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Vegan No More
November 19, 2010 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Vegan No More: For 3 years I built my entire life on the premise of veganism. It was my life’s passion, my guiding light. Being a vegan was everything to me. I believed my actions made me an animal rights crusader; I was saving lives, and changing the world. Now, I know otherwise. And now, after 2 full months of non-veganism, I can honestly say that I feel reborn.
posted by contessa (328 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
TLDR, but CTRL-F for vegetarian coming up empty suggests there may have been a middle ground skipped.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:38 PM on November 19, 2010 [39 favorites]


I feel like animal rights activists could maximize their utility by starting a campaign suggesting people only eat meat 3 days a week, instead of becoming vegetarians or vegans. You could probably talk so many people into it that it would dwarf the amount of animals saved by the number of people you could convince to be vegan. This lady could eat some eggs and a piece of chicken once a week and still be in the top 1% of animal-conscious eaters in the country.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 7:45 PM on November 19, 2010 [104 favorites]


She was a vegan for 3.5 years but shes' acting like it's her whole life. A little drama goes a long way, apparently. The actual message of the article is probably only a surprise to vegans, who may have a bit too much invested emotionally in it as a movement, as opposed to a dietary choice.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:48 PM on November 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Oooh, I love student newspaper writing!
posted by KokuRyu at 7:49 PM on November 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


Another middle ground is eating meat from animals that have been allowed to live longer and in better conditions. A more futuristic possibility might be lab-grown meat.
posted by Xezlec at 7:50 PM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not that she's done being a preachy ideologue, she's just casting around for a different ideology. Good grief.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:50 PM on November 19, 2010 [38 favorites]


I think the key point here is not to balance the relative merits of veganism, vegetarianism, ovo-lacto or whatever, but to consider the demerits of worrying about one's personal diet and being picky about what food we ingest, compared with the impact we can have by focusing our attention on our outward behavior towards our fellow members of society. (See also Matthew 15:11.) She hit on these points articulately and thoughtfully, and I'm glad she chose to write about it. Great post.
posted by shii at 7:54 PM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


She kinda-sorta-barely had me until she started the para implying that eating meat cured, among other things, her:

Stomach pains
Hayfever
Inability to work out
Her Depression
Lower back pain
Lines on her face

I mean FFS - and I say this as someone who is only vegetarian during the week (weekend meat woooo!), so is quite pro-meat.

Ideologues are the worst, and I see she has no gone from veganism crusading to locavore crusading. Replete with fairy tale tones of good and evil, black and white etc that previously applied to her veganism. And yet she is unable to see the problem with that kind of blinkered thinking. Subtlety and ambiguity aren't a crime, lady.

I appreciate how hard this would have been for someone so invested in their identity as a vegan, but the problem here is investing so much of your identity into food, not the food itself. It shouldn't be a big deal, either way. And you don't need to justify it, except to communities that get off on self-righteous bullshit. And if you do feel like justifying it, you shouldn't resort to terrible, badly researched arguments, as epitomised by this:

If I actually need to eat animals to be healthy, how can it be so wrong?

I mean, god. That's like something straight here.
posted by smoke at 7:55 PM on November 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


For 3 years I built my entire life on the premise of veganism.

The point of veganism isn't to provide you with a religion. If it should do anything, it should allow you to push food into the background of your life, so you can concentrate on other things. Food is not important. That's why we don't eat animals. Food isn't important enough to kill animals for.
posted by Faze at 7:55 PM on November 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


I wasn’t just a regular vegan, I was a hardcore, self-righteous and oh so judgmental vegangelical. I never passed up an opportunity for some preaching. . . . [Now,] I really listened to my body for the first time in years.

Uh huh. I can't say I didn't take satisfaction in reading about the shit her fellow evangelicals gave her when they thought she betrayed the cause. I appreciate that she's worked through that simplistic stage, one that does a hell of a lot to give vegetarians and vegans a bad name and inspires a lot of non-veggies to reflexively wind up and deck us non-evangelical veggie types. (I was vegetarian for 10 years but these days I occasionally eat meat.) Good for her for writing about her journey. Hopefully it'll help people like her whose health is tanking but ignore it because of dogma and judgmental peer pressure.

Of the three vegans in my life who have been doing it long term (5+ years), two aren't strict vegans any more due to finding that their energy levels are better when they include eggs from happy chickens. One has been vegan for 10+ years and continues to be energetic, healthy, and happy with it.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:56 PM on November 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I actually need to eat animals to be healthy, how can it be so wrong?

Muahahahaha.
posted by phrontist at 7:58 PM on November 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


This quasi religious take on veganism reminded me on foxy_hedgehog's comment on the investigation of non-vegan vegan restaurants

"The rhetoric and approach of this investigation reminded me of the discourse within orthodox Jewish communities about the supervision and regulation of kosher factories and restaurants. I can imagine vegans setting up a system of certification where factories or restaurants are assessed by a credentialed expert, the vegan equivalent of a "Mashgiach", who investigates whether the facility adheres to a set of acknowledged standards for bona-fide vegan-ness.

On a related note, it's always interesting to see the different permutations of people's preoccupations with purity. In conservative contexts, this frequently takes the form of concerns about sexual purity, while in progressive circles, it is often manifest in concerns about food and consumption."


In this case the eating of meat is celebrated as a religious awakening moment, a born-again meat eater:

"Tears ran down my face as saliva pooled in my mouth. The world receded to a blank nothingness and I just ate, and ate, and ate. I cried in grief and anger, while moaning with pleasure and joy.
....
I felt profoundly joyful in finally listening to the wisdom of my body. What a revelation.
"

Makes one want to scream: It's just food, people. Seriously.
posted by ts;dr at 7:58 PM on November 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


I think a similar rapturous conversion has changed the foodie landscape lately. Five years ago, it was finally easy to find several vegetarian options on most menus. Four years ago, a bunch of places were half-vegan. Now, it seems like every other new place has bacon in every dang dish.
posted by droob at 7:58 PM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Food is not important.

Uh...
posted by Xezlec at 7:59 PM on November 19, 2010 [77 favorites]


I feel like animal rights activists could maximize their utility by starting a campaign suggesting people only eat meat 3 days a week, instead of becoming vegetarians or vegans. You could probably talk so many people into it that it would dwarf the amount of animals saved by the number of people you could convince to be vegan. This lady could eat some eggs and a piece of chicken once a week and still be in the top 1% of animal-conscious eaters in the country.

Absolutely agree. And FWIW, this is essentially Mark Bittman's approach. Since he writes for the NY Times, he has a large audience. It does seem the most pragmatic approach.



Leaving aside the ex-vegan's throes of agony, what jumped out at me from her blog was: What a fantastic doctor.
posted by scratch at 8:00 PM on November 19, 2010 [38 favorites]


Vegan apotasy (or apostasty as I like to call it) is its own little cult. I think people who are attracted to veganism tend to be attracted to other cult-like things and I say that being a former one myself. While being quite vocal about it on the internet has earned me a spot on a few "People who oppress animals" sites (alongside my hero, Anthony Bourdain), I've also met a bunch of very close friends and met some truly interesting people.

Like many former vegans, I've built a name for myself as a uber-omnivore, despite the fact that I am still learning to cook meat after 19 years of having never cooked it. I just made lamb chops for the first time tonight from a lamb I slaughtered and butchered myself. I also just got a hunting license. Certain people continue to insist that there is nothing nutritionally special about meat, but nutrition science is very young and poor science. For me it was the end of depression and IBS/GERD, two illnesses with poorly understood causes. I also don't think anyone can insist that the experience of meat isn't special. I really really really appreciate the meat I eat and insist on the best. I certainly never would have touched eyeballs before veganism, but now I make sure to eat every part.

My friend Rhys has made quite a name for himself with a site devoted entirely to this subject with Let Them Eat Meat, which has some amusing interviews. Whenever Rhys comes to visit NYC we have to go very far out of the way into the deep recesses of foreign boroughs on quests for edible insects, sweetbreads, and the like.

I'm also friends with Chris Masterjohn, who tormented The China Study's Colin T. Campbell to the point he dismissed him for being inexperienced with science. Laughably, Chris is on his way to getting a PHD in biochem. Current biochemist Stephan Guyenet is another former vegan who does some awesome blogging.

Overall it seems to me we are a group of sensitive and obsessive people, perhaps plagued with various health problems even in youth. That's why we don't just eat meat and shut up...we end up writing essays about it. I'm always excited to read more work by former vegans :)
posted by melissam at 8:01 PM on November 19, 2010 [34 favorites]


Food is not important.

Yeah, well, you know that's just, like, your opinion, man. For some of us food is very important, and we wouldn't have it any other way. It's practically the San Francisco Bay Area's regional pastime.

That said, people who proselytize about their dietary choices are people whose views on food are to be disregarded completely, even when I agree with them in general.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:01 PM on November 19, 2010 [27 favorites]


Food is not important.

Can I have your french fries then?
posted by nomadicink at 8:06 PM on November 19, 2010 [42 favorites]


Munch.
That's all I have to say.
Or whist.
posted by Mblue at 8:06 PM on November 19, 2010


Food is not important. That's why we don't eat animals. Food isn't important enough to kill animals for.

Absurdities like this are why rational people don't take artificial diet dichotomies seriously. I guaranfrikkentee you that after 2 weeks without food, the importance of food would have a higher priority.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:07 PM on November 19, 2010 [32 favorites]


I don't see how anyone can proclaim the environmental/global benefits of vegan/vegetarian diets but then turn around and eat soy and corn. I mean, c'mon, pot, lay off that kettle.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:07 PM on November 19, 2010 [13 favorites]


people who proselytize about their dietary choices are people whose views on food are to be disregarded completely, even when I agree with them in general

Thank you for that.
posted by timsteil at 8:10 PM on November 19, 2010


guaranfrikkentee? Fried.
posted by Mblue at 8:11 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a great essay.

It's all in bold font because it's all important.
posted by motty at 8:15 PM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I did this too back in the day; gave up veganism after 5 years. I blogged about it here. My favorite posts are the ones I wrote on moral humility, health, and animal rights.
posted by yourcelf at 8:17 PM on November 19, 2010


Christ. Zealous vegan becomes zealous omnivore; keeps dogmatic and emotionally-loaded language to harangue.
posted by klangklangston at 8:19 PM on November 19, 2010 [6 favorites]



I don't see how anyone can proclaim the environmental/global benefits of vegan/vegetarian diets but then turn around and eat soy and corn. I mean, c'mon, pot, lay off that kettle.


Seriously? They are arguing against a factory farming system where the inefficiency of the corn is multiplied by feeding the cow with it.

Look, I'm a vegetarian, I have seen my life improve in the ways she is saying switching to meat improved hers. Feel healthier, more energy, less depression, etc. Everyone needs to find a diet they are comfortable with, everybody eat what you want and let everyone else do the same. That said, vegans, for christ's sake, toss in some dairy and eggs and you solve 99% of the health problems you get from not eating meat. You don't have to go right to the mooseburger.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:19 PM on November 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


This makes me think of the slew of articles that have been coming out of the last few months over the importance of saturated fats and animal fats in general.

The Truth About Saturated Fat (T-muscle article, so meat head body builder tone.)
Dr Andrew Weil (Weil comes out for high saturated fat diets, seen a reversal by some.)
Epilepsy’s Big, Fat Miracle (NY Times article on high fat diets and epilepsy prevention.)
Saturated fat prevents coronary artery disease? An American paradox (One of the often cited articles.)
Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. (Also heavily referenced.)

The pendulum has definitely swung back. Seems like Michael Pollan and Gary Taubes have nailed it.

There are many respectable reasons to become vegan or strict vegetarian, but realistically personal health isn't one of them.
posted by Telf at 8:20 PM on November 19, 2010 [13 favorites]


The thing that sticks out for me the most is the doctor/nutritionist who helped Natasha (I guess that's her name, I'm generally unfamiliar with her blog) realize that eating organic animal products was actually very healthy for her. What an amazing doctor, if only they could ALL be as helpful.

Not so sure how I feel about her claiming that eating meat cured her of the "fine lines" on her face (she seems like a bit of a nitpicker), but otherwise, I liked the blog post very much. Thanks for posting it.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 8:20 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Food is not important.

Nearly seven billion people's stomachs beg to differ.
posted by reductiondesign at 8:22 PM on November 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


Food is not important.

Yeah, well, you know that's just, like, your opinion, man. For some of us food is very important, and we wouldn't have it any other way. It's practically the San Francisco Bay Area's regional pastime.


Interesting back-and-forth there, because veganism strikes me as very bourgeois lifestyle choice. The blogger does nothing to change my mind about that. Only the very economically comfortable have the luxury of declaring themselves the saviors of food animals (as commonly understood) and obsessing (there, I said it) about how to assemble a diet that will--or will not--supply all the RDAs and whatnot. It's practically decadent, in a paradoxical way.


Not a criticism of small_eponysterical_ruminant or any Bay Area foodies. I, too, sing omnivorous.
posted by scratch at 8:22 PM on November 19, 2010 [21 favorites]


"guaranfrikkentee? Fried."

I have no idea what your point is ( I'm not very bright), but if people can just invent absurd diets, then I reserve the right to make up absurd words.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:26 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]



Interesting back-and-forth there, because veganism strikes me as very bourgeois lifestyle choice.


It is, as is vegetarianism. That is a poor way of framing it though. It is only an ethical choice when it is a possible option. You have to have the agriculture to support it, but once you do bulk supplies of beans and quinoa aren't that expensive or luxurious. Calling it a lifestyle choice is wrong, like it is comparable to choosing to have a luxury car. It's a sacrifice, that not everyone has the option to make.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:27 PM on November 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


God knows I spent 20 years as a junk food vegetarian. I managed to gain 60 pounds in that time and put myself to pre-diabetic levels. It's very possible to be a vegetarian or a vegan and do nobody any favors.

I'd guess that I actually eat a vegan diet about 80 percent of the time right now. Not of out any ethical impulse, but because my body has responded to years of abuse by making it impossible for me to handle too much milk or eggs. And my diet now is the best food I have ever eaten, especially since I have a lot of fruit and nuts and veggies. Tastes great, and I'm feeling a lot better. But, man, if I could go back to Twinkies and soda pop, I would in a heartbeat. A weak, sickly, barely audible heartbeat. My abuse of my diet has forced me to eat really, really well.

It's too bad my penis hasn't responded to years of abuse by forcing me to have really great sex partners. I guess it only works with your stomach.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:31 PM on November 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


And man, she's gonna freak the shit out when she hears that it's pretty likely that we'll need GMOs to have sustainable agriculture in a lot of places.
posted by klangklangston at 8:33 PM on November 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Being a vegan was everything to me.

I think I see your problem, ma'am.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:33 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


He is the Messiah! And I should know; I've followed a few!"
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:34 PM on November 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Food is not important.

then why do i feel so shitty when i don't eat?

That's why we don't eat animals. Food isn't important enough to kill animals for.

why sure it is - it's not like they're doing anything important with their lives
posted by pyramid termite at 8:35 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Calling it a lifestyle choice is wrong, like it is comparable to choosing to have a luxury car. It's a sacrifice, that not everyone has the option to make.

OK, then, let's just call it the kind of choice that only a small proportion of the world's population has the luxury of making.
posted by scratch at 8:40 PM on November 19, 2010


I think actual hunger would make anyone's moral objections to eating various edible items go away.

I don't know if it would take day 3 of no food for me to be happy eating grub, but I'm pretty sure it would be before day 7. Cannibalism might take a bit longer, but survival is an instinct.

I have respect for folks that care about what they put in their body (regardless if I do); be they meat-eaters, vegans, etc... I'm not too keen on those that want to push their moral agenda on me (be it meat eating, veganism, a religion, an operating system, or a text editor). I have respect for hunters that hunt for meat, and use that meat (although I'm against unethical hunting methods).

When I get my animal products from something that calls itself organic or free range chickens, it's more often than not that I want the animal whose products I'm consuming to have lived the healthiest possible life before I exploit them. Not healthy because I really care about their happiness (although miserable conditions make me wince), but it only makes sense that their product is better if they were healthier.

(some) Canadians I know won't eat American beef or milk because of their perception of the health conditions of US cows.

I was raised vegetarian, so I don't have a moral motivation. I understand those that do; but like any belief system it is difficult to stay consistent.
posted by el io at 8:43 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Food is not important.

Yeah. Have you ever actually fasted for a week? No food, just water and diluted fruit juice? You should try that sometime. It's crazy hard to do.

Trust me, food is important. It shouldn't be all-consuming, however. Pun intended, I suppose.

Man, that cheeseburger I had for dinner was great, and I feel great after eating it!
posted by zoogleplex at 8:47 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Food is not important.
posted by Dumsnill at 8:49 PM on November 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


OK, then, let's just call it the kind of choice that only a small proportion of the world's population has the luxury of making.

And, as has been pointed out, will be quickly abandoned the instant frikken reality sets in.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:51 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Politics and religion are traditionally considered verboten topics for dinner table conversation. However, the topic people get the most worked up about is probably food. That is a topic about which a spiritual teacher of mine, in a funny reversal of traditional forbidden topics, tries his hardest to avoid talking about. Every year in this country, for the last forty years in which I have been paying attention to food, people have become more and more obsessed with it. Name one subject which sells more books. OK, maybe self-help books, but those have become bestsellers at a less exponential rate than have books involving food. (Books overlapping the two, like Eat, Pray and Love are guaranteed to fly off the shelf.)

On a personal note, the absolute best argument for being an omnivore (after many vegetarian years) is the ability to eat whatever is placed in front of me with a smile and without questions about the soup stock etc. etc. Welcome food, and thank you, farmers and friends!
posted by kozad at 8:59 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of a conversation I had with a complete stranger in Alaska, when somehow we got on the topic of vegetarianism.

Her: "My boyfriend is a vegetarian."

Me: "Oh yeah?"

Her: "Yeah. He only eats meat he's killed himself."
posted by showmethecalvino at 9:01 PM on November 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


Once you were a Ve-Gone, but now you will be gone!
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:02 PM on November 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I am the only vegetarian in a group of animal-friendly family.
To me, being vegetarian seems freeing. It makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something by showing self-control in not eating meat. I don't feel confined in my diet, because it feels like a true decision I've made, instead of something that someone else suggested or told me to do.
I don't tell anyone I know that I'm vegetarian until it's absolutely necessary (if we're having dinner and they ask why I get salad at a steakhouse).
Prior to being vegetarian, I only ate meat that I knew came from a good source: organically-, locally-, and humanely-raised animals from farms I had visited. It all started thanks to the documentary "Food, Inc." directed by Robert Kenner. That movie will change your life, even if it makes you think before eating the chicken nuggets at McDonalds.
posted by MHPlost at 9:02 PM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think actual hunger would make anyone's moral objections to eating various edible items go away.

Has anyone every actually said this? That they would rather starve than eat meat? Has one person in the entire history of the world ever said that? I have been a vegetarian for a long time. But if it I came down to me or an animal, I would kill and eat the shit out of that animal.

I think that's how pretty much every non-strawman vegetarian in the world thinks.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:05 PM on November 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I didn't read the whole thing. I got annoyed at the vegan community when I got to the part where all the "paid" hardcore vegans were lying and all the hipster vegan A-holes were being rude to her. I figure she made the right decision in the end, that was all I needed to know about her journey.
posted by djduckie at 9:08 PM on November 19, 2010


I have a friend who was vegan for three years too. Ate at Taco Bell for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That shit ain't meat, sure didn't come from something that was ever alive at one point that's for sure.
posted by hellojed at 9:10 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to be all fucked up on drugs vegetables until I found Jesus meat, now I'm all fucked up on Jesus meat.
posted by Challahtronix at 9:10 PM on November 19, 2010 [28 favorites]


I feel like animal rights activists could maximize their utility by starting a campaign suggesting people only eat meat 3 days a week

This is the key. We (humanity) should collectively eat a lot less meat. Good for us individually. Good for the whole planet. But it stands to reason that the vast majority of us do require some meat; as simple as tracing your personal genetics back say ten generations and realizing that the stuff you are made of is the result of diets that included a lot of meat, or certainly animal related products (eggs, dairy etc). This is not something you want to suddenly change.

That said, the notion of imagining my culture as essentially meat free in say five generations appeals to me. Set all the pigs and cows and buffalo and farm-fish free ... in increments. Don't know about the chickens though. They're dumber than most plants I've had dealings with.
posted by philip-random at 9:15 PM on November 19, 2010


Has anyone every actually said this? That they would rather starve than eat meat? Has one person in the entire history of the world ever said that?

Yes. Three people actually.
posted by philip-random at 9:17 PM on November 19, 2010


I'm sure Jetsun Milarepa would have said it, only in some dialect of medieval Tibetan.
posted by Abiezer at 9:19 PM on November 19, 2010


The world receded to a blank nothingness and I just ate, and ate, and ate. I cried in grief and anger, while moaning with pleasure and joy.

This is worse than that Harry Potter vampire shite. If her diet/cooking was as bad as her writing, no wonder things went pear shaped.
posted by meehawl at 9:28 PM on November 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


And tomorrow, when she converts to eating nothing but betamax cassette tapes, it will be the very best thing, and for the very best reasons. Ditto the day after, papyrus scrolls. Then parchment, baby, all parchment, and then on to rarest vellum. I know this awesome vellum place. Then deprecated currencies. The salt of dead seas. Gold leaf chased by a breeze of xenon. Transition metal ligands. Ligands - the new cilantro?
posted by kid ichorous at 9:37 PM on November 19, 2010 [25 favorites]


I can't believe I just wasted 5 minutes of my life reading that crap.
My couple of veganarian friends are the least healthy people I know. They subsist on junk food and veggies and are always sick.
posted by qwejibo at 9:38 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or how about we just let people eat what the fuck they want to eat and leave the judgments out of it? Didn't we just go through a judgy food thread recently?

