In a kind of companion piece to the dire fish news of last week, Mark Bittman writes in yesterday’s Times about the global impact of our growing appetite for meat, quoting a geophysicist Gidon Eshel: “When you look at environmental problems in the U.S., nearly all of them have their source in food production, and in particular, meat production.”  If I were a cynical New Yorker, I’d say this was simply Bittman’s crafty way of promoting his latest book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but in fact, the piece serves to remind me that I am an earnest flesh-loving Midwesterner who has to work harder at developing strategies for eating more plants and smaller portions of meat from animals raised according to their nature.

But it’s not going to be easy—what to do about my veal stock love, for instance?  We need to source veal from humanely raised calves.

And speaking of stock: I’ve posted about the hidden beauty of water on the Elements blog, of using water rather than those heinous cans of College Inn and Swanson “low sodium” (low relative to what?) chicken broth for braises and sauces.  Now a kindred spirit has written about a way of doing this as well.  Daniel Patterson is that relatively rare chef, one who can really write.  I  love his contributions to the Times’ magazine, and in yesterday’s issue he describes another strategy for using water as the sauce base by blending the liquid and vegetables and fat from a standard braise to finish sauce.  The technique really works and results in a voluptuous texture (from the fat and the vegetable puree) with a rich satisfying flavor.  I did this recently with pork shoulder—cooking it in a tight pot packed with onions and just enough water to cover, braise till fork tender, remove the shoulder, blend the cuisson, the cooking liquid, in the pot with a hand blender, slice the meat and serve it with the sauce—simple onion-braised pork shoulder.  And the liquid doesn’t have to be water—you could use or wine and water, or beer, or milk and I’ll bet it would delicious as well.

See, I’m already hungering for meat at 9 am.  I think I need to go get Bittman’s book.

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67 Wonderful responses to “Carnivore”

  • Paul DeLuca

    Very thought-provoking article. But it reminds me, as Bittman points out, that there are many similarities between this issue and energy in general. When it comes to driving a fuel efficient car, few people will do so based solely on their desire to have a positive impact on the environment. Development of alternative fuel sources relies much more on demand for such technology than on our desire to save the planet. When gasoline prices rise to a level that is painful, we seek alternatives. As long as pricing remains tolerable, the status quo prevails. In general , I think this will hold true for meat as well. That said, I think we each need to think about what we’re buying and where it comes from and continue to make smart choices that will reduce our “foodprint”.

  • ntsc

    Yes, water is better than those commercial stocks, but good stock is almost always better still. When I make sausage the pork bones get turned into stock, as do other meats. We also have chicken (with turkey), veal, vegetable, lobster and dark beef. All of them frozen and the veal, chicken, beef and vegetable also canned.

    We also have fish bones in the freezer, as that stock is so quick to make that making it just to freeze isn’t worth it.

    I read that article with interest.

    This one http://nc.startribune.com/blogs/oldnews/? p=204

    is about what a family of four in 1952 ate, at a cost of just over $1300. I get 730 lbs of meat, which is about 2 lbs a day or 8 ozs a person, so the amount hasn’t changed in 50+ years, although the distribution probably has.
    I also notice no bacon or sausage, which I doubt as other pork is there.

  • Tags

    Michael,
    While you’re at the store, pick up a copy of Michele Simon’s “Appetite for Profit.” She gets right down to illustrating why food company lobbyists and PR folks distract, misdirect, and obfuscate any discussion of their responsibility.

    Her dissection of the food companies’ “personal responsibility” argument is precision surgery’s finest hour.

  • David J Rust

    I also loved hearing your words about stock-making this past weekend on “The Splendid Table”.

    Locally, in Minnesota, I’m lucky to have Sleeping Cat farms which can supply me with free-range veal. Is this what you are referring to when you say “source veal from humanely raised calves”?

  • faustianbargain

    i see that “cow hell”, as we refer to that place…and as every californian who has ever taken the I-5 knows through his nose…..is back in the news. perhaps you’ll have a better appreciation for a vegetarian lifestyle if you took that roadtrip.

    maybe you can take your pal, bourdain along with you. wont this make a splendid no reservations episode! no? i didnt think so.

  • lux

    We got a fine reminder of the quality versus quantity issue this weekend when we attempted to make a nice roast beef dinner out of a rather poor cut of Safeway beef.

    We won’t be making that mistake again any time soon. Yuk.

  • Casey

    I’ve been blending the pot juices and vegetables to make a sauce for osso bucco ever since I learned the recipe from Julia, Volume I. The hand-held blender sure makes the process easier.

  • Annie

    I have been using water whenever I can’t use home-made stock since the beginning of the year, and everything tastes better.

    Also, shallots instead of onions…quite brilliant.

