Why I’m Not Vegetarian (or Vegan)

☆ May 7, 2012

It’s certainly not for lack of caring about animals. But before I get into details ~
I have noticed, over the years, that conversations about food and diet often veer into a similar realm as those about politics or religion. I don’t want that to happen here or in the comment section. I’m often asked how I can care so deeply for the cows and calves we raise and still eat meat ~ in answering that here, I am simply sharing my choices and what works for me; I’m not trying to “convert” anybody. I think every body has different needs and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to diet.

Onward! I was really naive about food until I turned 26. I didn’t particularly care about food ~ it was not a priority in my life and I just ate whatever. I thought food was food, that all food was pretty much fine, because why would they have commercials on TV for Big Macs if they were bad for you? Naive.

Then I became devastatingly ill, to the point where I had to sit on the bathroom floor to brush my teeth because I didn’t have the energy to stand at the sink, and was battling an unyielding depression. It took me six months to discover the root was gluten intolerance and when I cut gluten out of my diet, all the horrible symptoms and effects disappeared. That period of illness was the worst six months of my life and it was the best thing that happened to me. Because everything changed. I realized that what I put into my body affected how I feel and how I function. I started paying attention to my body and I started paying attention to food.

I went vegan for a bit, but soon realized my body functions best with animal protein. It’s just the way it is with me. Some people thrive on a vegan diet and I didn’t. And so I began incorporating raw organic milk and cheese and grass-finished pasture-raised beef back into my diet, all of which I could buy in stores as I was living in San Francisco at the time.

These choices regarding animal products, however, were not rooted in altruism; they were totally self-centered. Since I had discovered that food = health and health = power, I wanted the animal protein I was eating to be as pure and natural as possible ~ when you eat meat, eggs, or dairy, you consume what the animal consumed, and factory-raised products are filled with antibiotics, hormones, and unhealthy fats because of the conditions in which the animals are raised.

Yet in my research surrounding this, I began learning about the absolute horrors of commercial farming and that is when I became passionate about the animals. I vowed that if I was going to eat an animal, I would make sure that animal never spent time in a feedlot or factory farm; that the animal’s life was as happy and peaceful as possible before that life was surrendered for mine.

I don’t ignore the fact that an animal dies so that I may eat meat. I don’t take it lightly. But to reconcile that fact, I have to know the animal had the happiest, most stress-free life possible and the quickest, most stress-free death possible. I eat elk that Mike hunts, because he hunts with a rifle and is so skilled that the animals he takes are dead before they fall. I also eat the beef that we raise, because I know the animal’s life was good, that it was loved and free, and I am with it till the end. There’s no feedlot, no slaughterhouse, just a trip down the dirt road to a small USDA-certified processor run by a woman who is smart and kind.

Because I am so adamantly against the industries of terror and abuse that are conventional farming, I haven’t eaten chicken in ten years, and I only eat eggs from Mike’s chickens (when they stop laying I go without) and dairy from Daisy (when she dries off for two months before each calf I go without). I feel really lucky to be so “close to the source” via my life in Wyoming. But it’s an ongoing process ~ just the other day I realized my favorite gluten-free bread which I buy upon occasion is made with eggs, and these are very likely factory-farmed eggs. So I switched to a different brand of bread that is vegan and gluten free.

Going back to the original question, how can I invest so much care in a orphan calf, or keep a hypothermic calf in my house, when I know it’s going to die anyway? Because I love each calf. Because I have so much respect for these animals and am so grateful for them. I will live in service to them because I know they will die in service to me. And in the meantime, I want their lives to be filled with respect and freedom and peace.

This is kind of a stream of consciousness blog post and I’m sure there are points I glossed over or points I may have missed, so please leave any questions you may have in the comment section and I will answer them. I can anticipate one question: How can I feel so strongly against feedlots and yet help raise calves that are sent off to that torture?  I don’t. We don’t. But that is another long story which I will save for another day.

Comments

112 Responses to “Why I’m Not Vegetarian (or Vegan)”

  1. Losech
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    I agree completely. I would rather eat an animal that had a good life than one that did not, an animal that was treated kindly.
    We get pastured chicken eggs delivered to our house from a small farm not too far away. They are heavenly, and when they don’t have eggs, I don’t eat any. The eggs from conventional systems are not only cruel, they just don’t taste good.

    I hunt and eat everything from the animal that I can, and what I don’t, my dogs get. They love it. I use as much of the animal as possible and will not shoot something I can’t use. I’ve met a couple hunters who, when on deer hunts, will shoot “predator” animals and just leave them there.
    But that is another issue entirely.