Criticizing a vegan for what they don't eat is just as offensive as judging someone else for what they do eat (see the recent thread I linked to).
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:39 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your favorite theory about diet is stupid.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:41 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your favorite theory about diet is stupid.

Well, that's true. My favorite diet theory is Fletcherizing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:45 PM on November 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Looking at this FPP, I was reminded of a recent New Yorker profile of the filmmaker Lena Dunham:

For years, Dunham was a vegan, but a few months ago she started eating meat again. "Let's call a spade a spade--a lot of times when you are a vegetarian it is a just not very effective eating disorder," she said. "So now I am allowed to eat anything I want, or wear anything I want, or do anything I want. I lost almost fifteen pounds because suddenly the world wasn't closed to me." Emphasis mine.

I suppose that being a vegan is just as silly and artificial as any other food-centric identity, such as locavore or whatever. But more than most, veganism emphasizes restriction and denial in ways that -- at least for a lot of the vegans I've known -- certainly can play out in not very balanced and happy ways.
posted by Forktine at 9:48 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


The idea that being vegan saves animal's lives is only correct if you ignore the entire farming cycle. The growth and harvesting of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables is associated with high numbers of dead animals, both in the intentional killing of pests but also in the non-intentional killing of rodents and birds that happen to get caught in the thresher or crushed under the tractor at preparation/planting/watering/harvest time. With chickens, pigs, cows, etc the meat gets used, but when voles get killed they just rot in the fields.
posted by crunch42 at 9:50 PM on November 19, 2010


a lot of times when you are a vegetarian it is a just not very effective eating disorder

So I guess it's only going to be a disorder if you look at it wrong?

Anyway she's right, due to the meaning of the word "order," and the common treatment of eating and diet as social constructs.
posted by nervousfritz at 9:55 PM on November 19, 2010


I would kill and eat the shit out of that animal.

I'd suggest you eat the organs out of it instead; way more nutrition there. And besides, there's no need to kill an animal to get what it'll happily provide to you in due course. On the other hand your approach would allow you to remain vegetarian, though not vegan.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:57 PM on November 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Not so much, crunch42, because almost all the animals raised for meat are fed the grains you are citing, multiplying the animal cost of vegetables you refer to. Eat the veggies/grains directly, and you cut out the multiplication.
posted by NortonDC at 10:01 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, industrialized agriculture also claims its share of human lives as a side effect.

Suicide by pesticide: It's an epidemic in India, where farmers try to keep up with the latest pest-resistant seeds only to find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of pesticides that don't work, drought and debt. Since 1997, more than 25,000 farmers have committed suicide, many drinking the chemical that was supposed to make their crops more, not less, productive. Frontline
posted by kid ichorous at 10:01 PM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I feel like animal rights activists could maximize their utility by starting a campaign suggesting people only eat meat 3 days a week, instead of becoming vegetarians or vegans.

BuddhaInABucket, you're making the assumption that the majority of those activists actually have reducing the number of animals eaten as food as a goal. I suspect that in fact opposing the masses and shouting into the wind are their true (unconscious) goals. (Some are 100% sincere, to be sure.)

That said: I agree, completely. And it would probably improve the overall public health.


I don't see how anyone can proclaim the environmental/global benefits of vegan/vegetarian diets but then turn around and eat soy and corn. I mean, c'mon, pot, lay off that kettle.

Seriously? They are arguing against a factory farming system where the inefficiency of the corn is multiplied by feeding the cow with it.

furiousxgeorge, if that were their real argument, they would simply be extolling the virtues of the home chicken coop, where animals are raised and culled humanely. But they aren't. Those people are called locavores.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:04 PM on November 19, 2010


Interesting back-and-forth there, because veganism strikes me as very bourgeois lifestyle choice....It is, as is vegetarianism.

Actually, near-vegetarianism is the norm for the majority of humanity, because they can't afford to eat their livestock (as opposed to milking them, gathering their eggs, etc.).

I would personally agree that food is plenty important, but I would suggest that compassion is more important. I might be healthier if I ate meat, but not much, I suspect; so I choose to avoid it (I don't doubt that it enabled our ancestors to rapidly develop large brains, but now that we've got them, and still with impractically long herbivore's intestines, I'll pass).
posted by blacksmithtb at 10:10 PM on November 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I think some of you are missing the point. Most strong dedicated vegans aren't vegans because they are saving X number of lives or it's good for the environment, those are quite tangential. They are vegans because they believe that much like humans, animals have rights and it is wrong to use them in any manner because of that. I suggest you check out Gary Francione's work for an accurate pulse on the vegan philosophy today. Unpopular Vegan Essays is another one.

Weird that I'm standing up for what vegans actually believe now that I'm not one, but I think their arguments are interesting (though ultimately not convincing to me).
posted by melissam at 10:21 PM on November 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was going to say something snarky, but, as per usual, xkcd says it better.
posted by Skwirl at 10:24 PM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


My couple of veganarian friends are the least healthy people I know. They subsist on junk food and veggies and are always sick.

Being vegan or vegetarian does not automatically equal healthy. Neither does being an omnivore.

Look, I know how easy it is to jump on the band wagon and judge all the vegans, I've lived on that side of the fence. Since vegans make up a tiny percentage of the population (around 1% I believe) it's easy to find others on your side to gang up and bully them. Find the odd one out in the crowd and let 'em have it. I've been guilty of this, but only when I was an immature child and it's sad to see adults still behave in this same fashion. Sure, there are those self righteous vegan assholes who like to make their views known to anyone who doesn't want to listen but those are very few and very far between. And that doesn't excuse you for your behaviour.

Most vegans don't talk about their diet, unless asked directly. And usually it isn't questions of simple curiousity, they're questions of attack and judgement.

I also wish people would let go of the notion that all vegans are some kind of an activist.

Also, Metafilter has proven it doesn't do this topic well so I expect to get attacked for this. Find any vegan/vegetarian thread on the blue and count the number of "NEEDS MOAR BACON" comments they get. Then find all the bacon threads and count the number "EWW BACON" comments. Also it seems anytime anyone links to a vegan recipe blog, you'll get the ones who pipe in with how unhealthy they think veganism is. Yet if someone links to a blog about mac and cheese, no one's gonna pipe in with how unhealthy it is.

So how about we stop worrying about what others put into their mouths and why, whether it's the vegan who's eating the fried tofu or the overweight person who's eating McDonalds.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:24 PM on November 19, 2010 [39 favorites]


When I read this stuff, I'm reminded of one of my former employers. They were an insurance company with a very rigorous dress code -- white shirt, tie, suit, no facial hair. Then one day management, feeling increasing pressure from modernity and other insurance companies poaching their employees with promises of colored shirts and beards, decided it was time to drop the entire code. Dress professionally. Don't look like a slob. But you're free to figure out what that means.

And holy hell, the colored shirts came out, and then the polos. And the beards. It was like there was a million dollar prize for the longest beard, because everyone stopped shaving.

And the chaos reigned for about six months. And then, it all normalized. There was a zeitgeist as to what business casual looked like. Beards vanished. Those who kept them mostly kept them neat and trimmed. The polos were here and there, but a lot of Oxford collars. Even some guys wearing white shirt and tie every once in a while.

So the question for me is when she's going to cut her beard. Some people who are ex-whatever never get off their high horse. But, eventually, most people come to terms with their new beliefs and stops being a jerk about them. The ones that don't annoy everyone else to death.
posted by dw at 10:28 PM on November 19, 2010 [13 favorites]


I feel like animal rights activists could maximize their utility by starting a campaign suggesting people only eat meat 3 days a week, instead of becoming vegetarians or vegans.

I think a campaign against certain kinds of meat---chicken and poultry---would be utility-maximizing. The difference in the number of lives you take by eating chicken and the number of lives you take by eating beef is huge. It only takes two or three chicken meals to take a life, but it takes an awful lot of burgers to be responsible for the death of a cow. People seem to forget this and think that all meat is equally bad, but chicken is much, much, much worse. I wish this were better advertised.

I've sometimes thought that ethical vegetarians should consider allying with the beef industry to combat the poultry industry. If the goal is saving lives, and you're willing to be pragmatic and not hopelessly idealistic, it makes sense to direct your efforts against the worst of the bunch. (Veal was attacked in this way, but that was not the best target.). I don't know whether the beef industry and the poultry industry have such tight connections that they wouldn't be willing to stab one another in the back, but I'm guessing that the beef industry would love to take a share of the poultry market by selling itself as the ethical meat. And the beef industry has market clout that vegetarians do not currently have. Maybe there's no way to sell this message without seeming ridiculous, but it really is the case that, in comparison with poultry, beef is the ethical meat.
posted by painquale at 10:30 PM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


At Thanksgiving on Thursday, we will have at least 16 people to dinner, among them omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans, and no one will go home hungry, and everyone will have pie.
posted by rtha at 10:32 PM on November 19, 2010 [15 favorites]


Food is not important.

Why do people keep feeding the troll, then?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:35 PM on November 19, 2010 [6 favorites]



I think a campaign against certain kinds of meat---chicken and poultry---would be utility-maximizing. The difference in the number of lives you take by eating chicken and the number of lives you take by eating beef is huge. It only takes two or three chicken meals to take a life, but it takes an awful lot of burgers to be responsible for the death of a cow. People seem to forget this and think that all meat is equally bad, but chicken is much, much, much worse. I wish this were better advertised.


That's actually a common Buddhist thing. I saw a quote from a story about whaling that made the excellent point that if you believe all souls are equal, it's better to kill one whale to feed a hundred than a hundred shrimp to feed one. I usually buy whole animals and since I often DIY slaughter, I prefer buying large ruminants. It would take me probably six months to finish a cow (I share with friends because I don't have that kind of storage space). Maybe 1-2 days for a chicken, more if you include broth. A cow is less time I have to spend on killing and more time on eating.
posted by melissam at 10:39 PM on November 19, 2010


Most vegans don't talk about their diet, unless asked directly.

Were this true, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The dream-world you've invented where food-fascists finally shut their fat yaps doesn't actually exist.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:44 PM on November 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have been vegetarian for 40+ years and, while I love the idea of being vegan and "eating nothing with a face", I have not made the transition. I know that, at least for now, I am not be able to maintain it. Instead I practice compassion however I can in my daily life.

For example, in recent years we switched to soy milk at home, except when I'm making flan. And these days we only buy eggs from FREE ROAMING chickens after finding out that "CAGE FREE" doesn't mean much. Unfortunately, free roaming and "cage free" chickens still die in the same cruel way as chickens raised on factory farms but I'll put my money towards the free roaming life style. And this year we got rid of the down comforter and replaced it with a cozy poly one. And I buy cruelty-free cosmetics, shampoo and soap as much as possible. That kind of thing. Small steps but changes I can live with.
posted by chance at 10:48 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Food is not important.

This, in a nutshell, is everything that went wrong with food in the 20th century. Food is just nutrition. Just calories. Just carbs. It's just fuel.

And if it's just fuel, it doesn't matter how natural it is. All that matters is if the nutrition is delivered. And if it's not being delivered, here, take these vitamins.

We got disconnected from our food. I'd argue that it was this attitude, ironically, that led to factory farming. It's just animals. Protein delivery devices.

And heck, look at the diets of the 1970s to 1990s. The Grapefruit Diet. The infamous cauliflower soup from Weight Watchers. The 300 calorie Lean Cuisine meals that aren't food as much as lumps of things extruded from machines. And oh, all those weird chemicals and fillers injected into foods to make up for the calories being ripped out.

And then, we all became foodies. Locavores. Be you own butcher. CSAs. It was all about taste, and smell, and mouthfeel.

Now, there is an extreme there, too, and it will make itself evident soon. But we've stopped this silly view that food is just a bunch of chemicals we use to burn as fuel, and we've started seeing food as part of our human experience.

In balance, this is how we should be. You can't separate the experience of food from the need for food. Human history happened sitting around a table.

Food is important, not just for keeping us from malnutrition, but also for keeping us human.
posted by dw at 10:49 PM on November 19, 2010 [34 favorites]


To put it graciously, you're experiencing a sampling problem, PareidoliaticBoy. To be more blunt, you're fucking ignorant of the vegans around you that actually are keeping to themselves.
posted by NortonDC at 10:50 PM on November 19, 2010 [18 favorites]


She was vegan and her doctor suggested she eat eggs... but instead she skipped ahead to sobbing as she hacked up a steak? That just sounds ridiculous, going straight to the meatiest of meats with no in-between.

Why not try to find ethically-produced eggs, say from unfertilized free-range hens? Then she'd get protein and vitamins without any cruelty, since those hens were happy pets and their unfertilized eggs could never have become chickens anyway. Or some yogurt, or rennet-free cheese; animal products sourced without any death? For someone so upset about killing animals, wouldn't it have made more sense to try non-meat sources of animal protein first?

Frankly I don't care what this woman eats; I eat meat myself, and I'm glad she finally has some vitamin B in her now. But this article is hella annoying. Quit whining, jeez.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:54 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


"The dream-world you've invented where food-fascists finally shut their fat yaps doesn't actually exist."

Seriously? Food fascists? How ever did you escape the vegan death squads? Did you have to live off jerky in a cave?
posted by klangklangston at 10:56 PM on November 19, 2010 [22 favorites]


"Gold leaf chased by a breeze of xenon. Transition metal ligands. Ligands - the new cilantro?"

I get produce from a CSA, because it's a really cheap way to get a lot of really good vegetables. They've given up describing anything as "organic," but now give me this suggestive nod and say that it's "biodynamic." I've avoided looking it up because whatever the merits, it just sounds like snake oil the way they say it.
posted by klangklangston at 11:00 PM on November 19, 2010


Most vegans don't talk about their diet, unless asked directly.

Were this true, we wouldn't be having this discussion.


Oh, so what you're telling me is that you're part of your local vegan community? You can point out all the vegans even though some of them have never mentioned their diet to you?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:04 PM on November 19, 2010


So how about we stop worrying about what others put into their mouths and why.

How about you go do your own thing and everyone else can continue discussing the topic without you? I personally find this sort of thing quite entertaining to read and enjoy a little frisson of moral outrage from time to time, even if it is bad for my soul. I find it ironic that you want people's food choices to be sacrosanct, but are perfectly comfortable with telling people what topics of conversation you consider unacceptable.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:08 PM on November 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Food is important

Eating is important too. It's the most basic social act, it's inseparable from our familial, religious, and social protocols.

While it seems like the author was a preachy vegan and now is a preachy meat-eater, all she's doing is trying to extend her table to others. She's trying to build a community around a communal act. I hope she can step away from the blog and enjoy supper with the neighbors, because that's what she really seems to be lacking.
posted by peeedro at 11:10 PM on November 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm 44 and have been reading articles about Atherosclerosis and a bunch of stuff from Dean Ornish. My dad had a quad bypass at 63 and he still has type II diabetes and is starting to experience dementia. I think I need to go vegetarian, or at least cheater vegetarian for entirely selfish reasons.
posted by mecran01 at 11:12 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously? Food fascists? How ever did you escape the vegan death squads?

A bite macht frei.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:20 PM on November 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


Actually, Mary, you have a very valid point. As soon as I hit "post", I thought, "wait a minute!" If they never spoke about it, how would I know? So I stand corrected.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:39 PM on November 19, 2010 [18 favorites]


All you self-righteous hypocrites mock Devine for that scene in Pink Flamingos, but when it comes down to a big pungent steaming dog turd or another week without food, you know you would hold your nose and scarf down on that shit.

But seriously, people do fucked up things when their lives are in danger, so what?

I am an omnivore well aware of the fecal content in various meats and root crops
posted by idiopath at 11:39 PM on November 19, 2010


METAFILTER: when it comes down to a big pungent steaming dog turd or another week without food
posted by philip-random at 11:45 PM on November 19, 2010


Sometimes I wonder about that first organism that decided that eating sunlight wasn't good enough. "Hey! It'll be easier to consume my neighbors than to harvest sunlight for my nutritional needs. Yum!" Now the whole animal kingdom survives by killing other life. That's just how it is. Hell, if you eat an apple, you're essentially consuming a fetus. So I can understand how some people would have trouble with a concept like this; I mean, who wants to think of themselves as a killer? All we as sentient beings can really do is try to not support the more atrocious aspects of capitalism that forces other life to suffer before being harvested. For eleven hellish months I worked at a chain restaurant called Qdoba. Every day I would have to process HUNDREDS of pounds of beef & chicken. It became very difficult to not imagine these animals being cooped up for their entire pitiful existences in too small pens/cages. Thousands of them. Meanwhile, at the end of every shift, all the prepared meat was weighed to make sure that no employee was stealing even 3 ounces of food, so that the profit margin was maximized to its utmost. It really seemed that I was working for some people that wanted to get rich, and the route they had chosen to get rich was one that involved shoveling carcasses to drunk college students. (I won't work that kind of job again.) Mass agribusiness seems to me to be more evil than shooting a deer for your food. But I can understand how some people would decide to make the moral decision to not eat meat because they also see agribusiness's inhumane treatment of animals. They need to also see that agribusiness doesn't treat the plant kingdom much better. Wild grasses are replaced by fields of one variety of corn, for example.
TL;DR: agribusiness is the problem.
posted by frodisaur at 11:53 PM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can only suggest this as her only potential hope for salvation...
posted by sfts2 at 11:53 PM on November 19, 2010


Food is not important.

Why do people keep feeding the troll, then?



Hospitality?
posted by louche mustachio at 12:02 AM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Food is not important.

Why do people keep feeding the troll, then?


What are you saying? Food is important? How proletarian!
posted by philip-random at 12:19 AM on November 20, 2010


I think a campaign against certain kinds of meat---chicken and poultry---would be utility-maximizing. The difference in the number of lives you take by eating chicken and the number of lives you take by eating beef is huge. It only takes two or three chicken meals to take a life, but it takes an awful lot of burgers to be responsible for the death of a cow.

In terms of "lives taken," you're absolutely right.

However, you could launch into a debate about the potential sentience of chickens vs. cows vs. fish, etc. Where do you draw the line? Yeast?

Similarly, you could start comparing the environmental impact of one burger's worth of cows vs. one breast's worth of chicken. Although poultry production is a bit gross, the livestock trade is a leading producer of some pretty scary greenhouse gases and environmental toxins. I don't have hard numbers handy, but I suspect that the poultry industry is quite a bit cleaner, even when you account for the greatly increased headcount.

And, maybe I'm misguided here, but I do try to limit my consumption of dark meats for this reason (along with health reasons). Chicken probably accounts for 90% of my meat consumption. It's a very tasty protein that happens to be quite lean.
posted by schmod at 12:29 AM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


[at a meat packing plant]

Jacks: God! Now I know why I'm a vegetarian.

Nico: You eat meat. I know you eat meat.

Jacks: I'm gonna throw up.

Nico: I've heard you eat meat.

Jacks: You chum.

~Above the Law
posted by bwg at 12:30 AM on November 20, 2010


Eating is important too. It's the most basic social act, it's inseparable from our familial, religious, and social protocols.

This, this, this a bazillion times This.
posted by Cyrano at 12:31 AM on November 20, 2010


I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but after picking up "Eating Animals" by John Safran Foer in Costco only a couple of weeks ago I am now in the last chapter and have to say that, while it isn't flawless, it provides some compelling insights into the world of meat eating and vegetarianism/veganism.

The central idea, and one that doesn't seem very refutable to me so far, is that someone eating meat isn't simply saying, "I am okay with killing animals to consume them," he or she is saying, "I am okay with torturing and killing animals to consume them." Not to mention, "I am okay with the tremendous environmental impacts of eating meat," and, "I am okay with eating meat that has been pumped full of drugs." He points out that basically all of the meat we consume come from factory farms, places that are driven by profit at the expense of animal welfare.

I haven't eaten meat in a couple weeks now because I keep thinking about those statements I would be making. Simply put, I have the luxury to not eat it. I don't know if this will continue but the point I'm trying to make is that those that have a knee jerk negative reaction to vegetarianism/veganism should take a moment to consider the arguments that they are making and determine what, if anything, they find valid.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:36 AM on November 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but after picking up "Eating Animals" by John Safran Foer in Costco only a couple of weeks ago

Costco's got the best steak.
posted by philip-random at 12:46 AM on November 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Who don't you instead make an effort to support local farms that raise their animals in a more ethical manner? There's lots around.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 12:50 AM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can I have your french fries then?
posted by nomadicink at 8:06 PM


There are several sacred things in this world that you don't ever mess with.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:57 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I eat meat. Boy, do I eat meat. But I also fully recognize that by eating meat, I am contributing to a kind of genocide of living, thinking, feeling, sensing, intelligent creatures that are similar to us in more ways than we'd like to admit. I'm not an expert in what to do about the pain I'm causing to these creatures, and I tried and failed to be a vegetarian in the past. I think we can start by pushing hard against the factory farming status quo. Ideologically, though, I don't see a problem with admitting that the way we're going about things is fundamentally wrong. The thing that strikes me about meat-eaters, whether I was one or not, is the overwhelming need for them to rationalize it away at all costs. No, it's horrible mass torture and killing of animals. That's what it is.
posted by naju at 1:07 AM on November 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


"Some people even suggested that those of us who couldn’t remain healthy as vegans should willingly sacrifice our health for the cause. As a feminist, this body-hating rhetoric infuriated me. The willing participation in the denial and degradation of my bodily needs smacked of misogyny, patriarchal control and violence against the female body, and everything that I fight against. But still, I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t know what else to do."

