Meat vs. Veggie

7 10 2010

My favourite meat eater, Anthony Bourdain (chef and author of famous writings, most recently Medium Raw) had a debate on eating meat with Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Eating Animals) on Q, a CBC radio show. I don’t try to convince people not to eat meat on this blog, but my blogs are mostly vegetarian and represent the choices that I make. I do feel strongly about sharing my rants about the production and distribution of food in our society and feel even more strongly that we need to educate our generations on how to shift our focus away from our ‘fast food’ mentality. I don’t just mean McD’s but the movement away from cooking and the family kitchen. We are all busy, me included, far too busy most days, but we do our best. It is something that will be important, and not without its challenges, to teach our kid(s) (when and if that day comes).

Back to the debate! I have to admit that Bourdain has some good points when he speaks to the tribal and common ground humanity has with each other when it comes to the meal, he goes so far as to say this is from the hunting and preparing of meat. He believes that the rejection of meat shuts us out from the curiosity, culture and community it brings together. He believes the worst offence is letting grandma down and rejecting turkey dinner. Jonathan reminds him that the meat Anthony has the benefit of eating represents 5% of the meat available to the public and comes from organic, cruelty free farms. He says that we are constantly at odds with human values we all share, like cruelty towards animals, the environmental destruction and the danger to humans. Jonathan says “I like the taste and smell of meat but I don’t like it infinitely”.

Infinitely, that’s the key point here. At what cost are we willing to continue the consumption of mass produced, poorly treated, medicated meat? Most people have lost the association with where their food comes from AND our food production industry is at risk of major collapse having little to no redundancy systems worked in. Bourdain reminds Jonathan how many families eat at fast food chains because they are cheap and quick (and frankly because their kids are brain washed). Jonathan agrees and offers that conventional vegetable dishes (not organic, he admits this is unrealistic) are cheaper and more nourishing than a cheap fast food meal will ever be. This is an argument that I feel very strongly about. Anyone who has travelled the world, where meat is not common, people live off the land and legumes just fine and healthy, on pennies a day. However, the larger issue with this is that we have lost the culture of cooking and eating together.

I think Bourdain is right when food is connected to a ‘deeply fundamental human experience’, not just a meat one though. The gathering and preparing of food, whatever it’s nature, has predated most culture. It is the first of our story telling, altruism, pro-social behaviour in caring and nurturing one another. In a conversation I had today about auto-pilot behaviours and the implications, the same goes for the preparation and enjoyment of food. The more eating is an auto-pilot experience the further we are from the source of our food and worse yet the solution to the problems we are facing.

You can listen to the podcast here: Should we eat meat?

Be well, Eat well,

Nat

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