Warning #2: today’s post may be very long.As of Saturday, we have approximately 150 pounds of beef in our freezer. While this may seem excessive to you, imagine how shocking it is to me, a former vegetarian.
|Alton Brown's beef map, source|
How did we find ourselves in such strange circumstances? It was a long road. In the past few years, the Piemaker has gone from the all-American, 3-squares-a-day, meat-based type of diet to a single meal each day consisting of a huge salad. He usually eats a meat dish once a week at the most.I’ve gone in the other direction. I have come a long way from my Diet for a Small Planet days, circa 1975, when I gave up meat forever (forever turned out to be 3 years) for political and humanitarian reasons.
Today I eat meat regularly, but I do still believe that the mass production of animals for food is one of the most cruel and unhealthy activities that humanity engages in, and that the resulting meat reflects the terrible conditions that the animals endure. I also still believe that the growing population of the world cannot be fed adequately by animal protein and that at some point, if we are to survive, humans will have subsist on plant or manufactured proteins.
That said, if one shifts from a global view to a local view, there is still the possibility for communities in some areas of the world to provide a healthy, varied diet to their populations, if they follow socially responsible food production and consumption principles. Sharing is the most obvious one of these, and is the reason for the success of community gardens throughout the ages. My best example is a simple one: here in the low desert we can grow huge amounts of citrus and some herbs in the winter, while our friends in Northern Arizona have no citrus at all, but they are overrun with tomatoes every summer. Sharing the wealth with each other and many other friends and neighbors creates ripples of benefits through a large community. Soon everyone is exchanging bundles of fruits and vegetables (and once in a while, a plate of cookies!) over fences.
|Double Check Ranch steer having a snack, source|
When I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma a few years ago, it just reinforced many aspects of a philosophy that had been slowly forming in the murky recesses of my mind.
My philosophy basically condenses down to one central concept: I want to know what is in my food and where it came from before I eat it.
As you may know, taking a personal interest in in your own health or that of food animals can make it difficult to eat! We all went through the days when organic vegetables were nearly impossible to find and exorbitantly expensive if available. Now it is the animal products. Cage-free eggs are getting easier to find, but they are three times the cost of regular. Grass-fed beef is available at some grocery stores, but it’s twice the price of the alternative. I think you can only get the pork equivalent direct from the rancher, unless you find a seller at a farmers market.
When I learned that our incredibly talented farming friends were raising steers, I knew it was the best way to for us to go. I visited the animals and saw them running around in the meadow, enjoying their varied grassland. I knew that they were never exposed to illness or cruelty. The small local processor was able to kill the animals humanely (although this always sounds like an oxymoron). And, because of friends and friends-of-friends, we could all share the cost and get a large amount of food for significantly less than we would pay at the grocery store.And so, the neatly-wrapped packages stacked in the freezer represent one quarter of a healthy animal that ate good food, got lots of exercise, and had a pleasant, if short, life. Have I made peace with eating him? I am working on it!
What experiences have you had in this brave new world of food sourcing, food scares, and so much food information?
An afterthought: I probably should have put this above, but I didn't want to goof up the fomatting.
Here is link to a website which lists grass-fed ranches and similar operations in the US and Canada. It's exciting to see that the number of listings has almost tripled in the last couple of years.
[I don't know anything about these ranches, I just loved the pictures]
|Lawton Family Sugar House grass-fed cattle in Massachusetts, source|
|Fruitland America grass-fed cattle in Missouri, source|