I suppose you could start by telling them about your dogmatically-held attributions of intent, which are informed by imagined evidence.
posted by rudzki at 1:13 AM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why do I get the feeling that in about 10 years time this girl will be writing vitriolic anti-liberal, I-love-Jesus rants on freerepublic.com?
posted by PenDevil at 1:33 AM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why do I get the feeling that in about 10 years time this girl will be writing vitriolic anti-liberal, I-love-Jesus rants on freerepublic.com?

Well, buying into the idea that individualized consumerism will save the world while decrying the doom being brought upon us all by those people and their ways, instead of, you know, looking at structural power and long term policy as goals to work with... that's where the faux-liberals and freemarket evangelists meet.

After all, we all know that it's the fault of everyone who buys meat and not our FDA or Congress who let abominable practices rule our food market. If you stopped buying bacon, the agricorp meat industry would stop spraying pig shit into the sky!"
posted by yeloson at 2:01 AM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


painquale: I think a campaign against certain kinds of meat---chicken and poultry---would be utility-maximizing. The difference in the number of lives you take by eating chicken and the number of lives you take by eating beef is huge. It only takes two or three chicken meals to take a life, but it takes an awful lot of burgers to be responsible for the death of a cow.

As schmod points out, meals/life relies on treating all lives as equivalent (and in that case, wouldn't your neighbors provide more meals-per-life than chicken as well?), and the cattle industry has it's own environmental hazards.

If one were trying to pick one kind of meat to favor over another, one could argue that poultry is more environmentally friendly and less wasteful. It takes 2 kg plant matter to raise 1 lb of chicken meat, 3:1 for pork, and 6:1 for beef.
posted by JiBB at 2:22 AM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


She'll regret it when the vegan police come to take her psychic powers away.
posted by NoraReed at 2:28 AM on November 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


This is an article by someone who really needs to be Right, with a capital R.

So her diet needs to be the healthiest, best, most ethical, and most superior to all other diets, because it is Right. And that means other diets have to be Wrong.

So it's really not surprising that she now considers her former vegan diet to be Wrong, or that she is discussing the change with the tone, fervor, and language of a religious conversion. For her, that is basically what it was -- she found a new Truth.

The frustrating thing is ... that need to be Right? It doesn't characterize all vegans. No, really, it doesn't. Sure, there are some who are like that; heck, I've met more than a couple of dedicated meat-eaters who are like that, too. People come in all types. But it has become a stereotype that has been applied to all vegans, most likely because people find it hard to believe that someone would follow what they perceive as a strict dietary regime without being a True Believer That They Are Right And All Others Are Wrong.

A lot of us, however, are just people who put some thought into the ethics of food and came to a decision. For ourselves. One of many about our lives. And in my experience, this decision tends to include a certain amount of respect for anyone else who has put any thought into the ethics of their diet -- even if they came to a completely different decision.

I don't mind that the author of the article has become a committed omnivore and locavore. I do mind that she feels a need to preach that I am Wrong for not coming to the same conclusion.

There are all sorts of red flags in the article about this. She was shocked that some vegans occasionally will eat a bit of egg or cheese? Really? Veganism is a term that is shorthand for a more extensive set of personal dietary decisions, not a Religion with Rules. More people than you might think use the term "vegan" so they *don't* have to be boors and give the three-paragraph explanation for themselves every time they're asked at a party.

Anyway, I'm a vegan who doesn't really care what *you* eat. I think it's nice when people have given the issue of what they eat some thought, whatever conclusion they come to, since, like everything else people do, it doesn't actually exist independently in a moral vaccuum. But I think that about a lot of things.
posted by kyrademon at 2:33 AM on November 20, 2010 [14 favorites]


"Tears ran down my face as saliva pooled in my mouth."

Interestingly that sentence makes me never want to eat again.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:59 AM on November 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


Also, Metafilter has proven it doesn't do this topic well so I expect to get attacked for this. Find any vegan/vegetarian thread on the blue and count the number of "NEEDS MOAR BACON" comments they get.

This subject needs a Metatalk call out, obviously.

"Tears ran down my face as saliva pooled in my mouth."

Made me aroused. Must stop watching those Max Hardcore movies...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:14 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Revolutionary feminist vegan with depression: candidate for most annoying person to be stuck in an elevator with evar.
posted by unSane at 3:25 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can point out all the vegans even though some of them have never mentioned their diet to you?

Yeah, they're the scrawny ones.
posted by shii at 3:36 AM on November 20, 2010


I can't read the comments because previously there's been an anti-vegan/vegetarian strain at MeFi, which annoys me somewhat. So, just my perspective: vegetarian for 17 years and I'm in rude health, thanks.
posted by Lleyam at 3:40 AM on November 20, 2010


Food is not important. That's why we don't eat animals. Food isn't important enough to kill animals for.
posted by Faze at 3:55 AM on November 20


And here we see one of the key differences in opinion between vegans and omnivores. "Food is not important"? Man, I wouldn't want to feel that way. I'd rather kill animals than feel that way.
posted by Decani at 3:52 AM on November 20, 2010


Look, I'm a vegetarian, I have seen my life improve in the ways she is saying switching to meat improved hers. Feel healthier, more energy, less depression, etc. Everyone needs to find a diet they are comfortable with, everybody eat what you want and let everyone else do the same. That said, vegans, for christ's sake, toss in some dairy and eggs and you solve 99% of the health problems you get from not eating meat. You don't have to go right to the mooseburger.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:19 AM on November 20


Yes, this. Pre-fucking-cisely. We can close the thread now. :-)
posted by Decani at 3:55 AM on November 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


However, you could launch into a debate about the potential sentience of chickens vs. cows vs. fish, etc. Where do you draw the line? Yeast?

Easy:

Yeast - can be bought in packets therefore definitely not an animal
Plants - mostly WANT us to eat them so they can spread their seeds, so they're all OK
Seafood - are all really little and don't move around with much intent, therefore not animals
Fish - only have a two second memory and are all white inside (mostly) therefore not animals
Birds - squawk when killed therefore an animal, but because meat is white not a major animal
Pigs - clever animals and therefore it would be cruel to eat them but then the pig gives us a large variety of meats so each death is worth it
Cows and lambs - so cute and lovely so we should not eat them. Also meat is red so definitely a proper animal. However, they taste nice so we have to eat them but we must look for the red tractor

There, sorted that for you.
posted by Summer at 4:00 AM on November 20, 2010 [16 favorites]


I can't read the comments because previously there's been an anti-vegan/vegetarian strain at MeFi, which annoys me somewhat. So, just my perspective: vegetarian for 17 years and I'm in rude health, thanks.

I read the comments, but fear that if I read the whole article my head would explode out of sheer frustration with both the writer and her writing. I got as far as:
I actually asked her to show me the blood test results because I thought there had to be some sort of mistake."

What? Seriously? You thought that there might be a mistake, and you thought that mistake might have occurred between the piece of paper, and your doctor? Surely you can trust a trained medical professional to read?

About 3 months after I became vegetarian I was pretty ill. In fact, I'd been a little ill, in similar ways, on and off since before I became vegetarian. In my worry I conveniently ignored that fact, though. I went to the doctor, filled with angst, and tentatively asked "could it be because I've stopped eating meat?" I guess I was fully prepared to go back to being a proper omnivore if I needed to in order to stop feeling sick and exhausted all of the time. Turned out it was just a stomach bug. After week of (some pretty awful) antibiotics I was fine. No angst. Still a vegetarian. And perfectly healthy, except for whatever the hell I drank last night, and this damn hangover.

I feel like animal rights activists could maximize their utility by starting a campaign suggesting people only eat meat 3 days a week

Well it's not just about animal rights, there are the environmental aspects too. But check out Part-Time Carnivore.
posted by greymullet at 4:11 AM on November 20, 2010


Extremist has hard time maintaining extreme lifestyle, pendulum swings other way. Film at 11.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:24 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


So many of you seem to have very narrow preconceptions of vegetarians or vegans as very unidimensional in their beliefs. It's unfortunate that there are so many fucking people in the world that it's very difficult for most people to eat without some pretty serious negative impacts on the planet, other people, or a bunch of poor dumb organisms. Personally, I don't like most of the options. After reading Diet for a New America in 1987, I became a vegan for 6 years; not just because I didn't want poor moo-cows to be kept inhumanely and slaughtered in some horrible way, or because of the use of grain and water and other resources that are exhausted to produce meat, or the destruction of natural habitats that occurs in many places to make way for the very large footprint of meat, etc. I did it for all of those reasons, and more. But, shit. I'm still as contradictory and hypocritical as many of you, probably. I stopped being vegan and became lacto-ovo after six years because I moved to a very rural place and I had a hard time finding easy food to eat when I couldn't go to the neighborhood hippy store and get some fucking gluten logs or whatever. I wear leather shoes because I haven't found anything nearly as functional. After 22 years of no meat at all, I started eating fish because it I was so tired (and lazy) of trying to get enough easy protein in my diet. I have it once or twice a week now. Whatever, that's me. I don't preach at other people or begrudge them their diets, but I think the vast majority of people don't think enough about the varying consequences of their diet, just like they don't think enough about the consequences of the rest of their lifestyle. I suck just like everyone else, I just want to try hard to be aware of it, because it at least makes me try.
posted by Red Loop at 4:28 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think by "food is not important", he meant that "how we get the nutrition we need is not important"; not that actually eating food isn't important. Mind you, this is also a bit off base, because it assumes that meat is tastier than any other comestible. This is a subjective value, and honestly, I went vegan for 9 months and would have continued doing so if I wasn't eating all. the. time. Seriously, it got really expensive to be vegan. I can understand the point others have made that for many, veganism just isn't a viable economic option.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:33 AM on November 20, 2010


anecdote ** n ≠ data
posted by unSane at 4:52 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's true that animal-rights activists could potentially accomplish a lot more by advocating a couple of days a week without meat; it's also true that anti-abortion activists could accomplish a lot more by advocating for better sex education and more easily available birth control. But if you see the world in terms that are absolute -- if all meat is murder -- then it gets really hard to say, "Well, a little murder is okay. It's better than a lot of murder." In utilitarian terms, in quantitative terms, it is better, but for good reason it's often horrifying to subject human lives to that kind of utilitarian calculus -- is it okay to kidnap and murder one healthy person and donate their organs to five dying people, since that saves more lives? -- and it's not that surprising that some vegans would feel the same way about animal lives.

That said, I think it's a point well made that feminist activist energy is often diverted into policing one's diet, but of people I've known who were vegan, and people I've known who were dieting, the ones who were dieting were the ones who spent the most time and thought and energy on what they ate.
posted by Jeanne at 4:57 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The other day, me and my wife were driving down Steinway Street and we almost got rear ended by some guy driving like a maniac. As he passed, I noticed that his car had a bumper sticker that read "Proud to Be Vegan."

Make of that what you will.
posted by jonmc at 5:13 AM on November 20, 2010


You know who else was a vegetarian?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:39 AM on November 20, 2010


I'm accomplishing something by showing self-control in not eating meat.

Without meaning to pick on the commenter who wrote this, here's a large part of what's wrong with the link in the OP. It's like food is not about taste/enjoyment or nutrition, it's all about demonstrating virtue to oneself and others. I eat an unhealthy and immoral diet and I know it, but I'm relieved (not proud) that this is one food hangup I haven't yet acquired.
posted by immlass at 6:22 AM on November 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Most vegans don't talk about their diet, unless asked directly.

I don't know if this is true across the board but I can tell you that it's sure as hell true for me. I am a newish vegan and I try to never, ever talk about it except with family and good friends who directly ask me about it, because omnivores tend to be incredulous assholes when they find out somebody is making "weird" food choices. As is evidenced in many places here.

The author of this piece is annoying and dramatic and that doesn't have anything to do with what she chooses to eat.
posted by something something at 6:23 AM on November 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


My experience, when I was vegan and when I wasn't, is more like something something's. I think blue beetle's comment sums up what I was suspecting I'd find behind this link and I was not disappointed: Extremist has hard time maintaining extreme lifestyle, pendulum swings other way. Film at 11.
posted by jessamyn at 6:35 AM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've only got one thing to take away from this thread.

poaching their employees with promises of colored shirts and beards

Made. My. Day.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 6:44 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think actual hunger would make anyone's moral objections to eating various edible items go away.

Yup, deny someone any other food and they will live on tofu if it is all they have. Where are your precious carnivore values now?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:53 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't talk about my diet unless asked, or its pertinent to the discussion, and I sure as hell don't proselytize. Now, I'm not a vegan and never have been, but I did become a vegetarian for ethical reasons which I still believe.

I also believe that annoying people by insisting that they share my ethics is the surest way to lose somebody's sympathy, and a very bad way to win converts. And I'm not looking to win converts. The best I can do is try to live life the best I can, in the way that I understand living life ethically, and let others do the same, whether I agree with them or not. There's no consensus on the rightness or wrongness of being an omnivore, and I don't begrudge somebody else eating meat any more than I begrudge a wolf for eating a mouse.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:55 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know who else was a vegetarian?
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:39 PM


Godwinned in the 125th comment of the thread.

Also, eponysterical.
posted by idiomatika at 7:09 AM on November 20, 2010


I think actual hunger would make anyone's moral objections to eating various edible items go away.
I think that's not true. My grandfather grew up in a poor family that often didn't have enough to eat, and they still kept kosher. There are plenty of poor vegetarians and non-beef-eaters in India, and there are plenty of poor Muslims who would go to bed hungry before they'd slaughter and eat a pig. I'm sure that almost everyone would choose to eat forbidden food rather than actually starve, but it's just not true that hunger somehow negates rules about food. And while veganism may or may not be a bourgeois affectation, food restrictions are popular in many parts of the less-developed world.
posted by craichead at 7:09 AM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


The point someone earlier made about vegetarianism losing cachet in the western world is definitely true. Vegetarian options have become more meagre in restaurants, no one seems to hold it as a badge of honour any more and animal rights, outside of PETA-style campaigning, don't seem to be high on anyone's agenda.

But this is just one of a number of ways that the world is tipping back from 80s lefty liberal trendiness into 'don't give a stuff' conservatism. And I'm not really sure why.
posted by Summer at 7:11 AM on November 20, 2010


I don't really get that sense, I've only been vegetarian for a year and a few months but every grocery store is well stocked with vegetarian specific stuff (to say nothing of places like Wegman's and Whole Foods that have everything) and I have yet to encounter a restaurant without at least a couple vegetarian options. I guess if I went to a BBQ place or something I would have a problem.

Micheal Vick is the most hated man in America for abusing animals.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:18 AM on November 20, 2010


Vegans and vegetarians are like Mormons, or Mensa members, or Notre Dame fans -- everyone thinks they're assholes, but ninety-plus percent of them aren't at all. They're just normal people who do a thing that you don't necessarily agree with, and it doesn't inform every facet of their being.

However, if you know that someone is one of these the first time you meet them, then that person is an asshole, and it's not because of diet or religion or whatever. It's because some people are assholes.
posted by Etrigan at 7:25 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, maybe it's just London then fxg. I've found it increasingly hard to cater for my veggie friends when booking restaurants, to the extent I've just given up. I also used to work for a PR company and did a bit of planning for meat clients. All the audience research suggested young people (early 20s) in particular are no longer turning veggie.
posted by Summer at 7:26 AM on November 20, 2010


I built my entire life on the premise of veganism.

And now she is building her entire life around another single premise. What's she going to do when carnivorism doesn't do it for her anymore? Breatharianism?
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:36 AM on November 20, 2010


The pendulum has definitely swung back.

This.

Honestly, I'm realizing more and more that if I wait around long enough, pendulums swing back eventually. And not just with this subject. That's why I don't make drastic changes to my lifestyle very easily.

I'm a meat lover that worked for a long time at a vegetarian food company. What I did learn was that vegetarian dishes can be delicious. For quite some time, I didn't think that was possible, so it opened my eyes (and my stomach). Didn't make me change my habits, but allowed me to expand them.
posted by sundrop at 7:37 AM on November 20, 2010


Micheal Vick is the most hated man in America for abusing animals.

And for ruining fantasy football.
posted by notyou at 7:49 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The point someone earlier made about vegetarianism losing cachet in the western world is definitely true. ...

But this is just one of a number of ways that the world is tipping back from 80s lefty liberal trendiness into 'don't give a stuff' conservatism.


I don't think it's a loss of lefty trendiness (and I think that the 1980s are perhaps not the decade to associate with leftiness in general -- that was the decade of Reagan and Thatcher, Greed is Good, the Moral Majority, etc.). But it is a very clear illustration of how these food choices are enormously faddish, and the environmental and moral explanations function as justifications for the choice rather than as primary drivers of it.

Right now, veganism/vegetarianism isn't au courant; being a "locavore" is. Both function to give you control over and structure for that aspect of your life, and provide a moral framework to justify those choices.

I'm certainly sympathetic. I try and make "good" moral choices with my food consumption (eg locally raised, grass-fed meat, etc), tried being vegetarian when I was young, etc. But there's no escaping that a) these are very affluent choices to be making, and b) these personal choices have very little impact on the world, where structural and economic forces outweigh all this by many orders of magnitude.
posted by Forktine at 7:57 AM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


> Extremist has hard time maintaining extreme lifestyle, pendulum swings other way. Film at 11.

I personally prefer "smugulum".
posted by Decimask at 8:01 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, if you know that someone is one of these the first time you meet them, then that person is an asshole, and it's not because of diet or religion or whatever.

I get the point that a person who announces their ideological convictions to all and sundry is obnoxious, but I also don't get the "I never tell anyone I'm a vegetarian!" pride. There are people who learned I was a vegetarian the first time we met because we went out to lunch and I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich (hold the bacon, please). This did not lead to an impassioned discourse on factory farming and animal rights. "Oh, do you not eat meat?" "Nope." "Okay."

I really hope to not be an asshole about my eating preferences. But I also had my agent invite me out for sushi, and an aunt invite me to Les Halles, and I feel like it's less awkward for me to say up-front, "Oh, hey, can we do (Italian/Brunch/whatever) instead?" than for me to go out to a great sushi restaurant and not order any sushi.
posted by Jeanne at 8:11 AM on November 20, 2010


I wish she explained more about what suppements she actually took, especially the amount and type of B12. Because this sounds strange to me: The body has evolved to utilize meat efficiently and healthfully, not tablets or pills. You’ve been taking B12 supplements for years, and you’ve been trying to take iron supplements for weeks, and they haven’t been utilized by your body at all. If your body does not absorb the B12 and iron from the supplements you have a medical problem and it is very likely that your body will not absorb those nutrients from food as well (that does happen, I know a few non-vegetarians that developed a B12 deficiency and there is a busy internet forum with many patients with the same problems - often undiagnosed for a long time because doctors think it is rare and only happens in vegans). All vegan organizations stress the importance of B12 supplementation and normally, with adequate supplementation, B12 levels remain fine. Typically, when you're anemic, you're doctor will also prescribe iron pills. So now these doctors are saying that that is useless because our bodies "are not evolved to utilize them"? And why, if our bodies do not utilize supplements, did she go to the doctor for the vitamin B shots?
posted by davar at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeast - can be bought in packets therefore definitely not an animal
Plants - mostly WANT us to eat them so they can spread their seeds, so they're all OK
Seafood - are all really little and don't move around with much intent, therefore not animals
Fish - only have a two second memory and are all white inside (mostly) therefore not animals
Birds - squawk when killed therefore an animal, but because meat is white not a major animal
Pigs - clever animals and therefore it would be cruel to eat them but then the pig gives us a large variety of meats so each death is worth it
Cows and lambs - so cute and lovely so we should not eat them. Also meat is red so definitely a proper animal. However, they taste nice so we have to eat them but we must look for the red tractor


Cows are dumb enough to literally not notice having been impaled with a forklift, and continue grazing with a hole clean through their torso - and this is not an exaggeration, my girlfriend's family farms and she watched this happen. I don't think they count as particularly more aware than chicken or plankton. Pigs are smart enough to raise questions but then they're total dicks so it's all good again.

I know a vegan who eats a lot of candy, but always checks the ingredients to make sure there isn't gelatin in it. I don't really ever hang out with him anymore, but I'm curious what his opinion is on the consumption of plants grown with animal-waste fertilizer.
posted by kafziel at 8:14 AM on November 20, 2010


I can honestly say that I feel reborn

Ooh! Ooh! Do Christianity next.
posted by ostranenie at 8:32 AM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


too long; didn't eat
posted by Namlit at 8:39 AM on November 20, 2010


This thread makes me want a burger SO BAD.
posted by briank at 8:41 AM on November 20, 2010


The other day, me and my wife were driving down Steinway Street and we almost got rear ended by some guy driving like a maniac. As he passed, I noticed that his car had a bumper sticker that read "Proud to Be Vegan."

Make of that what you will.


A deranged cannibal ate some poor old Vegan lady and stole her car?
posted by philip-random at 8:48 AM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


You all rag on this chick, but I'm thinking, "You know what? A militant vegan was forced to see the light and eat sensibly so she doesn't slowly kill herself. AWESOME." So good for her.

