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Edible Friends

an image of a nice friend I would like to eat with potatoes, from wikimediacommons

I am having mental illness about sourcing. As in, YES, I want to eat the chicken, but I also want to know the chicken was relatively happy up until he was killed and paired with dumplings to make ME relatively happy. And eating him DOES make me happy. Because:

Fluffy carbs + meat = yay.

That’s just math, ya’ll.

I am not having many issues about eating animals. I GET that some people become vegetarians because they don’t want to eat things that they consider friends. They have a dog, say, and they know that pigs are as smart and funny and as weirdly individual as dogs, and somehow this overcomes the smell of bacon. I admire you, vegans and vegetarians, but I cannot be one of you. I am a more base and basic creature. The smell of bacon wins.

And yet I have very intense relationships with quite a few individual animals. Mango, for example. I would never, never, never eat Mango. And if YOU ate Mango I would be so deeply displeased with you, I cannot even tell you.

I also have a particular wild fondness for a red, red cardinal named William who came to my window feeder all summer long. It was a brave thing to do because the feeder sits just above my desk; I could reach out one hand at any time and with very little strain touch the glass the feeder clings to.

I sat right there, considering bird murder as far as William knew. And yet he came, so righteously beautiful and noble, because his fledglings were getting larger and they needed the food. I especially admired him because he never let Mrs. William come to the feeder. He would never risk his kidlets facing a full (and therefore unfed and fatal) orphan-hood.

He would come, fill his beak, and fly to where Mrs. William waited on my fence, two yards away. She would pick the seeds out of his beak into hers, then take them back to the nest to feed the fledglings.

He had to be VERY brave, really, because Mango spends his afternoons in the cat-version of a Barcalounger under that window. We call the feeder Cat-TV, and Mango bleats carnivorously and watches Sometimes he watches so avidly that he leaps at the birds, scrabbling at the glass and scattering them.

William is noble and brave and loves his family. Mango, a piece of my family, dearly wants to eat William. And if Mango ate William, I would be sad, but I would also shrug because I look at his teeth, and I see Mango is an animal expressly designed to eat other animals.

So am I.

I can’t speak to the claw, but Nature is quite often red in tooth because she had some marinara with her murdered, fried up, and utterly delicious squid. My red teeth are constructed to eat a varied diet. I am like bears and ostriches and mice. So are you. And yet, if you have ethical qualms about the meatier parts of eating, I say more power to you. Me? Qualmless.

Nor do I have a moral one. If eating animals was an abomination, God wouldn’t have made lions. Go talk to a lion about being a vegan. Perhaps he will consider the moral implications of eating other beings with hearts and wills and family connections as he leisurely picks his teeth with your rib bone.

But I have gray matter and a modicum of empathy. Just because I am good with eating them doesn’t mean I am good with MEAN-NESS pre-the-eating. That line is SO FINE, I don’t want to think about it too much.

It doesn’t help that food labels are so repulsively tricky and dishonest. We might as well stamp I DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH THAT WOMAN on our “free range” eggs, because “free range” can mean so so so so many things.

And yeah, I hit my local farmer’s market —when I remember and have time and the budget for it. But I don’t have the money or time or facility for organization that CONSISTENTLY eating ethically requires.

BOOK IDEA: Someone write a proposal for a non-fic called THE LAZY MILDLY CONCERNED WANNABE ETHICAL-ISH EATER WHO DOES NOT HAVE A TRUST FUND where you guilt me into committing to feeding my family as kindly as I can, given my budget.

That may mean LESS meat and more beans, which, fine. But find me some meat, please. You should also keep a running database of who is actually DOING IT RIGHT and who is just a smarmy repulsive labeling genius tricking me into eating tortured piglets who came out of sows in those repulsive birthing cages.

Make a website to go with the book and keep a running database. Make a PHONE AP! Make guidelines to get on or even be allowed to advertise on the site. Keep a list of restaurants in every area who are committed to using local ethically sourced products. I WOULD JOIN THAT. I WOULD BUY THAT.

In other words? DO THE WORK FOR ME, AND I SWEAR I WILL BE ETHICAL.

A lot of people would buy that and join that. I think thousands and thousands would do it if someone did the work.

You would be such a squidzillionaire YOU personally would be able to afford to eat only cows that had been raised INSIDE an Elizabeth Arden day spa, each of their numbered days a festival of hugs and hot stone hoof massages, being fed on organic spring mix with hand laved corn-shaving and Vidalia relish with a titillating spruce of mint.

Or does such a book/website/app/database EXIST? Already? And I am just too poor a googler to find it? Would you use such a resource? Do you care about this at all, or do you just eat it and shut up, or are you a vegan who thinks I should strive to have a stronger moral compass than your average lion. CHIME IN. I want to know.

In the meantime, I need a chest freezer and half of one of Kira’s nun-raised cows.

13 comments to Edible Friends

  • Jan

    I guarantee there are local people who’ve already done the research for you. You might google “locavore” and/or “100-mile diet” with your state’s name. Also, the foodies who haunt the local farmers’ market, Whole Foods, or vegetarian associations will often know who to call. Don’t forget that many vegetarians eat eggs and dairy. If you can find reasonable, local, organic eggs and dairy, those people can often point to local sources of humanely-raised animals.

    Here’s one result from a quick google search. It’s located in West Georgia. Might be a good place to begin. http://www.westgalocavore.com/challenge.php

  • I totally struggle with this! I have tried to be vegan and failed udderly (ha!) because I have a big fat weakness for dairy and sushi. And I detest cheese-like products that aren’t made with milk. Bleh. So then I just tried to be vegetarian, BUT THE SUSHI! So I’m trying to be more balanced. We have two or three meat free meals a week.

