Why I Eat Meat

For some reason, many people are surprised when they find out I am not a vegetarian. Oh, I’ve tried it over the years and I’ve considered it seriously, but I’ve chosen a different path—a path that started on the first official organic farm in America when I was little. There were steers and sheep and surprise batches of piglets and chickens, turkeys, and geese and eggs and big steaming vats of chicken broth on the stoves of my mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. Yes, the animals were cute. They were my friends and I loved to play with them. But, yes, they were so delicious after a long day of playing outside. For some reason I never questioned it or felt conflicted about it, and I learned firsthand about how integral a part of the farm the animals were.

When I started going to school, I will never forget how often—seriously, someone must have put out a guidebook on how to hurt me—kids would say, “I’m not coming to your house because all you eat is tofu and carrot sticks!” Tofu? I had never seen it in my life. Do you think my mother, a good Pennsylvania Dutchwoman, would allow tofu into her house? No way. Not even if it was shaped like a chicken. Which I don’t think it was until I was grown up anyway.

I dated a vegetarian once. I am indebted to him for teaching me about pesto, but I could easily have done without the boxes of processed soy-protein stuff that he forced me to cook and eat. Something didn’t feel right about that. Food shouldn’t come in a box, I thought.

I didn’t firmly resolve my opinion, though, until taking a permaculture class with Bill Mollison. He said, “Everything eats,” and he was right. Through learning from him and studying permaculture, I realized that everything has a role (or three) in the environment and we are all part of an ongoing cycle of consumption. John Seymour, too, was one of my philosophical heroes; he would point out that farms need animals. Real farms, that is, not those filthy factories that abuse animals, feed them antibiotics to fatten them up, and fuel the global desire for cheap meat at any cost.

Ultimately, as a woman, I have often felt that I need meat for my body to feel healthy and happy. That means I have to be careful where I get my meat. I rarely eat it if it’s not organic. I buy from local farmers. I order it in a restaurant only if the restaurant is organic or supports local farmers. I avoid all forms of mystery meats of unknown origin, although I do have a weakness for hard salami, so occasionally I pretend to be a person who doesn’t care about where food comes from. Only occasionally. No one is perfect.

One day, all meat will be organic. And the vegetarians will happily coexist with the nonvegetarians. I’m trying not to laugh as I write that…it’s just that if we don’t start believing it’s possible, it won’t be possible. So I’m a believer. And if, by chance, I am believing the impossible, then all I ask is that you leave me alone while I enjoy my homemade chicken gravy…with some crispy skin bits…and a crust of bread to soak it all up…Sigh! That’s the real reason I eat meat.


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68 Responses to Why I Eat Meat

  1. Diane November 28, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    Cliff & TSCH, I totally agree and applaud you both for standing up for your beliefs, as I share the same ones! Thank You for being YOU!!!
    Diane P
    Middleburg Hts, OH

  2. Diane November 28, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    WOW! Well said ESK!!! I stand with you, Cliff and TSCH

  3. Brian December 3, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    During the 1950’s my dad worked and lived on my grandfathers diary farm. He had the whole range of farm animals. At the time he would butcher seasonally and sell some out of his freezers. I’d like to eat meat that was raised in a similar way to that time and sold locally, not necessarily organic.

  4. Sarah December 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    I have really appreciated keeping up with the dialogue on this post. The thoughts I read here were part of a few things that caused me to give eating meat-free another try. :-).

  5. tsch December 3, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    It’s been a few days since I’ve checked out the comments here. Amazing! This is definitely my favorite blog post with a picture of a cooked turkey on it.

    Hello to Holly, Claire, and Diane! I’m so glad there are more articulate spokespersons than me.

    And Sarah – what can I say? That’s the kind of feedback we always hope for, but rarely hear. I hope it works out well for you, I hope hope you feel better physically, but I know your personal choice will help reduce the amount of suffering in the world, if only a little. You’ve made my day!