  2. Catherine
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:12 am

    Good for you. Here we eat grass fed beef, fresh eggs, fresh fruits, fresh vegetable. The difference is huge.It is an incredible luxury, few people can afford to live here, no jobs really, but the farms are thriving. I can’t even stand looking at a supermarket.

  3. Rebecca
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:27 am

    This is an incredibly insightful post and I wish more people shared your point of view. I have been a vegetarian/vegan for 7.5 years. Vegetarian for all the reasons you mentioned above (but vegan b/c I’m lactose intolerant and allergic to eggs). I went vegetarian b/c I couldn’t stand to contribute anymore to another beings suffering and as sort of a karma payback, if you will, for the 2.5 years I spent living/working on a hog farm (these pigs were never treated like your animals are – it was simply a horrible life for them). Despite my vegetarianism, I have never had a problem with someone else eating meat as I believe each person must follow their own moral guide. Mine simply doesn’t allow for eating meat anymore so therefore I don’t. If their guide allows it, so be it. Nevertheless I can’t help but wish that more people were like you and concerned about the life the animal lived before it died for them.

    PS What brand of gluten-free bread are you eating that’s also vegan? I’m gluten sensitive but have such a hard time staying away from “regular” stuff as I can’t seem to find good quality brands.

  4. Pam
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:33 am

    Well said. I’m changing my buying habits to include organic as much as possible and free-range meat as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Tervicz
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:47 am

    My greatest fear is that if we would all go vegetarian or vegan, animals like cattle, sheep and pigs would go into decline and some breeds would go extinct as there may be little or no use for these animals, certainly not at the scale we have use for them today. On the other hand a piece of meat is never “something” but “someone”. There lurks more within a cow than just milk and meat and I know this know having up close and personal and I even found a friend who has been a better friend to me than most human friends, close relatives not included. And I could never see her on my plate even though I do eat meat.

    I wonder, Shreve, if that cow is your friend, could you still eat her?

  6. Jennifer
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:51 am

    Amen. Ditto.

  7. SR
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:58 am

    Having grown up on a farm, I share many of your attitudes about food. This post reminds me how lucky some of us are to be able to have so much control over the kind and condition of the foods we eat. Not everyone has that luxury.

  8. Dana
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:01 am

    Awesome way of explaining it. I have never thought of it in those terms before. I have just faced this dilema in the recent years. I wanted chickens last year as I had discovered farm fresh eggs taste better then store bought, so my husband bought some chickens. Unfortunitely, he bought meat chickens! I figured we would raise them then slaughter them, but once they were grown, we couldn’t do it. Now, after reading your post, I believe I could do it simply because I would know that they had a loving kind life before they went to nourish my body and soul.

  9. Catherine
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    On my grand parents’ farm, we the kids were friends with all the animals. Chicken, rabbits, cows, ducks, goats and piglets. Often one of our ” friends ” would disappear and end up on our plate, we did not know, grandma blamed the foxes and the hawks…..We killed a pig once a year ( we were sent away to town that day ) that was food for many months, it was a celebration, every single part of the pig was good to eat. It was very simple, it had been done that way for hundred of years, you can love the animals you eat.

  10. Miranda
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    I still don’t understand being friends with the animal and it trusts you so it gets in the truck to go to its death. I eat meat so it’s not like I’m saying don’t kill it but there’s something so discomforting to me about an animal trusting you then you killing it.

  11. andrea
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:09 am

    There is something very appealing to me about the idea of the “paleo diet”. It relies on such simplicity: how our bodies have developed over the millennia (until the past couple of thousand years, that is) to find and then physically process nutrients. It is pretty strict, though! Yes, we are omnivores but we can also makes choices based on rationality and compassion, as you did. On a similar note, this is a TED talk worth seeing: http://blog.ted.com/2010/01/06/how_to_live_to/

  12. WendyAA
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    I am thankful to have discovered a farm very close to my home that sells grass fed beef and pasture raised chickens both for eggs and meat. The animals live and die on that peaceful farm. The family operates a self-serve store, and at first I found it disturbing to walk out of the store with a bag full of meat only to stare right into the eyes of that meat’s family and friends. I thought about it and realized that I was actually thankful to see them standing there, swishing their tails in the sunshine and chewing on their cud because I knew they were happy and healthy before they became my food. I keep in mind that when an animal in a slaughter house dies under stress, you eventually consume those stress hormones and their stress becomes your’s.

