Next Up: Edgar Sawtelle, which I am reading for my book group. I am also dreading this one . . .

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