  • Tags

    The reason their will never be a No Reservations episode about “California cow hell” is because the perception managers at the “farm” won’t allow it. No doubt, it’s likely they’re trying to figure out how to blame the smell on “dirty hippie communes” as we speak.

    And that photo in the Bittman story, was it an authorized photo? If it was, be sure the perception managers are doing damage control.

  • Maya

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a chef writing about this subject. I spent my whole life working with domestic animals and wildlife and I wondered how studying conservation in a grad school would make me view the world differently.

    I actually feel more calm about most issues, but deeply disturbed about just a few things; one is droughts. It seems like the need for water is going to overwhelm us at any time if the Earth keeps warming. Scary.

    The other is our abiltiy to ignore what’s going on around us like habitat loss, deforestation and species going extinct. The big misconception people have is when they say “oh geez so now I have to give up all animal products, go vegan and live in a cave. Great”.

    One person going vegetarian won’t accomplish squat. We need every single person on board with this. Every person on Earth going vegetarian part time will make a much much larger impact than just a handful of the population doing it.

    I also wish people would do as you do, Michael, and read about what our actions are doing to the environment and the animals. Merci.

  • Guy Caballeros

    Is Mark Bittman any relation to Bobby Bittman, the famous comedian ?

  • luis

    well.. no dog in this fight. I am still working on shallots. I am cooking cassava in my pressure cooker tonite. Typically the real tender cassava would be dressed in minced garlic and fine olive oil.
    Part of it would be fried in vegetable oil and sugar sprinkled over it. This time though I might try carmelized shallots instead. hm hm hmhmhmm…mmm…. licking my chops as I type.

  • Darcie

    I was a lacto-ova vegetarian for several years due mainly to this thought (from the Bittman article):

    …about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption…

    I still eat several meatless meals per week, as much as I love meat. I also try to use meat as an ingredient, not as a big slab o’protein.

    But I am in the minority – I doubt that even 10% of Americans have any idea of how much energy it takes, or how much waste is produced, to raise the meat they eat.

  • Blake

    Michael, I really appreciate topics like this on your blog. I spend a fair bit of energy trying to reconcile my love for fine food/cooking and a bitter distaste for the ways in which a lot of meat is raised. When I read your passages on veal stock in Elements, I was torn between wanting to dive right in …and being repelled by the idea of supporting the caging of calves (I try not to eat any CAFO meat). I’ve wondered about humanely-raised veal, what that looks like, and whether that would make me take the plunge into the land of magical veal stock. Thanks for the post.

  • Bruce F

    I’ve had the Bittman vegetarian cookbook for a couple of months and I’d encourage anyone who is curious about how to use vegetarian products (an awkward phrase, but one way to cover nuts, grains, seaweed,….) to buy a copy.

    I’m not a vegetarian, though am moving in that direction for all the reasons suggested in the posts above. I grew up thinking “eww, spinach” and the idea that vegetables were some kind of punishment. That carried over into my adult life. Having worked my way through a lot of cookbooks – Charcuterie was a blast – I never really learned to cook a whole lot of non-meat products.

    Another way to look at it is to think of the billions of people around the world who actually look forward to eating vegetarian meals every day. Are their taste buds defective? There are some pretty amazing tastes/flavor combinations out there that I didn’t think twice about until this cookbook.

    Ultimately, the thing I like about it is that the food tastes good. If the recipes don’t work, I don’t care how compelling the politics of it are.

  • Angela

    Michael,
    Thank for continuing to bring up the issue of where we get our food from and the impact that it has on us, animals and our environment. As we see in the Bittman article the amount of meat that we are eating is not sustainable. It’s not possible for the majority of us to be vegetarian, but the majority of us are going to have to start eating more meat-less meals.

    I’ve had a mostly vegetarian diet (occasional fish and seafood) for the past 10 years. However, in the last few months I’ve felt the need to nourish myself with more animal protein, but, because of my concern for my own health and the environment I will only eat meat that I know is pasture raised or grass fed. Living in NYC, I’m lucky to have access to several stores and more restaurants that support local, sustainable farmers.

    Here are a couple resources for everyone.

    http://www.eatwellguide.com
    online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs. just enter your zipcode.

    http://www.eatwild.com
    lists local suppliers of grass fed meat and dairy products

  • Bruce F

    Might be old news to people here but there’s a video trailer on the Meatrix here:

    http://www.themeatrix1.com/

    When the video first came out, I remember coming across another, more interactive video that asked the user to play the part of a farmer trying to make it all work. I could never get things to balance properly, though maybe that was the point. Cows sick, farmer bankrupt, rainforest burnt…..

    If anyone has a link to that interactive video game, could you post it?

  • PeterG

    I too was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for about 5-6 years. While I did it because my SO at the time was as well, I did learn a lot about cooking and obtaining flavor without using meat.

    I think any good cook should try cutting out the meat, even if only on occasion or for a short period of time, and then try to come up with creative, flavorful recipes. I know that the experience made me a more versatile cook.

