People eat meat. They always have, and they always will. When you get down to brass tacks, it’s really not the most pleasant thing in the world. But that’s the world we live in. It is chock full of things that aren’t all that pleasant, and you can’t go around ignoring them all just because they don’t suit your fancy. If you eat meat, chances are you’ve thought about the rather grim nature of harvesting animals for their delicious, delicious insides at least once in your life. Here’s my take on the issue.
I have been called a carnivore more than once in my life. I’m not ashamed of the fact that a big slab of pork belly gets me all hot and bothered…its just the way I am. That’s not to say that I don’t also love a good serving of steamed broccoli, but it is a safe bet to say that my cooking style is definitely on the “meat-centric” side of things. This doesn’t make me a bad person, but it does raise a couple ethical questions that deserve to be addressed by anyone that eats meat on a regular basis.
The majority of people out there eat meat, but very few actually respect meat or where it comes from. When I see those around me purchasing, preparing, and eating meat there seems to be a trend focusing on disassociating these meat products from the actual animals that produce them. To me, this is a big problem. When you are eating meat, you are eating the remnants of a once living creature. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. It may not be most appetizing thing to think about, but if you eat meat it is nonetheless something you should always be conscious of. This is what I mean when I refer to respecting meat – it is important to realize that an animal has given its life for your sustenance. There are no magical trees out there growing individually portioned & shrinkwrapped boneless, skinless chicken breasts for those of us who can’t handle eating meat that actually looks like it came from an animal. Newsflash: that unrecognizable slab of protein came from a living chicken, whether you want to admit it or not. Just because you didn’t carry out the physical slaughtering & butchering of the animal yourself does not excuse you from this fact. Consumers who are willing to simply pull the wool over their own eyes by avoiding the cuts that feature bones, fat, skin and other animal-like goodies really aren’t doing themselves any favors. In reality, they are living a rather hypocritical lifestyle. If you can’t stomach the idea of breaking down a whole chicken, then maybe you shouldn’t be eating chicken. Just a thought. I’m not saying you have to start raising free range, organic grass fed livestock in your backyard in order to be a sensible meat eater, but you shouldn’t censor yourself from what is really going on with your food, either. It is all too easy to push the idea of eating an animal out of your brain, especially with the prevalence of heavily processed, McNuggetified food items dominating the grocery stores today. If you are going to eat meat, I think its important to be completely aware of that decision (and all that it entails) and not make any apologies for it. To do anything otherwise is a disservice to the animal that died for your meal. I don’t think it is immoral to consume meat products, but I do think it shows a lack of principle to do so without taking the whole picture into account. Like the old saying goes, everyone wants the sausage…but nobody wants to see how it gets made. I am confident that whoever coined that expression has never actually made their own sausage before, because its actually a ton of fun.
For those that are willing to open themselves up to the realities of eating meat, you really can benefit quite a bit by investing a little bit of mental energy in the matter. This is something I have been making a conscious effort towards over the past year or so, and both my food and my state of mind have benefited as a result. I am cooking with better ingredients, and I am now completely comfortable with my lifestyle choice to eat meat. If you pay attention in the future, you will notice that a lot of the meals I feature on this blog will be in line with this philosophy. Last week’s whole grilled mackerel is a perfect example of what I am talking about here. If you don’t like the idea of eating a whole fish, then realistically you shouldn’t like the idea of eating any fish. As an added bonus, cooking with cuts of meat that feature bones, skin or what have you will also taste much, much better. Any cut of bone in meat will always outshine a similar bone-free cut in the flavour department. A bone in cut of meat will also cost less money, AND you will have leftover bones to make delicious stock out of. It really is win/win all around.
The ethics of eating meat are a complicated affair. Vegetarians & vegans will no doubt disagree with much of what I’ve said here, but that’s what happens when you start talking [food] philosophy. Feel free to use the comments section to weigh in on the matter if so. If you do happen to agree with me here, all the better. Start investigating some off cuts of meat you’ve never experimented with, maybe even head to your butcher and pick up some ox tail to experiment with. It may seem like a bit of a scary prospect up front, but I assure you that there is life beyond your grocery store’s freezer section.