    I really want to find a good place to buy meat outside of Whole Foods and all the way down to the NC State Farmer’s Market. I’ve done a couple of farm tours through the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and I’m now on a waiting list for a meat CSA. I’m thinking, we may have to eat only the meat we get from that CSA and have non-meat meals for all other meals just to be able to afford eating locally, ethically raised animals, but I’m willing to try.

  • Gail

    I am really obsessed with the origin of my meat. I don’t eat much meat as a result, maybe once a month or so. It also means I can never really order meat at most restaurants.

    Since you are in GA, I used to order meat from White Oak Pastures and I recommend them. You can order a bunch to freeze and it’s delivered on dry ice. It’s one of the only places I feel comfortable ordering chicken from because theirs are pasture-raised.
    http://whiteoakpastures.com/

  • Mary T

    There is an App as well – – well somewhat. Check out BuyCott – you can boycott those industrial farming companies, work toward eating GMO-free and other campaigns. But I am on the exact same page with the opinions you expressed in your article, thank you! As a single mother of a very active teen just getting to the tale is a stretch, let alone getting to the farmers market 20 minutes away…

  • Brigitte

    I think really your version of kindly carnivorousness is the way to go. After all, if everybody became vegans because eating the cows, pigs, etc. was mean, then farmers would quit wasting their time raising them, and they would go extinct. Which I think is meaner.

  • Karen in Ohio

    We eat mostly locally raised organic/free-range chicken (which is so good, I can’t even tell you), and venison that my husband shoots on our farm, and that we butcher and process together. Plus, if we’re lucky, turkeys shot on our farm, as well. The turkeys and the deer have eaten nothing but whatever is in the fields and in the woods. The turkeys eat corn, acorns, hickory nuts, weed seeds, and bugs, and they fly up into the trees at night to sleep safely. And they taste way better than the freakish corporate farm-raised ones that are fed antibiotics and are never allowed to move more than a foot. Their legs are weird–very long and full of really dark meat–but the rest of the bird is delish.

  • eatwild.com

    One of my favorite things Clay ever said to me was when we were discussing pigs one day. Okay, I was reading a horrible, horrible story about how pigs are treated in your standard CAFO pig farm, and trying to not feel sick about it.
    “It says here that when an animal is all stressed out and in pain and terror when it dies that the meat contains those bad-feels chemicals. Do you think that’s even true?” I asked.
    “Who cares? We’re the ones with the big brains. We’re not supposed to make creatures live in pain and terror just so we can eat – even if it doesn’t hurt us.”
    It’s a deceptively simple statement, but it changed the way I look at buying meat forever.
    I advise buying a portion of cow and/or pig and a big freezer. It’s easier and ultimately it’s cheaper than buying the stuff at the store.

  • I am exactly the kind of mildly ethical-ish eater you are. If you find that database, PLEASE link to it, and I promise I will buy the app and eat fewer tortured chickens.

    Also, “It doesn’t help that food labels are so repulsively tricky and dishonest. We might as well stamp I DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH THAT WOMAN on our “free range” eggs, because “free range” can mean so so so so many things.” – THAT Is the best sentence I have read on a blog in a long long time.

    Last thing – I quoted you on my blog over the weekend (http://awidemercy.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-we-are.html if you are interested). I also “imitated” your 3 Q’s idea for an author interview later in the week. It is my first book review/ interview, and I thought, who better to copy than Joshilyn Jackson? =)

  • Oh yes, I am with you. I tried being vegetarian years ago and that’s how I found out that my body can’t metabolize non-heme iron. Heme iron only comes from blood. So yeah, I eat the animals, man. Complicating measures is the fact that my husband and son are allergic to a lot of animal proteins. So, we eat a lot of game. None of us hunt but we have friends who do, so we pay processing plus maybe a bit extra for their trouble and they hook us up when different game animals are in season. I can also buy stuff like elk, antelope, wild boar and venison at my local Sprout’s market and sometimes Natural Grocer. And I can get goat at the farmer’s market; we all love goat and none of us are allergic. So yeah. I try VERY HARD to limit the amount of CAFO meat we eat and game is an easy way to do that.

  • Karen.

    Get in touch with a local (? well, not urban, anyway) locker and explain that you want to be on a list for a 4-H pig and/or calf. Most lockers will sign you up for a quarter, half, or full and call you with the price per pound and price for doing the cutting when an animal becomes available. (Right around fair time is good, and meat will keep for a year in a good freezer; really, it will.) Some lockers do chickens as well. You also get to pick how you want it cut! And most 4-H critters must be well cared for, as if they are not they do not do well at fair.

  • Martha

    Well…at the risk of freaking some folks out I will confess to eating veal. A LOT of veal. My husband works in the veal industry and even though I know they are baby cows, they are delicious. Sorry, but they are. Plus, I know how these particular animals are treated and fed and I don’t have an issue with it. PLUS, it is my husband’s job, ya know? Also I eat cows. And chickens. And deer. And fish. Sometimes I eat veggies, too.

  • Dew

    This site offers reports on just how organic some organic products are, with band names and where to buy (or not buy) such as eggs, dairy, cereal. http://www.cornucopia.org/

  • Jeanette in Peculiar

    I suggest searching out your local meat locker and ask them where they get the meat they sell. If it comes from local farms, then it’s probably fine. I started buying my ground beef at our local locker (aptly named Peculiar Meats) and it tastes SO much more like actual beef! That grocery store ground beef is from many many many cows, all ground together and co-mingled and this somehow deletes any sense of flavor. Our ground beef actually has a “steak-y” flavor, which, shockingly will let me get away with fixing a Hamburger Helper once in a while without any complaints! It even makes Trailer Park Hot Dish taste good. Want to know what Trailer Park Hot Dish is? You will have to ask!