Monday, February 18, 2008

The befuddling predicament of meat****

The origins of our meat has always troubled me but I won't lie, sticking my head in the sand has worked fairly well. But how long can I keep my head in the sand? The USDA isssued the largest recall of meat in US history. Though the reason is the safety of the consumption of the meat to humans, the images of the cruelty to the cows as they were forced to stand when they simply could not is stomach turning.

I've been reading the Omnivore's Dilemma recently, a book about where our food comes from. Pollan discusses how most of the animals we eat endure cruelty and are fed things they were never meant to eat. You might say "I eat only free range and organic so I'm OK" According to Pollan, those words mean little. His research uncovers that to get certified as organic/free range doesn't equal frolicking baby chicks in fresh green meadows. The meat we eat, no matter how you slice it[["free range" or otherwise] comes from animals that lived lives of intolerable cruelty. But beyond the "tree hugger" perspective, if the animal is not being fed right we aren't being fed right. The food chain implies that the food ate by the food we eat trickles to us too.

And if you eat zabiha , the ill effects of the food [i.e. treatment and what they are fed for the most part] is the same. The difference is in how they are slaughtered but doesn't change the basic dilemma.

I'm faced with an unpleasant fact: I love steaks, kebobs, burgers, haleem but if I eat it I'm responsible. I don't think its wrong to eat meat, even beef, if treated humanely and fed appropriately but its not happening. I must look at the facts, and face them.

My conclusion? I can't give up meat entirely but some changes must be made. I plan to give up beef until I can figure out if where I can get beef that is from well treated cows fed appropriately. I also plan to reduce the amount of meat I eat generally and try to learn to cook other foods such as lentil based dishes. I'mnot officially giving anything but I don't know how to convince myself to consume what I know is not only an animal which led a sad existence but will also affect my health.

***Update: I found this really great website which has links to local farms that sell animals that were raised humanely, fed appropriately, anti-biotic free, and raised in ways that don't impact the environment as badly as industrial factory farming does. The caveat is at least for my state, most of these places are over 50 miles away. Most are over 100 miles away. But if you live close enough, or can find a group of people to go in it with you and take turns doing the drive perhaps once a month or so then this is a great way to get your meat.


Umm Hibaat said...


Thanks for a thought-provoking post! I've been doing the same head-in-the sand thing for too long and I think it's about time I made some changes to my family's diet as well.

Suroor said...

I'm becoming a vegetarian because humans are not ceasing to disgust me and I can't be a butcher myself.

Shawna said...

I also struggle with this dilemma periodically. My SIL, who is a vegetarian and soon-to-be dietician, keeps my subscription to Vegetarian Times up-to-date. I find the magazine incredibly useful, and not just for easy recipes that get me involved with new veggies and grains. It also provides information on cruelty-free household and body products that I've been using as well as recycling tips. I reviewed some of them in an October post, and will be reviewing more in the upcoming week.

If it's available in your area, you could look into Amish or local farm-raised animals. Then you can visit the farm. We usually either buy zabiha organic or Amish grown meats for the greatest peace of mind.

Muslim Wife said...

Do you know of any local, smaller slaughter houses that you can go and visit? Check out the conditions yourself, maybe? If satisfied, then you and a couple people can get split a cow or something. My inlaws live out in the country and get their animals from local farmers and just slaughter it themselves. Not everyone has that option, but it may be worth looking into if you still want to enjoy some steaks or nihaari every now and then! : )

Anisa said...

i wish i could become vegetarian. i get sick when i don't eat meat, so i'm not sure what to do. but i think logically and rationally, going vegetarian is probably the best. i just can't do it.

Anonymous said...

I'm on the fence but I think soon I will soon stop eating all meat. I just have to find the right recipes first because I do not know how to cook without meat.

Tee said...

I have often thought about becoming a vegetarian - but even with the disgusting video evidence, my brain has somehow disconnected burgers from their source. Maybe it's a self preservation thing - But I've always known that if I lived in a culture or time period where I had to slaughter my own meat, there's no way I could do it... Even buying a whole chicken with bones and skin grosses me out. (I prefer the skinless, boneless tenders that don't resemble anything at all.)

