Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

101 reasons to eat less meat

It's a very dark, gloomy morning here in Brooklyn, and this has cast a greater sense of doom over an article I was just reading in the Times. Mark Bittman, he of the 100-easy-things-to-cook, has an article in today's paper about the environmental cost of eating meat.

We love meat here at WIMFD, but I've become increasingly concerned about what eating meat really means:

1. Way too many resources go into growing feed (corn, etc.) for animals.
2. Most livestock are kept in horribly unsanitary conditions, which means
3. Farmers have to pump them up with antibiotics.
4. These animals also get high doses of hormones.
5. These animals create a stunning amount of waste and we're doing a lousy job of handling it.
6. We eat way more meat than we need.
7. We eat the lion's share of meat worldwide.
8. I don't believe the FDA when they tell us those antibiotics and hormones aren't harmful to us.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not going vegetarian on you. But this does bring up a comment Luisa brought up a few weeks ago -- food should be expensive. Thanks to farm subsidies that cover the cost of feed crops, meat in America is far cheaper than it should be, at least on the face of it. Actually, we pay for those subsidies through our taxes, and we pay for the health problems that result from eating too much meat.

For these reasons, and for reasons of taste, I buy only meat, eggs, and milk from pastrure-raised animals. It costs more, yes, even at the Coop. So I buy smaller cuts of meat and stretch meat dishes by adding lots of veggies, something we need to eat more of anyway. We usually have a meatless dinner once or twice a week. (I still pay those taxes, though.)

I'm not telling you this because I think I deserve a medal. I'm telling you this because I want you to believe it's possible. Many of you already have meatless meals at least once a week. Just for today, think about buying grass-fed milk. Consider the free-range chicken. Because that cheap meat we're all so fond of -- it comes at a high price.


Swizzies said...

I agree that food should be expensive. Or rather, that it should cost what it's worth to the people who produce it, and do so responsibly. I think that's true of all consumer goods, though, not just food. I really believe things should cost more -- not for profit margins, but for time, effort, skill, raw materials -- all done responsibly and with people getting paid what they're worth, and with good conditions, and etc.

Also, we don't eat that much meat, probably a couple of times a week and then pretty small portions (because it IS expensive here -- one nice steak [we share one, about 200 grams] for cooking at home can easily run over 20 sfr). But we'd be lost without charcuterie, I confess. And don't get me started on dairy products -- it's a heresy here to even suggest such a thing. Plus I love them.

Swizzies said...

Also, the free-range chickens from just over the border in France? Absolutely extremely delicious. Turkeys, too. They taste like they should, somehow. Worth the cost, definitely.

Anonymous said...

The latest Cook's Illustrated arrived in my mailbox yesterday, and an article about crispy-skinned roast chicken (which I totally have to try!) included a small sidebar item in which the Cook's people taste-tested really expensive mail-order chickens. Upshot? They say if you have the $$, the chickens (like the $20.99 one from D'Artagnan) are really really awesome. I wonder how the pasture-raised chickens from my local coop would compare?

I wonder if, as more people become aware of and committed to this issue, they will grow more of their own food? It's definitely cheaper $$-wise (though certainly not in time expended) to do that. There's an outfit here that, for a fee, will plant and tend a veggie garden in your own yard. I'm seriously considering doing it.

Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, brava, my friend.

And grass-fed/pasture raised does taste SO much better. If anyone doubts it, try a simple experiment. Buy one dozen grocery store brand eggs and one dozen eggs from pasture-raised (not merely 'free-range,' and NOT vegetarian--the chicken need those bugs) hens.

Make a batch of scrambled eggs with a few from each dozen. You'll see, smell, and taste a dramatic difference.