Friday, May 28, 2010

What's Your Beef?

It seems there's been a spike in the anti-meat movement.  The blogs are abuzz with all the reasons why we shouldn't eat it, and they're all entirely correct.  We've all seen Food Inc., and I totally get it.  There's almost nothing good about the way (most) meat is bred, fed, raised, processed, stored, sold or eaten. 

The pendulum is definitely swinging toward a more ethical approach to North American food production and consumption, and not only where meat is concerned.  We aim to turn back time, to the days when you'd eat only what was available to you, what came from the farm down the road or the butchershop in town.  It wasn't an option to eat bananas from Ecuador or feedlot beef from Texas.  Then came trucks and trains and airplanes, bringing us our every (misguided) desire. 

Our grandparents' generation was blindsided by the convenience food of the 1950s, so they fed it to our parents and started us down a dangerous path.  I mean, it wasn't their fault, it was marketed and presented as the future of food and seemed the right way to go.  Then the world got a whole lot smaller and we could get ground beef from somebody other than Joe Butcher, at a tiny fraction of the cost. 

Then things went bananas.  Populations skyrocketed, we became McDonald's-dependent, and our "food" started coming from government-friendly mega-conglomerates.  We abdicated all of our personal responsibility.  Whoops.  Now we want it back.

And so instead of canned vegetables and TV dinners, we're buried in a sea of buzzwords: organic, local, free-range, pesticide-free, local, 100-mile, blah blah blah.  All fine and well, but what does it all mean?  Often, nothing, unfortunately, and the onus is really on the individual to make decisions that suit them.

Imagine that.

The fundamental problem is that we've given up nearly every juicy ounce of our decision-making power where food is concerned.  What were we thinking?  So here we are attempting to turn back the hands of time, Little House on the Prairie-style.  We fancy ourselves 100-mile experts and feel haughty with organic eggs in our grocery cart, a trip to the farmer's market pushing us to the front of the Great and Thoughtful Citizen pack.  But I can't help but feel like we're not in control of these decisions either.  We're a bandwagonning people, and this is just another angle. 

So I've decided to keep eating meat.  I like it.  I do.  A New York Striploin is one of the great gifts you can give your mouth.  But have I become more thoughtful of where I buy it?  Yes, mostly because I want a good steak, not something on a Styrofoam tray nestled amongst plastic grass.  Do I still turn a blind eye to certain realities because I'm not quite prepared to spend $35 on one steakSuuuuure.  But we're getting there, one so-called-organic-egg at a time.  And as long as I spend a few thoughtful minutes considering the things I ingest, even if I sometimes make the wrong decision, I'm okay with it.  I mean, how self-righteous can I be when Doritos regularly pass my lips?

So, if I have a point, it might be this: Do what you want, people, but do it with enough integrity to say you did it on purpose

(I love a veggie trio on the BBQ.  These reusable tin trays make anything grillable, doused in olive oil, minced garlic, shallots and ginger, and roasted in the smoke of a delicious steak.  Flavour bomb.  Mmm.)


  1. This is an excellent post. Way to own it. ;)

  2. Thanks new commenters!
    Much appreciated.

  3. jason this is a wonderful post.
    i recently did a post on my thoughts of eating meat..well, mostly it was on the treatment of animals - and not just animals i eat. i can honestly say i became more compassionate for animals when i got howard & within the past few months it's become something i'm really interested in learning more of and seeing how i can help. about 2 weeks ago i made the decision to become a more ethical eater because seriously - i LIKE meat. i like eating it and have no desire to be a vegetarian. but, like a commenter said on my blog - i want my actions to reflect my ethics. so slowly, i'm learning what all these buzz words mean and yes, i totally felt/feel like i'm hopping on a bandwagon but, lol, but i'm not doing it to be hip or cool lol, i'm doing it so my actions and ethics align. first thing i'm starting with eggs...holy heck who knew it would be so hard to just by eggs! lmao....

    like you said - the key here i think is integrity.

    & these pics have me craving a nice steak.

  4. Thanks, Kay*.
    Of course, I'm up-to-date on your meat-journey and agree completely.

    Right now, I'm most concerned with putting things I love into my body that aren't going to kill me. I also think it's a shame what these production farms are doing to the earth. The animals, I must say, are sort of secondary. Though, of course, I wish nothing bad happened to live things. But . . . mmm, steak.

    The big push will come when we have kids - I have vowed that I wouldn't put disgusting things into my babies - pure, fresh, organic, and free of chemicals and hormones.

  5. I could kiss you for this one. Well said.

  6. This is exactly my sentiment about Hootie and the Blowfish.

    Good form, J. Good form.

  7. John and I have been talking about this a lot lately as well!

    We've come to the conclusion that it's a real shame that we've been programmed to think the cheaper the better when it comes to our food. Now I understand that many people cannot afford $20 meat, but when one thinks about everything that goes into meat - from raising the animals to table, a $3 steak or $1.50 hamburger is a travesty. We aren't paying what meat is actually worth (no surprise there, considering the Walmart/liquidation/dollar storification of N. Am).

    Anyway, we buy organic meat only now, and since it's so expensive, we limit it to only a couple of times a week. The only time we digress I guess is when we eat out.

    Also, great idea with the bbq veg. We usually use tin foil but the tin pans are a great idea since you can reuse them!

    Gosh I wish I had a bbq right now.

  8. Nice to hear from you, Juli!

    Yes, excellent points on the utter cheapness of food. And, really, the disproporionate pricing of food, in general. I mean, no wonder North Americans are fatally obese - It's much cheaper to eat garbage than real food.

    Right now we're buying our meat at the St. Lawrence Market (at a few different butchers, depending on what we need) so I'm not entirely sure if it qualifies as organic. But certainly local and fresh, and we like getting to know our butchers!

    Yeah, the tin pans are great because they're reusable but also super stable! You can lift those suckers off the grill by one end with a set of tongs.

    This is making me hungry.

  9. (Still discovering old posts and hopping from one to another over here.) Tin trays for the bbq are a fabuuulous idea!! I have a few languishing in a drawer but never thought of using them this way. Genius. I rarely leave your blog without learning something. Thanks!

  10. Living with two (recent) vegetarians, I feel ya! What I'd give for a good steak...