There was a time in my life when I would be surprised, in certain circles, were someone to say that they were not a vegetarian.
Of course, I was a teenage girl in the 90s who listened to a steady rotation of the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco. One year I gave up red meat for lent (although even at the time church was something I tried to get out of at all costs) and for nine years afterwards went down the winding road of vegetarianism, even bottoming out for a full week of being vegan.
I was the girl that wrote the well-researched editorial for the university newspaper encouraging others to ditch the blood thirst. I cited the environmental impact, the cost to taxpayers through meat-industry subsidies and of course love for the little furry guys.
As you may have guessed, I have matured since then. The hot pink once in my hair is visible only in a few hard-to-find photographs. Where once there was a thin metal ring dividing my bottom lip, there is only a pin-point scar. Now, not only do I eat chicken — I’ve slaughtered them.
Many new young farmers point to their involvement with agriculture as the catalyst for their reintroduction to the omnivorous lifestyle. Mine was not quite like that, although the farm will come back around as the point of this story.
I was slinging sandwiches at a busy bakery cafe in Portland, Oregon. Sometimes, we messed up. They wanted dijon, not honey mustard. Smoked turkey, not roasted. Any combination of things could go wrong. At the end of the day we could have four or five sandwiches that would just go in the garbage. Until they didn’t. Because I ate them. It was awesome. Meat. Is delicious.
Then, of course, my body got used to the new proteins and soon enough I was fully (and happily) back on the hamburger express. I ate meat with full knowledge of the meat industries downfalls, and with a little guilt . . . sometimes. Mostly, I just figured, this is how the world is and I would be thankful that I had food to eat at all (another form of guilt learned from Guatemalan co-workers who shook their heads back in my vegetarian days).
A few years later I was in Massachusetts working harder and longer than ever before, hauling grain and moving fence for the happiest pigs, sheep and cows I could imagine. Slowly, the guilt began to fade. Good animal husbandry and well cared for animals would put a dinner on the table that I could live with, appreciating the life that was sacrificed.
This is the compromise I’ve come to with my morals, and it tastes better, on all fronts. The freshness of farm products is unachievable by factory meat, milk, eggs and cheese. I sometimes cringe at the price tags, but remember that I am paying for my neighbors good work and swallow the extra cost.
In so many ways, it is worth it. Supporting farmers, but also supporting ourselves. This is how we nourish ourselves. What do we want to feed the person that must get up everyday and continue to go on and do good in the world?
This short 6-minute video is a tasteful exposure of what mass meat and dairy looks like. It’s worth a watch.