Yes, those people are annoying, there is no denying of that. The whole "not eating animal products for ethical reasons" thing is an awkward subject, though. I am not all, "woo, this chicken died for me!" every time I eat meat (and the one time I got staggeringly drunk after half a Zima (don't ask) after only eating veggie for a few days made me that perhaps regular vegetarianism isn't best for me anyway), but I don't think that me personally abstaining from eating it is going to change our culture enough so that less animals die for food. (Has anyone EVER seen statistics indicating such? Just wondering.) Most of us eat meat for the reasons this lady ended up learning. This is not to rag on vegetarians, since the ones I know are doing just fine, thanks, and haven't nearly had the problems that this lady did. However, going 100% nitpicking animal-free is a lot of stress and struggle AND wonky body issues, and for what? How many animal lives have you saved by only eating vegan products? How many creepy factory issues have you solved through militant veganism?

If you want to go vegetarian for other reasons, fine (I have a friend who is hospitalization-level allergic to meat, and dear god, does he wish he could eat steak. But note that that fellow has a different "right for his body" level than most of us.), that one doesn't nearly seem to be as damaging to most people as veganism can be.

So, cheers to this lady for embracing the steak, and hopefully she'll eventually settle down and chill out about the food thing and channel her energies elsewhere.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:51 AM on November 20, 2010


"Interesting back-and-forth there, because veganism strikes me as very bourgeois lifestyle choice."

It is, as is vegetarianism.


From what little I know about India through Indian friends and coworkers, vegetarianism (not veganism) is the default for a lot of people there (based on family tradition and/or local customs) and not in any sense a luxury.
posted by treepour at 9:00 AM on November 20, 2010


How many animal lives have you saved by only eating vegan products? How many creepy factory issues have you solved through militant veganism?

It's mostly a personal ethical issue for most, I think. I don't expect I'm actually saving animal lives or anything, the grocery store hasn't ordered less steak since I started eating tofu instead.

Think of it like an abolitionist choosing not to own slaves when it was legal, you haven't really done shit to stop slavery but your own conscience is clean.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:01 AM on November 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


But there's no escaping that a) these are very affluent choices to be making, and b) these personal choices have very little impact on the world, where structural and economic forces outweigh all this by many orders of magnitude.

Yeah, the issue ought to be: how can we feed EVERYBODY well without destroying the biosphere in the process? Those who jump to veganism/vegetarianism as THE solution are skipping the point that to achieve such an end, we must first figure out how to communicate the need for such a monumental changes in lifestyle, customs, cultural consciousness to the vast majority of the planet. This is not accomplished by "perfecting" one's own ethical position and then being self-important about it.
posted by philip-random at 9:10 AM on November 20, 2010


The vast majority of the planet doesn't eat anywhere near as much meat as we do in the U.S., although consumption is growing rapidly in the rest of the world. As societies get richer, they eat more meat - that's really the bourgeois choice. In places where they don't have meat as cheap as we do in North America, and where people are much poorer, they eat half as much meat or less per capita as we do.
posted by rtha at 9:21 AM on November 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


and hopefully she'll eventually settle down and chill out about the food thing and channel her energies elsewhere.

That's what we're all afraid of.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:26 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


"But there's no escaping that a) these are very affluent choices to be making,"

Kind of. I mean, I have the luxury of a varied diet as a vegetarian here in the west, but eating vegetarian is usually cheaper. Especially if you're trying to eat meat ethically — that localvore organic shit's not cheaper than beans, y'know?
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


briank: This thread makes me want a burger SO BAD

I went to this restaurant yesterday, they had a lunch special "cowboy burger:" a half pound burger with lettuce tomato and red onion, topped with chipotle mayo, and for bread, two grilled cheese sandwiches, one with jalapenos in it and the other with bacon inside.

omfgsogood
posted by paisley henosis at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


My vegetarian diet is quite cheap. I eat mostly Indian food, which I can buy in packets from the Cub on Lake and Hiawatha (not an upscale neighborhood, and there is the same stuff at the Cub in North Minneapolis, which is one of Minneapolis poorest neighborhoods). The packets cost me about $2.50 each and are really excellent. They take 2 minutes to cook in a microwave.

It's cheaper than Burger King and cheaper than anything found at a convenience store.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:39 AM on November 20, 2010


You can get iron supplements in liquid form, which are much easier on the stomach.
posted by yaxu at 9:40 AM on November 20, 2010


How ever did you escape the vegan death squads?

he covered himself with lard - it keeps them away all the time - wear it for more than two days, it'll keep everyone away
posted by pyramid termite at 9:41 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The vast majority of the planet doesn't eat anywhere near as much meat as we do in the U.S., although consumption is growing rapidly in the rest of the world. As societies get richer, they eat more meat - that's really the bourgeois choice.

But a low-meat diet and a vegan diet are very different things. I don't think anyone would say it's a bourgeois choice to eat very limited amounts of meat, but that's not what we're talking about here. It takes many more resources to adhere to a zero-meat and zero-animal-products diet in a healthy manner than it does a meat-once-a-week diet. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, of course.
posted by enn at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2010


Here are the packets, by the way. They really are excellent. I think I shall have one now.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2010


When the doctor first told me that I had numerous vitamin and mineral deficiencies, that I was almost anemic, and my B12 was so low she wanted to give me an injection immediately, I refused to believe her.

I guess she missed Vegan 101 where they warn you about that.

I am surprised that anyone can manage to be low in these minerals on a vegan diet these days, considering that every vegan food I come across seems to boost the iron and B12 content (soy/rice/hemp milks, vegan "meats", vegan cheeses, etc...), even standard tofu is a rich source of both of these things.
posted by tybeet at 9:43 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they're the scrawny ones.

I hope you were being sarcastic, because this is 100% not true. I know plenty of normal sized vegans, slightly overweight vegans, and some borderline obese vegans. Of course I know some skinny ones too. You absolutely cannot tell what a person eats just by looking at their body type.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:48 AM on November 20, 2010


How many animal lives have you saved by only eating vegan products? How many creepy factory issues have you solved through militant veganism?

There are an estimated 4 million vegetarians in the UK, I struggle to see how this would not have significant impact on demand for meat products.

Think of it like an abolitionist choosing not to own slaves when it was legal, you haven't really done shit to stop slavery but your own conscience is clean.

Well you have in fact not enslaved someone. This will have implications for the economics of slavery, and with collective action the impact will be magnified.
posted by biffa at 9:57 AM on November 20, 2010


enn: the original comment said vegetarianism is an affluent choice. That's just plainly the opposite of truth. A lentil soup portion with some inexpensive (even organic) veggies (and organic lentils, as well) run about... 40 cents? And it will have everything, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins. Brown rice or beans with vegetables is just a bit more expensive, if you don't go for most expensive organic veggies from whole foods.
posted by rainy at 9:58 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The more vegans in the world, the more likely you or I can go to a restaurant and get really healthy food (whether or not you want to eat only vegan food).

The main thought I get from this is how very hard it was for her to change her mind, how emotional it was for her, and how much pressure she got from both sides.

I think that any effort to change people's minds, people's thinking, about any issue they care about, must take this intense emotional side of the experience into account.
posted by amtho at 10:02 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, this thread is about a) attacking the girl for being unstable/extremist/annoying b) how we should eat to Save the Planettm. I must wonder how it would have gone if this were reversed, i.e. if this had been a post by a girl who discovers that a vegan diet makes her feel better.
posted by eeeeeez at 10:05 AM on November 20, 2010


My old Uncle ate sausages and eggs, birthday cakes on birthdays..vegtables, fruits, normal 1900-1995 meals. He lived to 95. The biggest difference between him and this foodie blogger is probably not that he was a meat eater but that he got tons of exercise every day. Vigorous daily exercise...that's the trump card.
posted by naplesyellow at 10:06 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


frodisaur wrote: "Hell, if you eat an apple, you're essentially consuming a fetus."

This is precisely what I find most troublesome about the vegetarian and vegan points of view. Some people have decided that animals are somehow worth more than plants. In my view, both are important to our earth. A person is not on higher moral ground because they choose to consume plants.

The only way, to my mind, food and morality intersect outside of depriving others of it is abuse. Abusive practices, whether toward animals or toward your farmland, produce less tasty (and possibly less healthy) food.

As far as chicken vs. beef, chicken has the unfortunate byproduct of all that ammonia laden shit and piss mix concentrated in one relatively small area. It really does a number on rivers and streams. More so than cow shit, for some reason I haven't quite been able to figure out yet. Maybe it's just that they mix the chicken shit with water and spray the resultant slurry on fields as fertilizer.

Smells awful for a few days, but boy does it increase the amount of hay that can be produced, or the number of cows that can graze in one pasture without supplemental feeding.
posted by wierdo at 10:06 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


rainy, the original comment said that veganism was a bourgeois choice. Yes, I realize that lentils are cheap — they are probably half my diet. But I'm not talking about a specific meal; I'm talking about the diet as a whole, and eating only lentils for months on end is not going to keep you from having B12 deficiency; that takes work, and resources, and the ability to have a doctor or a nutritionist to fall back on if things go awry.

There's nothing wrong with using those resources if you can afford them and if veganism is important to you. But let's not pretend the person who relies on the vitamins in fortified soy milk and scrutinizes every package for gelatin or dairy is living the same way as a third-world working-class person who eats meat every chance he gets, only that ends up being a few bites once a month because he can't afford any more.
posted by enn at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some people have decided that animals are somehow worth more than plants. In my view, both are important to our earth. A person is not on higher moral ground because they choose to consume plants.

While people have different reasons for going vegetarian I don't the importance of animals vs plants to the global ecology is a common one. Minimising environment impact might be one reason for some people, but it is possible to demonstrate that eating plants has less impact than animals. A more common reason (I would argue) is the moral argument that animals have greater capacity for suffering than plants and that thus forgoing meat is a moral choice which reduces suffering and divests the vegetarian of responsbility for any suffering as a result of the animal farming and slaughtering process. While a case for plant suffering is sometimes made this tends to be taken less seriously by most people.
posted by biffa at 10:12 AM on November 20, 2010


"This is precisely what I find most troublesome about the vegetarian and vegan points of view. Some people have decided that animals are somehow worth more than plants. In my view, both are important to our earth."

This is a bit of fallacious logic. Importance to the earth has no necessary contradiction to vegetarianism or veganism — most would agree that plants are important to the earth. It's like saying that we shouldn't be concerned about sexism because men and women are important to humanity, in that the conclusion doesn't follow from the premise.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on November 20, 2010


enn: Actually, here's the original comment. B12 can be obtained from milk, eggs and milk products, so if you add some butter to the lentil soup, you should be good.

There are many working people in the world that get good nutrition from lentils, beans, brown rice, vegies and milk/butter/etc without any food label OCD required.
posted by rainy at 10:21 AM on November 20, 2010


No, that is not the original comment. The comment I linked to preceded the comment you linked to. Since rtha specifically used the word "bourgeois" in her rebuttal, I think it is reasonable to assume that she was responding to the comment describing veganism as bourgeois, and not the comment describing vegetarianism and locavorism as affluent choices.

Also, butter in lentil soup is an abomination.
posted by enn at 10:25 AM on November 20, 2010


enn: actually, let me correct this, you were replying to the comment that said As societies get richer, they eat more meat - that's really the bourgeois choice. - that one spoke about meat, not eggs or milk products.
posted by rainy at 10:27 AM on November 20, 2010


This is a bit of fallacious logic.

Doubly so because animals are particulary inefficient ways to convert plants into calories.
posted by mendel at 10:28 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


enn: the original comment said vegetarianism is an affluent choice
I think it's really important to differentiate between vegetarianism and veganism here. It seems really silly to me to suggest that vegetarianism, including ethical vegetarianism, is a privileged choice. In developed countries, it may be a choice that's more common among bourgeois people, but that's not true if you look at the entire world. There are lots of ethical vegetarians in India who are not privileged by global standards. But I do think that it may take a degree of privilege to make a go of being vegan. And as far as I know, she's right that there isn't a culture in the world that practices veganism, as opposed to vegetarianism.
posted by craichead at 10:29 AM on November 20, 2010


Ah, I don't think that's reasonable since the other comment was so much higher up the thread, but anyway.. I don't have an opinion on veganism, I only speak about vegetarianism, so we agree here. I think you're terribly wrong about butter in lentil soup..
posted by rainy at 10:29 AM on November 20, 2010


As to whether vegetarianism necessitates a bourgeouis lifestyle: this guy is shortlisted for CNN's Hero of the Year because he's managing to feed 400 homeless Indian people a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner - simple, hot, vegetarian meals. The group's operations are $327/day. I doubt they could run such an inexpensive operation if meat was involved.
posted by naju at 10:36 AM on November 20, 2010


Also, butter in lentil soup is an abomination.

"you shall not seethe a pod in its butter milk" - do gastronomy 14:21
posted by pyramid termite at 10:42 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, they're the scrawny ones.

Yeah, I presume this is a joke. The largest land animals on earth are, by and large, vegetarian. It's disquietingly easy to get fat on grains.

Well, that and chocolate. Massive amounts of chocolate.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:43 AM on November 20, 2010



As to whether vegetarianism necessitates a bourgeouis lifestyle: this guy is shortlisted for CNN's Hero of the Year because he's managing to feed 400 homeless Indian people a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner - simple, hot, vegetarian meals. The group's operations are $327/day. I doubt they could run such an inexpensive operation if meat was involved.


Sounds great, but imagine what would happen if he gave those people livestock? I'm a big fan of Heifer International. Someone said that animals are an inefficient way to produce calories, but that's not true. Many animals can be fed refuse and they produce products that contain more bioavailable forms of many nutrients like DHA. Particularly the conversion of plant sources of Vitamin A to usable retiniol, which some women lack the ability to do.

Fur/fibers/feathers, bones, meat, milk, breeding stock= a great way to get people out of poverty. Yes, I'm glad to see people eating simple vegetarian meals, but I'd love to see women and children in particular in developing countries having access to animal products.

Pigs in particular can literally be fed shit. Many Asian villages have "toliet pigs." That's why they are considered unclean in many cultures.
posted by melissam at 10:48 AM on November 20, 2010


mendel wrote: "Doubly so because animals are particulary inefficient ways to convert plants into calories."

The vegetarians and vegans I have known (other than my sister, who quit eating meat for a while after getting food poisoning in Mexico) claim to do it because they don't want animals to suffer, not out of some abstract desire to be more ecologically sustainable. So no, it's not fallacious. Both plants and animals are important.

Meat's good for you. So is just about everything else we call food, aside perhaps from some factory made desserts that have no nutritional value whatsoever beyond the calories. None of it is healthy in excessive quantities.

Moreover, I guarantee you that the guy I used to live next to out in the sticks was producing cows in a more sustainable manner than almost every grain farm in the world. The grasses in his field, they grew. The rain filled up his pond. Those two things took his cows from small calves to the ready-to-slaughter size. Every once in a while, if it was a very dry summer, he might have to import some hay from a hundred miles away.

Most of those grasses I can't eat anyway, my body will just pass them through without getting most of the nutrients out. It's not inefficient at all to turn something inedible to humans into something edible for humans. It is inefficient to grow corn with oil-based fertilizer and pesticides and then truck it halfway across the country or ship it on a boat halfway around the world and feed it to cows which are then shipped halfway around the world to their ultimate destination.

I hate to be an ass, but sometimes I wonder if some of you have ever even seen a farm, or if everything you "know" about farming comes from Food, Inc. Using human food to feed farm animals, aside perhaps from the family's scraps or on a temporary basis when the normal food sources for the animals were unavailable is a relatively recent development, and not a good one.
posted by wierdo at 10:48 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the issue ought to be: how can we feed EVERYBODY well without destroying the biosphere in the process?

It may not be possible. The current human population explosion that occurred over the 20th century occurred during the widespread adaptation of petrochemcally derived nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides, along with grain varietals specifically attuned to flourish under their use. In the absence of abundant and extremely cheap fossil fuels it's entirely possible that we would not be able to sustain the current human population level. Of course, as we come to understand more about biochemistry and ecology, we may be able to produce greater yields using purely organic methods. But one of the reasons organic food is more expensive than non is that it's a shitload harder to grow.
posted by Diablevert at 10:51 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that "but poor people in India eat vegetarian" is a really weaselly way to respond to the suggestion that veganism (and to a lesser extent, vegetarianism) are generally affluent choices in the US and Europe. Context matters.

Kind of. I mean, I have the luxury of a varied diet as a vegetarian here in the west, but eating vegetarian is usually cheaper. Especially if you're trying to eat meat ethically — that localvore organic shit's not cheaper than beans, y'know?

But who eats only beans? I have the incredible luxury of living in an area that has a lot of small-scale meat production, so I can buy my meat directly from the producers for a lot less than you can buy the crappy stuff in the supermarket. If I didn't have access to such cheap and high-quality meat, I'd eat less of it.

To the extent that I know the food bills of my vegetarian friends, they aren't spending much, if at all, less than I am. I buy meat, but they buy the expensive soy shit, expensive cruelty-free cheese, expensive organic veggie prepared meals, etc. Yes, anyone who has lots of time and a kitchen can eat super cheap by eating only rice, beans, and some veggies. But that isn't how almost anyone in the US actually eats. People eat prepared foods; they want flavorful and varied condiments and sauces; few people cook everything from scratch.
posted by Forktine at 10:51 AM on November 20, 2010


Well, maybe it's just London then fxg.

It probably is England. I lived in the UK in the waning days of the CJD scare, and everyone was a born-again vegetarian. I remember being in McDonalds and thinking wow, they have veggie burgers, and people are actually eating them?

So I don't think you're seeing a decline, more a settling. By comparison, I've lived in Seattle since '95 (with the exception of the year in the UK), and in the last 15 years vegetarian and vegan cuisine has grown immensely. And that's given that Seattle had a lot of veggie/vegan options compared to the rest of the US back then. Arguably the best restaurant in town is vegan friendly. Romio's Pizza (a local chain) will make you a vegan, gluten-free pizza. And that's the vegan stuff; we're long and deep in vegetarian restaurants and options. You're more likely to end up in a cash only restaurant than a vegetarian unfriendly one.

And yet, McDonald's in the US still doesn't sell a vegetarian burger, although Burger King now does.
posted by dw at 10:56 AM on November 20, 2010


As to whether vegetarianism necessitates a bourgeouis lifestyle: this guy is shortlisted for CNN's Hero of the Year because he's managing to feed 400 homeless Indian people a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner - simple, hot, vegetarian meals. The group's operations are $327/day. I doubt they could run such an inexpensive operation if meat was involved.
posted by naju at 10:36 AM on November 20 [+] [!]


Road kill.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 10:57 AM on November 20, 2010


But a low-meat diet and a vegan diet are very different things.

Agreed. But the point in that comment about how vegetarianism/veganism is a HUGE change for most of the planet (and is therefore something that will be difficult to "convert" people to) is what I was taking issue with. We don't need to convert people to being vegan, or strictly vegetarian, to make big changes, and converting most of the people in this world isn't the issue, since they're already mostly vegetarian (by Western/developed standards, at least). The big work - and I say this as a meat eater - is convincing those of us in the developing world to eat less meat. "Eat no meat/animal products" is basically a non-starter for most people here. "Eat less" is a much more achievable goal.

Corn prices are on the rise in the US, which means beef prices are going up. Will it result in people eating less beef? My guess is no, but I guess we'll see.
posted by rtha at 11:01 AM on November 20, 2010


Moreover, I guarantee you that the guy I used to live next to out in the sticks was producing cows in a more sustainable manner than almost every grain farm in the world.

And I guarantee my backyard garden is more sustainable than any industrial scale beef factory, but how about we compare apples to apples? On the industrial scale eating grain directly is more efficient than eating industrial grain filtered through cows.

Free range cows eating grass on land that isn't suitable for other agriculture is awesome and efficient and great use of resources. No one denies that, same with scraps for pigs. However, that isn't what people actually eat in Western nations. They eat meat with none of those advantages so when people talk about meat they are shorthand referring to the industrial system.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:04 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


To the extent that I know the food bills of my vegetarian friends, they aren't spending much, if at all, less than I am. I buy meat, but they buy the expensive soy shit, expensive cruelty-free cheese, expensive organic veggie prepared meals, etc. Yes, anyone who has lots of time and a kitchen can eat super cheap by eating only rice, beans, and some veggies. But that isn't how almost anyone in the US actually eats. People eat prepared foods; they want flavorful and varied condiments and sauces; few people cook everything from scratch.

I'm a vegetarian and I never buy expensive soy shit, expensive cheese, or expensive vegetarian prepared shit. I do have a kitchen (as you probably do and vast majority of people eating meat). but I don't spend much time cooking. A lentil soup takes 15 minutes to cook if lentils are pre-split in a mixer and vegies are pre-cut. So that's like 10 minutes of preparation for 2 days and then 15 minutes to make a soup, and in those 15 minutes you can check email or do some light cleaning or anything else.

When I have more spare time I can do something more deliberate with brown rice and sauteed vegies.

But I agree with you that if you don't have a kitchen, in most places it's more convenient to get meat-based food from restaurants.
posted by rainy at 11:05 AM on November 20, 2010


Note the strange paradox in the US that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be obese, while the richer you are, the more likely you are to be a "normal" weight. The poor of the world eat a lot of rice and beans. The poor of the US eat a lot of fried meat and vegetables.

I do know poor vegans, and I know fat middle and upper class Americans (including myself). But by in large vegans have the income to choose to be vegan in America, because they can afford to be. It's not a condemnation of veganism -- when people can afford to eat healthy, they're more likely to eat healthy. When they can't afford it, they'll eat what's cheap in money and time. A fat-laden box of fried chicken takes a whole lot less time (you go and pick it up) than the hours it takes to get a pot of beans to soften.
posted by dw at 11:06 AM on November 20, 2010


Canned beans, for the win.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:11 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that "but poor people in India eat vegetarian" is a really weaselly way to respond to the suggestion that veganism (and to a lesser extent, vegetarianism) are generally affluent choices in the US and Europe. Context matters.
And I think the whole "you're just a privileged jerk! Real hunger would cure you of your bourgeois food ethics!" narrative is ignorant, insular, and incorrect. And actually, the rest of your post kind of supports that. If your vegetarian friends are spending the same or a little less on food than you are, then their vegetarianism is not a privileged choice compared to your food choices.