  13. Shayla Myst
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    Wonderful post! I am so inspired by your writings. Thank you for always being so open and honest about things.

  14. Cheryl
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    Did you ever hear about Temple Grandin? in short, she’s a strong supporter of animal welfare and the human treatment of animals most especially livestock. we aren’t all cut out to be vegan or vegetarian or whatever, so we do what we must to live. but in so doing, appreciate what goes into the things that nourish and sustain you. I love your respect for life.

  15. Torchy
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    Last August I became a vegan due to “Eat to Live”, whose author I saw on public tv. The very first thing to happen was I no longer needed 2x/day omeprazole for heartburn. No more constipation. I’m pretty good about it, but sometimes cheat for carbs if I’m having a bad day. I can fantasize about a rare steak coated with blue cheese, garlic & butter, but I remember that so well, I don’t need to eat it. So the point for me is that my body loves vegan and I’m making it happy.

  16. Kristan
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    This post and your philosophy brought me to tears. Your animals are so lucky. And I hope more of us (myself included) will move more and more toward your way of eating.

  17. Sarah W.
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    Just wanted to say thanks for this post. I’ve been vegan half my life, and I always wondered about this while reading your blog…and this is by far the best answer to the title question I’ve ever heard.

  18. Joan in NV
    May 7th, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    You’ve given me a lot to think about and a lot to research. Thanks.

  19. HappyLittleBird
    May 7th, 2012 @ 11:04 am

    Shreve,
    I have such trouble articulating my reasons and beliefs for things I do (such as this subject). This is one that I can agree with you and others, I’m sure, deeply on. I don’t think I could have said it better and it’s sweet relief and support to know their are others that consume the flesh of animals while still knowing they can maintain a true and deep respect for them, to the end.
    Thanks Love.
    ~L

  20. Eunice
    May 7th, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    I have five pet hens who are completely spoilt little madams. But I still eat chicken. I only buy free-range chicken though, and that which has been passed by the RSPCA. Happily battery farms are now illegal in the UK. I can’t bring myself to eat lamb, for some odd reason. But I eat beef and pork, again, making sure that I buy organic, free-rage. I can remember when meat cost money and was a treat. It is completely wrong that it is now so cheap because we don’t care how we get it.

  21. SDC
    May 7th, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    I remember when we were kids, we were always told that the aboriginal people wasted nothing, so we should do the same. It fell on deaf ears until I was a lot older and started to understand that until you must kill your own meat, you can never truly appreciate the sacrifice the animal makes. Then came the understanding and the respect for the life that is taken so that I may live. I live in a large city and people think I am anal because I find waste absolutely appalling. I think they see it as a great life if you can mindlessly discard without a thought or a care. I know people who see bacon as coming from plastic packaging, not a living breathing animal. Great post and not an easy subject to take on.

  22. Davidray
    May 7th, 2012 @ 11:16 am

    Thanks in (large) part to your blog I’m beginning to learn many things about the nature of our country’s food industry, and also about the need to put good into our bodies. One of my biggest wake up moments came when I got a small flock of chickens three years ago and researched all about raising chickens. I was shocked and appalled at how commercial chickens are raised. Since then we’ve never had to buy eggs (one of the benefits of living in Texas is that my hens usually lay through the winter)! Also, home raised chicken meat is far superior to store bought, in flavor and texture. I think the home vs. commercial meat difference is greater than the egg difference. I’m hoping that with the chicks I get this year I can establish a home flock that takes care of all our meat needs and I can never buy chicken again. It is a small change…but if enough people make small changes maybe some of what’s wrong will be changed for the better.

  23. Sarah
    May 7th, 2012 @ 11:47 am

    This is the only way I could eat meat, too. Thank you for posting this.

  24. Farmer Lady
    May 7th, 2012 @ 11:54 am

    Thank you for this wonderful post! This helps other people understand that just because some farmers or ranchers raise animals, and then eat them, we aren’t terrible people!
    It took me until I was in my 40′s before I figured out how awful most of our food in the grocery store is. I decided I wanted to raise my own chickens. (You should try it, I bet Charlie would be good to them if he knew they were YOUR chickens…). I also wanted my own Thanksgiving turkey. The turkey was the first animal I ever butchered. It took a long time, and I got my book dirty while flipping pages on How To Butcher A Turkey… but I did it and after that I was HOOKED! I refuse to buy any animal protein from the store now. We get grass-fed organic beef from our neighbor. I see his cows and how he treats them every day, and I love how he does it. I raise my own pigs. I LOVE pigs. They are wonderful creatures, and they are mighty tasty. I raise my own poultry. It is HARD work, but when it comes time to dine, I know I am eating the BEST food I could possibly be eating, and my family is so much better off! I also practice Nose To Tail eating, I eat every scrap of that animal. What I don’t eat, goes to our dogs, or compost in the vegetable garden.
    More and more people are waking up that the folks in charge of our nation’s food supply are more concerned with $$$ than with the quality of our food.
    Thanks again for the great post!