  • Kansas City rube

    I read somewhere that you can produce 20 lbs of vegetables with the resources it takes to produce one pound of meat. It was enough to make me, a lifelong daily carnivore and ridiculer of all things vegan, to think about reducing my environmental impact. I already stole all my mom’s vegetarian cookbooks.

    I hate thinking about all this stuff. I just got into charcuterie and I’m already thinking about scaling back my meat consumption.

  • faustianbargain

    tags: its not a ‘farm’. if it werent so tragic, usage of the word, ‘farm’…that would be hilarious… and you have to be there to take in the grand perversity of the whole thing..the issue will waft under your nose even if you just drive by..

    those ‘happy cows come from california’ ads are total BS. Cow Hell is reality.

    i dare bourdain..actually, forget about him..i dare any television network, show…main stream media outlet..any television personality to america during prime time how food gets to the dinner tables.

    to maya: its already happening in australia. there is more water consumed by cattle than people down under.

    http://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/water_animal_production.php

    to ruhlman: you’d have earned my respect if you’d just say it again…if you say that its better to lead a mostly-vegetarian lifestyle and to reduce the consumption of meat, fish and other animal products. perhaps you have already implied it, but can you make a quotable statement? a sound byte, perhaps?

    you make your living out of words. the impact of your words include my world too. it belongs to me and my future generation just as it belongs to you and your upcoming generations. so far, you have done an admirable job of spreading the love of bacon. how about being crystal clear about what i think you are implying in this post. if you believe in it, as an author, you owe it to the world to spell it out as a quotable quote. i’d print it and frame it. respect.

  • Keri

    Just a quick comment on the braised veg in the final sauce. I do this with vegetables when I roast a turkey or chicken to make gravy.

    I drain some of the fat (leaving a little) and then use a stick blender to puree the veg, drippings and a little water or homemade stock. Then I add more stock as necessary and heat. If I don’t need a lot of gravy, I find this helps thicken without using flour or cornstarch, etc. It must work as my brother-in-law asked for my gravy for a birthday present ha!

  • Maya

    Faustian, hey. Thanks for the link.

    And some countries like Ethiopia are already suffering from droughts and global warming, in fact one of my classmates did a report on Ethiopia – what a mess!!! It’s just terrible.

    Aussies are actually beginning to suffer a type of depression from their landscapes changing so radically from global warming. And here in New England we’re having many January days where it’s 65 degrees – I find it disheartening.

    On an optimistic note, though, I’ve read many stories of natural areas and species making remarkable recoveries – as long as people do something about it.

  • bob mcgee

    Here in the NorthWest, we’ve been a bit spoiled…lots of growing season, lots of unspoiled, and rehabbed, grazing land, people who are committed to keeping it that way. As I leave work, in a natural foods grocer, I’m able to pick up everything I need to make dinner tonite, and know pretty much all the people that are really responsible for putting that food on my table. I’m welcome to tour all the facilities in which processing occurs for all the animal proteins I and my wife will consume. I’m often invited to cook at our various produce growers homes, and their wives and children, are proud to show us the impact that they are, and are not leaving on the earth for their grandchildren.
    I have a real hard time beleiving that this can only occur here. I know we are a long ways from fixing everything that we f’d upin this world, but isn’t this all about voting with our wallets?

  • Tags

    The last sentence of the first paragraph of today’s post –

    “If I were a cynical New Yorker, I’d say this was simply Bittman’s crafty way of promoting his latest book, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but in fact, the piece serves to remind me that I am an earnest flesh-loving Midwesterner WHO HAS TO WORK HARDER AT developing strategies for EATING MORE PLANTS and SMALLER PORTIONS OF MEAT from animals raised according to their nature.”

    Sounds crystal clear to me.

    Also, in my 1:36 PM EST comment, I’d like to clarify that “California cow hell” was a quote and “farm” was an ironic rendering of the word. I apologize for any wrong impressions I may have given.

  • cybercita

    jewish cooks have been using that technique for years when making brisket — my stepmother cooked hers in beer, onions, and catsup, then gently muddled the pan juices with a potato masher. it was superb.

  • Tags

    No problem. Having two quotes doing two different jobs may have been a little “busy.”

    When reading a blog, you often don’t have time to register every detail. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the cause of a large percentage of internet flames.

  • Charlotte

    We’re lucky out here in Montana because it’s easy to buy meat directly from the rancher, and almost everyone I know hunts for the freezer. When folks I work with in California get freaky about the hunting I ask them if they’ve ever driven through Manteca — “You’d eat something from there?” The smell alone — cow hell is a good description. I don’t feel bad about eating Becky’s lambs from Thirteen Mile ranch, or about buying one of my milk lady’s happy pigs, but CAFO meat — ugh. I think you can taste the misery.