  6. cliff December 4, 2012 at 7:10 am #

    Three cheers for Sarah!!!!

  7. Coach Pam December 4, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Great blog, so happy a FB “friend” posted it on my timeline! Your point of view needs to be propagated and re-published again and again! Very gratifying and refreshing to read.

  8. cliff December 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Coach Pam,
    If you are talking about Maria’s point of view being propagated and re-published again and again…What? Seriously? You think meat eaters need to be congratulated over and over on that choice? Maria never said in her original post why she sometimes went vegetarian so we don’t know whether she was doing it for health reasons or moral reasons but she is very clear on why she stopped and now still eats meat –
    “while I enjoy my homemade chicken gravy…with some crispy skin bits…and a crust of bread to soak it all up…Sigh! That’s the real reason I eat meat.”-
    The vast majority of meat eaters on the planet (human ones I mean) never give it a thought. The ones that have considered it to any extent at all don’t need Maria stroking them and making them feel all warm and fuzzy for their choice. Maybe if people like her would make the moral choice that doesn’t deprive another creature of it’s life and espouse that in her blog, then some of those folks would feel that they too can make the more difficult choice of not giving in to how damn good it tastes and the hell with the rest of the considerations involved.
    Maybe if you still feel the need to re-post the article you can make a note that folks really ought to stick around for the comments section and with that perhaps another kind soul like Sarah will decide she/he might be able to do without flesh for food.

  9. AMJ December 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    I have always enjoyed your blogs and my home library is filled with many Rodale publications. Unfortunately, I think the purpose of this post was missed by some of your readers’ comments…I just wanted to let you know, that you (and your guest bloggers, especially Maya) rock.

  10. Emily @ Zweber Family Farms December 4, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Tsch: I am thankful I didn’t see this until now. FYI threatening someone’s life online can be legally prosecuted. I am going to screen shot save this for my records.

    If you would like to have an adult conversation without threats, please feel free to contact me. You can find our contact information on our website.

    Maria, I am so sorry that this honest post turned so ugly in the comments. Bless you and your family and all your do for agriculture.

  11. maria (farm country kitchen) December 4, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    What I would honestly love to know is if this debate has actually changed anyone’s mind. From here on out, I want to hear people weigh in by saying:

    Changed my mind
    Did not change my mind

  12. tsch December 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Emily –

    Oh please. I won’t insult your intelligence by pointing out the meaning of the word facetious. Don’t insult mine by pretending I threatened you. That’s just silly.

    But of course, you can use that as an excuse not to address one single point made by myself or others here, and instead say you’d rather talk about it offline. Perhaps if you didn’t advertise your business with every comment posting, you wouldn’t be quite as paranoid.

    Would still love to hear rational arguments why your preference for the taste of cooked flesh overrides the rights of another to their life. The silence has been deafening.

  13. Cliff December 4, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Did not change my mind. To wit: Maria feels the need to justify in print her disregard for the lives of creatures that she feels are much better on her stove top than they were when alive and mostly because she likes the way they taste. You know, their SKIN, nice and crispy. Her meat eating readers soak this sanctimonious pablum up like balm for their souls, howl about how persecuted they are; that their choices aren’t being respected and then reverently stroke Maria right back. Bleah! It is like listening to Mourdock, Santorum and Akin having a love fest with each other over their views on rape. Well sure, they know what’s better for women right? Just like you know that this meat-eating, humans at the top of the food chain BS is the natural order or god’s will or how freakin’ beautiful the cycle is or whatever else you need to KEEP TELLING YOURSELF to justify a completely unnecessary cruelty.
    And Maria, if you read her last post, you’ll see that this post at least contributed to Sarah’s decision to try doing without flesh on her plate. (All the animals I know think you totally rock Sarah!!!!)

