9.20.2008

update: going somewhat locavore

I've blogged about my decision to convert our home eating to locally-produced, non-factory-farmed meat, but I haven't updated you in a while. This was brought on by my reading about industrially-raised meat, both the cruelty it inflicts on animals, and the extreme environmental damage it causes.

I didn't undertake this as one step towards changing our entire eating habits. We do buy local products whenever they're available - I'll always choose local over the same food from longer distances - but I'm not trying to become a complete locavore. Nor do I intend to go back to being a vegetarian. I've tried it and it's not for me, and I don't feel it's a necessary part of ethical living.

I undertook this change for its own sake, as an end unto itself. Some background is here, here, here and here, in reverse order.

We started out buying locally-raised, organic meat from Beretta Organics at a few stores in Port Credit, walking distance from our old place, but now an extra trip. That was a start, but not really sustainable.

Then I tried placing an order with Beretta for home delivery. This gives you the advantage of choosing from their entire selection, not just what the store happens to have in that day. You're buying it without a mark-up, which in this case is important (more on that in a minute). They tell you what day they're in your neighbourhood and ask you to place the order a couple of days prior. We tried it, and it worked well enough that we bought our second order last week.

The biggest down-side to this is price. Their products are between three and four times as expensive as supermarket-bought meat. Our financial situation isn't great right now - ever since the first law firm I worked for closed, my income has never completely recovered - and it's a much bigger chunk of our budget.

But I've learned that the meat I had been buying was priced artificially low. The true cost was hidden from me. I understand that in order to eat more ethically and feel better about my choices, I need to spend a lot more on food. And I'm fortunate that I'm able to do it. It's been an interesting lesson: "I can't afford it" often means "I don't choose to spend my money that way".

I also see this choice as consistent with my other spending habits. I'll buy one pair of well-made, classic shoes that will last for years, rather than five pairs of cheap shoes that will last one season. In some sense this is a similar idea.

The high price of organically-raised meat has led us to eat beef less often, which is a good thing, both environmentally and personally. Although I don't think beef is unhealthy, we were eating it a bit too often, seduced by our backyard grill. The high prices have also caused me to curb our eating-out spending more than I used to.

There are some other, minor down-sides, which are really only differences. Placing an order large enough for delivery means having a freezer full of meat, which means more advanced planning for meals, a re-tooling of habits. New habits take a while to adjust to, and there are inevitably glitches to iron out.

The positives easily outweigh the negatives.

The meat itself is so delicious. It comes vacuum-sealed, so it doesn't have any post-frozen taste. The chicken is tender and juicy, and has such a "chicken-y" taste. I now realize that the factory-farmed chicken I had been eating is nearly tasteless. Same for the beef and lamb - it's so rich and flavourful. And it's not always the same. That's the point: only a factory can produce a uniform end-product.

I've heard people say grass-fed or organically raised beef tastes bad, even disgusting. I would say it tastes different. Most omnivores are accustomed to eating beef that has had all the flavour leached out. This beef tastes like beef. If you are old enough to remember when eating meat was a big treat, when the "steak dinner" was reserved for family celebrations, this beef tastes like the steak you ate back then, before the corn industry took over the food supply and cows were forced to stand in feed lots and eat corn. If you've never tasted meat that comes from properly raised animals, it might take some getting used to.

Most importantly, my conscience has been freed. I feel really good about removing us from a horribly inhumane, destructive system.

Thanks to Michael Pollan for educating me about this, and Ferdzy for her advice and support in comments.

19 comments:

ljacob said...

Great article about eating locally grown food. I'm a part of a CSA group in the Poconos and the food is great. It is pricey, but the quality is much better than store bought. Knowing where your food comes from is something we will appreciate as the "tainting" of food continues in the future. I think we must have seen the same DVD about the meat industry. I can't buy factory farmed meat or poultry ever again after seeing that video. The environmental damage is incredible. It's good to know that we think alike about our food choices.

Linda
East Stroudsburg, PA

L-girl said...

Hi Linda! I didn't see a DVD, but I've been reading about it through Michael Pollan's columns for a long time. Very cool that you belong to a CSA in the Poconos! Even after all these years, we are thinking alike.

Christopher Jones said...

There is no way to be completely ethical and eat meat. At the end of the day you are eating another creature to satisfy your taste buds.

L-girl said...

There is no way to be completely ethical and eat meat. At the end of the day you are eating another creature to satisfy your taste buds.

I disagree. At the end of the day, I am being human. Animals eat other animals, and humans are ominvores.

Since you stopped by just to judge me, you may not realized that I've requested several times that people not lecture me about the ethics of vegetarian vs omnivorous eating.

I've made a conscious decision to eat meat. It wasn't made out of laziness or habit or because of my taste buds. You don't need to respect it, but you don't need to post your judgements on this blog, either. Thanks.

L-girl said...

There is no way to be completely ethical and eat meat.

There's no way to be completely ethical, period. All our ethical choices are weighed and measured against other choices, and we pick the "least worst" of what's available.

Soybean farming, for example, is very environmentally damaging. There are ethical choices involved even in eating tofu.

Christopher Jones said...

"I disagree. At the end of the day, I am being human. Animals eat other animals, and humans are ominvores."

A lot of animals are vegetarians as well.

"Since you stopped by just to judge me, you may not realized that I've requested several times that people not lecture me about the ethics of vegetarian vs omnivorous eating."