  • Brad

    Ok so last week the Times covered depleted fish populations. This week’s article is about impacts due to meat production. I am going to bet next week they are covering erosion control, soil content depletion, and natural habitat destruction caused by row crops.

  • Big Red

    My mother, the eternal anthropologist has made several interesting comments about the development of the meat eater over the last 150 years or so. Meat during the turn of the century was such a luxury that we lusted for things like skirt steak, whilst eating brains and mustard greens fromt he side of the road. We were closer to what eastern countries do with a 12oz piece of meat…it feeds a family of 5-8 with vegetables and grain making up the main stay of the diet. (I am only reminded of this from a NR rerun I saw the other night really late. Note to self, get more sleeping pills as to avoid late night NR and nightmares of Tony)
    Americans used to be like that. But as Americans, bigger is always better, and we began to, as the 50s ’round serve slabs (like 6 oz servings) of red meat with a starch and vegetable as a balanced meal. This and the “food pyramid” which preached the same thing and was drilled into the youth brain along with diving under a desk to avoid a commi bomb. The youth grew up and started making more money, and by the time the late 70s-80s rolled around it was common place at a family restaurant to have a 1 lb burger or a 16 oz steak as a meal with a starch and a vegetable as a filler.(French Fries and Corn) This is what our parents taught us was good for you. Now, in a time when excess is everything, (thank you Paris Hilton and all her Hollywood retards), we see HUGE portions of red meat and starches. Well, for the food industry this means we need more, faster and better at the expense of quality, and the animals well being. It has been a similar development in energy consumption and car size, house size, etc. Luxury and excess everywhere. This has come at a HUGE environmental price and if we do not begin to reduce our consumption of just about everything, be more conservative in how we use and be more aware on how to reuse, reduce and recycle we are in for a very sad state of affairs. We are seeing climate change everywhere, and obesity is reigning king amoungst the masses. (And if they ain’t fat, they are doing cocaine and other things. Look at Tony…)
    It is something to seriously think about. I am a HUGE fan of the traditional steak dinner, something my HUGE ASS will atest to but I have decided to begin reducing what my family consumes. I want there to be a planet to be buried in. I have been growing my own veggies for years. Why not replace some of my roses with a few more tomato plants? Small steps can change a lot. Enough preaching from me the hash slinger. I am not a tree hugger nor a vegitarian. But I am concious of changes needing to be made.
    Wow, my mother would be proud. I put together a coherant thought with only one swear word. Holy F**K!

  • Victoria

    I must say that although you are not new to me, Mr. Ruhlman, your website and your blog are, so I have to poke around a little to see all the achived entries. Believe it or not, my friend, who is a lawyer, and I raised European fallow deer on his weekend property in upstate New York, with the help of a weekday manager, for ten years. It was a very enlightening experience, learning how to humanely raise, treat, feed, care for, and slaughter animals. It totally changed the way I eat meat and what I look for in the meat I eat. I always try to find out how the animals were farmed, and I eat much less meat than I did before. I think the River Cottage Cookbook is interesting to read; however, I don’t know how valid the science is (for instance, comments about saturated fat in one’s diet). No pun intended, but we should all be involved in a grass roots movement that little by little changes the planet. If reading Michael Pollan doesn’t spur one on, I don’t know what would. This blog is fantastic; it’s interesting and beautiful. Donna’s photography is gorgeous. I look forward to being a regular reader.

  • Janet

    In a kind of conceptual convergence the following has happened in the
    last few weeks: my teenage daughter returned from a semester at The
    Mountain School in Vermont where the kids help farm, care for and harvest the food eaten there; my husband read “The China Diet”; I
    purchased the new Bittman cookbook; saw “King Corn” at the Cleveland
    Cinametheque on Saturday and woke up to the the Bittman piece in the Sunday Times. I think I get it, have finally reached the cow tipping point! All the way vegetarian? I don’t think so but it sure is time to
    give the slab of protein the heave-ho.

  • kanani

    I didn’t grow up on a lot of meat. Yes, it was served at every meal, but usually cut up in small pieces and cooked with vegetables. What I remember best are the greens –mustard, bokchoi, napa cabbage, kale, spinach, collards. We also had a lot of rice. Every meal, we’d have the sticky stuff. Delicious, especially if you threw oyster sauce or some other sauce my mother conjured up. Greens were at every meal while the meat was stretched. I had my first filet mignon when I was in my teens at a Basque restaurant –a revelation!

    It was very different from how I live, and I think much healthier. And believe it or not, I never cooked a potato until I was 24.

  • Bob delGrosso

    I’m so glad that I don’t eat too much meat and also consume a lot of vegetables. My diet keeps me pretty healthy and fit, and affords me the opportunity to, unlike Mr Bittman, NOT have to wring my hands too much over how much my eating contributes to global warming.