  14. Cliff December 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    And Emily, in case you missed it, that comment about “How beautiful it all is” was directed at you. Ugly comments- oh my!
    What is ugly is taking another creature’s life when you don’t need to and then hiding in a carefully constructed web of lies that you tell yourself. Once again, you can choose to eat meat, that is your right but you really have no reason to complain when you proclaim about it in public and people call you out on it. I’ll make the political reference again. If Todd Akin (yes, the Todd Akin who is on THE HOUSE SCIENCE committee – AUUUGHHHHHHH) wants to believe utter nonsense he has convinced himself of, well that’s his business isn’t it? (you know, other than the pesky fact of him being on the HOUSE SCIENCE committee. Say it ain’t so America) But back to the point at hand, if he wants to come out in public and start spouting his theories on the magic vagina powers that kick in during rape, well, that’s another matter entirely. At that point, people with any kind of moral compass at all who are listening to the drivel will, quite rightly, call him out on the BS he is shoveling around.

  15. tsch December 4, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    Maria –

    Did not change my mind. As far as I can tell, no one has even tried. The vegetarians ask, not always nicely, that meat-eaters consider the beings they eat. The meat-eaters apologize to you for how rude us vegetarians are. I don’t think we’ve had the debate yet. I hope it’s still coming, though.

  16. rosalba December 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Did not change my mind. I became a vegetarian 17 years ago and am now recently an ovo-vegan. We got chickens last year so I don’t want to waste the eggs and we sell most of them. I will never kill my girls (hens), they will live out their natural lives and when the pass away they will be planted under a tree (that’s how I’d like to go). The comment about “everything eats” is the usual excuse used by meat eaters. Yes everything eats but we are the only animals on the planet that pretend to love and care for animals only to kill and eat them. Predators are necessary to control populations of other animals. They cull the weak, sick or old animals. Humans demand to eat animals in their prime. A cow knows where it stands with a wolf. A chicken knows to run from a fox. But they TRUST us and believe we won’t hurt them. My girls come running to me whenever I’m out in the yard. Is this not similar to the Hansel and Gretel story where the witch coaxes the children into her house with food and then proceeds to fatten the boy to eat and enslave the girl? How many of you booed the witch but never made the connection that this is the way we treat farm animals? Why is your dog, cat, parrot exempt from your taste buds but the pig, calf and chicken not? It is a pity your vegetarian boyfriend was such a poor cook and did not show you the wonderful array of vegetarian/vegan food that is possible which will leave you satisfied, nourished and doing no harm to the other creatures we coexist with.

  17. Terri December 26, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    Nicely written and with an appreciation for humour! And I agree wholeheartedly! It could not be more clear than in our day that grocery store meats are like eating toxic sludge and that the inhumane way the animals are raised for meat is appalling and should be banned. But that will never happen when profits are involved. The time of ignorance about these things is over, knowledge is abundant. Organic all the way, good old fashioned farming where the animals roam free!

  18. Adrian January 16, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    Interesting issue, although it baffles me that so some here think “Depriving another animal of life for food” is immoral. It is the most natural thing in the world. Humans evolved to be omnivores with a preference for meat.

    Now, that is in no way a defense for the horrors of factory farms, or the unhealthy diet of processed, meat-heavy food. As a professor I was shocked to hear many college level students state that they literally never eat a vegetable if they can help it. Clearly we have a cultural problem with our relationship to food.

    The environmental damage caused by the desire for cheap and plentiful meat can also not be overstated. But, let’s be honest. The current horrible state of farming is as much an issue of over-population as food choices. If you want to help the environment the number one thing you can do is not have children. (I would never say, however, that having children is an “immoral” choice. It is a very basic and natural one. Much like eating meat).

    I have huge respect for those who choose to be vegetarian. It is a great luxury of first world life to be able to make that choice. Realistically, however, humans are never going to stop eating meat any more than cats are going to stop chasing small animals. If we are going to solve the world’s daunting environmental problems, it is crucial that we take a realistic route.

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