I didn't stop by to judge you. I read your blog semi-regularly although this is the first time I noticed an entry on diet. You seem to have no problem lecturing others however. You also sound very defensive. Clearly you know you are in the wrong about this.


"I've made a conscious decision to eat meat. It wasn't made out of laziness or habit or because of my taste buds. You don't need to respect it, but you don't need to post your judgements on this blog, either. Thanks."

Oh? Then what, pray tell, was it made out of?

I leave you with a quote:

"When a man's love of finery clouds his moral judgment, that is vanity. When he lets a demanding palate make his moral choices, that is gluttony. When he ascribes the divine will to his own whims, that is pride. And when he gets angry at being reminded of animal suffering that his own daily choices might help avoid, that is moral cowardice."

-Matthew Scully, Dominion.

Christopher Jones said...

"There's no way to be completely ethical, period. All our ethical choices are weighed and measured against other choices, and we pick the "least worst" of what's available.

Soybean farming, for example, is very environmentally damaging. There are ethical choices involved even in eating tofu"

Well, then pick the least worst then. The least worst is vegetarianism.

James said...

You seem to have no problem lecturing others however.

Just a small point: "Here's the ethical decision I've made" isn't lecturing people; "You cannot be ethical unless you make this decision" is.

L-girl said...

A lot of animals are vegetarians as well.

True. Some are. Some are not. Humans are omnivores.

I read your blog semi-regularly although this is the first time I noticed an entry on diet.

Click on the category "food issues", you will find several.

You seem to have no problem lecturing others however. You also sound very defensive. Clearly you know you are in the wrong about this.

If I sound defensive to you, you are misreading me. I am very comfortable with my decision. I do not believe there is a right or wrong way to eat.

I see no lectures in this post. If you do, that's your prerogative. But I don't care to discuss this further with you, as I find it pointless.

I've tried a vegetarian diet, it doesn't work for me, and I went back to what does.

Make your choices, live your life, and I'll do the same. Thanks.

L-girl said...

Oh? Then what, pray tell, was it made out of?

Your "pray tell" sarcasm is not welcome here.

I've written extensively about my choice to eat meat again. If you are interested, you can read more on this blog, under food issues. If you're only interested in parading your moral superiority, then please just go away. Thanks again.

L-girl said...

Just a small point: "Here's the ethical decision I've made" isn't lecturing people; "You cannot be ethical unless you make this decision" is.

Indeed.

Thanks for making that point for me, James. (And also for rescuing my lost comment!)

redsock said...

Christopher: With L out for the evening, your most recent comment will remain in moderation until she returns.

If it was my decision, I'd delete it -- you have obviously refused to read any of L's previous posts on the issue, as suggested, and are simply repeating yourself -- but I'll let her decide.

L: I've written extensively about my choice to eat meat again. If you are interested, you can read more on this blog, under food issues.

For some reason, you have refused to do this. I say it's because you're a troll. You signed up on blogger only this month and have a mere 2 profile views. One was me and I'll bet the other one was L.

If you had read up on the matter, you would not be feigning confusion and asking the questions you are asking. L has answered all of them, some of them several times, over the last few years.

I didn't stop by to judge you. ... You seem to have no problem lecturing others however. You also sound very defensive. Clearly you know you are in the wrong about this.

Your first sentence contradicts your last sentence.

I read your blog semi-regularly although this is the first time I noticed an entry on diet.

In my opinion, one of your two statements is a lie. But if, by some odd coincedence, you have been a semi-regular reader and still managed to miss every single one of her 21 "food issues" posts, click here.

redsock said...

... still managed to miss every single one of her 21 "food issues" posts, click here.

Not to mention the many times it's also come up in comments. ... Nice try, mags!

L-girl said...

Christopher:

My reasons for choosing to eat meat are spelled out in detail on this blog.

You reject my honest answers. You say that I should not "give you the same tired answers" - which in fact are my honest reasons - and insist that I "come clean" and give the reasons you claim that I eat meat.

It is incredibly presumptuous and arrogant for you to assume you know what is in my mind. It is also offensive for you to call me a liar. That's essentially what you're doing by saying my stated reasons are not, in fact, my real reasons.

I have no interest in justifying my life decisions to a complete stranger who is being rude, arrogant, presumptuous, lecturing and offensive.

I'm writing this in response to your comments which I rejected from moderation. It is the end of the discussion.

redsock said...

Now that a couple of CJ's posts have been deleted, he will most likely try to post a rant about how Laura is not allowing dissenting opinions on wmtc and how she is a free-speech hater who is afraid to have people disagree with her?

It's the troll's "next step" after being banned. They are all alike. It's like they are following a manual.

redsock said...

And in case you are wondering what the step after that is, it's:

"Well, who cares? No one reads your stupid blog anyway!"

L-girl said...

I wonder if "Christopher" is a regular reader who wants to tell me off for meat-eating under cover of a different name? I can think of one or two people who might do this. Ah, well.

Anann said...

Hi, there. :) I've been following your blog for a bit, and I really had to comment on this, in spite of my better judgement telling me to let sleeping dogs lie. ;)

I totally agree with you about the meat issue. I get bombarded with the same stuff all the time.

Some people do well as vegetarians. Some do not. I am not a person who does well as a vegetarian, and am not OK with anyone getting sanctimonious on me. You handled yourself well, and I totally agree with your position.

As long as the meat is ethically farmed and meat is not over-eaten, I believe that ethics can still be achieved.

Love your blog. ;)

L-girl said...

Anann, thanks for coming out of lurkdom to share that. I really appreciate it.