This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays. Please check out the fantastic posts written about Real Food!
I am not a vegan or a vegetarian and still I consider myself an environmentalist and Yogini. For some I know this should result in something akin to cognitive dissonance... and this is not a post about that debate but I thought I would put a little something as to why I've chosen to remain an omnivore pre:story.
From an environmental perspective, the most effective way to slash your carbon footprint would be to cut out meat. Traditional meat raising (CAFO) involves huge amounts of water (100,000 kilos for every pound of beef produced), grain that's grown using carbon sucking machinery, polluting pesticides and genetically modified seeds. Often animals are sick and fed hormones to encourage faster growth and antibiotics to decrease illness pre-slaughter.
From a Yogi perspective, Ahimsa, one of the five Yamas ("restraints"), means non-violence or non-harm. Which would apply to both the cruelty involved with traditional meat farming and the environmental harm. However, we could take this debate to the extremes as Olivia Rosewood discusses.
My reasons for being a meat-eater are health related. I have such a restricted diet (especially when it comes to vegetables and fruit) that further restrictions would simply result in an unhealthy me. Since I refuse to eat soy (especially after watching "The World According to Monsanto"), knowing the amount of pesticides, pollution, monocultures and GMO's involved in soy's journey, a balanced diet comes with some meat.
Our compromise? Trying to eat less meat, as many local and sustainable vegetables and grains as possible. Whenever we do buy meat, we try to invest in those that are local, organic and grass-fed. Sustainable farms don't mistreat their animals, use harmful pesticides or antibiotics. Their animals are healthy and some would argue happy. For a fantastic example, please check out Joel Salatin's farm Polyface.
A few weeks ago Andrew and I decided to treat ourselves and buy some local organic grass-fed steaks from Planet Organic. I think they were from Getaway Farms. Unfortunately, unless you go directly to the farm or the farmer's market all local meats are frozen (I'm assuming it has to do with processing regulations and demand). Two steaks cost us 18$... WOW. It's fine,(higher, more panic-y internal voice) we were treating ourselves. Grass-fed beef means the cows ate what their stomach's have evolved to digest... grass, they were happier and healthier and as a result so would our planet and ourselves be.
Interestingly enough, I also felt much more connected to this meat than any other beef I've bought. Although it looked nothing like a cow, knowing it had been raised, lived and slaughtered only a few hours drive away made me stop and consider how it had been a living creature. As geeky as it sounds, I found myself thanking the Goddess for providing this life and energy... you know all the spiritual stuff. All the things we're supposed to consider to encourage more connectedness with our world.
What we didn't consider was how to cook the steaks. We defrosted them and Andrew did his usual fancy schmancy steak thing, we sat down to eat our yummy local, sustainable steaks and took a bite. And chewed.... and chewed some more. Then we chewed even more. They were the most chewy, dry steaks I have ever eaten. Crap. We totally didn't consider the small fact that... well they were grass-fed.
Grass-fed beef means less marbling of fat in the meat (which we knew) which results in a different flavour (which we knew) and.... less fat to tenderize the meat throughout the steak. Sigh. 18$ worth of meat and instead of considering that we might need to marinade them like they needed a bath, we just cooked them as if they were regular steaks. Even though we bravely ate every single bite and our jaws were sore afterwards from all the chewing, I was very disappointed.
Sadly, they were way to expensive for us to buy on a regular basis so it will be a while until we give it another go. When we do, however, there will be many hours of marinading (perhaps even using my dad's method of cutting the meat to allow for more sauce to soak in, terrible I know but effective!). Perhaps we missed some crucial tip or method? Any suggestions would be welcome :)
There you have, our first "grass-fed" experience, not exactly the success we wanted. I think what I took away that was most helpful was that unexpected spiritual-ness and connectedness that comes from knowing my food's origins. Don't get me wrong, growing up in a fisherman's family meant cooking the lobsters we had just raced across the kitchen floor, seeing the rabbits my dad snared and the deer he had killed that year... but I'd never experienced similar things with beef or chicken. Instead of feeling disgusted, I felt connected which may seem completely weird for some (sorry VeganB!) but for myself it felt balanced.
Tonight Andrew and I are off to visit the family in the "village" and we'll be bringing back some fresh local haddock (frozen sadly) that my parents sourced from a local fisherman. :)
article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com