I'm not a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. But I think the whole discourse about vegetarianism and privilege confuses culture with economics.
posted by craichead at 11:16 AM on November 20, 2010


dw: It's important not to mix up two different things here. Someone who can't afford expensive food or products can still manager their time effectively. If they do, they'll often find that rice/lentil/brown rice/cheap vegie meal is much cheaper than KFC. Then they can look at how much time they have available and choose between let's say a meal with beans that need to be soaked overnight and boiled for an hour (well, mung beans don't need to be soaked and cook in 30 mins, but you get my point..) and quick-cooking vegetarian options like lentils, potatoes. Even if a meal takes an hour or more to cook, you can still do other things while it's cooking so it's not a total loss of time.

However! Many people don't manager their time effectively, are depressed and/or stressed much of the time, and as a result will choose instantly available foods even if they may be more expensive (although still cheap compared to good restaurants). The same people will often also be poor.

So this isn't strictly about income but more of a correlation/not causation thing.
posted by rainy at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2010


Dammit, manager/manage/ .
posted by rainy at 11:22 AM on November 20, 2010


Canned beans, for the win.

changed my life. realizing that yeah, canned is more expensive than dry but still darned cheap compared to just about any easily available protein out there.

The poor of the world eat a lot of rice and beans.

canned beans, rice -- probably the only staples you'll always find in my kitchen. pure survival stuff ... and it's remarkably good for you. Add some garlic, an onion, maybe a little chili pepper and cumin, and it tastes good too.

How is it that we allow kids to graduate high school without knowing how to cook up some kind of rice + beans survival dish?
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I'm curious about is, how many people would eat meat if they had to kill the animal? I imagine probably 60-70% would stop if someone wasn't doing it for them. There's a passage in "Walden" by Thoreau where he catches a fish, cleans it, fries it and it ends up being such a hassle that he's like "ah fuck it it's easier to make a bean stew".

There's two separate things here, it's more of a hassle to raise and take care of, and butcher an animal; and the separate issue that many people would see it very similar to killing a pet you're used to. I don't mind if you choose to do it consciously but the way things are set up now is that the process is very disassociated from the beginning to end.
posted by rainy at 11:40 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great thread! Thanks George_Spiggott, Skwirl, Astro Zombie, KlangKlangston, idiopath, philip-random, malusmoriendumest, Inspector.Gadget, ostranenie, and pyramid termite for the laughs.

My comment is kind of like what frodisaur said. We're just eating sunlight. Only plants can photosynthesize, where sunlight becomes something we can actually live off of. But to really eat plants well, we need big-ass teeth and a crazy specialized stomach to process all that cellulose properly. Or we can just kill and eat that fucking cow, man. Genius! Now we have more time to just hang out and have a good time. Seems like the only real problem is forgetting about the cow, how truly amazing it is, marginalizing it into a commodity, and corralling it in a parking lot and force-feeding it shitty corn and antibiotics, artificially extending its suffering from malnutrition and boredom long enough to get maximum ROI when slaughtering it.

Eating meat was a pretty clever technique for acquiring the protein/vitamins/stuff we need to live with the least work. But then modern agribusiness came along and turned it into a horrible parody. Not clever at all. Do it that way and it's not just morally fucked, but the nutritional value is fucked, too (economically fucked, too, I think, at least in the long-term).

So, um... you vegans be careful and take those supplements. Actually, that's probably good advice for all of us. Supplements are clever, too, just nowhere near as delicious as a juicy slab of lightly grilled flesh.
posted by fartknocker at 11:45 AM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


She reads kind of like the David Horowitz of veganism....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:50 AM on November 20, 2010


Particularly the conversion of plant sources of Vitamin A to usable retiniol, which some women lack the ability to do.
The research you linked to says that the conversion of beta-carotene to retinol is less efficient for some people. That does not mean that they do not convert beta-carotene to vitamin A at all.
posted by davar at 11:54 AM on November 20, 2010


it's more of a hassle to raise and take care of, and butcher an animal.

Farming can kind of be a hassle too, can see how it would make someone say, "Fuck it, I'll just find something furry to shoot for food." On the other hand, without farmers we don't have beer, and beer is worth the hassle.


Eating meat was a pretty clever technique for acquiring the protein/vitamins/stuff we need to live with the least work. But then modern agribusiness came along and turned it into a horrible parody.


No, than primitive agriculture came around and we got civilization out of the deal. (and beer)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:54 AM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Civilization never quite figured out than and then though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:56 AM on November 20, 2010


And I think the whole "you're just a privileged jerk! Real hunger would cure you of your bourgeois food ethics!" narrative is ignorant, insular, and incorrect. And actually, the rest of your post kind of supports that.

Are you responding to someone else? I can't see this in anything I wrote, but maybe I'm missing it?

If your vegetarian friends are spending the same or a little less on food than you are, then their vegetarianism is not a privileged choice compared to your food choices.

My food choices (as I think I said once or twice above) are very privileged choices, both in a US and a global context. I can afford to eat local food, or eat vegan, or pretty much whatever I want. I have a short commute and a flexible schedule, reliable transportation, no children to worry about, a big freezer, and access to decent stores. I can take the time to cook split pea or bean soup from scratch, with or without meat.

In other words, my situation is not reflective of the way the vast majority of the world eats, nor is it reflective of how poor people in the US eat. It is, however, a pretty good vantage point from which to compare alternative privileged eating choices.

If I went back to eating vegetarian tomorrow, I don't think my food bills would go down by much. The calories that are coming from (fairly cheap) meat would have to be replaced by non-meat calories. I already use a lot of whole grains, beans, veggies, etc, and honestly meat just isn't the biggest component of my food bill. Beans are cheaper per pound, but not extraordinarily so by caloric density. If I really wanted to save money, I'd buy cases of instant mac and cheese, ramen, and other highly-processed prepared carbohydrates.
posted by Forktine at 12:07 PM on November 20, 2010


What I'm curious about is, how many people would eat meat if they had to kill the animal? I imagine probably 60-70% would stop if someone wasn't doing it for them. There's a passage in "Walden" by Thoreau where he catches a fish, cleans it, fries it and it ends up being such a hassle that he's like "ah fuck it it's easier to make a bean stew".

Meh. I think it's a lot like how vegetarians can acquire a physical aversion to the sight of smell of meat after years without it; it is repulsive because strange. Make it ordinary and the repulsion would fade. That's the true luxury we have, the ease with which we compartmentalize our love of/desire for meat and impulse to infantalize and fawn over animals. Or maybe I'm just influenced by having recently finished Novella Carpenter's Education of an Urban Farmer. She says bunnies are pretty easy; put its neck under a broom handle and break it by stepping on the broom.
posted by Diablevert at 12:16 PM on November 20, 2010


"I hate to be an ass, but sometimes I wonder if some of you have ever even seen a farm, or if everything you "know" about farming comes from Food, Inc. Using human food to feed farm animals, aside perhaps from the family's scraps or on a temporary basis when the normal food sources for the animals were unavailable is a relatively recent development, and not a good one."

Yeah, actually. My late uncle had a sheep farm in Wisconsin, now my aunt runs it. All the kids were desperate to escape. I also know both what a farm looks like when it's well run and when it's just eking by, and what a farm looks like before and after going organic. My cousin, who grew up on the farm, has gone back and forth on being vegetarian, but I think he is now, and for him I feel like it's totally a luxury thing — when he's got a stable place and cooks for himself, it's vegetarian. When he's riding his bike across the country and crashing with strangers, he eats meat. But it's a very affordable luxury.

"Yes, anyone who has lots of time and a kitchen can eat super cheap by eating only rice, beans, and some veggies. But that isn't how almost anyone in the US actually eats. People eat prepared foods; they want flavorful and varied condiments and sauces; few people cook everything from scratch."

Man, on this we just have totally different social groups. Like, I know that broadly across the US, almost no one eats vegetarian or cooks from scratch, but you know, it's not like most people are localvores either. Most of the folks I know can spend 20 minutes on making a dinner, and that's all it really takes to make something damn tasty if you've got, like, one staple starch, one protein (especially if you eat eggs) and one vegetable. It's not any faster to cook meat that it is to cook veg (especially if you like crisp veggies, since the risk of food borne illness is so much lower). The meal that takes me the longest to make is a big thing of hashbrowns on the weekends.
posted by klangklangston at 12:34 PM on November 20, 2010


Fur/fibers/feathers, bones, meat, milk, breeding stock= a great way to get people out of poverty. Yes, I'm glad to see people eating simple vegetarian meals, but I'd love to see women and children in particular in developing countries having access to animal products.

Goats are sometimes known as the poor person's cattle. They require far less land and produce milk that is easier for people to digest than cows. They are also capable of eating almost anything, similar to pigs, but it's still not a hygenic practice to feed farm animals feces. Bacteria and protozoa handle human waste just fine without having to feed it to animals used for food, and the hazard of contamination is very high otherwise.

Pigs can be fed scraps. There's an infamous episode of Dirty Jobs where the subject is a hog farmer who feeds his pigs scraps from restaurants, which they pay him to take, so his food is essentially free (this works better in affluent societies). Modern day hog farming tends to create a lot of waste, which is often not required by US environmental standards to be treated and stagnates, creating toxic pools of waste which contaminate all the land around them. Goats, on the other hand, can be herded and used for landscaping, as well as being milked and eaten, and they don't lend themselves well to factory farming. Since they don't pull grass out by the roots, and instead chomp the tops off, they don't cause erosion by their grazing and can improve soil conditions where overgrowth and/or an invasive species is a problem. You can keep a few goats on less than an acre, as well as chickens, which can be used to control locusts and other pests.

So, yes, I agree about breeding stock and sustenance farming, but more goats and less hogs, please.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:47 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I feel like animal rights activists could maximize their utility by starting a campaign suggesting people only eat meat 3 days a week, instead of becoming vegetarians or vegans.

Which I first took to mean that for three days a week, one eat only meat (and nothing else), though I'm guessing what you intended is that one eat meat only three days (and no more often) a week.

Which sounds nitpicky, but it does make a world of difference. I can imagine, I briefly did imagine, a severe ARA granola dude urging a carnivore to bear down for a time on unhealthy amounts of un-bunned hotdog, on un-lettuced and un-tomatoed bacon, on whacking great hunks of porterhouse to the exclusion of all else, build up his cholesterol, get gouty, get a little sick of the whole thing. Eventually give up meat....
posted by IndigoJones at 12:50 PM on November 20, 2010


Basically, a lot of cheapness of meat is because 80-90% of people eat meat and corn is subsidized and large industrial farms are treating livestock like assholes.

Let's say 50% of population got all their protein from plant foods, there were no subsidies and 100% of livestock was humanely raised and fed. How would you then feed 150 million people, affordably, on a meat-centered diet? Yeah.
posted by rainy at 12:52 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


What I'm curious about is, how many people would eat meat if they had to kill the animal?

I'd probably get more serious about looking for meat alternatives. But then, if I had to drill and/or mine for the various metals and petrochemicals required to provide the materials that allowed for the production of the technology I'm currently using to surf the internets (my MacBook), then I'd probably seek out alternate means for communicating with folks.
posted by philip-random at 12:55 PM on November 20, 2010


philip-random: That's kind of different, though, because drilling / mining for metals takes forever. You can kill a cow in 5 seconds. If I could build a computer with a monitor and everything out of raw materials in under 5 seconds, that'd be awesome.
posted by rainy at 1:03 PM on November 20, 2010


You can kill a cow in 5 seconds.

A proper cow slaughter can take 1-2 days. The actual death might be five seconds, but processing the animal yourself is no trivial task. Either way, there are plenty of small farms that allow you to participate if you want.
posted by melissam at 1:10 PM on November 20, 2010


So, unless you really want red meat, and if you're not vegetarian, you can get all the meat and dairy protein you could ever want with some laying chickens and a few milking goats. You'd have more than enough for a family and could to sell/give what's left, and the animals can actually be used to improve the land and keep crops and the soil or a garden healthy by utilizing their natural abilities carefully. Not so easy to do that with cows. But if you just see farming as inputs and outputs, some of these potentially beneficial relationships get tossed to the side in favor of maximal efficiency, and yet we still eat so much food which requires a huge amount of energy input to produce and is possibly the least efficient and most environmentally harmful form of animal protein - cattle. Eventually the reality of this waste will come back to haunt us. It's not so much about food choices amidst abundance as it is trying to maintain a lifestyle that is not sustainable.

There's certainly a lot to be said in favor of the Green Revolution, but so much of big agriculture has become about inputs and outputs over other practices which might be more sustainable, if potentially less efficient- at least until fertilizer becomes too expensive to subsidize with cheap oil. Once we are forced to stop pouring oil over all our crops to replenish the depleted topsoil, we may have to rethink our modern relationship with meat, among other products of agriculture. Having goats and chickens around isn't possible for everyone, but might be a bit more worthwhile in the long run than swimming pools and manicured grass, $2/lb. hormone-laden ground beef processed by undocumented workers working under inhumane labor practices, and Big Macs.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:14 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I'm curious about is, how many people would eat meat if they had to kill the animal?

Me. Because I've done it.

And almost everyone who lives on a livestock farm in the US. And pretty much everyone who lives in a low-industrialization society.

I imagine probably 60-70% would stop if someone wasn't doing it for them.

Doubt it; see above. I have never met a vegetarian in places like, say, Easter Island or rural Nigeria, where there isn't "someone else to do it for you."

There's a passage in "Walden" by Thoreau where he catches a fish, cleans it, fries it and it ends up being such a hassle that he's like "ah fuck it it's easier to make a bean stew".

Thoreau was a great writer but a big liar and a spoiled douchebrat. He went to his mother's house for Sunday dinner every week (a walk of 1.5 miles mas o menos) and had her servants do his laundry.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:24 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


dw: It's important not to mix up two different things here. Someone who can't afford expensive food or products can still manager their time effectively....

However! Many people don't manager their time effectively, are depressed and/or stressed much of the time, and as a result will choose instantly available foods even if they may be more expensive (although still cheap compared to good restaurants). The same people will often also be poor.


See, this is the standard trope of why poor people are fat -- "If they were just smart enough to manage their time better!" And it's wrong and does not reflect the reality on the ground.

Meat -- really, fat -- is heavily subsidized in the US. Vegetables are not. As a result, milk and meat cost a lot less than they would without the subsidies. And given that milk and meat contain more calories per pound than vegetables, you can see why a poor family would choose to load up on that instead of vegetables and beans.

And keep in mind we're talking about single mothers with children or two income households where the parents aren't stay at home. The idea that "they can't manage their time well" is silly given they're trying to manage a heck of a lot of things. You have a bunch of kids and they need food now. Yeah, lentils are quick and easy, but would you want to eat lentils seven days a week?

The paradox of the poor being fat is something that's been heavily studied by public health researchers, and all sorts of solutions have been thrown out there -- raising the daily allotment on food stamps so vegetables are more affordable, putting a tax on fat, eliminating the farm subsidies -- but, for the most part, there's no political will to do any of it. They've looked at educating people in how to make quick, low cost, healthy meals, but the same problems keep coming back. Legumes are cheap, but they're a pain to work with compared to a prepared frozen box of fat and salt you can easily microwave or bake.

Don't blame poor people for being lazy. They're busting their asses compared to the upper middle class, the ones who can afford the organic vegetables and the gym memberships.
posted by dw at 1:25 PM on November 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


melissam: well, my point is some percentage of population would balk at killing, some further percentage would balk at processing.

Either way, there are plenty of small farms that allow you to participate if you want.

No, I'm good. Thanks...
posted by rainy at 1:26 PM on November 20, 2010


"If meat is so bad for you, how come it's food?"

--Butt-head, who is occasionally right.
posted by ignignokt at 1:37 PM on November 20, 2010


Sidhedevil: I think a lot of it is cultural. Compare to India where a very large number of people is vegetarian. When I was young I ate meat and never had an opportunity to connect it to killing. However, when I became vegetarian it was both cheaper and more practical, and it was a conscious decision. But the only reason I even considered it in the first place was that I heard that it's a thing that people do and that it's possible / practical.

Re: Thoreau, I don't think he's a good writer, in fact. I think he's a pretty bad one and overly pompous. The thing about fish was spot-on, though.

dw: I didn't say anything about fatness, in fact. Lentils are indeed quick and easy and I would want to / and do eat them or similar food 7 days a week. Mung beans take 30 mins, again in that time you can do anything else as you wait for them to cook. And varying vegies make meals... um, varied, I guess.
posted by rainy at 1:38 PM on November 20, 2010


furiousxgeorge wrote: "And I guarantee my backyard garden is more sustainable than any industrial scale beef factory, but how about we compare apples to apples? On the industrial scale eating grain directly is more efficient than eating industrial grain filtered through cows.

Free range cows eating grass on land that isn't suitable for other agriculture is awesome and efficient and great use of resources. No one denies that, same with scraps for pigs. However, that isn't what people actually eat in Western nations. They eat meat with none of those advantages so when people talk about meat they are shorthand referring to the industrial system.
"

The industrial grain growing is no more sustainable than the industrial scale beef growing. So what's your point? Neither is worth a shit in the long run. Feeding animals our food crops is just stupid. Feeding ourselves crops grown with gobs of pesticides and fertilizer is also pretty stupid.

Even an organic grain farm requires fertilizer, it requires vast amounts of water, it requires dedicated land use.

And rainy, that's awfully condescending of you. What I took from your comments was "Oh, the poor meat eaters wouldn't do it if they just knew better." I can't speak for everyone, but I know very well what I'm doing when I eat meat, thanks.
posted by wierdo at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2010


The thing about fish was spot-on, though.

But it's pretty disingenous for him to say "Oh, I eat beans because it's simpler" when he's going to Mom's house for a big ol' meat-filled New England Sunday dinner once a week (and probably bringing food back, along with his clean laundry).

I agree with you that vegetarianism is very culturally bound. The bit I was taking issue with was: "I imagine probably 60-70% would stop if someone wasn't doing it for them" because that just doesn't seem to be true right now in many parts of the world where people routinely slaughter and prepare their own meat. I mean, yeah, maybe people in the industrialized world are lazier, but that's a pretty vague generalization at best.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:00 PM on November 20, 2010


wierdo: No, I have no idea why meat eaters eat meat - I imagine for all kinds of different reasons. But there was a lot of misconceptions in this thread. My view is that you can't have 300 million people eating meat in a sustainable and humane and healthy/affordable manner. You can have 300 million people eating plant food in a sustainable, humane and healthy way. Some meat eaters know this and some don't. It'd be better if all knew that.

There are other misconceptions, like the one that there's no practical, quick and cheap vegetarian food that provides all needed nutrition. Or that it can't be easily prepared to be tasty. I bet many meat eaters don't know that, but some do.
posted by rainy at 2:04 PM on November 20, 2010


Rainy, I think the problem with this is it's not plant vs. animal. I don't think there is any one diet that can feed the world. The mixture of plant and animal in a diet should depend on the local environment. In highland Tibet or Greenland a plant-based diet is not appropriate. But in Southern Thailand perhaps it is. It should also depend on individual personal differences. I think those are way underestimated and science has just begun to find them. Why did this girl feel terrible as a vegan when many people feel better? I have a hunch that people process foods differently.
posted by melissam at 2:10 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lentils are indeed quick and easy and I would want to / and do eat them or similar food 7 days a week. Mung beans take 30 mins, again in that time you can do anything else as you wait for them to cook. And varying vegies make meals... um, varied, I guess.

Don't forget about the dishes. Being able to cook lentils implies, first, you have a clean pot and other necessary items and, second, the time to then clean these same items afterward. And don't forget about the time shopping. If you're working 7 hours a day because you have two jobs, it's very easy to find the 10 minutes it takes to drive to McDonald's once a day, but significantly harder to find a long block of time to find recipes, make a list, and then go shopping at a store. Also don't forget the fact that many low-economic areas don't have healthy options. There's fast food, there are convenience stores, and... that's it. You'd have to either drive or ride a bus pretty far to get to healthier, vegetarian options, whether to eat immediately or buy and prepare one's self.

It's good that you're able to maintain a vegetarian option for very little money and with good variety. However, it's pretty near-sighted to blame anyone in the US who's poor if they cannot see how to successfully turn vegetarian.
posted by meese at 2:17 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil: that might be true, but it may well be that he went to the dinner for social reasons rather than to get food. Plenty of people get along just fine on beans and there's no reason why Thoreau couldn't - he had the same arms/legs/body and biochemistry as me or people in india do. We have no reason to think he was a secret gourmet who'd wither and die without meat. His public stance against slavery and other things we know about his life lead me to think he could easily make a tiny sacrifice of this sort if it were practical.

But here's what I'm trying to say about that 60-70% number.. let's say we could take a random person from anywhere in the world and say.. you can choose between vegetarian and a meat diet and there'll be no cultural pressure on you either way, vegetarian will be cheaper and more practical and you have to kill your own animal. You have to consider that even in those societies you mention, you still don't have 100% of people killing the animals. And meat is a culturally loaded food where you probably don't refuse it without risking offense, and you have to offer it to visitors as a sign of respect.

