Looking Dinner in the Eye

Interesting article in the NY Times today about one take on the ‘locavore’ fad that’s starting in cuisine. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver killed and butchered a chicken on one of his cooking shows (free registration required, or use BugMeNot) as part of a campaign to raise awareness of consumers’ demands for cheap food and the effect that has on both livestock and the farmers that raise them.

Mr. Oliver performed some other acts to show how animals are treated (more like mistreated) on factory farms, and to be honest, the end of this article almost reads like a pro-vegetarian tract. Quote:

“Mr. Oliver’s message to supermarket shoppers is clear: the only reason for the miserable lives lived by most chickens is your insistence on cheap food.”

He’s right, of course. We are usually two or more steps removed from the people that produce the food we consume, which allows us the ability to not think about how the choices we make affect both producers and animals. We may be able to suppress the thought that we’re screwing a farmer over when we buy vacuum-packed slabs of meat in the supermarket; most of us would have issues looking the farmer in the eye at the farmers’ market and doing so in person.

I’m not a vegetarian. I lived as one for a period of several years a while back but left that life choice for a variety of reasons. My wife has told me that if she had to butcher her own meat, she’d be a vegetarian, and I suspect that I would be as well. I can prep fish without much problem, but I don’t know that I could slaughter a pig or a cow. My guess is that I could get used to it eventually, but it would be hard.



3 Responses to Looking Dinner in the Eye

  1. crankywench says:

    “My wife has told me that if she had to butcher her own meat, she’d be a vegetarian, and I suspect that I would be as well.”

    I also know it would be hard at first to slaughter an animal for food, but having been raised around folks who did, I imagine that I’d adapt fairly easily. Our family will be raising chickens for eggs soon, and I know we’ll end up doing some slaughtering eventually. I try to purchase meat from producers who raise their animals humanely – I’ve seen factory farming, and it ain’t pretty – and will be doing my best give our chickens the best possible environment as well.

  2. Bart says:

    I was raised as a soft, squishy suburban kid who rarely had to confront the realities of where food came from. A fish or a bird I could deal with… any mammal I’m not so sure. It’s terribly hypocritical for me to enjoy eating beef & pork product and feel this way, but at least I know I’m hardly alone on this.

  3. phaedrus says:

    My personal belief is that anyone who eats meat should hunt, slaughter or butcher their own meat at least once.

    I don’t evangelize this and I try not to guilt people who disagree with me (or agree in principle but not practice) but when I went back from being vegetarian to being an omnivore, I decided that I needed to hunt at least once. If I decided I couldn’t pull the trigger, I would have to go back to being a vegetarian (which wasn’t a good fit for me).

    It took me a long time to get around to it (among other things, I needed to become a good enough shot that I was confident I could kill the animal quickly and cleanly). For the most part, I don’t enjoy hunting – its a time consuming hassle – but I’ve continued to do it, partly to keep me in touch with what it means to be an omnivore and partly because I realized that by eating wild animals, I don’t support the meat industry.

    Since I like more than just venison, I do buy other meats, but I pay the premium to make sure I get it from someone who treats their animals well.

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