Meat, meat, meat. A tough issue indeed. I was vegetarian for about two years. Our neighbor at the time was an animal rights activist and vegan for many years. Curiosity got the best of me, and I looked at those horrid videos of factory farming. I immediately donated $50 to the site and headed over to her house for comfort and advice. I was a mess, and it is horrible and really happening. Going veg was easy enough for myself. I practically go vegan every summer without even trying. Growing up, summer meant grilled summer squashes, corn, onion, leeks, bell peppers...ugh, now I'm drooling...and lots of fresh salads. My husband is another story. He is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. What I ended up relying on was meals where meat was on the side. Pasta dishes, fajitas, stir-fry, etc. We still ate the same meal, and whoever wanted meat added it.
Why quit? Well, I really love meat. I love the taste, texture, smell. I'm one of those freaks who likes my steak still bleeding. Those faux meat things were just not cutting it. A veggie burger will never replace a thick, juicy cheeseburger. Never. Also, I have chronic anemia, and red meat is really the only thing that does the trick. My body just doesn't absorb iron through veggies and fruit or supplements. Believe me, I've tried them all. My choice was purely based on moral issues with how the animals were raised and how they died.
Now that I'm at the point of accepting meat, how do I eat it with a conscience? My real hurdle has been how do I do it with a conscience and a light wallet? If you have the answer, let me know. I started off buying chicken labeled organic and cage free. Cage free is deceptive. My husband and his family used to work on a chicken farm. It was cage free all right but not at all safe. No cages but no access to outside, no sunlight, no vegetation, nowhere for waste to go but on the ground, no roaming room for all those chickens crammed in one building.
I believe organic is misleading as well. One summer we drove out to “the sticks” to buy eggs from a family I found on craigslist. I had never seen anything like it before. They had two sons who were homeschooled by their parents. They raised chickens, geese, goats, and a few cows. They also grew their own produce. We intended to just buy the eggs and go, but we ended up spending the whole afternoon there. I even drank raw goats milk. The kids played, while I played 20 questions with the parents. I asked if the animals were raised organically. They asked me to explain what that meant. They were shocked when I asked if they never received antibiotics. “Why wouldn't we give our animals medicine if they were sick?” Well, yeah, that makes sense. We would do that for our pets, so why would we deny chickens? To be certified as organic, the animals must not ever receive antibiotics even if they are sick or injured. Do you want that in your steak?
Anyways, big let down here...I am currently buying regular, evil meats. We are on a strict $100 weekly grocery budget (for 2 kids and 2 adults). I don't feel comfortable paying the prices I have found in our area. I'm somewhere in between frugal and plain ole cheap, so I mostly go for the discounted cuts and whole poultry. However, if I can turn this darned black thumb to green, we will have more income available to go towards meat, dairy, and others. Once again, I have to plug localharvest.org. You can search for meat as well as dairy produced in your area. Visit the farm! Meet the animals, check out their living conditions. I just haven't found any affordable choice for us.
Other options? Hunting is very popular in Tennessee, although I think it is more of a hobby to most. We're both good shots and have friends that have volunteered to teach us the rest. I think hunting (and fishing) is the most natural way to obtain meat, but the season is limited. I can't imagine myself being a skilled hunter either. My agility, or lack thereof, leaves me with bumps and bruises.
Another possibility is raising our own meat. I have ruled out cows, because they are so big. I have to admit that I'm a bit intimidated by them. On the table are chicken, rabbit, goat, and even fish. We may end up with a combination. I do plan on sharing my tidbits on each, once my research is a bit more than scattered notes.