The Eat with Care blog

Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)

Meet Candra Merreighn, Humaneitarian’s summer research assistant

July 6, 2012

I’m happy to report that Humaneitarian is working with its first research assistant. Candra Merreighn is a graduate student at Antioch University New England, where she focuses on issues around conservation and hunting. She chose Humaneitarian for her first academic internship. When I found out that Candra is not only interested in hunting but also the mother of two young children, I invited her to pen a few blog posts on these two topics. Enjoy her writing throughout the summer. — Caroline Abels

by Candra Merreighn

I can still vividly recall when I was pregnant with my daughter two years ago and my doctor handed me a list of foods to avoid. I thought to myself, “if I’m supposed to avoid these foods while I’m pregnant, why are they okay when I’m not?”  I have always been conscious of what I’m eating and curious as to where my food comes from , but this was the first time in my life when what I ate, and where it came from, not only affected me, but also my unborn child.

As a mother, you can choose to raise your child how you see fit, and you can, to some extent, choose how they eat. They will inevitably eat some dirt, and flowers from the yard, and probably an old Cheerio from under the couch, and no matter how strictly vegetarian you raise your child, they will at some point want to try a hamburger. Still, you hope in that fleeting moment, when parenthood is still a fairy tale of snuggles and kisses and homemade presents, that you will instill in your child enough knowledge to make healthy choices and be knowledgeable about what they are eating. After all, the days of independence will soon come. Your little love bug will be talking and talking, and making choices on their own, and yes, those choices will include what they eat. You can play gourmet chef as much as you want, but there will come a time when you break down and give your child the only thing they seem to have an appetite for, and for my 2-year-old daughter, this just has to be… hot dogs.

My daughter is in the height of her defiant stage, and when faced with a choice for dinner of locally grown grilled asparagus, a hamburger made with grass-fed beef, a salad from our garden, or macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, she will, without a doubt, choose the hot dogs. The challenge is making kid-friendly meals like this one using humanely raised meat. My fiance Tony and I have always struggled with justifying spending the extra money on humanely raised meat that we feel good about eating, knowing that it might possibly be thrown on the floor. And we have yet to find a brand of organic deli meat that shares our same values, and that isn’t going to run us into the poor house. We also are very active and outdoorsy people and almost always on the go, so we make what we refer to as “quick food,” like sandwiches and small snacks that we can eat outside or in the car. We also do a lot of dinners on the grill — it’s quick, easy, and we can be outside. I’ve tried meat alternatives (which are also very expensive) and my little food critic knows the difference before it even hits her plate. I like to see myself as fairly educated, and one thing I know for sure is when to choose my battles. To make the best of both worlds we do buy hot dogs that are all beef, and we read our labels closely.

Today I am a graduate student in the Environmental Studies department at Antioch University New England in Keene, New Hampshire, specializing in conservation biology. Most of my academic research is focused around hunting, specifically the hunting of white-tailed deer, as a method of conservation. My fiance is an avid hunter, and we’ll be getting married in September. In addition to our daughter, we welcomed our beautiful son into the world on May 3rd. My life is as hectic as ever, and I find myself relying on “quick foods” more and more. It is much easier to pop a hot dog in front of my daughter than have to crying children. As a graduate student, I am always conducting research and find myself wanting to know more, and I believe that the most important part of being educated is to never stop learning. Parenting is surprisingly similar – you always find yourself researching, questioning the experts, and experimenting with new procedures. This is also kind of like being a humaneitarian. Because there is no direct definition of humane, you need to define it yourself and decide what “humanely raised” entails and what this means to your family.

As a guest writer for this blog and a summer research assistant for Humaneitarian.org, I will provide you with a peek into my ever-hectic life and my endless battles with finding meal options that fit everyone’s preferences. There’s never a dull moment when kids are involved.

  1. Jackie R. says:

    The decision between cheap, healthy, and easy… they always seem at odds, even if you don’t have kids!

  2. Kara Hanan says:

    Hi Candra,
    Thanks for sharing! I think that our childrens diets are extremely important and should be instilled at a young age. I am a mother of 3 and a step mother to 3 more, so I completely understand the quick and easy concept. I agree that we can not however deprive our children of whats out there and will be accessible to them as soon as they are capable of making any form of desicion,without educating them and moderation they will just overindulge. My husband is also an avid hunter and we ate what he harvests, we prefer this over any store bought meat. With meat, we also need to be careful of everything else they consume. Meat contain steriods and pesticides amungst many other toxins, but we also need to be leary with dyes and sugars that their “snacks” may or may not contain. I have a child diagnosed with ADHD and although Im still learning whats okay and whats not I have noticed that high fructose syrups and blue dyes affect her behavior immensely. Thank you again for sharing I think its important especially now a days that take our childrens diets seriously!

  3. Kelli Costa says:

    Candra – I’m so happy to have the chance to follow your blog this summer. I didn’t have the oppertunity at the time 25 years ago to make sure I only bought organic or grass fed but I did make sure my daughter knew the importance of eating healthy and in moderation. I’m now working for the North Coast Co-op and am making organic, natural and healthy part of our daily life. In this day and age there really isn’t any reason someone couldn’t make good choices and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Can’t wait to see what you have for us this summer.