    Of course, I am not off the hook entirely, even the produce I consume organic and otherwise contributes to global warming in a variety of ways. Crops don’t absorb as much CO2 as the forests and grasslands they replace and the fallow fields reflect much more heat into the atmosphere than natural vegetation.
    Even the best managed land loses topsoil which runs off into streams and rivers thereby increasing heat absorption by the water.

    It’s too bad that I was not born closer to the end of the Pleistocene, when global warming had finished off the last vestiges of the great continental ice sheets and the forests and plains of what would become the temperate regions were aborning. I read that the hunting was great back then, farms had not yet been invented and the warming of the climate that continues to the present was in no way anthropogenic.

    AND, there was no omnivore’s dilemma.

    Sigh.

  • Rich

    Bob,

    You bring up several important points. Many of which were addressed in “Omnivore’s Dilemma”, subtle nod. We need to reevaluate what we grow and how we grow it. Don’t forget those North American grasslands used to support something on the order of 70,000,000 bison. The problem is that it is just not possible to support that many animals on grain feed. Are we using resources efficiently when we transport fresh vegetables thousands of miles so we can have tomatoes, and greens in the dead of winter?
    We could produce all our food far more efficiently than we do. We choose not to. Maybe the ever increasing costs of transportation will make some of the choices easier.

  • Bob delGrosso

    Rich,
    I totally get it. I’d did not need to read Pollan (and I did not) to understand the realtionship between how food is produced and the toll it takes on the environment. When I was doing a degree in Environmental Science in the late 70’s we went thru all of that stuff. I learned thermodynamics by calculating energy flow through food chains, off land masses and ocean currents and so on. At one time I could probably tell you how many Kcals or BTU’s of energy were in a given volume of cow flatulence. It creeps me out to think that I first learned about the “greenhouse effect” in 1978 (the idea had been kicking around for a few decades before that, I think). And it flips me out that it took this long for the public to take it up.

    Anyway, I’d love to see land utilized more efficiently and with less disruption to the global climate. And that will happen, but not in the way that many people would like to see it happen.
    Here’s my prediction of how things are going to go.
    Demand for meat will continue to grow along with income in Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In the west the cost of production will continue to grow along with energy cost. At a certain point the cost of meat in the west will be so high that meat cloning will become economically feasible. Once most meat is cloned, demand for grain for meat will drop off and so too will the amount of land under cultivation. Maybe.

    Cloned meat is not a pretty thought, but I will bet money that we see it in the next 20 years.

  • Rich

    If only we could go back to cowboys on horseback, moving herds around the grasslands…sigh.

    How will cloning reduce the demand for grain to feed cattle?

  • Bob delGrosso

    Rich
    I’m not talking about cloning cattle. It’s meat that will be cloned. In theory cloning a muscle cell and letting it divide into tissue is not only possible, but probable. I’m no biotech expert but I think that the only “food” that will be needed to grow cloned meat will be solutions of amino acids and other micronutrients. The aminos can be synthesized from CHON atoms, none of which need come from grain.

    Hungry yet?

  • faustianbargain

    agriculture does not affect the environment as animal husbandry does….except maybe cultivation of rice and soybean..both of which have recorded significant methane emissions. traditional rice cultivation in areas which have seasonal high rains is markedly less damaging than rice cultivation in arid lands. crops are certainly not contributing to global warming as american gluttony is…(clue: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/30/dining/30beef.html)

    relatedly, the economic strides of india and china are as perilous than the pig headed obstinacy, stinking logic and singleminded determination of some people who are out to destroy a planet that also..*gasp*..belongs to me

    further..

    […]According to the United Nations Population Fund “Each U.S. citizen consumes an average of 260 lbs. of meat per year, the world’s highest rate. That is about 1.5 times the industrial world average, three times the East Asian average, and 40 times the average in Bangladesh.” In addition, “the ecological footprint of an average person in a high-income country is about six times bigger than that of someone in a low-income country, and many more times bigger than in the least-developed countries.”[…]

  • Rich

    Bob,

    Not to quibble over small stuff, but I think using the term “clone” in this case is incorrect. This is really a tissue culture, akin to the growing of skin cells for burn victims. I once saw a similar experiment used to grow sheets of black truffle cells in the same manner. Lacking the minerals and organic compounds that wild truffles are nourished by the taste was described as bland,and not much like a real truffle. I imagine “cultured” meat would be much the same. We would probably do better with Soylent Green. BTW even if you could grow enough meat that way(I’m picturing a bioreactor the size of Kansas right now) you would need nutrients to build and feed those cells. I will bet my life ADM would be right there with a corn based nutrient solution.
    Think anyone would ever fund a large scale scientific experiment on intensive grazing?

  • Techie

    Well, I for one encourage numerous posters to quit their day jobs and begin subsistence farming.

