Before this weekend, I had not eaten meat since January 2005 when I became a vegan. I was a vegan for two years after which I converted to vegetarianism due to an unrelated health issue. I remained a vegetarian for the next five years. That’s 7.5 years of not eating meat.
My reasons for not eating meat were numerous. My main motivation was political. The fact that the dietary guidelines are controlled by the USDA is frustrating. Especially since the USDA is a revolving door for senior executives in the meat and dairy industry. If you don’t know much about this issue, I highly recommend you read Food Politics by Marion Nestle. At the very least, check out her blog. Other reasons were human and animal rights based. Then, of course, there were health reasons as well. Factory farming doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record in the health department. Which is why I chose to live life as an herbivore.
Now, I’m an omnivore again.
Why you ask?
Well, those reasons are numerous as well and similar in nature.
One, is health based. My diet consists mainly of fruit, vegetables, avocados, soynut butter, greek yogurt, and occasionally eggs. I don’t eat that many grains. I’m not big on overly processed food. Most of my diet is inherently low calorie. I have recently started a new rigorous exercise regimen that includes Brick SpeedX, a 60 minute high intensity interval training class. I haven’t been able to keep my caloric intake high enough to compensate. I’m not a big fan of blacking out. I started thinking about eating meat because meat is denser and will make it easier to fuel my workouts appropriately.
The other reasons were developed after reading the essays on the Ethics of Eating Meat in the New York Times. Most of the essays were written by former vegetarians who entered the agricultural industry as a vegetarian because of their interest in ethics and sustainability. When they started working in the field they realized how important livestock is to the life cycle of crops. It’s not only natural, it’s a necessity. The writers also noted that in today’s society our food system is inherently unethical. It doesn’t matter whether you are an herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore, you are most likely eating unethically. Eating ethically is a choice. One you have to make with every single bite you take.
The industry needs to change. Our world literally depends on it from both a sustainability and a health standpoint. And I want to make sure I am one of the (hopefully) many people forcing that change.
As my husband and I sat in the grocery store parking lot, we discussed the best way to do that. When you become a vegetarian, you leave the market. You are no longer a target consumer. Unfortunately, the number of vegetarians is minimal compared to the number of meat eaters. Becoming a vegetarian doesn’t influence the meat and dairy industries one bit. They cut their losses and continue selling to the people that will eat meat. The people who do consume meat influence the market. When you choose to buy ethical and sustainable meat, you are taking money away from the factory farms and putting it in the hands of sustainable farmers. Buying organic, pastured, free range meat and dairy sends a signal that this is the direction the industries need to head in. And in the process you support the small farmers who are doing it the way it should be done.
So, I started eating meat. But only meat that is ethically and sustainably sourced. I will likely still eat a mostly vegetarian diet. Especially if I am outside of my own home. I do not plan on eating meat that I am not 100% sure was ethically sourced. But I will no longer assume I am eating ethically and sustainably simply because of my diet.