It hit me today that I’m practically a vegetarian. No, I don’t identify myself as one. But my diet consists of so little meat that I’m starting to wonder what, exactly, do I categorize myself as?
Since our holiday ham, I can count only two times where I have ate meat. Both were breakfast related – eggs benedict and a piece of bacon (seriously, if it wasn’t for bacon I could probably be full on vegetarian). I don’t think I’ve consumed beef since last summer’s home-made burgers from organic, grass fed beef. And as for chicken, which used to be a household staple, escapes my memory completely.
I began ruminating on the subject (pun intended) when my mother in law commented “so, are we vegetarians now?” when I served yet another meat-less dish for dinner.
So, am I a vegetarian? The answer is simple, yet complex all at the same time (go figure, this is life, right?). No, I’m not vegetarian – I still eat meat, even if only on occasion. Instead, I like to identify myself as a “conscious omnivore”.
What does that mean, you ask? It means that while I admittedly eat meat, I only do so when I can purchase organic, pasture raised meat or wild caught game. This means grass fed, organic beef, CSA pastured pork and organic free range chickens and the very rare deer meat when offered by a friend or family member. The prices for these type of meats are generally substantially more than your freezer pack of mega-corporation raised chickens from Costco, but at least I know I’m not consuming a bunch of crap with my meat and am relatively comforted that the animals were treated with a least an ounce of humanity.
Is this a perfect solution? No, not really. In the end, I would like to raise my own meat – so that I can be 100% confident in the feed and care of the animal. Terms like “pasture” and “free range” have proven to hold little water when placed under scrutiny. These terms are often used loosely (i.e. since there’s a little door to a little tiny pen outside the giant chicken house, they are now “free range”). So unless I personally know the farmer I’m buying my meat from or raise it myself, there’s still no guarantee.
My dilemma with the idea of raising my own meat, however, is (and here’s the phrase again) simple, yet complex. The question I ask myself over and over again is if, when the situation presents itself, can I bring myself to kill an animal? If the answer is “yes” then I think I can say with a straight face that I am Ok with eating meat. If the answer is “no” though, then do I have the right to continue to eat meat?
This question, funny enough, has plagued me since I was quite young. I’ve always loved animals and abhorred people who were careless or simply abusive to their animals. Yet I eat meat and wear leather. So on what moral ground do I stand to criticize others?
For now, I hover in a gray area of moral standing, where I’m quite certain that CAFO’s are evil, but I’m not convinced that eating meat from properly cared for animals is wrong.