Eating meat is a curious thing. I do it now, but have such conflicting feelings. I see so many compelling reasons not to, but can also understand the reasons that it can make sense. All I really know is that I want to do it mindfully. And part of that, for me, is not only knowing where the meat comes from, and who raises it, but seeing the animals themselves. Could I look a cow in its serene eyes and be ok with eating a steak? Watch a lamb nurse from its patient mom and still like lamb chops? Or watch baby pigs frolicking around and still enjoy bacon in all its glorious forms?
But not without a lot of internal conversation and vocal debate.
Brian and I spent this weekend at Fiedler Family Farm. Jim Fiedler was kind enough to let me invite myself out to his land in Rome, Indiana, to see firsthand how he raises his animals. I wanted to know, academically, about the life of the animals, but I wanted too, to test my emotional reaction. Knowing meat comes from animals is one thing. Seeing those very animals up close and personally as they swish flies and otherwise go about their daily business is something else. I’ve not bought meat at a grocery store, I’ve not eaten it at a fast food restaurant but that’s not enough to quell the conflict inside about eating animals. I wish I could say that seeing how happily the cows graze and the pigs roll in the mud and the lambs play in the field made me feel all happy and ok with eating meat but that’s not entirely true.
I can feel very, very good about how these particular animals are raised. They are without a doubt living the life that an animal should. No drugs or hormones, no corn for the cows, no anything horrible. They have lots of land (1100 acres worth) on which to roam in rotating pastures, they eat a diet that nature intended, and up until its their time, they seem pretty darn happy (so far as I can tell, though I’m no cow whisperer). What hurts me, and this came out over a dinner of slow roasted pork ribs and lots of wine last night, is to connect the dots in my mind about what happens between the time these beautiful sentient creatures are living their lives and the time they arrive on my plate. Jim said something about cows teaching their young, and I had to respond: “The very idea that we would eat an animal capable of teaching its young so distresses me.” Jim replied with a statement he once heard Wendell Berry make. I can’t attempt to match Berry’s eloquence, so I’ll just offer my short interpretation: The beautiful land of Kentucky is simply not made to sustain agriculture that could in turn sustain people without meat. It works for sustaining animals.
Well, who am I to argue with Wendell Berry? And I know full well that a vegetarian lifestyle is absolutely a luxury made possible by consuming foods brought to us through means that cab be just as heavy in carbon production as raising cattle. I know this. This is part of what helped me make the decision to eat meat again. Tofu from soybeans grown in China isn’t helping the environment.
I could muddle through this all day and it still wouldn’t be any clearer for me. I will probably never arrive at a satisfactory answer. But for as long as I’m going to love tucking into BLTs, potatoes fried in lard, gorgeous rare lamb chops, ethereally delicious bone marrow and all the other extremely tasty products from the animal kingdom, I’m going to continue to seek them out from people just like Jim Fiedler. I may not be 100% ok with my decision to eat meat, but I can sleep much more easily at night having seen the very animals that I’ll be buying from him at farmer’s market.
Would you care to meet my dinner?