Some of us have better access than others to butcher shops and good quality meat. What’s your practical advice for people trying to eat meat responsibly?
A lot of people don’t have a good source, especially in parts of middle america where they’re actually surrounded by farms but still feel that they have to go to supermarkets and buy the standard run of things and eat fast food and all that crap. But it’s only a web search away to find out where you can get really good quality stuff nearby.
But let’s say someone really has no access, they don’t get it they don’t see it. Then I would say the best bet is to at least go for happy mediums. You can easily jump online and find out where things are coming from. There are companies that are bigger and are accessible and aren’t as bad. They try not to use as many hormones, maybe they’re not perfect, maybe they still use the regular slaughterhouse, which isn’t the way to go, but it’s a tough market and for a lot of farmers they don’t really have the choice of taking their meat to a better place. There’s a lot of grey area.
But if you do like five minutes of research you can find whole entire lists of things not to eat, and things that are better. And if you do have a butcher and you’re not exactly sure where the quality is or you have a small market, then you can say that you’re looking for better quality meat. And the more people say that they want a product, the more a supplier is going to look for it, because they know they can make money from it.
I think a lot of people are confused about where meat comes from and what the difference is between good and bad quality sources. Can you explain a little more?
The meat comes from a farm and goes to a slaughterhouse where it’s killed and broken down. There are slaughterhouses that are very watched over to make sure that everything is done properly, but they tend to be more expensive for the farmers. Then, once the animal has been skinned, gutted, split in half, then they move to the meatpacking houses where they get cut up. By the time it gets to that point, so many people have handled it. You lose quality when you go for quantity, as cheesy as that old saying is, but it’s true.
I think a lot of people don’t want to know where it comes from, and that’s exactly why we’ve gotten to where we are. I’ve had people send back whole plates of grilled fish because there’s still eyes on it, and as soon as there’s a head on it, it’s like “oh my god, I can relate to this thing now,” and people freak out.
People like to buy animal parts, not necessarily because they’re too lazy to break down a chicken, but because they don’t want to know that the chicken was alive. And by getting yourself to that point, you allow a lot of other problems to happen, because if you can get that little nice piece that you don’t have to relate to, then you don’t really care where it comes from.
Understanding that something is coming from cattle pens or a meatpacking facility is hard. It’s really hard to see something be hurt or treated cruelly, and people want to know that it’s bad, but they don’t want to know too much; they don’t want to know where it comes from or why, and that’s how we allow a lot of grey area to happen.
How do you personally try to make good choices about where your meat comes from?
The Meat Hook [in Brooklyn] is the only place where I buy meat to cook at home, and I don’t eat a lot of it–but I’m no way a vegetarian.
If you’re really conscious about what you’re eating, just do research and try to find something that’s accessible to you and just try a better piece of meat to start off with, so that you can understand the difference. The further we get away from the big-name brands that are just thrown on the shelves, the better. And if there’s a demand for better quality meat, it will be provided. Unfortunately, we just don’t ask for much.
Photo: Flickr user misteraich