The Eat with Care blog
Writing on humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian.
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Humane on the Brain: Spring and Summer 2013
As the leaves in Vermont infuse with fall color, I thought I’d collect “Humane on the Brain” posts from this spring and summer and share them here, for those of you not on Facebook, or in case you missed them there. These occasional posts — snapshot stories and reflections — are meant to bring the concept of humane meat eating down to a human level, as I try — as you might be doing — to eat humanely.
If any of you have a funny, perplexing, frustrating, or rewarding personal experience related to eating or buying humanely raised meat, share it here.
I walk into a tiny Thai restaurant in town — the kind of place where the ultra-spicy food causes your nose to run and your eyes to water. I ask the woman at the register if I could order their chicken-curry-of-the-day without chicken. (I know from previous visits that they don’t use humanely raised meat.)
“Sure,” says the woman, “we can leave out the …chicken but there’s still going to be chicken broth in it — is that ok?”
Hmmm… is it? My quick thinking goes like this:
1. If humaneitarians avoided all restaurant dishes that also include factory-farmed broth, eggs, or milk, we’d probably never eat out anywhere; these “hidden ingredients” are everywhere.
2. Some humaneitarians might choose not to eat out anywhere, but to me, humane meat eating is not about keeping my body completely pure; it’s about buying only humanely raised cuts of meat while going about my daily life, which includes going to restaurants that may not be doing everything perfectly but at least are trying to change on some level.
3. Humane meat-eating will only grow as a movement if we keep things simple for now: just focus on the actual meat being served, not the “hidden ingredients.”
With this thinking, I go ahead and order the vegetarian-curry-with-chicken-
Humane on the Brain, 4th of July edition:
I ran into my local food co-op to pick up some Applegate hot dogs. I respect this company. I know they sell grass-fed hot dogs. I bought the hot dogs. I walked into the parking lot. I remembered that all of Applegate’s grass-fed cattle are raised in either South America or Australia. (The company says there isn’t enough American grass-fed beef – yet – to m…eet their needs.) Still, I think: “This is funny.” That I’m eating foreign hot dogs on the 4th of July. That I’m not eating local hot dogs like I eat local-almost-everything. But I know what these cattle ate. I know they got to live like cattle are supposed to live. And I remain patient… ever-so patient… for local grass-fed hot dogs.
Humane on the Brain, Monday edition (7/29):
On an excursion with my mom this weekend (to visit a historic house), I suggested that she and dad return to the house for an upcoming “food sampling” evening, where area restaurants would share samples of their cuisine on the lawn.
“Can’t,” my mom said. “Not the right meat.”
She meant there’d be no humanely raised meat there – or she wasn’t sure there’d… be. Ever since my parents became humaneitarians in 2009, they’ve been vigilant about staying away from Anonymous meat. But I felt bad that they wouldn’t be able to attend an event I knew they’d enjoy.
“Well, you could make an exception,” I suggested, “the way some humaneitarians do when they travel or attend special events.”
“Oh, no,” she said. “I’ve lost the taste for anything else. I can’t eat meat from a factory farm anymore and enjoy it.”
And with that, our conversation drifted onto other things… and my esteem for the commitment my mom and dad have made grew even fuller.
One day last week I ended up eating meat 3 times in one day — because of what I ordered at a local café for breakfast, what I had on hand in my fridge for lunch, and what was served when I went to a friend’s house for dinner. It felt weird. Eating humanely has always (at least to me) meant eating less meat, and I’m fine with that. When I suddenly ate the amount of meat that so many Americans do, it felt like Way. Too. Much. Your thoughts? (I’ll be heading over to my fridge now, to see if there are enough vegetables in the crisper…)
Humane on the Brain, Wednesday edition (9/18):
Eating humanely means always being on your toes. Farms change their animal raising practices, food companies change their suppliers, stores carry new products… You can’t assume that a product will be raised the same way for eternity, or that stores will always carry the same kind of humane products.
I remembered this today when I stopped into my local food co-op to buy soup for lunch. They had a sign out for New England clam chowder with bacon. The sign said which local farm the bacon was from, but I knew that farm had gone out of business.
“Hey, I think you guys need to change your sign. Where are you getting your bacon now?” The gal at the counter was appreciative that I’d caught the outdated sign. She told me the name of the company where they get their bacon now.
Great! I knew that that company sells Certified Humane bacon. But after I filled my cup and walked away, I remembered that someone had recently told me that the company also has a line of bacon that’s NOT Certified Humane. I wondered what was actually in my cup? I didn’t know, but had to buy the soup because I’d already filled my cup.
I’ll find out soon where that bacon is from.
Stay up to date, humaneitarians, and keep asking all the right questions!