One thing I did like about Thoreau is the will to attempt to cut things down to the simplest, most basic realities of what's really needed for life and re-examining assumptions from there. He was like a social hacker. What can you tweak and will life turn out to be better? What assumptions we make unconsciously?
posted by rainy at 2:18 PM on November 20, 2010


melissam: It kind of is a matter of plant vs. animal if you're talking about 300 million people and sustainble & healthy diets.

meese: To some extent it's true but I think less than you make it out to be. By the way, it always fascinated me that lentils are available in all bodegas, at least here. You literally have a tiny window with cigarettes, beer, lighters, little debbie cupcakes, 20 varieties of chips, ice cream and lentils. It's really 90% a matter of large upfront cost of spending the time to learn to cook and a few simple recipies, after that it's easy as pie. I agree that it's tough to people to make the jump, espeically for people in those circumstances. However, my original point was that there are plenty of people who have low income but who do cook healthy and cheap food, and it takes them negligible time in preparation and cleanup, but I totally agree that making the change from A to B is very tough. We just have to be clear that this isn't caused by healthy vegetarian food being inherently expensive or long to cook or impractical.
posted by rainy at 2:28 PM on November 20, 2010


"Goats are sometimes known as the poor person's cattle. They require far less land and produce milk that is easier for people to digest than cows."

The counterpoint to that is that goats tend to be terrible for the environment if you don't have about the same amount of land as cattle, because goats will eat everything, including digging up the roots of grass.

There's no magic bullet.
posted by klangklangston at 2:29 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you're working 7 hours a day because you have two jobs, it's very easy to find the 10 minutes it takes to drive to McDonald's once a day, but significantly harder to find a long block of time to find recipes, make a list, and then go shopping at a store.
It's equally easy, though, to get a bean burrito from Taco Bell. I'm not saying that it's healthy, and I'm not saying that it's preferable to a Big Mac, but it's vegetarian. So's Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese and cheese frozen pizzas. There's plenty of vegetarian convenience food, and I don't think it's typically more expensive than the meat kind.
posted by craichead at 2:31 PM on November 20, 2010


"Also don't forget the fact that many low-economic areas don't have healthy options. There's fast food, there are convenience stores, and... that's it. You'd have to either drive or ride a bus pretty far to get to healthier, vegetarian options, whether to eat immediately or buy and prepare one's self."

Eh. It depends where you are. Usually, if there's an ethnic neighborhood, there's gonna be a place to get both bulk and canned staples, along with some veggies. There are certainly places where it's easier to do that and places where it's harder, and if you're poor enough that you also don't have any option to use a car, it's a lot harder. But that's kind of orthogonal.
posted by klangklangston at 2:35 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


We just have to be clear that this isn't caused by healthy vegetarian food being inherently expensive or long to cook or impractical.

I think we can agree about this, because of the word "inherently." Yes, it could be possible for vegetarian food to be cheap and practical.

The difference between us, I think, is that I want to blame the fact that vegetarian options aren't practical for many poor people in the US on systemic problems-- everything from city zoning, to minimum wage, to food subsidies. From what you say (or at least how you word what you say), you seem to be saying it's all the fault of the individual poor people.
posted by meese at 2:36 PM on November 20, 2010


he industrial grain growing is no more sustainable than the industrial scale beef growing.

Yes, it is more sustainable because it is more efficient. It will sustain us for longer than wasting caloric energy on feeding cows. Neither is infinitely sustainable, yeah, but nothing is. If you have to use three times the fertiliser and land so you can get the same energy out of a cow you would with the grain by itself, you are not being as sustainable.

If you're working 7 hours a day because you have two jobs, it's very easy to find the 10 minutes it takes to drive to McDonald's once a day

Or to Burger King to get a veggie burger, or anywhere for a slice of pizza. There is plenty of cheap vegetarian junk food out there. Plenty of microwavable meals. There would be even more if there was cultural demand, but there isn't. There is nothing about meat that inherently lends itself to fast food as opposed to plant sources aside from culture.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:37 PM on November 20, 2010


It's equally easy, though, to get a bean burrito from Taco Bell. I'm not saying that it's healthy, and I'm not saying that it's preferable to a Big Mac, but it's vegetarian. So's Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese and cheese frozen pizzas.

That's true. I'm not trying to argue it is absolutely impossible for someone with very little money and time to eat only vegetarian foods. Instead, I'm just trying to point out that, given the circumstances of many poor people in the US, it's far more important to pay attention to systemic problems rather than personal issues.

In other words, in order to support greater vegetarianism, it'd be far more useful to think about the major socioeconomic factors that lead to meat consumption, rather than just angrily calling each individual poor person lazy.
posted by meese at 2:44 PM on November 20, 2010


meese: It's not their fault. The most natural, human thing is to do what's culturally accepted and what your parents taught you. Nobody can be blamed for that. City zoning, in rare cases, might make vegetables completely unavailable, but I imagine that's pretty rare. I lived / worked in some areas with very rundown, cheap stores. They always have lentils, beans, rice and vegies, but vegies are often a poor sight! Even in inorganic produce, there's a huge difference, in freshness, taste, and presentation. A snickers bar looks neat and clean, almost like a toy; a droopy, pale lettuce or peppers or stale broccoli in the supermarket near me are a bit disgusting. An apple from a poor neighborhood store will look ok but will often have a terrible taste, much worse than a similar-looking, also inorganic, apple from a more expensive store. (Yeah, I could never figure that one out, either).

I'm certainly not blaming people because I used to do the same mistakes. But it's mostly not a matter of unavailability but of having to go against the current.. As a society, we should subsidize healthy food options, and tax unhealthy food. Since that probably won't happen soon or to extent it needs to happen, poor people have no choice but to do the extra legwork to figure out how to find and fix cheap/nutritious food. Few of them will, and that's not their fault, that's just the sad reality.
posted by rainy at 2:51 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a hunch that people process foods differently.

QFT. Why must there only be one best way for every person in this world to eat? I'm sure lots of people can be totally healthy vegans, but I'm equally sure some can't.
posted by Go Banana at 2:55 PM on November 20, 2010


That's true. I'm not trying to argue it is absolutely impossible for someone with very little money and time to eat only vegetarian foods. Instead, I'm just trying to point out that, given the circumstances of many poor people in the US, it's far more important to pay attention to systemic problems rather than personal issues.
Well, sure. But I'm not sure how this discussion became merged with the whole "why do poor people eat fast food" discussion. I think they're kind of different. And I guess that I do see vegetarianism as more of a matter of choice than other food issues. I'm not poor, but I don't make a lot of money or have an unlimited food budget, and I could be a vegetarian if I wanted to be. Vegan would be tough, but I think I could go vegetarian with very little extra effort and probably no extra money. I just don't want to.
posted by craichead at 3:05 PM on November 20, 2010


rainy, you are positing that everyone does or would agree with you that vegan or vegetarian life is objectively "better" for them or for everyone or indeed for the ecology of the world as a whole. I, for one, do not agree with you. And you could never convince me of it--I have read many books making the case you are arguing here, presenting a wealth of research on the topic, and my position is unmoved.

As for Thoreau, he was the James Frey of his day in some ways. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately" takes on a different context when you learn that he was dependent on his very wealthy mother for money, food, and basic services like clothes laundering and repair. He was the first in a long line of American trust-fund back-to-the-land ballyhooers.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:07 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sidhe: Nah, it's kind of like a hobby. Let's say you may have a hobby of riding horses. I'm ok with that as long as you don't claim that *not* having that hobby is expensive, impractical, is only for affluent. If 300 million people all rode horses, would that be sustainable? No, and we can all agree with that. If a hobby strikes your fancy, a hobby that I personally find a bit distasteful and irrational, I'm not going to push that on you, and I haven't. I don't see why people need to justify their particular choice with misconceptions (I'm not saying you did, but there was *alot* of that in this thread).

You weren't there at those dinners with Thoreau and I wasn't, either. In fact, he says somewhere explicitly that he wasn't a hermit and that he visited people, talked, was visited and so on. The way I read it was possible to put up a cabin, grow food and work as a laborer, and be substantially less dependent on others than 95% of people. By the way, I do recall (although I could be wrong), that he had some financial trouble and he had to work as a teacher and disliked it but did it for the money.
posted by rainy at 3:26 PM on November 20, 2010


What I'm curious about is, how many people would eat meat if they had to kill the animal?

Talk to your older relatives, or ones who live in rural parts of the country. My mother grew up on a farm in east Texas and she talks about her grandmother wringing the neck of the chicken for Sunday dinner. She's a supermarket eater like many of the rest of us now, but that's not a luxury she always had. That's not even getting into hunters who kill their meat. Not all of them do all their own butchering, but I've eaten plenty of venison killed by hunters of my acquaintance.

This issue is also related to people's squeamishness about organ meats and other non-muscle meat products, which are generally considered kind of gross and nasty in many parts of the Western world compared to muscle meats, even though they're often equally if not more nutritious. The pendulum seems to be swinging the other way at the top of the food trend chain right now, with exotic meats restaurants that serve things like blood puddings getting press, but I was raised to believe organ meats (liver) were gross and it's taken some effort for me personally to overcome that training.

(I bring this up in part because veganism and vegetarianism frequently have a moral dimension, and I think there are moral dimensions involved in turning your nose up at organ meat or hunting without eating your kills.)

There are systemic issues that cause Americans to favor meat and carbs over vegetables, but it's also the kinds of meats involved and their nutritional value (not to mention feeding cattle corn vs grass vs other cattle, which is a whole different problem).
posted by immlass at 3:27 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the deal everyone: Do your best. And strive each day to see if you can do a little bit better. When you hit your limit, try another angle. (And stop hating on passionate people. Passion is awesome.)
posted by Skwirl at 4:11 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


From what I can glean between the lines of her histrionics, this whole issue seems to have been catalyzed by a B12 deficiency. Said condition can indeed create an insidious hell of neurologic chaos for the sufferer, but its victims are overwhelmingly omnivores, and whatever their food choices, replacement via injection, ideally subcutaneously, is the only reliable means of getting it to the tissues.

Point being, I would think a reasonably intelligent vegan would know to periodically monitor their B12 levels. She didn't. But she could have easily remained on a vegan diet and just taken the shots and would have been back to normal soon enough.

Bully for her, though, getting a soapbox and all.
posted by docpops at 4:13 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge wrote: "Yes, it is more sustainable because it is more efficient. It will sustain us for longer than wasting caloric energy on feeding cows. Neither is infinitely sustainable, yeah, but nothing is. If you have to use three times the fertiliser and land so you can get the same energy out of a cow you would with the grain by itself, you are not being as sustainable."

You're missing my point entirely. Cows (and other ruminants) can eat things that have little or no nutritional value to humans. Their biological processes turn those things into something that does sustain us..meat.

As I've repeatedly stated and you and rainy keep missing, yes, our present situation with mostly factory-farmed beef is not sustainable. It is not sustainable to eat as much meat as we do here in the US. Our obesity rate is ample proof that we need not. However, eating meat is not inherently unsustainable as you're trying to argue. Sometimes it is the better option. Or are you planning to try and farm the rocky hillsides of northwest Arkansas? Places where cows will happily roam around munching on the grass all day, even though mechanized vehicles can't get in there.

I guess if you wanted the hill to end up in the valley, you could plow under the grass and grow some corn or whatever for a year or two, but the soil isn't really appropriate for it, so it would require a lot of fertilizer.
posted by wierdo at 4:38 PM on November 20, 2010


You're missing my point entirely. Cows (and other ruminants) can eat things that have little or no nutritional value to humans. Their biological processes turn those things into something that does sustain us..meat.

I'm not missing that point, I've stated it myself. I'm taking issue with your statement, "The industrial grain growing is no more sustainable than the industrial scale beef growing."

posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:44 PM on November 20, 2010


wierdo, I'm all for raising cows, humanely, grazing in fields, for milk. How many people out of 300 million are you going to feed with meat that's humanely, sustainably raised, on rocky hillsides, after providing all the milk needed? Are you going to have 5 million aristocrats that deserve and get meat and 295 million vegetarians? Isn't meat going to be astronomically expensive then? Right now we get cheap meat because cattle is raised both inhumanely and unsustainably.

If we did everything right and only left grazing areas where nothing else can be grown, you'd probably just have enough livestock to provide milk for the whole country. Keep in mind that if we grow plants sustainably, we'll need more area for them than we use now. That's something you don't seem to understand.
posted by rainy at 4:55 PM on November 20, 2010


furiousxgeorge wrote: "I'm not missing that point, I've stated it myself. I'm taking issue with your statement, "The industrial grain growing is no more sustainable than the industrial scale beef growing." "

Ah, my mistake. I probably should have written that neither is sustainable. Given that industrial beef farming requires industrial grain farming to work, it is probably true that the industrial beef farming is worse. It seems akin to the difference between being shot in the heart and shot in the stomach, though. You're probably gonna die either way, one just kills you faster. We're being fed shit sandwiches in both lunch lines.

A mix of meat, vegetables fruit, and grains is appropriate for humans to eat. Meat, vegetables, fruits and and grains are appropriate things for humans to grow. Preferably each in the location(s) best suited for it. Fewer crops out in the desert, and more where they can survive mostly on their own or at least only with the resources of the immediate area.
posted by wierdo at 4:56 PM on November 20, 2010


I lived / worked in some areas with very rundown, cheap stores.

I've lived/worked in areas with NO stores. There are many poor neighborhoods in this country without a supermarket of any sort, because the chains have fled. My in-laws lived 9 miles from the nearest grocery store, and that one shut down when the chain decided rural stores weren't the way to go.

Here's something else -- the more affluent your ZIP code is, the less likely you are to be obese. The same professor also found that the less affluent the area, the more likely you are to find fast food.

There are a ton of socioeconomic factors at play. Don't chalk it up to people not choosing to buy bean burritos.

(And also, a diet primarily of lentils will lead to a cystine deficiency, which is very rare in the general population, but more prevalent in vegetarians. Lentils are missing the two amino acids cystine and methionine.)
posted by dw at 5:28 PM on November 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


How many people out of 300 million are you going to feed with meat that's humanely, sustainably raised, on rocky hillsides, after providing all the milk needed?

And also, we don't slaughter dairy cows, except in rare circumstances.
posted by dw at 5:32 PM on November 20, 2010


However, it's pretty near-sighted to blame anyone in the US who's poor if they cannot see how to successfully turn vegetarian.

I can actually speak to this, as somebody who, for years, was well below the poverty line, vegetarian, and lived in an urban setting where there were Burger Kings every few blocks but one had to travel miles to find a grocery store. Additionally, during that time, I worked multiple jobs.

I really had no trouble keeping vegetarian. Didn't mean I always ate well -- being poor definitely limits your healthy food options to whatever is around. But the only time, in 28 years of being a vegetarian, that I was unable to maintain my vegetarian diet was when I was so broke I had to go to a food shelf.

I had dozens of friends, all vegetarian, all in the same circumstance, and they had no trouble. I think this argument that it is impractical for the the poor to be vegetarian because it's just too darn hard for them is based on no evidence whatsoever.

People can be vegetarian or not. Their choice. But let's not make the case that it's really, really hard to do without backing it up. It just seems hard to do, I presume because you've never done it. It's not hard at all.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:32 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


t seems akin to the difference between being shot in the heart and shot in the stomach, though. You're probably gonna die either way, one just kills you faster. We're being fed shit sandwiches in both lunch lines.

I think you are underestimating just how inefficient the cow is, it isn't a trivial difference. In the end the sun isn't sustainable either.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:34 PM on November 20, 2010


I think there are some weird misconceptions about raising beef cattle going on here. Pretty much all of them start out on grass; the grain comes in for the "finishing" -- the last two to four months, when they are fattened up. If you keep them on grass they take longer to gain weight and the meat tastes different than we have grown accustomed to in the last six or so decades (better in my opinion, but it's a hard sell in the mass market). But they aren't usually raised on grain from birth, because that's crazy expensive and grass grows for free.

So if you put on your ethical crown of doom and imposed a "no grain or corn for cows" rule, you wouldn't have zero beef cattle, but you would have fewer than you do now. (Or, you would have a massive expansion of beef cattle back into marginal pastureland that has been taken out of production over the last few decades -- there is a lot of land that used to have cows on it that doesn't anymore.)

How many people out of 300 million are you going to feed with meat that's humanely, sustainably raised, on rocky hillsides, after providing all the milk needed?

The pastureland that works well for dairy cows is not the same as the pastureland that can work well for beef cattle. Milk production is much more intensive -- you have to bring the cows in twice a day, so they can't roam far and hence need rich grass and lots of water, whereas you can turn beef cattle loose until you need to round them up and move them to lower ground for the winter, and not even that if you are in less harsh climates.

Modern intensive agriculture is unsustainable in all kinds of ways. But good, sustainable agriculture is going to use a mix of animals and plants -- animals provide inputs (eg manure), take care of waste products (eg pigs eating slops), control pests (eg chickens eating bugs), and make productive use of land that isn't appropriate for crops (eg grazing on mountain pastures). I wish more of our agriculture used that kind of interconnectedness, rather than hyper-extractive and energy-intensive production.
posted by Forktine at 5:39 PM on November 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


But let's not make the case that it's really, really hard to do without backing it up.

Yeah, I'm conflating it some. The real problem is it's hard to have a consistently healthy diet in poverty, vegetarian or carnivore, not because of a lack of food, but because of the imbalance of the cost of meat and dairy. Another study I saw found that the healthy diet recommended by the USDA -- which included meat and dairy -- cost more than the daily allotment of food stamps. And this is where a lot of the poor choices come into play, since fats are cheaper than greens.
posted by dw at 5:41 PM on November 20, 2010


And this is where a lot of the poor choices come into play, since fats are cheaper than greens.

And crappy overprocessed carbs are even cheaper. You can get like 10-gazillion calories from a super-sized soda and a big bag of chips for just a couple dollars, but eating like that is going to do bad, bad things to your health; simultaneously, the production of those isn't exactly benign. Vegetarian or not-vegetarian is secondary to having access to, being able to afford, and having the time to cook actual, real, decent food.
posted by Forktine at 5:45 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


dw: I live in a mixed area close to some poor areas. If all (4) supermarkets here closed at once, there'd still be enough vegies in the small bodegas. Tomatoes, celery, bananas, apples, stuff like that, not much choice and not always good, but then I'm comparing with Whole Foods and Trader Joe's that I ride a bike to. I can't speak for all areas.. but you need some numbers here.. how many people exactly are in places where no vegies can be bought, at all?

Aren't all amino acids present in milk and milk products? I'd say lentils are perfect as the main source of protein.. add milk/yogurt once in few days and you'll be fine.

I didn't mean that milk cows are killed, I mean there'd be relatively small areas that have to support both milk and meat cows. If a hillside is grazed by milk cows, you have to find other places to raise meat.
posted by rainy at 5:45 PM on November 20, 2010


Forktine: that's all nice and dandy, but how many people can you feed on meat raised in sustainable, humane way? 300 million? If we do everything right, how much is it going to cost? Because people are used to meat and they want it every day, and they want it pretty cheap. As a whole, the society creates this problem because it's used to the taste of meat, even though it's not necessary at all. The whole artisan meat raised on hill sides may only work if it's favoured by rare connoiseurs like high mountain oolong tea or truffles or 60 year wine vintages. It won't work for us all and population is growing and it's all addicted to the taste of meat.
posted by rainy at 5:59 PM on November 20, 2010


Seems like the original post (which was more interesting for its exploration of the impact of a dietary change on someone's life than the details of the specific dietary change) and this thread are both characterized by a lot of collapsed nuance.

Vegans and Vegetarians lumped into a single monolithic "non-meaty" bloc! Occasional meat consumption and North american agro-farming-fueled meat-centrism treated as synonymous! My wife just went gluten-free after admitting, regretfully, that she had serious wheat allergies. Her experiences over the last month or two have mirrored the author's in terms of startling turnarounds. That hasn't turned her into a religious anti-gluten crusader or anything, but the article itself was a real encouragement to her because it was a personal experience she could relate to.

It was interesting on another level because it was a microcosm of certain communities defined by a moral and ethical principle they consider inviolable. I'm not suggesting that all vegans are moralizers, just that the community the author considered herself a part of was one filled with activists who considered veganism "square one" for ethical living. Like almost any other totalizing belief, that gets really really painful when it collides with real life.

There were some chuckle-worthy moments in her essay, of course. If not killing other animals is a fundamental moral issue, then the fact that steak is delicious and that you are healthier when you eat it doesn't change the fundamental moral and ethical issue. Perhaps it's just unfamiliarity with the practice of dissecting ethical claims: she might have perhaps invalidated the idea that meat is unethical because we do not need it,but I digress. Jainism has been around for a while and the impulse to totalize the principle of non-harm is always going to be there for some percentage of the population.
posted by verb at 6:00 PM on November 20, 2010



I didn't mean that milk cows are killed, I mean there'd be relatively small areas that have to support both milk and meat cows. If a hillside is grazed by milk cows, you have to find other places to raise meat.

I guess Forktine's post wasn't clear? But milk cows and beef cows are generally different breeds. I wouldn't want to raise dairy on a rocky hillside or in rural Montana. Dairy requires proximity to markets and the ability to herd efficiently. There is much more land out there appropriate for beef/bison/reindeer production. In fact, it's probably better for the prairie ecology to reintroduce large herds of bison than to plough it up for soy.

