The Eat with Care blog
Writing on humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian.
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Humane on the Brain: Fall & Winter 2012-13
Welcome to “Humane on the Brain,” my running series on Facebook of quirky experiences in which I try to buy, order, inquire about, or eat humanely raised meat. The consequences are sometimes hilarious, sometimess embarassing, but always enlightening. Someone said these little stories take humane eating “out of the realm of rhetoric and into the texture of daily life and daily choices.” So every now and then I’ll compile the Facebook posts here on the blog, for those of you not on Facebook… Enjoy.
Humane on the Brain, Monday edition (10/22):
Me (at a local taco joint for lunch): “Do you guys still use local pork in your burritos?”
Guy Behind the Counter: “Actually, no – there isn’t enough local pork to meet our needs.”
Me: “Oh. Where does your pork come from now?”
Me: “Oh. I’m assuming it’s not from a factory farm, because I know the owner and he doesn’t buy from those places – right?”
Me (thinking): “Hmmmm… ” I order the burrito anyway. It’s wicked good. Crispy pork and lots of cilantro. But note to self: Ask for more details next time. The Guy should know. If he doesn’t, hold the hot sauce.
Humane on the Brain, Monday morning edition (11/12): Walking into a local deli, I see they’ve run out of egg & cheese breakfast sandwiches — only sausage and bacon left. They don’t use humanely raised meat in their sandwiches, so I don’t want to buy one. I’m running super late for work, but I nevertheless ask the gals to make a fresh sandwich without meat, rather than eat a product I can’t support. It added 10 minutes onto my morning, but it kept me honest and true to all those factory farmed animals out there who, this morning, don’t have any choices at all.
Humane on the Brain, Saturday edition (12/1):
After complimenting the waitress on her funky glasses, I asked whether the restaurant was serving any local meat that night.
“I’m not sure, let me check for you.”
As she went off, my friend Carolyn looked up from the menu and said there was no mention of Vermont farms on there — in this restaurant that we’d heard was “localvore.”
“Ok,” the waitress said upon returning. “Our beef is from Maine, our chicken is from Misty Knoll, and the pork is from a co-op in the Midwest. I’ll be back soon to take your order?”
Ah! This is the moment when a humaneitarian must decide whether to push the waitress for more info or work with the information that’s been given. I happened to be familiar with Misty Knoll (it’s a major local chicken farm) and “beef from Maine” sounded promising (there are no CAFO’s up there), but any mention of “pork” and “Midwest” tends to stir-fry my suspicions.
Carolyn and I ended up going veg that night, because we wanted to try the mushroom risotto. But I’m now thinking of calling restaurants before I get there and asking about the meat when the chef and waitstaff are less busy — when they’re out back smoking, perhaps, or complaining about the annoying customers who always ask about the meat… 😉
Humane on the Brain, Saturday edition (1/5):
I walked into a sweet party at a friend’s house last night, saw a huge ham on the table, and inelegantly asked my friend, “Where did the ham come from?”
Oh, dear. NOTE TO SELF: be a little more gracious next time you’re trying to determine where the meat came from. After all, like a vegetarian who doesn’t care whether her friends eat meat, I don’t mind what kind of meat my friends eat, I just need to determine whether to partake of it if I have a choice. (I always eat meat that’s served to me directly.)
My friend, being a devoted supporter of Humaneitarian and a striver to eat humanely herself, said, “Yeah, yeah, I know… it’s not humanely raised.”
Feeling bad that I’d put her on the spot, I said I know that humane hams are quite expensive (they are) and that I understood her decision. She, being awesome, didn’t take my crass question personally. Instead, she told me with great pride that the chili on the stove was made with local grass-fed beef! It was delicious. This time I blurted out compliments.
Humane on the Brain, Friday edition (1/11):
The dreaded question that every humaneitarian must eventually answer finally arrived, in the form of an e-mail from a neighbor, who I’m visiting next week for a homemade lunch: “Do you have any particular dietary preferences or restrictions?” she asked. What does a person who eats only humanely raised meat say, without running the risk that the friend will feel obligated to buy harder-to-find, more-expensive meat, or feel bad about her own meat choices? Should you not mention any restrictions at all and eat what is served? Should you offer to pay for any humane meat your host might buy? Should you just say you’re a vegetarian? How would YOU answer my friend’s question? Comment here, and in a few days I’ll reveal what I ended up writing to my friend.
Humane on the Brain, Wednesday edition (1/23):
I was mortified. Due to some quirks on the menu of this restaurant where I ate last night, it was the THIRD time I had to ask the waitress to ask the chef where the meat in a certain dish was from. When she came back, I said, “I am so sorry…” The friend I was with said, “It’s like we’re characters in Portlandia or something.” But then to my surprise, the waitress said, with genuine sincerity, “Oh, no, don’t apologize. I LIKE it when people ask where the meat comes from. I’m a vegetarian, but still, I think people who eat meat SHOULD be doing what you just did. It’s no problem at all. And the chefs need to know that people are asking.” I gave her a big tip. Never assume.
Humane on the Brain, Sunday edition (2/10):
Who hates throwing out meat? I had to toss some bacon this morning because it was waaaay oversalted – there must have been a mistake in the smoking process. Even worse, I had to throw out a few chicken legs that I never cooked because of poor meal planning on my part. Throwing away part of an animal feels wretched to me, and I always vow to do better next time. Then I think of all the meat that’s wasted in this country, and wonder how we can do such a thing. But change starts in the home…