Q: Wow! I think you really need to tell the folks just how much meat you actually eat in a year. I think a lot of people are looking to you as a role model and I doubt you even eat that much(hence the reason for your anti-bacon posts).

From a loyal vegan reader 🙂

To be honest, not much. I mean, I have my occasional wing night (and those who purchased the first meal plan might be familiar with that!), but really? I don’t do the animal/animal by-product thing too much.

The thing is, I’m becoming increasingly creeped out by meat production in this country. There’s so little that one can actually trust, and few people out there that are actually trustworthy… you start to wonder if this stuff is really worth all the time and effort (and not to mention money) you put into it.

For starters, it’s been over a decade since I’ve eaten beef or pork. My hatred of bacon has more to do with the fact that it’s not only everywhere, but in most cases it’s not even bacon – it’s “bacon-flavored” or “bacon-like” or “bacon-themed” or “bacon-styled” or “facon.” What part of the game is that? I can appreciate [looking at] a nice dish with bacon used well on it – even though I won’t be eating any – but that’s not what I’m seeing. I’m seeing garbage with “bacon” thrown on top. I’m seeing commercials of crap food with “It’s good… and it’s got bacon on it.” feeding into that foolishness. C’mon. It’s insulting.

I wrote, a while back, regarding my inability to play the “C’mon, have a little bite” game with my Mother who, upon learning I was giving up her first-and-second loves, cooked nothing but beef and pork for days… weeks on end. Steak, pork chops, ribs, roast, roast beef, burgers… you name it, she tried it. I tried to give up the poultry back then, but be serious. No one’s turning down Mom’s Fried Chicken.

Now, I’m an adult with a family, and while the temptation for Mom’s Fried Chicken (yes, so good it gets all capitals) only comes once a year, I can’t truly say I’m that “tempted” to eat it then. Because Mom isn’t as particular as I am when it comes to products, it’s a bit of a turn off. A lot of things become “a bit of a turn off” pretty quickly when you learn how they were made.

Now, let’s be real – do I buy farmer’s market ground turkey and chicken parts? Absolutely, but let’s take this past weekend into account. Do you know how much I paid for 1.5lbs of ground turkey? Let’s just say I could hear my bank account groan as I let the bill go. I had to give my wallet a kleenex.

Is there an animal rights element to what I’m talking about, here? Yes.

Realistically speaking, the holy grail of chicken is considered to be “cage free,” “fed an organic diet” (you can’t really say they’re fed a vegetarian diet – chicken eats primarily grain, as in corn, with the occasional bug thrown in… either way, it’s not a guaranteed claim) with no GMO feed. But what does cage-free mean? Since there are no official standards anywhere, it means whatever the farm wants it to mean. And if the farm wants it to mean “still crowded, still cramped but at least they’re not in giant cages,” then so be it.

Buying “free range” eggs is one of the easiest ways to feel good as a consumer — they are at least as readily available as “normal,” mass produced eggs from those horrible giant chicken prisons Big Egg maintains. Hell, they even cost pretty much the same. There’s literally no reason not to buy free range even though, now that we think about it, we’re not actually sure what that means. But the animals must live in pretty good conditions. In fact, let’s buy our meat and poultry free range, too!

Well, according to law, the definition of “free range” is that chickens raised for their meat “have access to the outside.” OK … so that’s not quite as free as we assumed, and it appears to only apply to chickens raised for their meat. But at least they still have some freedom, what with the outside and all that.

Words have power, and “free range” in its original sense means unfenced and unrestrained. That makes it a powerful phrase that, no matter how smart we are, conjures subconscious images of freedom hens, riding tiny little freedom horses out on the plains, wearing hen-sized cowboy hats and leaving a happy little trail of delicious freedom eggs in their wake. There may be mandolin music.

But the reality is there are absolutely no regulations whatsoever for the use of the term “free range” on anything other than chickens raised for their meat. Your Snickers bar could be free range for all the government cares.

The industry knows this full well and happily makes us lap up the free range myth, even though in reality a free range hen lives in pretty much the same prison as a battery cage hen — except its whole life takes place in the prison shower, rather than a cell.

Awareness of the free range myth is slowly increasing, but although a manufacturer that has been pushing his luck a bit too much does get jailed every once in a while, that doesn’t do much to the overall phenomenon. In fact, Europe is set to ban egg production in cage systems come 2012. Guess what the replacement is going to be? [source]

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that made me feel some kind of way. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that I think far more of our “health food stores” who are bragging on their “cage free” chicken are supporting these kinds of practices, too. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit I feel some kinda way about paying exorbitant prices for what I consider to be a product of suspect quality. And I read Skinny Bitch, among other books. I know how often that stuff is of a suspect quality.

The Future Mr. BGG2WL was right on board with my philosophy, so we all pretty much abide by one question when it comes to purchases: “If you can’t get the best quality, do you really need to settle?” Should the day come when I’m no longer able to buy, I’m not going to buy “USDA Inspected chicken” just because I can’t afford the birds at the farmer’s market. I’d simply go without.

I have my fleeting PETA-esque moments, but I don’t do PETA. (For lots of reasons that have nothing to do with veganism, which I actually like.) I care about animal cruelty, but at the same time I don’t think the answer to that is (or will ever be) no consumption of meat. Besides, I think it’s much easier (and smarter, at this point) to ask for conscious consumption than anything else – if all the money is going into local farms that can prove their products were raised ethically, businesses (because, they ARE Capitalists, after all) will flock to that and begin funneling all their money into it. It’s just a matter of making the public aware.

To put it frankly, I got turned off by poultry production in this country a long time ago, decided I’d go the ethical route, and was taken aback by the price of it… therefore I consume much less (and different cuts of) poultry. I’m an advocate for ethical and local consumption, quality and being cheap.

….and, for the love of all that is cute and pink, I don’t do PETA.