    Americans eat a lot of protein because we can. There are a lot of types that romanticize poverty. “Oh wouldn’t it be so charming to only have pork one day every other month?” “I wish that beef was something so rare and precious, every time it was on the table, it was magical!”

    But yes, try and live on flint corn rather than process it into feed. Also, better get really good at canning, because you’re going to have to be doing a lot of it.

  • Rich

    BTW I know none of this addresses our eating habits. Other than making it too expensive or available, how do you get Joe sixpack to give up the double quarter-ponders?

  • Maya

    Rich, well there you go, you’ve asked the magic question. I think the average person feels uncomfortable buying fur, because it’s so obvious it’s from a formerly wild, sentient critter and was probably treated horribly; but how do you get people to connect with the idea that eating burgers or grilled salmon is causing environmental disasters and killing off species?

    I think the answer is peer pressure. That’s why it’s so crucial that people like Michael, Alton Brown and others are shown purchasing eco-friendly and humane products and giving an opinion on taste.

    The other wrinkle is honesty; I look for shade-grown coffee and I see labels that say, “Our company supports the idea of growing coffee in shaded areas”. Great, is that “idea” just a big lie to trick the consumer? People think Fair Trade means Shade Grown, and it doesn’t. USDA labels need to be understood so people don’t get tricked.

    Michael’s idea of buying local is one of the best out there; not everyone can afford the USDA certification and if my local guy is humanely rasing chickens or growing organic vegetables I don’t need a USDA label. Plus it saves on gas = less global warming.

    Of course Joe sixpack may be too poor to afford this high end Whole Foods nonsense, which is disgusting because the working poor have to hear about how their chemically laden food is also cruel to animals and bad for the environment.

    Call it just one more awful social injustice.

  • Big Red

    Maya, You have a point about Joe Sixpack there. But we also make the assumption that they even care. We, for all intents and purposes care about food. We revel in it , argue about it and write about it. But the average american right now is only too eagar to buy cheap and in bulk. It has now become a trend like at my own Farmers market, for the “local guys” to jack up their prices, and ride the organic wave. I can get organic or hormone free at the grocery store for half the price, and I am still feelin’ fine about buying healthy. But even that is out of the grasp of most. Prego sauce, frozen meat balls and spaghetti-os are the haute cuisine of the average family. Why? Cause we have kids, jobs, and ever mounting bills thanks to the government not to mention the war, and the never ending bombardment of madison avenue.
    Now I do NOT want to argue politics here, so I will not open the door for it, but with so many families worried about other things we cannot expect everyone to care. Peer pressure is one thing, but when I have to get the most bang for my buck, I could care less if it were hormone free or organic. Will the kids eat it and is it cheap are all that is on my mind, cause I still have to get home and cook the crap and clean it up, do laundry, find a way to pay bills, volunteer for PTA, go to work, clean the house…need I go on? I thankfully am doing ok these days but I remember a time when 200 bucks every 2 weeks for groceries and gas for the cars was all we had. (And I am not talking 1980. I am talking 2002)
    It is just a point to consider. We can argue all we want about what is good or bad or how to go veg or organic or humane.It’s a mute point for this microcosm of decent food taste…if you want real change, save your money and buy a yourself politition. (It’s an election year, they are up for grabs)

  • Angie

    Exactly. You’re not going to get the average consumer to join in if it’s going to cost more $ at the grocery. I can’t help but think that the key lies in nutritional education (which we do an extremely poor job of teaching in this country – and the average Joe does an excellent job of ignoring). Assuming the data faustain posted from the U.N. is correct then, on average, Americans consume 6.5 times more meat per year than they actually need.

    Sounds like the answer is simple education in portion control. Yeah, I know some people will continue to elevate gluttony from a deadly sin to a national past time regardless of how much information you spoon feed them. But…consider this. The USDA recommends 10% of daily calories from meat = roughly 50g based on a 2000 calorie diet. This equates to about 8 oz of lean meat a day. That’s right, I said a day…not per meal. How many consumers only eat 8 oz. of meat a day? I’m betting not many. Most of the people I know consume about 6-8 oz per meal. How many consumers even know how many ounces of meat they eat per day?

    What’s my point? Telling the average consumer that they need to eat less meat to preserve the species, save the planet, etc. sadly won’t get their attention. However, showing them that they can save $ at the grocery by practicing portion control (and probably lose weight in the process) will get the attention of many. Which, in turn, will help achieve the goals of preserving the species and saving the planet.