Before white settlement there were 4-14 million bison. Most of them did NOT live on lands that are utilized for cities/towns/houses, but on land now used for grains and soy. They would have fed a lot of people with very minimal damage to the ecosystem.
posted by melissam at 6:02 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Forktine: that's all nice and dandy, but how many people can you feed on meat raised in sustainable, humane way? 300 million? If we do everything right, how much is it going to cost? Because people are used to meat and they want it every day, and they want it pretty cheap.
This is a strange sort of all-or-nothing proposal, you know? To my eye, the problem is the whole "They want it every day and they want it cheap" part of the equation, not the inherent meatiness of meat. There's a middle ground between level 5 veganism and the bacon explosion, both in terms of ethics and sustainability.
posted by verb at 6:03 PM on November 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I think "In the end, the sun isn't sustainable" is my favorite take-away from this entire thread.
posted by verb at 6:06 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess Forktine's post wasn't clear? But milk cows and beef cows are generally different breeds. I wouldn't want to raise dairy on a rocky hillside or in rural Montana. Dairy requires proximity to markets and the ability to herd efficiently. There is much more land out there appropriate for beef/bison/reindeer production. In fact, it's probably better for the prairie ecology to reintroduce large herds of bison than to plough it up for soy.

I didn't preview before posting. Yes, having them on different land helps a bit. But ultimately with sustainable agriculture more land will be used for plants. The rest will have to be divided between milk and meat production, one way or another. Is that going to be enough for 300mil and growing population? Do we import meat from Argentina and other places? What happens if they start eating more meat or selling to China, what happens to the prices?
posted by rainy at 6:18 PM on November 20, 2010


" They would have fed a lot of people with very minimal damage to the ecosystem."

Well, kind of. But they don't feed stationary people very well and actually do require a lot of land per animal. The sustainable population of bison in the Great Plains is only around 280,000. We currently have about 94 million head of cattle in the US, and slaughter about 33 million per year.

It's also current thinking that American bison populations shouldn't be extrapolated from the peak soon after Europeans encountered them, as that's seen as likely overpopulation stemming from massive small pox epidemics within Native American populations.
posted by klangklangston at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is all slightly watered down Ted Nugent bullshit where everybody is supposed to go on a safari, shoot a leopard between the eyes with a custom, one of a kind crossbow, and... that solves your disgusting meat problem, america.
posted by rainy at 6:24 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The sustainable population of bison in the Great Plains is only around 280,000.

Could I get a reference for this? I'd really like to read the paper this number is from.

But ultimately with sustainable agriculture more land will be used for plants.

Well at least we are getting somewhere now. Before this you argued that to be sustainable we had to have a plant -only diet.

I'm for one looking forward to Simon Fairlie's book about meat where he supposedly takes down the ecological argument against eating meat.
posted by melissam at 6:54 PM on November 20, 2010


It's equally easy, though, to get a bean burrito from Taco Bell. I'm not saying that it's healthy, and I'm not saying that it's preferable to a Big Mac, but it's vegetarian.

I hope that's true, but, back when I was a semi-vegetarian in college (don't judge) I lived on Taco Bell 8-Layer Burritos (no meat!), until I learned that the refried beans were all cooked with lard/beef fat.

That could be a lie, but it put me right off my Bell.
posted by tristeza at 7:02 PM on November 20, 2010


melissam: uh.. more land will be used for plants than used now (for plants). Some of the rest for milk. Maybe a bit of meat production as a sort of odd food fetish/hobby. That's the only thing that sounds potentially sustainable in the long run. Oh, but now they're learning to grow meat in vats, so that should hopefully make everyone happy, unless you just *have* to kill something and call of duty XIV still won't feel real enough.
posted by rainy at 7:13 PM on November 20, 2010


I did a bit of sniffing around, and the "280,000 Bison" number sounds like it could be a misreading of a slightly different statistic. From Wikipedia:

"According to historian Pekka Hämäläinen, Native Americans also contributed to the collapse of the bison.[8] By the 1830s the Comanche and their allies on the southern plains were killing about 280,000 bison a year, which was near the limit of sustainability for that region."

That's a far cry from several-dozen-million a year, definitely. But saying that the Great Plains can only support that many bison is different than saying that the Great Plains Bison population can only support that many being killed per year. They're very different numbers.
posted by verb at 8:15 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a future world, if I have to kill a pig with my bare hands to get my bacon allotment, I will, no question.

Or I'll just get it on the black market, after someone else has killed it. You will not stop the bacon feast.
posted by nomadicink at 8:16 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a future world, if I have to kill a pig with my bare hands to get my bacon allotment, I will, no question.

Or I'll just get it on the black market, after someone else has killed it. You will not stop the bacon feast.


But would you pump it full of drugs, torture it, kill it, and then still eat it?

That is how your bacon gets to you today. If all pigs were killed humanely after living a "normal" pig life on a farm I'm sure there would be a lot less people who cared about eating pork (and other meat) in America today.
posted by Defenestrator at 8:28 PM on November 20, 2010


That could be a lie, but it put me right off my Bell.

I was actually checking on that earlier, and you can rest assured Taco Bell bean burritos are vegan.

Yes, refried beans are typically made with lard, but the Bell makes them with shortening.
posted by dw at 8:31 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


But ultimately with sustainable agriculture more land will be used for plants.

Beef cows are typically not grazed on arable farmland but on marginal grasslands and range. In most cases, grazing a ruminant on these is more sustainable than trying to grow crops on them, especially corn, which uses a lot of water.

If all (4) supermarkets here closed at once, there'd still be enough vegies in the small bodegas.

Well bully for them. But as you allude to, they're often not of good quality. There's a reason you see so many farmers markets popping up in the poorer parts of cities. There are, however, plenty of corn chips in those bodegas.

Aren't all amino acids present in milk and milk products?

Yes, though it's not nearly as good a profile as the chicken egg, which has all eight key amino acids in balance.

I'd say lentils are perfect as the main source of protein.. add milk/yogurt once in few days and you'll be fine.

In other words, if you ate dal every day and maybe threw in some yogurt every once in a while, you'd be fine. Which is true. And yet, Indians don't eat dal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week. Variety, after all, is a good thing. And you're stumbling right into what I said waaaaaay back at the top of the thread -- that the idea that food is just fuel is a silly idea that gainsays human history.

And I think you're underestimating the problems we have right now with just growing the produce we have. The Central Valley is heavily dependent on irrigation. Much of our wheat, corn, and sunflowers are grown on top of the Ogallala Aquifer, which is getting sucked dry. We are heavily dependent on fertilizers produced from oil. That said, we are still a massive net exporter of food. The United States is the reason why Africa's farmland is underutilized -- we're giving them our wheat, depressing the grain markets.

The crazy thing is even if we went 100% organic in the US and still produced the number of cattle we do now, we could still feed this country pretty easily. We just wouldn't have anything to export anymore. The scary thing, though, is what happens when the water in western Kansas dries up, or in the Imperial Valley, or the Central Valley.
posted by dw at 9:10 PM on November 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


I lived on Taco Bell 8-Layer Burritos (no meat!)

who cares what they were made of? I lived off those things for about a month once back in the 90s, on tour with a band, stuck in LA between gigs and recording sessions, enough money for one trip to Taco Bell a day, and then maybe some refried beans in the evening (out of a can -- a buck's worth fed four of us) . Of course, we always had enough cash for beer. a lot of beer. Kind of necessary when you're sleeping on someone's floor. Ah, the good ole days. The Northridge Earthquake hit about a week after we finally left, knocked the back porch off the place.
posted by philip-random at 9:12 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know about the Taco Bell thing. I remember in the 90's when they rolled out healthier, vegetarian beans, and I remember when they admitted that the texture wasn't as good and that no one liked them and went back to the ones that make the whole place smell like hog, from time to time.

I don't have a dog in this fight, and they'd be close enough for me, if I wasn't eating meat, but regardless of what a press release says, I don't, personally, believe Taco Bell beans are animal-product-free.

I ate a *lot* of T-bell when I was a kid.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:10 PM on November 20, 2010


No, then primitive agriculture came around and we got civilization out of the deal. (and beer)

I don't see how the "no" was necessary. It's modern agribusiness that I'm calling a horrible parody; that stuff's only been around for, what, 50 or 60 years? I completely agree that agriculture was the key to civilization. And I am pro-civilization and pro-beer all the way!

Especially the beer! And bread, bread's pretty good, too.
posted by fartknocker at 11:34 PM on November 20, 2010


"That's a far cry from several-dozen-million a year, definitely. But saying that the Great Plains can only support that many bison is different than saying that the Great Plains Bison population can only support that many being killed per year. They're very different numbers."

Whups. Totally misread that. But even increase it by an order of magnitude and it's still less than the number of cattle slaughtered now.
posted by klangklangston at 12:16 AM on November 21, 2010


But would you pump it full of drugs, torture it, kill it, and then still eat it?

What part of I NEED BACON are you not getting?!
posted by nomadicink at 4:59 AM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


dw:

In other words, if you ate dal every day and maybe threw in some yogurt every once in a while, you'd be fine. Which is true. And yet, Indians don't eat dal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week. Variety, after all, is a good thing. And you're stumbling right into what I said waaaaaay back at the top of the thread -- that the idea that food is just fuel is a silly idea that gainsays human history.

I've addressed variety upthread. Adding different vegetables to lentils creates variety. Lentil soup takes 15 minutes (with pre-split lentils), mung beans take about 30 minutes to cook, brown rice takes an hour. The sensible thing is to use lentils when you have little spare time and vary vegetables according to what's available, in season and cheap. When you have a bit more time, make mung beans or rice.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say by indians not eating dal every day.. If you read my comments, I was responding to the idea that you need to boil beans for an hour to have a vegetarian meal. No, there are many options, some of them taking as little as 15 minutes to make a delicious meal that provides all needed nutrition, if you add a little milk and yogurt.

But your point seems to be that since people don't want to eat lentils 365 days a year, they will eat McD and KFC 365 days a year.. Even though by using varied vegies alone you can easily have more variety in lentil meals than in all of fast food meals people commonly eat.

Food is fuel on a basic level, in the sense that good food will provide you with energy while bad food will create nothing but problems. Once you're choosing between different types of good food, it's no longer just fuel, you can pick what tastes better or easy to make, or available / affordable. BUT! when you're choosing between good food and bad one, you must only look at it as fuel, nothing more.
posted by rainy at 7:29 AM on November 21, 2010


I'm late to the party, I guess.

I had just devoured a hunk of dead animal, the most evil thing I could conceive of, surely my body would reject this debasement and I would feel vindicated that I truly was meant to be a vegan.
Really, a hunk of meat is the MOST EVIL thing you can think of? After the author made this point, I was rolling my eyes so hard I could barely get through the rest of the article.

What I'm curious about is, how many people would eat meat if they had to kill the animal?
This is the best way I can think of to explain to people why I am a pescatarian. I don't eat anything I couldn't kill myself.

I think the issue of being vegan/vegetarian a "bourgeoisie" lifestyle choice isn't about the cost of food--I know my grocery bill is lower because I don't eat meat. I spend the least when I am cooking vegan at home, even when buying all kinds of tofu and fresh vegetables. It's that I have the extreme privilege to choose what I am eating, I can choose one form of nutritious protein over another. I can treat my anemia and B-12 deficiency with supplements.
posted by inertia at 7:44 AM on November 21, 2010


But would you pump it full of drugs, torture it, kill it, and then still eat it?

This is where the middle ground stuff comes in, really. Factory farming is terrible, abuse of animals is terrible: this is a known factor. Perhaps I'm just lucky, in that I live in the midwest. Even in the Chicago suburbs, I'm close enough to farm country that a trip to the diner for ham and eggs means that I'm eating pork raised ten miles away on a family farm, freshly slaughtered, cooked by people who've been doing it for a couple decades, and brought to my table by a bubblegum cracking teenage blonde named "Flo."

My wife was doing some volunteer work at a local farm in the area -- it's been a working farm for almost a century and a half, and they're doing some archaeological digs in addition to the normal stuff. They raise handful of hogs each year, and they're purchased by people in the area who slaughter and eat them. These hogs are named, raised by volunteers, and fed apples and pears by visiting schoolchildren. This year, one is named 'Pork' and the other is named 'Beans.'

They will be delicious.

Every Thursday I can walk three blocks and get strip steak from a farmer who raises beef cows on his family farm. His next door neighbor sells me corn that was picked the previous day by his kids.

I absolutely, positively understand the charge that factory farming and America's dominant food culture is built on terribly cruel practices. I also understand that the luxury of going out and getting bacon from hand-fed humanely raised animals is not something everyone can afford. I also understand that scaling that up to the voracious meet appetite of modern America isn't possible.

But there is a middle ground. Moderate consumption of meat raised humanely, with a price premium for it because it is more resource intensive to produce than many other foods, is not a pipe dream. Some people who like meat are not condoning torture. They are putting their money where their mouths are, and that fact is being ignored.

If you want to say that it's still immoral because it's murder, okay, that's cool. But suggesting factory farming makes meat as a substance evil is no different than suggesting that ideological loudmouths make veganism as a dietary choice inherently "combative."
posted by verb at 10:18 AM on November 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


verb: in theory that's lovely, but in reality what's going to happen is that you will come out and say "folks, we can do this.. we'll have humane and sustainable cattle industry.. the bad news, well, not exactly bad news, but a slight hitch is that only the most affluent will eat meat from now on". It will be seen as attack on the poor, which it kind of is. As long as we maintain that meat is a normal part of normal human diet, this industry will be inhumane and unsustainable, because the society as a whole won't agree on these terms. Only a very small part - affluent liberals - will agree to a huge price hike. The rest won't.

The only practical solution is probably meat grown in the vats.. Otherwise things will go on as before until the whole thing crashes into the ground.
posted by rainy at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2010


a slight hitch is that only the most affluent will eat meat from now on

Eh, free-range organic "ethical" meat only costs about 50% more than factory meat, if even that.

Cooking a meal (with multiple other ingredients) and using, say, 150-200g per person of cruelty-free meat barely makes a noticeable impact on the household budget - it's small change only.

Plus, it tastes so much better.

A good approach (and in keeping with health recommendations) is to spend that tiny bit extra, make one meal a week from each of quality red meat, poultry and fish, and go vego the rest of the time. Or if you insist on eating meat every day, go "Asian" and add small amounts of meat to dishes as a kind of special extra, instead of making it the central part of a meal.

It's worth mentioning as well that cheaper cuts of "ethical" meat (eg chuck or blade steak, suitable for slow-cooking) are always, already cheaper than premium cuts from factory animals, like scotch fillet.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:05 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


verb: in theory that's lovely, but in reality what's going to happen is that you will come out and say "folks, we can do this.. we'll have humane and sustainable cattle industry.. the bad news, well, not exactly bad news, but a slight hitch is that only the most affluent will eat meat from now on".

I'd appreciate it if you not tell me what I'm going to say, rainy. I suggested that moderation and a fundamental change in expectations would be necessary for everyone, and pointed out a number of local examples that showed what that might look like. I eat meat, but I don't eat a LOT of it. A move towards reducing consumption and focusing on local production (or at least more-local production) would go a long way both in terms of sustainability and humanity. I understand that you disagree on that point, but frankly your hyperbole in this thread hasn't helped your case.

That diner/bakery I mentioned that was full of locally raised and slaughtered meat isn't filled with effete NPR-listening foodies; it's a big wood building that's been there for 50 years, in an industrial-parks and liquor-stores and off-track-betting part of town. You walk in there and it's truckers, local high school kids, blue collar people on lunch break, and so on.

More than anything, it's about physical access to locally raised resources rather than economic class. In large densely populated cities, that's a lot harder and "access" becomes synonymous with "financial resources." The farther away from those areas you get -- the closer you get to the places where some folks actually do raise and slaughter and sell their own meat -- the easier it gets to find humanely raised animals without paying boutique prices. That is not a solution for everyone, but pretending that it isn't a solution for anyone is either ignorance or dishonesty.

"As long as we maintain that meat is a normal part of normal human diet..."

For better or worse, it is. Period. Full stop. Eating meat isn't something we came up with during the 50s, like some sort of Hula-Hoop fad that never went away. The fact that we're now eating meat in an unsustainable way doesn't change the fact that people naturally eat meat. Period. Full stop. You can choose not to for a million different reasons. You can argue that large-scale changes will be resisted.

But at the end of the day -- in this thread at least -- you're arguing that we should fight for "cold turkey" because no one will accept moderation. That doesn't make a lot of sense.
posted by verb at 12:17 PM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


More than anything, it's about physical access to locally raised resources rather than economic class. In large densely populated cities, that's a lot harder and "access" becomes synonymous with "financial resources." The farther away from those areas you get -- the closer you get to the places where some folks actually do raise and slaughter and sell their own meat -- the easier it gets to find humanely raised animals without paying boutique prices.
Is that true? Last year I moved from a big city to a small city in the middle of an agricultural area, and I can't say that's been my experience. There may be a blue-collar diner around here that serves humanely-raised meat, but if so I haven't heard of it.
posted by craichead at 12:34 PM on November 21, 2010


It certainly has been in my experience. But then, I could just be lucky. In the meantime it would be smashing if folks stopped pretending these alternatives to factory farming don't exist at all: it's like saying we must destroy the highway system because there are no alternatives to petrofuels.
posted by verb at 12:41 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has anyone every actually said this? That they would rather starve than eat meat? Has one person in the entire history of the world ever said that? I have been a vegetarian for a long time. But if it I came down to me or an animal, I would kill and eat the shit out of that animal.

Youngish lady hit me up for money to buy food on the streets of San Francisco. I was carrying a two-cheeseburger meal and a diet Coke. I offered her the burgers so I could keep the fries and Coke and she said, "I'm vegetarian."

"Then wait for the next sucker."

I'm still angry about it. Stupid Academy of Art students dressed like homeless people and/or junkies.
posted by Gucky at 1:20 PM on November 21, 2010


"Is that true? Last year I moved from a big city to a small city in the middle of an agricultural area, and I can't say that's been my experience. There may be a blue-collar diner around here that serves humanely-raised meat, but if so I haven't heard of it."

Just from eating in a lot of rural places across the country, it's definitely a pockets sort of thing. Like, up in Wisconsin, near my uncle's farm, there's a good little hippy community sort of centered around Soldier's Grove. Food co-op, a lot of farmers that went up to Wisconsin in the '70s to get "back to the land," a Montessori school… There's a local economy that supports ethical eating across the board.

Even there, there's been a lot of pressure over the last 30 years nationwide for small farms to conglomerate in order to be efficient, and a lot of US farm subsidies are based on encouraging low agricultural prices (as a way to keep food prices low). For a lot of farmers up there, the memories of losing money year after year raising sheep or growing corn that won't sell for what you put in aren't that far removed. The localvore and shift in yuppie food consciousness has helped somewhat, but that's still there.

When I visit areas that do focus more on industrial-scale agriculture, those are the places that it's hard (unless they have a college town) to find diners that advertise local food or anything that's not just an Applebee's. There's a lot of rural America where eating local also means eating industrial food. And that's not even something that a large number of Americans mind doing, especially if it's the cheapest option. Like religion, really paying attention to what you eat is a luxury, and people choose different luxuries.

This ties into all sorts of other things too, like the problems of foreign aid. One of the big ways that foreign aid is handled is by buying industrially-produced food from American businesses and reselling it at a loss to other governments or aid agencies. That we keep the prices of grain and meat down means that we're able to feed a lot more people globally than by having everyone grow their own food (we have a comparative advantage with a lot of economies given the size of America and the amount of land suited to industrial agriculture). But that also encourages other distortions in the client states, like that their local farmers can't earn enough to work farms, or get out of debt, or whatever, as well as providing a political tool to whomever we deal with. So, we could cut subsidies here, which will lead to more people in the most vulnerable places on earth starving, as well as domestic job loss and increased food prices here (which exacerbate the effects of endemic poverty, both in urban and rural areas). Or we can keep the subsidies, which lead to distortions of the American and global diet, obesity, retarding development abroad, wrecking the environment and destroying family farms, and encouraging less ethical food.

Oh, yeah, and another option, which would be shifting subsidy policy leaves no one happy, pisses off a powerful lobby, has effects that would be publicly invisible for many years, isn't easily explainable in a campaign ad, and essentially requires an academic level policy focus, which neither politicians nor the public have. Oh, and there's no guarantee they'd be right either.
posted by klangklangston at 1:43 PM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


verb: in theory that's lovely, but in reality what's going to happen is that you will come out and say "folks, we can do this.. we'll have humane and sustainable cattle industry.. the bad news, well, not exactly bad news, but a slight hitch is that only the most affluent will eat meat from now on".

Last year I made less than $10,000 living in NYC, which put me below the poverty line (don't worry, I got a better job now). One way I managed to still eat good meat was to buy in bulk and eat lots of undesirable parts like liver, marrow bones, or stew meat. A little of those things goes a long way nutritionally.
posted by melissam at 2:25 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, we could cut subsidies here, which will lead to more people in the most vulnerable places on earth starving

Or, you know, being able to find gainful employment by actually farming their own land - something that's not economically possible right now, because the US government uses taxpayer's money (generated from America's generally large & productive non-agriculture economy) to price third world farmers out of the market, and send them running to the slums in the cities instead.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:27 PM on November 21, 2010


A lady at church just gave up being a vegan, and she is overjoyed. I guess she had a lot of the issues this blogger had, and introducing meat back into her diet has made her feel much, much better. She was dancing around this morning, it's my first Thanksgiving eating meat again!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:39 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Or, you know, being able to find gainful employment by actually farming their own land - something that's not economically possible right now, because the US government uses taxpayer's money (generated from America's generally large & productive non-agriculture economy) to price third world farmers out of the market, and send them running to the slums in the cities instead."

