It has been ten years since I last ate red meat, and seven years since I stopped eating all meat. But there are still times when I wrestle with the decision. Sometimes, in my busy, not-good-at-cooking, perpetually-eating-in-restaurants life, I ask myself an uncomfortable, politically incorrect, positive-to-infuriate question: Should I start eating meat again?
There are a lot of reasons why I don’t eat meat. But there are also a lot of reasons that make me consider changing my mind.
At this point, I’m pretty thoroughly squicked out by the thought of eating animals. I don’t think I’d like the taste, and there’s a good chance that my body would have a hard time with meat at first. I’m also exceedingly repulsed by the idea that I would be consuming something that I, myself, could never bring myself to harm or kill. I don’t like our country’s relationship with the meat we eat–stuck to those Styrofoam trays, all cleaned up and removed from any and all semblance of life. I don’t like what meat consumption means for the environment. The only part I like about the meat industry is that it creates jobs and sustains rural areas where other work is hard to come by.
But then there are those times when, because I’m really (and I can admit this) not very good at, nor do I enjoy, cooking, that I live on fake meats which I know are bad for me and bad for the planet. Because a vegetarian diet done right is super-healthy…but done wrong? It’s less so. Full of sodium, probably poisonous flavors, GMO soy and corn and other crap, my on-the-go protein substitutes and restaurant choices are no better than meat…except that nothing (aside from the soil and possibly the laborers and maybe myself) was harmed in the making.
There are also those times when, in a restaurant, the only non-meat, non-dairy (because I’m also not a huge fan of dairy) item on the menu is something highly unhealthy. These times are getting more and more frequent; artisan meat and the “meat hipster” reign supreme in the culinary world. As pork belly becomes a menu staple, I find myself more and more often faced with a $10 salad with little more than iceberg letture. Or the obligatory soy-filled Gardenburger on a nutritionally-devoid white-bread bun. Or fries, which are usually vegan. And I know many vegans who subsist on not much more than fries.
At those times, the chopped chicken salad with walnuts and apples just looks so much…better. And worth the money. And more complete. But would it really be? And, moreover, would I be able to stick with the “rules” that I would surely have to set out for myself?
I tell myself that it would be OK if I only ate only modest amounts of sustainable, humanely-slaughtered, non-red meat. $25-per-pound hormone-free turkey? Sure, maybe I could manage that. It would probably be healthier than consuming the piles of highly-processed Tofurky that I devour when I haven’t had enough time to spend an hour boiling a pot of seitan, right? Except the chances that I’d be able to hold my ground on that seems unlikely.