  • Smandell

    I am a 56 year old (born in 1951, raised in the “Age of Aquarius” so to speak), lower middle class (household income <$60,000 gross), working (40 hours/week), married (he works also) homemaker with “some” college (80 hours), who has raised 2 children (now 20 & 24) basically from paycheck to paycheck and I take extreme umbrage at being referred to as “Joe sixpack.” I have been reading this blog for over a year now, and enjoy the information offered as well as the personal opinions and the snark. I have (since becoming a mother) done my best to provide healthy, fresh “homemade” food for my family and friends. (Sandra Brown is scarey to me also.) I have a generous grocery budget, we cannot afford to eat out often, but some environmentally friendly products (especially protein) are out of my price range (Central Market would bankrupt me in one visit) or not available within a 50 mile radius (time constraint). I shop at my local green grocer for local produce. I, too, am concerned with sustainable food sources. I am also deeply distressed with what we humans are doing to our planet. I believe that until we can all learn to truly care for one another as fellow human beings, we are doomed anyway; be it through contamination of our water/food sources, global warming, by depleting the Earth’s bounty on all levels, war, poverty, hunger, hatred. I also take offense to the “we” vs “they” mentality espoused in a previous entry. (One’s bank account does not reflect one’s intelligence.) In my opinion, education is the only way WE-as in the human race-can “fix” OUR problems (and these problems belong to ALL of us.) Legislation is most important, but if WE can be united in improving ALL of our lives, changes can be made. Start small – at home with our own children, with preschool programs on healthy habits and child development continuing on through secondary school, global peace, “love thy neighbor” stuff and the Golden Rule – great things just might happen. (I know what you are thinking – another aged hippie…could be…) But it is worth a shot, huh?

  • latenac

    I doubt that education alone would do it. Americans like the idea of penance and prefer quantity over quality. Eat as much as you want and eat bad things and then do penance by dieting. Giving guidelines only sets the bar at what you need to exceed when you want to be bad and when you want to feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth by the amount of food you’re served.

    I think if in some way a change in attitude where quality begins to be valued over quantity and it becomes better to eat smaller portions of good food rather than huge quantities of mediocre food happens, then things will change. Until that time calling for reducing meat consumption only feeds into the diet industry mentality.

    I think one way to make that change though is to make Americans pay the actual cost of what they consume. Do away with farm subsidies for big ag and give subsidies to small, local farms and you’d see people giving up all sorts of things in a hurry.

  • Techie

    Yes, it’s the evil “Joe Sixpack” Americans fault. The rest of the world are Rousseau’s ideal, who would never eat more than 6oz of meat a day if they could afford it or had the opportunity.

    Also, it’s the evil advertising farms, and people farming as a viable business, and those icky people in “flyover country” who haven’t had the enlightenment or blessing of living in the Upper West Side.

    Are there major issues with food suppiles and production? Of course there are. But the level of class derision and condescension in the comments is staggering.

  • Claudia

    Smandell, the very fact that you read this blog automatically disqualifies you as the average Joe Six-Pack, so you need not take umbrage. (Although food writers have indirectly called us food snobs – among other things!)

    Elitist Food Swine (so I’ve been told),

    Claudia

  • Big Red

    Classism aside, I do not intend to insult anyone’s way of life. Techie, you might think it is condecending to say the average person cannot afford and doesn’t care to learn, but reality hurts my friend.
    To be completely honest I could care less about what is on someone elses plate. I eat way more than the reccommended amount of meat, as many here still do too. However, I would invite anyone who was hungry to eat at my table, and share what I have with everyone in need. And if you knew me personally would know it was true. (Smart ass I am, but I work very hard with the kids I mentor teaching life skills like cooking)(Which I think is Smandell’s point?)
    All humans have a higherlevel of intellegence somewhere, but it is not in the same areas. AND you can educate until you are blue in the face, but someone who doesn’t want to learn will not. Change is scary for many. My husband being one of them, he has to have food the same way all the time, and I can tell you yes, he has OCD. But it is a good comparison for the rest of the world? Things are hard right now. For people who work hard jobs and lead difficult lives, come home and eat to comfort themselves. The fact that it nourishes to one extent or another is just multi-tasking.
    Overeating is something ingrained in us right now, and it will take a long time to change that mind set. Is it something not worth trying? No way, we should always put effort forth where effort is due, but I know with my kids I try to do the best I can with what i have. It ain’t perfect and most of the time it ain’t haute cuisine but it is, for the most part, healthy as I can afford.
    Claudia, we may have been called an EFS but screw ’em! I like this blog the way it is, and there is room for us all here. There really is a good mix I can appreciate. This is a good discussion that needs to be opened up in public with people and industry leaders that could actually make significant changes. I have a headache, I need chocolate.

  • Maya

    Just to clarify – the term Joe Sixpack was used by me and someone before me, my understanding was that it was referring not to class but to white guys sitting around, watching football and guzzling beer. A stereotype for sure, but not a class one.

    Big red, good points. I will say that in grad school we’re learning some stuff that has scared me into changing my habits – big time. Environmental problems are accelerating, and from what I’m learning, we are probably the last generation who has the chance to turn things around. After that, it will be too late.