Yeah, I already mentioned that. Except it's not an "or," it's an "and." More people work their own lands, which also encourages a broader farming footprint in a lot of places where farming isn't ecologically sound (there's no real sustainable way to raise cattle in the Amazon). Also, more people in developing nations seeing the prices of their staples skyrocket, especially because farming isn't something where you can just start doing it and immediately harvest, and with those soaring prices comes starvation and violence, both in cities and rural areas.

Further, romanticizing farming is a pretty bourgeois position too.
posted by klangklangston at 4:21 PM on November 21, 2010


In Soviet Russia, occasional fish eats you.
posted by pressF1 at 4:49 PM on November 21, 2010


romanticizing farming is a pretty bourgeois position too.

That would explain why US taxpayers continue to subsidise the farms there, because it sure as hell isn't out of some kind of misplaced belief that it's actually helping people in developing nations.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:03 PM on November 21, 2010


"That would explain why US taxpayers continue to subsidise the farms there, because it sure as hell isn't out of some kind of misplaced belief that it's actually helping people in developing nations."

Well, except that it does, both directly and indirectly. There is fairly direct aid, in which American grain goes to help, say, after the Pakistani floods. Or pretty much any major disaster. Indirectly, it does work to keep food prices low, which does mean that people can get their staple foods if they're paid low wages.

America's post-Depression policy of low food prices has had the macro effect of lowering food prices across the globe, and that's both good and bad. And it's often handy to pretend that America is the only agricultural exporter with heavily subsidized agriculture.
posted by klangklangston at 6:44 PM on November 21, 2010


Yeah, I think just about every western country subsidises its agriculture, or at least sets up trade barriers to protect the local industry.

This is a kind of chicken-and-egg problem, because any country unilaterally easing their protection would get swamped by cheaper imports, causing a massive electoral backlash. So, agriculture is subsidised to protect it against the subsidised produce from overseas.

So much for small government & the free market, hey? All of that rationalist economic theory is thrown out the window when it comes to protecting rural jobs - a real sacred cow.

I suppose there's some kind of feelgood strategic motivation, too: it mightn't be necessary for a country to feel like it can still build its own cars, but we definitely like to feel like we're all self-sufficient in terms of food (ie a net exporter).
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:03 PM on November 21, 2010


In the meantime it would be smashing if folks stopped pretending these alternatives to factory farming don't exist at all
I'm not denying that they exist. I think that for most of us, they'd require just as much lifestyle adjustment as and significantly more expense than going vegetarian, though.
posted by craichead at 8:37 PM on November 21, 2010


Not necessarily. I was reading recently how organic produce has taken off in Australian supermarkets, with (I forget) something like 40-60% of all fruit & veg sold being organic.

This was driven by nothing other than consumer demand.

A similar principle can be seen with cruelty-free meat. Free-range eggs have been an option for years, everywhere, and now "ethical" meat is popping up in major chain supermarkets as well. It needn't necessarily be a matter of buying direct from Farmer Bob up the road (although that's always likely to be better). Vote with your wallet & the major retailers will start to improve their game.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:59 PM on November 21, 2010


I'm not denying that they exist. I think that for most of us, they'd require just as much lifestyle adjustment as and significantly more expense than going vegetarian, though.


If moderation is more difficult than cold-turkey for some people, so be it. I'm not suggesting the Meat Police wander around making sure that everyone eat their pound of beef or suffer the consequences.

What I'm talking about is the assorted posters in this thread who've said in no uncertain terms that eating meat, period, is a tacit endorsement of the ongoing drugging and torture of animals. This is not the case, regardless of your feelings about the feasibility of personal discipline and moderation in meat consumption.
posted by verb at 9:00 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vote with your wallet & the major retailers will start to improve their game.
Ethically raised meat costs more than factory-farmed meat. It always will. Some people have lots of disposable income, so they can switch to more expensive meat without making any substantial cooking or lifestyle changes. But for many of us, that's not true. We can't just blithely decide to increase our food budgets substantially without thinking about where the money is going to come from.

So if we switch to ethically-raised meat, we have some choices. We can pay more for food, which means that we have to find somewhere else in our budgets to economize. That's going to require some sort of lifestyle change. We can eat less meat, which will require a change in the way we cook. We can eat cheaper cuts of meat, which will also require a change in the way we cook.

All of those things are doable. But they're not any easier, let alone cheaper, than going vegetarian. So it's a little disingenuous to say that it's too difficult for people to go vegetarian, and instead they should just buy more expensive meat.

I'm not particularly saying that people should choose to be vegetarians. I just think that it makes no sense to say that it's too hard to become a vegetarian but perfectly easy to switch to ethical meat, unless you assume that everyone has a lot of money.

posted by craichead at 9:43 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


introducing meat back into her diet has made her feel much, much better.
There are also many people that say that giving up meat has made them feel much, much better. Even the author of this blog piece had her father go vegan for health reasons and said he felt great and recommended it to everyone. People who change their diet feel great all the time, I don't think it says much about the specific diet at all.
posted by davar at 12:37 AM on November 22, 2010


So if we switch to ethically-raised meat, we have some choices. We can pay more for food, which means that we have to find somewhere else in our budgets to economize. That's going to require some sort of lifestyle change. We can eat less meat, which will require a change in the way we cook. We can eat cheaper cuts of meat, which will also require a change in the way we cook.

Yeah, that's all true, but I think it overstates the impact of paying a little more for one of your ingredients.

According to healthy eating guidelines, meat should only be approximately 1/5th of a meal. By cost, it might be about 1/3 of some meals (breakfasts tend to be more bread and/or cereal based, no?). So let's say it's about 1/4 of your overall meal cost. Bump that up by 50% and it just isn't that great an impact compared with whatever else a person might typically fritter their money away on.

Like, I might normally pay $9 for enough good lamb or beef for two people, as opposed to $7 for the generic stuff. There might be people for whom $2 extra per dinner breaks the budget, but it's less than a coffee & easily absorbed for most people.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:19 AM on November 22, 2010


I think people's diets should reflect their lifestyles and concerns. If veganism makes you feel better and you can eat it healthily, go for it. If you can't, then don't. Proselytizing either way is silly.

One thing that does bother me, though. If you exercise really hard every day, like the equivalent of running at least 5 miles a day or more, and are an average-size man, the way I read the literature, you need over 100 grams of complete protein a day. To get that much out of a vegan diet and still get a fairly round amount of other nutrients seems very difficult. When I trained for a marathon, I was running about 12 miles a day and I kept getting injured until I tried to get about 120 grams of dietary protein a day. I didn't want to take protein powders so I ended up eating beef jerky, because it's fairly lean and high in protein. That seemed to solve the injury problem, anecdotally. Also anecdotally, I know there are top athletes who are vegan. Does anyone know how they manage their protein?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:06 AM on November 22, 2010


"Yeah, that's all true, but I think it overstates the impact of paying a little more for one of your ingredients."

Well, except that a lot of the "unethical" meat goes into things like pot pies and hamburgers, processed foods that make up huge portions of people's diets. It might not be a big deal for you to add an extra $2 whenever you want food for two people, but when you're feeding, say, a large family and you have a $40 per week food budget (a woman here was just on the local news for feeding five people a night with $40 per week, three of them children), yeah, it makes a pretty big difference, especially over the course of the year.

Which doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done, but let's not pretend it will be popular or won't require lifestyle adjustments from a pretty huge number of people.
posted by klangklangston at 10:17 AM on November 22, 2010


What's the point in arguing from extreme examples? $40 a week for five people is real Dickensian poverty: a little over a dollar a day per person.

The only choice she's facing is whether to have boiled rice with soy sauce for dinner, or boiled water with soy sauce.

Taking a more average hypothetical person as an example, I'd bet dollars to donuts that for all the whining that ethical meat will cost more, they probably spend the difference on crap like bottled bubbly sugar water anyway. It'd be fun to see the situation reversed, though:

"What do you soda nazis mean, I should drink that useless crap instead of water?!?? How will I be able to afford real meat then?!??"
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:08 AM on November 22, 2010


Does anyone know how they manage their protein?
Carl Lewis won two gold medals in the World Championships in 1991 on a vegan diet, so I think you can assume that protein is not a problem even for very active people.

Brandan Brazier is a professional triathlete and vegan. He wrote a couple of books about vegan sports nutrition. His diet is interesting because it is also gluten and soy free. Though I must add that even though I think his book is really good it should not be used as the one and only guide to vegan nutrition - at this point I would not recommend people to rely on chlorella as a source of B12, for example. But there are many recipes in the nutrition book, so if you just want to see what a professional vegan athlete eats, the book is great.

Of course, there are also vegan protein powders (soy, hemp, rice, pea) for people who do want more easy protein.
posted by davar at 11:35 AM on November 22, 2010


Of course, there are also vegan protein powders (soy, hemp, rice, pea) for people who do want more easy protein.

So they all use powdered supplements? Isn't it possible to get complete protein from whole foods? I think it is.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:42 PM on November 22, 2010


So they all use powdered supplements?
No, that's not what I said.

Isn't it possible to get complete protein from whole foods?
This is the position of the American Dietetic Association on vegetarian diets for athletes:
Vegetarian diets that meet energy needs and contain a variety of plant-based protein foods, such as soy products, other legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, can provide adequate protein without the use of special foods or supplements
posted by davar at 2:07 PM on November 22, 2010


Her followup post
Some of my readers are legitimately insane.

I welcome all of your comments and emails listing in exhaustive detail exactly why I failed at veganism. I’ll even let you tell me I’m stupid, evil, or working for the meat industry. But when you threaten my life or the lives of my family that is crossing the line. When you trot out every misogynistic slur that is used against women to silence them, that is crossing the line. When you make a fake twitter account pretending to be me, that is crossing the line. When you start investigating the family of my web designer, that is crossing the line. When you write nearly a dozen different comments using different names so you can orchestrate an elaborate discussion with yourself in my comments section, that is really weird and it is crossing the line, too. People, my blog is not public property. I do not have any obligation to publish your descriptions of how I deserve to see my entire family killed. No, you do not have a right to do that, and no that is not what your freedom of speech is all about. You are insane AND stupid if you believe that.

And seriously? Vegans threatening violence against me and my family…isn’t that a little too ironic?
posted by melissam at 2:31 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is the position of the American Dietetic Association on vegetarian diets for athletes:

Could you give me an example of a vegan diet that would yield appropriate calories and complete protein for a 150 lb man who does the equivalent of, say, 10 miles a day at 8min/mile? I can't seem to find anything easily accessed online. This link gives a diet for a fairly sedentary man, but it looks like protein requirements go up disproportionately to caloric requirements, so you have to eat too many calories of this kind of food to sustain vigorous and extended daily exercise. That leaves me with powders or some non-vegan foods. Or maybe I'm missing something.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:40 PM on November 22, 2010



Could you give me an example of a vegan diet that would yield appropriate calories and complete protein for a 150 lb man who does the equivalent of, say, 10 miles a day at 8min/mile?


Here is a NY Times article about Scott Jurek, a vegan ultramarathoner. The article doesn't detail his daily diet down to the last calorie, but it does have a "cooking with Jurek" couple of paragraphs and talks about how he eats in some detail; I'm sure it would be easy to google up much more detailed descriptions of his diet.

“The whole issue,” he said, “is exactly that: getting enough calories. The first thing to worry about isn’t so much what you eat, but how much you eat. You have to take the time to sit at the table and make sure your calorie count is high enough. And when you’re a vegan, to increase your calories as you increase training you need more food. This isn’t an elimination diet but an inclusion diet.”
posted by Forktine at 8:57 PM on November 22, 2010


“The whole issue,” he said, “is exactly that: getting enough calories.
This is also what Carl Lewis said (see the link I posted). When he started feeling bad on the vegan diet he of course thought he should add animal protein to his diet. His doctor said he just needed more calories and he added juice. And then he felt great again and won the world championships.

Here is an example daily menu for an active person. This is the nutritional analysis (source: Dr Fuhrman's Healthy Times, January 2003). If you need even more calories, eat bigger portions.

If you eat a varied diet with enough protein and calories you will get all the amino acids you need. According to the ADA:
"Research indicates that an assortment of plant foods eaten over the course of a day can provide all essential amino acids and ensure adequate nitrogen retention and use in healthy adults; thus, complementary proteins do not need to be consumed at the same meal."
posted by davar at 12:13 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


verb, melissam: My point is that if ethically raised meat won't scale to the whole population without an enormous hike in prices. There are a few factors that will contribute to this, and you can't just go by what small producers charge now for ethically raised meat. The prices will get much higher than that if scaled to the whole population's demand AND if all food production (plant and animal) is to be sustainable. Just switching to sustainable methods for the whole country will raise prices significantly. If you will further insist on high ethical standards, that will raise prices even more. And keep in mind that China, India and other countries are beginning to consume more meat.. Global meat prices will be greatly affected by this, as well.

Right now the US meat prices fully reflect the low costs gained by: 1. unsustainability 2. brutal factory methods 3. US being the only country consuming that much meat. If you think we'll fix all that over the next 20-50 years and with population rise of this period, prices will magically not be affected enormously.. Hmm.. Reality Alert?
posted by rainy at 10:52 AM on November 23, 2010


Just wondering - does this really apply to anything other than pork & poultry, anyway? As far as I'm aware, cattle & sheep are always pastured, and never kept in inhumane battery sheds the way pigs & chickens often are.

(inhumane shipping of live animals is a separate, if related, issue, and I believe that 'organic' vs hormones/antibiotics is a personal health preference & not really related to the animals' welfare much at all)
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:37 AM on November 23, 2010


verb, melissam: My point is that if ethically raised meat won't scale to the whole population consumed at today's current rates without an enormous hike in prices.
Boldface note added by me. That's my point: if everyone eats somewhat less meat, that's a healthy move. If everyone eats less meat but it's better/more sustainable/more ethical meat, that's a doubly good move. You're arguing that only "NO MEAT" will work, and I'm arguing that there is a middle ground between level 5 veganism and a turducken in every pot.

I can't help noticing that I and others have said this in a number of different ways in a number of different posts and that you keep ignoring it. Your argument would be much stronger if we were claiming price and consumption levels could remain effectively unchanged while converting to sustainable approaches. Unfortunately that is not what anyone has said.
posted by verb at 11:50 AM on November 23, 2010


Just to reiterate what I said above: "But there is a middle ground. Moderate consumption of meat raised humanely, with a price premium for it because it is more resource intensive to produce than many other foods, is not a pipe dream."

You may believe that that goal is not worthwhile, that only 'tons of cheap meat for everyone all the time' and 'vegetarian lifestyle for everyone' are the only two choices. I don't know. It certainly feels that way from this discussion, but I don't want to put words in your mouth.
posted by verb at 12:30 PM on November 23, 2010


I see free range eggs as a parallel. Both battery & free range are marketed, for whoever prefers (or can afford) whichever variety. Despite the free range ones costing around double the battery eggs, they're still ubiquitously available & obviously popular.

People who want really good eggs will go to the extra effort to buy direct from a farmer or at a farmers market, but the more generic, mass-marketed free range variety are sold at every supermarket & corner store.

If we accepted the arguments against ethical meat above, we'd all be eating inhumane battery farmed eggs all the time. It's almost exactly the same set of forces in operation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:55 PM on November 23, 2010


People who want really good eggs will go to the extra effort to buy direct from a farmer

Well, now that's not necessarily a good idea. 1200 cars going out to farmer Brown's to buy eggs is pretty bad for the environment compared to 14,400 eggs in one truck going to the farmer's market.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:32 PM on November 23, 2010


Well, now that's not necessarily a good idea. 1200 cars going out to farmer Brown's to buy eggs is pretty bad for the environment compared to 14,400 eggs in one truck going to the farmer's market.

There are a bunch of excellent infrastructure projects going on right now like transportation co-ops. Basically a van goes to different farms and then to the city.
posted by melissam at 1:45 PM on November 23, 2010


There are similar sorts of things organised by food co-ops for locavores, which are effectively a similar distribution model to farmers markets.

But yeah, people wouldn't normally drive an hour each way to the city's market garden outskirts just for a dozen eggs, unless they happened to be in the area for another reason anyway.

I was thinking more of people who happened to live near somebody with some chickens, like the crazy old biddy up the road. Or real enthusiasts might keep their own chooks, which is allowed in many urban areas (but no roosters!).
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:00 PM on November 23, 2010


You don't need to be a real enthusiast to keep your own hens. There just isn't a lower maintenance animal. They eat your trash and in exchange give you tasty tasty eggs. They're seriously less work than a cat.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:03 PM on November 23, 2010


My point is that if ethically raised meat won't scale to the whole population without an enormous hike in prices.

OK, I'm confused. You went for comment after comment on how the poor could just eat lentils and yogurt, and now it's OMG THE POOR WON'T BE ABLE TO AFFORD MEAT!

What?

In the 1970s, the price of beef rose considerably as the various oil crises and failure to control inflation sent costs skyward. As a result of this (and a desire for more lean meat during the diet-crazy 80s) American diets shifted from primarily consuming beef to eating more and more poultry. Before 1980, there was no such thing as a fast food "chicken burger." By 1990, every fast food place had chicken on the menu.

So, we've already seen what happens when the price of meat rises -- substitution. We're seeing it right now with fish: Farmed fish are now dominating the market as the price of ocean fish continues to rise with falling stocks.

So what happens if the price of meat rises? People eat less. They start eating more lentils. And you've already gone on about how that's a good thing, so what is your problem exactly?

I pay $8/lb for ethically raised organic smoked bacon. I buy it maybe once every two months and use it for all sorts of things. Yes, it's nearly twice as much as store bacon, but it's worth it. The rest of the time I'm eating chicken, eggs, turkey, ham....

If prices rise, people will adjust. They have before. Heck, they may start keeping chickens themselves.
posted by dw at 9:37 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


rainy wrote: "The prices will get much higher than that if scaled to the whole population's demand AND if all food production (plant and animal) is to be sustainable."

How's that work? If the small farmers are able to make a living at the present price levels when they're selling into a market filled with highly subsidized goods, what makes you think the price would have to increase if there were ten times the sustainably raised meats on the market and ten times the demand? If anything, prices are high now precisely because it's a niche market.

There are still economies of scale to be had. The laws of economics don't change just because the inputs change.
posted by wierdo at 10:17 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Just wondering - does this really apply to anything other than pork & poultry, anyway? As far as I'm aware, cattle & sheep are always pastured, and never kept in inhumane battery sheds the way pigs & chickens often are."

No, cattle and sheep are often kept in feedlots. Google images if you want to see them; they're pretty grim. And veal is a whole different level of fucked up.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on November 23, 2010


Looking up cattle feedlots in Australia, I found figures of 850,000 animals out of 25.6 Million, or about 3%. I'm assuming sheep would be similar.

The map on the first page of this PDF might explain why.

As for veal, well huh, that's a direct result of the fact that bulls don't produce milk, no? As a result, male calves of dairy cattle breeds aren't a whole lot of use for anything else. At least that's how I understand it; I'm not defending it, by the way (rarely / never buy it myself).
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:52 PM on November 23, 2010


Didn't see that number, though in looking through the info I could find on Australia, it looks like they also call it "intensive farming," but it does seem more common for pigs and chickens.

This has a lot about the US market and how it functions.
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 PM on November 23, 2010


33% of 33 million US cattle raised on large feedlots; the remainder "either grazed or raised on smaller feedlots". Great. That was rather meaningless.

I imagined things would be bad in the US, with a colder climate and land that people actually want to live on. I guessed you don't have cattle stations larger than small countries like Israel, for example.

Interesting that we have more cattle than people. This probably explains why hiphop hasn't taken off in a huge way.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:51 AM on November 24, 2010


It's also worth noting that almost all dairy, at least here, comes from animals raised on feedlots. And Australia is seeing a push toward feedlots and CAFO (confined animal feeding operations), not least because they're less contributory to greenhouse gasses. Further, here in the US, we've had problems with folks like Horizon, a huge marketer of organic products, especially dairy, violating standards.

And to address a point that Weirdo brought up earlier, organic farming doesn't scale for a couple of reasons: first, any land has an agricultural limit to it, basically a base fertility that's multiplied by the farming methods you use, and ethical meats have a ceiling, as do conventional meats. The ceiling of conventional meats is just much higher, and there's constant research into how to maximize that further. Prices are high both because it's a niche demand, but also because supply is limited by the farming mode, and economies of scale lead to things like Horizon using feedlots and claiming their milk is organic (which in the states requires some animal treatment considerations).
posted by klangklangston at 8:29 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


klang, do you have a link on that Horizon standards violation? I'm not doubting you, but that's the kind of charge that makes me change purchasing decisions.
posted by immlass at 8:34 AM on November 24, 2010


Here's the first one I found. It's from 2005, so I don't know whether they've cleaned up since then. I do know that both my aunt and uncle are/were organic inspectors, and Horizon has a bad name around where they are/were (Wisconsin) for skirting regulations and using its market power to aggressively target smaller organic distributors and marketers.
posted by klangklangston at 8:39 AM on November 24, 2010


Much appreciated. I know organic is a term that's frequently oversold, but it's always disappointing to find out a product you buy isn't as labelled on the tin (or carton in this case).
posted by immlass at 8:44 AM on November 24, 2010


I still buy it every now and then if there's not a local producer or something. But I don't eat much dairy, so it's not a big deal for me.
posted by klangklangston at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2010


An interesting response from a vegan dietician.
posted by Red Loop at 10:03 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


And a response from a vegan blogger on being a "failed omnivore".
posted by mendel at 3:32 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


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