The Dilemma of ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’

I read the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and it has certainly been food for thought regarding the meat that I eat. Low carbers are hard to come by – and vegetarian low carbers even less so, so there’s a good chance that you, dear reader, eat meat.

The dilemma of the book is that it makes you think about how that pretty slab of meat got on that nice white foam plate and wrapped in plastic – and it’s not pretty from an ecological, nutritional, or moral point of view. Just a few of the reasons for this?

  • Cows can’t eat corn – it makes them sick.
  • Our food is fertilized with, and transported by – oil. While it’s not as if they are actually pouring petroleum on the fields, it’s not too far from the truth.
  • There’s a level of cruelty that produces most of our meat that is disturbing to think about.
  • The mass-production of meat is harmful to the environment.

There’s much more to this – I strongly recommend you read the book – these few points do not begin to convey the story of what we eat that the author tells – which affected me profoundly.

So the dilemma is: do I continue to eat meat?

Since the answer to this is – well, yes. It’s the author’s answer as well – don’t think that the book is against eating meat – it’s not, but it does make us look and think about how that meat appeared in your grocery store.

Ignorance is bliss, and reality bites. Don’t look if you don’t want to see, but the cheap meat we eat is the end of a long chain of events that involve a lot of suffering on the part of those animals that make up my meal. It’s also not as healthy and bad for the environment to boot.

I learned that this doesn’t have to be so. There is a sustainable, cruelty-free way to have your meat and eat it too (so to speak). It’s called ‘beyond organic’ and it allows cows express their ‘cowness’ and chickens their ‘chickenness’, etc. Of course, they do get killed at some point – a bit of necessary nastiness you need to come to terms with if you are a carnivore, but everything that we eat was once alive, and all living things must die sometime.

At my local farmer’s market I met a person from one of these farms and she sold me a ribeye steak for $14.92/lb. I pan-fried it in a little oil, salt and pepper. It was good, but was it worth the price?

The cow that the steak was from was raised on grass at a local farm, given no hormones or antibiotics, and led a relatively humane cow-life until it was turned into steak. In comparison, the meat that I would get at the grocery store ate corn, which makes the cows have indigestion, given hormones and antibiotics, and probably didn’t get to have any quality ‘cow time’ – but the cost is less than half.

We gladly pay for quality with other things in life – you wouldn’t go around bragging about finding the cheapest heart surgeon for your mother’s open-heart surgery – so why do we balk at paying extra for the stuff we put in our bodies?

Probably the reason is we don’t think there’s a difference. Reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma has convinced me there is.

So what to do?

Personally, I’m trying to limit my meat intake to local and natural sources. I’m not eliminating grocery store meat – just trying to reduce it a bit. I’m moving in the direction I feel is right. I’m also trying to do more shopping at my local farmer’s market. They have a nice selection of local produce – much of it organic, with prices higher than the cheapest grocery store versions, but cheaper than the organic versions the big stores sell. It also tastes a heck of a lot better. I didn’t know what tomatoes tasted like until I got them at the farmers market. I don’t bother buying them in the winter anymore – there’s no point.

I think that I can make this change, eat better, and spend no extra money. Maybe skipping buying coffee at the coffee shop and bringing lunch can save the money to make up the difference. Hell – most people found enough money to have annoying cel phones, pay for stupid ringtones and text messaging (and don’t even get me started on games) . We also pay for TV when it used to be free – imagine how much good food you can buy with the money that can be saved in these 2 areas.

We just have to perceive food as worth the money.

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2 thoughts on “The Dilemma of ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’

  1. My family has solved this dilemma for ourselves by purchasing meat in large quantities (1/2 steer, 1 whole pig) directly from local farmers. It takes some planning, upfront money (freezer and paying for all the meat at once), but in the long run it saves both time and money and we know how our meat was raised. We also found a local farmer who delivers chickens and eggs to a drop off spot weekly. http://www.eatwild.com is a great resource for finding local sources for locally raised meat.

  2. In thinking about meat this morning (odd, isn’t it?), I wanted to read this post again. I searched on “carnivore” thinking it was the Dilemma of the Carnivores’s Diet, but now I see I remembered it incorrectly.

    You’re absolutely right about turning a blind eye to the way we receive our needs. I don’t want to think about it, and I don’t know if reading the book would make a difference in how I feel about buying supermarket meat. I was (and still am) a big anti-hunting advocate, and when I chastised hunters, they’d ask if I ate meat, and of course they’d accuse me of being a hypocrite. My answer would be that in this modern world, we do not have to hunt to feed ourselves, and they therefore are not hunting to satisfy their need for food but rather their innate desire to KILL something. I actually can’t see any other reason for hunting and I don’t know why hunters have such angst admitting it. It’s always wrapped up in concepts of “sport,” and “wanting to be part of nature.” Maybe if I got a license and a rifle and went in the woods behind my home and shot something and learned how to clean and process it, I’d have a better appreciation for at least the meat acquisition part of the food chain.

    In any event, with the high cost of eating low carb and the inevitability of a larger portion of that diet being meat, I can’t afford $15 a pound for steak. One chain in my area boasts a program called “consistant low prices,” and claims if you do all your shopping there, you’ll save money over the other chain. The other chain claims lower prices from items they put on sale, buy one get one deals, etc. The former makes up what they lose on “consistent” pricing of staple goods by grossly overcharging for the meat and seafood they sell. The latter, while having meat and seafood at substantially less than the other chain, does grossly overcharge on staple goods. If you shop at only one or the other, you overpay in one of the two areas. That’s why I “cherry pick;” I shop the best deals at each store each week, and sometimes I also shop a third chain and a couple stores like Target and Wal-Mart.

    The only meat I buy at the consistent low price store is ground beef, chicken (if it costs no more than at the other chain), and Italian deli meats (it’s the best and only Italian deli in the area). Their steaks are outrageous, as much as double what the lower priced meat chain typically charges, and the seafood, while having a better selection, is out of reach for me. I’ll pay $4-6 a pound for salmon at the one chain (depending on what the sale price is that week) while the other wants $15 a pound and it never goes on sale.

    Bottom line: I eat meat, I can’t afford to eat meat that’s lived a “good life,” and I’m a hypocrite. I know I should feel worse about all that than I do, but hey… I’m thinking about buying Geico insurance lately too…

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