Last night the news showed the video again of the cow being pushed with the forklift. I felt nauseous.

I don't know what I'll do. I have a family to feed on a tight budget, plus I have anemia. I will probably start phasing beef out of our meals again.

I had done this once before for health reasons. My husbands high cholesterol and my weight caused me to switch to ground turkey or ground chicken in place of ground beef - and we couldn't afford steak so that wasn't an issue.

Well, things got tighter financially and I had to go back to ground beef recently, as you know. It's about $4 for a lb. of ground turkey and $1.50 for a lb. of ground beef.

Anyway - I wish there was an easy solution.

Aisha said...

Umm hibaat, I am glad this was helpful to you in some way.. its hard to make changes in diet and food eating habits... but insh'allah!

Suroor, is your family okay with that? I ask because for me, its one thing for me to cook only vegeterian, but it means that I'm also forcing my husband to become a vegetarian too... I feel bad about that then. But its hard to cook two seperate meals always...

Shawna, I will be trotting over to read your post soon. What do you think of "Vegeterian Times"? That is my hardest challenge with reducing meat, I have a hard time figuring out recipes for food that will feel filling etc with no meat... Thanks for the tip on the meat.. I live in the South so it shouldn't be too hard to find a farm somewhere, its a matter of figuring out HOW to find them... google has proven a bit unhelpful in that regard.

Muslim Wife, thanks for the tip, I dont know of any around here but there must be some right? I mean, even if its more expensive its worth it, and it just means less meat based dishes and enjoying the meat when you do happen to have it.

Anisa, are you anemic? That might be why you get sick without meat. I wonder if there's something to balance the stuff you get from meat to supplement... if its something you wanted to do.. I dont have a physical reaction without meat, but its just that 98% of what I know how to cook is meat based.

Anon- I'm in the same boat! If you figure it out please share.

Tee, there's no doubt about it, turkey etc are much pricier than meat. I also have a hard time seeing what I'm eating as a burger to have once been a cow. Its why I've buried my head in the sand for so long.... but I'm getting to a point that its difficult, but its hard. I told K last night that I'm giving up beef which meant I was not buying any more to feed him either. He didnt seem to enthusiastic about that. I told him HE could buy it and make it and eat it himself but I didnt want to be a part of it anymore... he didn't seem happy.... and I feel bad.. and then I wonder, will my kids never have a fun burger bbq? Those are my fondest childhood memories... I dont know... its a tough situation.

Shawna said...

I love Vegetarian Times. I use recipes from every issue and wish my husband had more open tastes so I could use more.

About finding a farm--if you find a famer's market or a whole foods store (they often sell locally grown meats) you'll find info on the farms.

And for Tee, I was on a tight budget for several months until we got our savings in place. I'm always talking about crock pots, but if you get a crock pot and "The Ultimate Slow Cooker Cookbook," you will be able to put together weekly vegetarian menus that feed four for under forty dollars a week. That's a good deal here--I brought my grocery bill down from $600 a month to $200 and am now able to reintro a lot of organic fresh foods since we met our savings goals, thank God.

You can get an awesome crockpot at Target for $40 or less. Hamilton Beach makes a great one that you can roast birds in and also take along. Good luck!

mommamu said...

I'm not sure where you are located but here in Texas I starting getting on health message boards and I found out about three farms that are organic, free-range meats that delivery once per month in our area, but you have to buy a minimum amount of meat for them to make the trip. The internet is your friend in this situation! When people get on me about eating zabiha I tell them that I don't think it's halal to eat meat that has eaten meat and that is what happens nowadays with the food that they feed the animals. It has ground up animals in it including pork!

Aisha said...

Shawna, thanks for the advice! I also just got a crockpot as a gift, I need to get that recipe book you are talking about, I really would liketo start using it from an efficiency standpoint (it cooks itself from what I hear) but to know thati t also can save money..that's phenomenal! I dont know how it does that though... is it hbeacusey ou make less meals since the crock pot food lasts longer? If so do the kids get sick of eating the same food? Thanks for your advice

Mommamu, I will have to look into this... maybe it might be worth it to invest ina large freezer if it means we can have better meat. Thanksf orthe tip, I hvae been googling but maybe I need to also ask around. I heard though that animals being fed animals was banned by the FDA in1997.l.. its still relatively recent, but ilts not longer happening according tothe FDA

Tee said...

