Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: How Much Meat DO You Eat?

Q&A Wednesday: How Much Meat DO You Eat?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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.

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Tachae November 16, 2011 - 11:53 AM

Hmmm..I wonder If eastern market sells chicken…guess I’ll find out soon!!!

Stxbaby November 16, 2011 - 4:18 PM

Yep, they do. Check the butcher cases. They have a full range of free range and hormone free meats available from various local farmers etc.

Tachae November 16, 2011 - 4:37 PM

Thank you! 🙂

Valarie November 16, 2011 - 12:56 PM

Something to look into for those of you who love chicken and have a back yard is raising a few of your own. There are several small companies out there that sell chicks just for this purpose and ship them all over the country. Even in colder areas you can raise chickens with only a small space heater in the coop. Getting started requires an investment for the coop, chick incubators, and feed, but after that. . .breed your own chickens. Females for eggs, extra males for meat, and none of the moral dilemma. And if you like red meat, rabbits are an excellent alternative and just as easy to maintain in your own back yard.

Heather E November 16, 2011 - 4:35 PM

Wow, I feel incredily lucky to be located in a Chicago suburb close enough to farmland to have access to good, quality meat.

I don’t have to worry that my store is ethical and check every brand and every producer of my meats. All my meat comes from one farm… and that farm is run by one family. They use a small local butcher, also owned by one family. Twice a year they have a “day at the farm” where they host a potluck and we can see their facilities and how the animals are raised and fed. They even take orders in the Spring for Turkey so they can raise your T-day bird for you!

I LOVE meat and feel no compulsion to give it up. But after I watched all the big food documentaries (and most of the little ones) I came to believe mass-produced food is not ethical. Luckily I learned about my CSA right around that time and the rest is history.

I REALLY encourage meat lovers to google CSA (community supported agriculture) and try and find one near you. (There are also produce only CSA groups.) Even if you live in a city, some farmers will make deliveries once a month if they have enough customers. It is more expensive per pound, but we just took our meat budget and put it towards the CSA meat. It is less overall per month, but we figure out ways to make it last (smaller portions, less per meal, more casseroles and stews, wasting less, etc.). Quite a better compromise for us than giving it up altogether!! And let me just say this month’s bacon was amazing!! 😉 NOTHING like Oscar Meyer.

And for the record, I have no ethical problem with humans eating animals. We have the teeth of omnivores… so we were either created or evolved to eat both plants AND animals. I am not against killing a cow to eat it. But I am against torturing that cow while waiting to eat it. I believe was can find middle ground between veganism and barbarism.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 16, 2011 - 4:44 PM

*loud groan*

I’m so sad that I forgot to mention CSAs, but since I just moved it’ll be a while before I can get in on one. Thank you sooo much for this comment!

Curlstar November 17, 2011 - 11:35 AM

I was thinking about joining a CSA. Please post more about them if you can.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 17, 2011 - 1:03 PM

Yes, ma’am!

Lakisha November 16, 2011 - 6:35 PM

I started my vegan lifestyle 9 weeks ago today. But before then I didn’t eat pork or beef for the past two years. There is just so much crap thats pumped into these animals. I even took my 2 year old off of cow’s milk. I loved seafood and chicken but I love my health even more. I feel, look and sleep better now that i’m vegan. My child’s health has even approved. As much as I loved seafood,chicken and dairy products (mainly cheese), I am NEVER going back!!!

Yum Yucky November 16, 2011 - 11:01 PM

I do no red meat at all anymore – been that way for a good few months now and I like it that way. I still do seafood (I love me some salmon and shrimp) and just a little bit of chicken. I do have an occasional bite of bacon (maybe once per month) but that’s only if I steal it off of husband’s plate.

Nicole November 17, 2011 - 12:07 PM

I’m generally drinking the BGGTWL kool-aid, but I think I have to quibble with you here. Meat SHOULD be expensive. I think in terms of paying a fair wage, ensuring that animal cruelty is kept to an absolute minimum, and that the…

Chickens are pasture raised
The Cows are grass fed and free roaming
The Pigs not caged and slaughtered viciously
and that no person was exploited in the process of getting meat from the (real) farm to my table.

Then it should be expensive. It should be expensive so that we don’t mindlessly rip through it at any time of day, never considering the “cost” of where it came from and what it’s doing to our bodies if it’s too inexpensive Meat should be expensive so that we eat less of it and less often. Meat isn’t an everyday meal, it shouldn’t be the biggest thing on our plates. The cost should help people keep that in perspective that a.) they don’t need it to live, b.) it should be a treat or eaten in small quantities, and c.) it sends a message to big agriculture that we’re not industrialized eaters, so stop with the industrial farming that’s killing the animals, the environment, and the poor souls that gotta have some fried chicken.

It’s a living breathing being and if we’re going to put a price on its head, I should hope we’d respect it enough to not gobble it down at 99% a serving, the price of a bag of Lay’s potato chips.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 17, 2011 - 1:02 PM

Awww, no quibbling, mama – I agree with you. It doesn’t mean my cheap behind can’t whimper at a price! ROFL The reality is that I respect the price, but that doesn’t mean I always want to pay it. I’m not that attached to animal flesh to bother. However, I appreciate my morning omelets with sun dried tomatoes and onions. I pay my little $5, and the Mr. politely takes out his finger and uses it to put my lip back in place… because it is certainly poked out when I walk away!

I think you also bring up a valuable point, too – the reason why the price of meat that is ethically raised is so much higher than that which is not. Maybe that needs to be another post?

Nicole November 18, 2011 - 8:10 PM

I’d certainly be interested in reading it. 🙂

Nicole November 17, 2011 - 12:10 PM

I forgot to clarify – meat that doesn’t come from a kill factory in the midwest, but it properly raised and ethically slaughtered. Ideally, it’s local and bought from the butcher or farmer. And yes, I’ll gladly pay $6 for a dozen pasture raised eggs bought directly from the farmer whose farm I can go check out at any time.

chunk June 22, 2012 - 2:55 PM

And for further clarification, we, here in the midwest, ALSO have CSA and ethical farms!

Chunk (aka: black chick from Nebraska, which could be called the quintessential Midwest and home of beef!)


Annette June 22, 2012 - 9:52 AM

Well due to indigestion of animal protein it is down to fish right now. Hmm even dairy is off the list.

Loving a lot of kale right now and different cabbages my body seems to love the fiber and nutrition. Whenever I go back to eating it my system rejects it so it’s in very little doses.

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