The Hidden Costs of Hamburgers

The Center for Investigative Reporting presents this 8 minute distillation of Michael Pollan’s chapters on meat from the seminal “Omnivore’s Dilemma”. If that tome’s page count seems daunting, or you simply prefer to ingest your information in animated form, chew on this.

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Less Meat-i-tarian

 

My family enjoys the full range of God’s gifts of food. This means that we are an omnivore (omnivoric?) household, but try to be responsible about it (the title of this entry is how Mark Bittman describes his eating choices; we follow suit). We don’t eat a lot of meat. This is largely for financial reasons: we try not to purchase meat that isn’t organic, free-range, sustainably raised, and from humanely-treated animals.

This necessitates our eating meat much less often than the average American, who can pick up chicken thighs for 99 cents a pound (one of my favorite quotes is from Jamie Oliver: “A chicken, which was once a living being, shouldn’t cost less than a pint of beer”). Because we eat meat less often, and not from industrial production, we contribute to the reduction of all the nastiness that factory meat production brings to our world: environmental devastation (especially greenhouse gases), animal suffering/commodification, worker accidents/forced labor, and all the health problems that come from over-consumption of animal products.

Obviously one can contribute even more meaningfully to this reduction by becoming vegetarian. I salute my friends who have done so. I don’t for two reasons: one, I don’t believe it is wrong, in and of itself, to eat meat (see first sentence of this post); and two, I am voting with my dollars towards the changes I want to see. Boycotts don’t always work: the producers can just write off the people who don’t buy at all. But those of us still spending money on animal products have a real say – producers have a vested interest in pleasing us, as we are still customers.

It’s not easy, though, to find producers who treat their animals well, run a clean and open operation, don’t harm their workers, and work with nature, not against it. You can’t always trust a big corporation, even one like Whole Foods that seems to be really trying to change things. Just a quick overview of the “big organic” chapters in The Omnivore’s Dilemma will reveal just how confused and misleading the whole system has become.

For us, the solution was to join a ranch CSA. We eat meat usually twice a week, sometimes thrice. A box of their meat ($220 including a $20 drought supplement) lasts us at least 3 months, and includes premium items such as pork belly, whole brisket, incredible bacon, steaks, and the best hot dogs you will ever eat. Seriously. I actually started drooling thinking about them.

Talk to the farmers at your local market. If they don’t do a CSA you might be able to get one started; or if they do, joining it will be one of the best decisions you can make. To have almost all of your meat locally-sourced from a place where you personally know the farmers, who run an open operation and treat their animals well, is not only healthier and better for everyone involved, but it teaches your kids valuable lessons about honoring life and living in harmony with creation.

(I do still, btw, shop at Whole Foods for the 10% or so of meats I cannot get from the CSA, such as fish. It’s about taking steps, not being perfect.)

And if, by this teaching, one day my child announces that she cannot in good conscience eat meat any longer, I will honor her decision. Fortunately since I’ve tried (and failed) being both vegan and vegetarian, I have a great shelf of cookbooks to pass along.

Tortilla Stack Dinner Nom Nom

Since I seem to be on a bit of a recipe roll this week, I thought I’d throw this one out too. I’m a improviser in the kitchen, and this is very loosely based on this recipe from epicurious but, IMHO, far, far superior.

It should be noted: my children ate it.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “What?! Your CHILDREN ate it?? What strange witchcraft is this, O Wise One? And wilt thou sharest with me?”

(I don’t know why you’re in a Shakespeare play in my head. I suppose because I’m usually in a Shakespeare play in my head. Being a theater major does that to you.)

Where was I? Oh yeah, dinner…

Sautee half an onion (more if your kids will tolerate) and a garlic clove, in your cast iron skillet. You DO have a cast iron skillet, right?

Throw in some tomatoes (I used muir glen canned w/chipotles), like 1/3 cup. Makes some tasty liquid.

Add a small bunch spinach (very small). Wash ’em good. Grit is nasty. Wilt those suckers.

Toss in some frozen corn and black beans, don’t ask me how much, just enough so it looks balanced. Very important: rinse your beans. I forgot and later, my nose paid for that mistake. (thank you, dear hubby)

Add some spices: cumin, chili powder (if you have good stuff made up), salt & pepper. LIME JUICE. This is essential. You taste. You say, what does this need? (actually you say, “what doeth this needeth?”) Acid, duh. So lime it up. But gently.

Taste some more. Imagine Gordon Ramsey breathing down your back. If you’re not half full by the time dinner starts, you’ve done it wrong.

(the other half of your tummy may be full of wine/beer/tequila…I won’t tell)

Now the fun: hit it with the stick blender. Grind up all that onion & spinach so your kids never know what him em. BAM. Leave some poor lil beans & corn so there’s texture and the corn pops into little sweet nuggets when you bite.

On a baking sheet, put down some tortillas. H-E-B in-store made is really the only way to go (see last post), but not everyone is so blessed, so do what you can. Spoon the bean stuff on each, then layer some cheese. Don’t put too much. Turns out this bean stuff goes everywhere. Cheese is excellent binder. And nommy.

Layer to your heart’s content. But four tortillas is a good stopping place. Let’s not be greedy.

Brush w/EVOO spiked with a little cayenne. Bake at 450 for 12 mins until the tops & bottoms are all toasty and the inside is ooey gooey yumminess.

Cut into wedges, drink beer, roll eyes as kids refuse to taste.

Eat theirs.

Suddenly, they’re very interested.

(don’t look for no damn photo – the best food is ugly but delicious – and anyway, it’s all gone)