Shawna - I have a crock pot and I LOVE IT - So I'm really excited about this cookbook. I'm going to go look for it now! ... I don't think I can convert my husband to a completely vegetarian diet, but cutting the grocery bill down to $200 per month would be so amazing. Thanks for the info!

Aisha - As for having a BBQ without beef - it's not that hard. They make burgers and hot dogs out of turkey and chicken - and they even make them out of soy and tofu. Once you add on ketchup, mustard, relish, and all those other fixings, I bet most people wouldn't even taste a big difference :) ... My older sister and her husband are vegetarians and they had a BBQ last year. At first I thought, "What in the world are they going to BBQ? We'll all starve!" - LOL - But they made the most amazing shish kabobs (Well, what white Americans call shish kabobs - not the authentic kind you taught me to make) - They used big shrimp, green pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, etc - all on sticks and BBQed them and then there were dipping sauces, etc. YUM! You can also serve over rice. (

Shawna said...

Aisha and Tee:

The biggest money saver with the crockpot is that you can use dried foods in it, so skip canned beans and just buy them dried. Great for lentils, soups, stews, roasts etc. You can also buy the less-expensive tougher cuts of meat and frozen veggies instead of fresh. And if you plan by the week like I do, you can do two things: one, if you know it's a food the fam likes, cook double and freeze half for two or three weeks later; and two, plan a menu that has variety but incorporates a lot of the same ingredients. As you get used to recipes and begin to tweak them, you'll be able to build recipes on what's already in your pantry or adjust your favorite foods for cooking in your slow cooker (biryanis, curries, etc.). The book I recommend has a lot of Tex-Mex, so if you cook those recipes, but bigger containers of the "staple" items and either freeze or refrigerate for next time. I also take one other step which is I shop at a Sams for my big items like canned tomatoes, olive oil, tomato paste, pastas, bread flours, etc. We go there first (I do a lot of baking) and that ends up making us need only fresh produce three weeks out of every month. Good luck to you all with the book. It's less expensive on Amazon, but is also often sold in Kroger or whatever your equivalent is. :) Oh yeah, the budget is regulated by an agreement to eat leftovers and to not spend more than $50 a week on eating out. The eating out is not part of grocery money.

Tee said...

Shawna - We have been eating out a lot less since our budget got so tight. We went 2 weeks without eating out b/c we literally didn't have the money - not in checking or on credit (which was scary!)

I wish we could resist it all together but even when I try to be strong my husband tends to end up coaxing me into it. He'll be like, "Let's order Chinese. You don't have to cook tonight." ... and I'll go back and forth a few times - but who can resist? LOL.

Anyway - I don't shop Sams or any other kind of bulk food store b/c I find myself buying things I don't need like a 24 pack of jumbo blueberry muffins. LOL... I'm telling you, we've got a self control problem here.

And leftovers - again, I must point the finger at my husband. He refuses to eat them for 2 dinners in a row. He also doesn't like many of my "cheap" recipes like soup and sandwiches because he claims he doesn't get full. Then he also doesn't like most casseroles because he doesn't like everything mixed together. He is hard to cook for.

I found the Crock Pot book on Ebay pretty cheap. I'll hopefully be buying it soon. Thanks again!

(Thanks, Aisha, for letting us chat it up in your comments!)

Aisha said...

Tee, Shawna, I am loving the discussion. I could sure use saving money on my bills, I'm going to look up this book to get from my library and then perhaps purchase. Freezing half of the food is a GREAT idea, so it seems like a new dish two weeks later. Thanks for the enlightening discussion.

Anonymous said...

I am buying that book too! Thanks for the advice.

Anisa said...

hi, i'm not anemic...although i bruise easily too! but i have been tested. i think i would need to make really drastic changes to my diet to not get really weak without at least a little meat every day. perhaps i will get to that point because i really do think going vegetarian is best. the way animals are treated is awful and just thinking about how a living animal was killed for my consumption...i dunno, it's really started to bother me. how humane can it really be to slaughter an animal so i can eat it?

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