Today I ate and much enjoyed a hamburger for lunch (it was grass-fed beef, the restaurant said). I eat burgers about once every two weeks, and I eat chicken quite often. Once in a while someone will offer me a processed meat like hot dogs or bacon, and eat that sort of food about once a month. I don’t buy pork or order it at a restaurant, but if it is offered to me by a host, though, I will gladly eat it. Two years ago I decided that pork would be a meat that I didn’t eat, after seeing and hearing a truck full of squealing pigs being taken to slaughter in the middle of Springfield, Illinois. I eat fake meat about once per week: I typically use the popular brands of veggie burgers and fake sausage sold at the grocery story (such as Morningstar’s “burger” patties and “sausage” links). If you haven’t seen these products cooked up, here are some photos.
At bottom, I enjoy eating meat, but I’m an ambivalent meat eater, and that ambivalence has been made all the worse with two recent articles I’ve recently read. One of the articles is by Neal Barnard, M.D., who brings this bad news:
At least 58 scientific studies have looked at the issue, and the jury has rendered its verdict, which is now beyond reasonable doubt. The more hot dogs people eat, the higher their risk of colorectal cancer. And it’s not just hot dogs. Any sort of processed meat — bacon, sausage, ham, deli slices — is in this group. And here are the numbers: Every 50 grams of processed meat you eat on a daily basis (that’s about one hot dog) increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. And just as there is no safe level of smoking, no amount of hot dogs, bacon, sausage, ham or other processed meats comes out clean in scientific studies.
I’d like to know more about this study, but if this is accurate, it gives me serious pause about eating hot dogs and other processed food.
The other bad news comes from the Environmental Working Group, which warns of the harsh environmental impact of eating meat. Check out the damage caused by meat-eating in the at-a-glance brochure. There is a lot more information here. These brochures also mention studies indicating that high rates of meat eating are associated with high rates of cancer and heart disease.
If you’d like to take the first step to cut back on meat eating for yourself and for the planet, here’s an easy way to start: Meatless Mondays.
In “Flesh of your Flesh,” published in the November 9, 2009 edition of The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert reviews several books that investigate the kinds of creatures we eat. Well, actually, we love our creatures too:
Forty-six million families in the United States own at least one dog, and thirty-eight million keep cats. Thirteen million maintain freshwater aquariums in which swim a total of more than a hundred and seventy million fish. Collectively, these creatures cost Americans some forty billion dollars annually.
We love our animals, but we also love to eat them:
This year, they will cook roughly twenty-seven billion pounds of beef, sliced from some thirty-five million cows. Additionally, they will consume roughly twenty-three billion pounds of pork, or the bodies of more than a hundred and fifteen million pigs, and thirty-eight billion pounds of poultry, some nine billion birds. Most of these creatures have been raised under conditions that are, as Americans know—or, at least, by this point have no excuse not to know—barbaric.
Isn’t this a contradiction that we love our pets but that we don’t care that we treat farm animals so incredibly badly?
Kohler quotes Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals: “Food choices are determined by many factors, but reason (even consciousness) is not generally high on the list.”
The NYT publishes an in-depth article about the hamburger meat industry and what can go wrong, “The Burger That Shattered Her Life.” Here’s an excerpt:
Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.
“I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’ ” Ms. Smith said. In the simplest terms, she ran out of luck in a food-safety game of chance whose rules and risks are not widely known.
The Santa Claus we “know” has been tamed down from the earlier versions. Our Santa is not associated with anything unpleasant. Not true of the earlier version of Santa, St. Nicholas Consider this medieval story about St. Nicholas from a play by Henri Gheon called “The Sausage Maker’s Interlude.” A butcher makes a sausage-making-machine, but […]
At Salon.com, Anne Lamott writes eloquently about her inner struggle brought on by Sarah Palin’s nomination, then issues a call to arms. Here’s an excerpt about her inner struggle: [I] called my Jesuit friend, who I know hates these people, too. I asked, “Don’t you think God finds these smug egomaniacs morally repellent? Recoils from […]
This issue of eating meat is gaining more momentum, as people start realizing the toll that meat-eating is putting on the environment. Raising farm animals contributes more greenhouse gases to the environment than all transportation (cars, trains, airplanes and anything else) combined. This excerpt is from an article on Common Dreams, entitled “Nuggets and Hummers […]