    So I’m not looking at this stuff as optional any more. I have the feeling that in 5 years, neither will anyone else.

    (Now it’s my turn for chocolate – LOL) 😉

  • Rich

    Yikes,
    Mea Culpa. The Joe Sixpack line was mine. I thought is was slightly more clever than John Q. Public
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Q._Public
    I guess we are pretty lucky to have too many food choices, including the choice to eat “too much” as a problem. The point of Ruhlman’s post was “the global impact of our growing appetite for meat”
    Our choices have consequences. I’m pretty sure Ruhlman’s veal bones are having quite the impact of say, McDonald’s, but he is thinking about the impact of his choices.
    I think bacon is a basic human right, but the lagoons of Smithfield pig waste in the North Carolina should tell us all we have a problem.
    Some of these choices are going to be value judgments. Those are always going to be difficult.

  • faustianbargain

    if any of the concerns here are heartfelt as i think it is, my advice to all of you is to teach your(or others’) kids how to cook. forget about ‘organic’ or ‘humanely produced’ or ‘locally sourced’ or anything new fangled..just teach them how to cook.

    the main reason the current generation of americans dont know how to eat is because they never learned to cook as children.

    other than teaching kids how to cook..organise family dinner time and shopping errands…dont place them on the carts..give them a list…let them take over the kitchen at least during the weekends..

    while the above may sound irrelevant, it will absolutely change the mindset of the youth. young children who know how to eat grow up to be adults who know how to eat. children who enjoy food become adults who enjoy food. children who associate food with nutrition and taste rather than as a mindnumbing, unemotional chore that involves shoveling organic matter from hand to mouth will grow up to be parents who will pass on that enjoyment to their kids. food is not guilt. food is not therapy. food..the cooking and eating of it is a ritual. it is sacred. one generation is lost. someone has to save the next one.

    teach them to eat vegetables. with meat on the side.

  • Rich

    Faust-

    You’re right. We have created a cultural value of quantity over quality. I learning to cook at an early age(or any age) is a basic part of education that helps us to make better value judgments.”‘organic’ or ‘humanely produced’ or ‘locally sourced’ or anything new fangled,” will naturally, probably, follow.

    I used Smithfield as an example because of what it represents. We have the wealth and public demand for the huge volume they can produce. We have the surplus grain to feed the animals in the massive numbers, to reach massive proportions, to meet our volume and price demands. We have the transportation system to centralize production and apply the techniques of industrial manufacturing. We even use medical science to keep these animals alive in the squalor this type of production creates. At some point the economic, health, and environmental consequences are going to turn around and bite us. As you put it, those that for whom food is, “a mindnumbing, unemotional chore that involves shoveling organic matter from hand to mouth” this is a lot to swallow.

  • Claudia

    Maya and Rich – yes, that was my understanding of Rich’s very clever twist on John Q. Public, and Big Red, I don’t think Rich meant it to be condescending or insulting – merely descriptive, and not about class per se, but taste (and maybe, to a degree, food education.) And I don’t take umbrage at all about being called an EFS, so no need to take up the cudgels about the Joe Six Packs, either. This blog might have good palates, a sophisticated sense of food, professional skills, etc., etc., but plenty of us eat bad junky things, too. C’mon, even Ruhlman eats cheese puffs. So there is no diss intended to anyone who might see themselves as Joe Six Pack, OR an EFS. We’re all in here, together. From sea urchin foam to Doritos (!)

  • Bob delGrosso

    Rich
    But the devil is in the details.
    A clone is nothing more or less than an autonomous cell or group of cells that are derived from and genetically identical to, another cell or group of cells.

    Plants propagated by rooted cutting from “parent” stock plants are clones as are cultures of tissue. These of course are produced by a process that differs from the way whole animals are cloned but since they are genetically identical to a single parent they are clones. The fact that tissue cultures are not typically referred to as clonal colonies does not change what they really are-groups of cells that are genetically identical to a single parent.

    Which is really the whole point. Cloned meat is going to be produced from, if not only one parent, the stem cells of a very limited number of animals. The process may not have the environmental impact that anyone here wants (Personally, I suspect it’ll be more benign than farming currently is.) but it could virtually eliminate farm animal husbandry and slaughter.

  • Rich

    Bob,

    I can’t disagree with anything you said. I didn’t explaing myself as well as you have. My real point was that the term can be used in a broad range of situations. I think the misunderstanding of the term leads to much of the fear reactions people have to it. FWIW you can also induce some pretty unholy genetic alterations in plants and animals, that could not remotely be called cloning.
    I still maintain that to manufacture that much “cultured meat” you would need the protein to feed and grow them. Would this not have to come from a source, probably corn, that would produce considerable waste to produce?

  • shaun

    I just tried the braise/blend method and I gotta say I don’t know how I’ll go back to the whole strain/reduce method. You gotta think of a name for this.