  25. Alyssa
    May 7th, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

    I love this post. My heart has always bled for animals but I never wanted to give up meat. I’ve found eating as humanely as possible (and as little meat as possible) reconciles those feelings.

    It’s very interesting to learn people’s meat preferences. I love meat, but could give it up if I had to. I make vegetarian choices over meat choices often, and make sure I really enjoy my meat choices. However, I know people who crave meat and have it with most meals. Part of that I feel is our modern conditioning, and the other part is that I know they love meat that much.

    Thank you for a well-rounded and thoughtful post. We would all be a lot healthier, humans and other animals, if we were conscious about where I food comes from (both meat and veggie).

  26. Dee
    May 7th, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    Hi Shreve,
    I’ve been a long time ‘lurker’ (caught the first 6 months of Daily Coyote and just couldn’t quit checking in on you :).
    My husband and I confuse our friends by eating vegetarian and vegan meals and then turning around and serving burgers at barbeques. I struggle to explain our point of view and kept thinking that I wanted to just totally steal this post and say ‘HERE – this is why’. We choose to go meat-less unless we have the option of a truly healthy meat option (which is rare). It isn’t that I’m against eating animals, just that I’m against supporting an industry focused solely on my eating of the animal and not the health and happiness of that animal prior to ending up on my table.
    I love animals and pledge to provide them with all the harmony and joy that this life can give them. However, I don’t believe that they fear death as we do or that a ‘good death’ is something terrible to befall them. There is a certain honor in loving something right to the end, when that is the end that was called for from the beginning.
    Thank you for writing from the heart on such a touchy subject. More of us need to learn to stand behind our ‘gut’ on food issues to hopefully spark some change.
    -Dee

  27. Suzy
    May 7th, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

    “I will live in service to them because I know they will die in service to me.”

    As usual Shreve, beautifully said.

  28. Pat
    May 7th, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

    Great post, great explanations for why you do those thangs you do.
    The only point I will differ in is this: if I were raising the animals as you, loved, respected and well cared for, I could never slaughter it if I named it. Once I named it, it would become a pet, albeit, a large one in the case of a cow.
    I know it might sound silly to be saying that, but I would have a hard time taking it to be processed if it were a pet, even though it had been raised as food for me. So, I would do my best to not get too emotionally attached to it, and definitely, I couldn’t name it. :-)

  29. Emilie
    May 7th, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I eat meat, but I struggle constantly with that decision. I’ve made attempts to scale back and pick vegetarian meals at restaurants when possible, but it’s difficult. My husband and I live in a semi-rural area (just a state away from you), and so far we’ve found one nearby farm from which we get our eggs. I drive past the VERY free-range chickens that lay them each day, and they make me smile.
    We’ve tried to only eat beef that comes from a family member’s ranch, where I know they animals are treated well. My vice is turkey. I love it. I need to find a place locally that raises them with love and sells the meat to neighbors. That’s my next goal.
    On another note, I’d love to hear if you have opinions about buying from companies that use animal testing for personal hygiene, cleaning supplies and other items. I’m in the process of making the switch to all cruelty-free products, but it’s difficult — and expensive.

  30. Maggie
    May 7th, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

    Yes :) Your thoughts sound so much like mine when it comes to the food I choose to eat! I don’t have a farm, but I found farmers who do, and sell their meat via CSA, and and who give their animals a good life, roaming free on pasture, until they too are slaughtered at a small processor in small batches. I get my eggs from this wonderful woman who lives 20 mins from me with giant organic gardens and feeds those veggies to her chickens who roam free around the property during the day and are kept safe from predators in a coop at night. They are the best eggs I’ve ever had. And if her chickens aren’t laying? I wait. It’s ok. :)

  31. Marina
    May 7th, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    Shreve–I eat meat, try to eat organic/grass fed/antibiotic-free when I can. I don’t know if it’s ethical or not. It’s a personal choice. However, it’s interesting that your musings were published the same day as this article from the NY Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/magazine/the-winner-of-our-contest-on-the-ethics-of-eating-meat.html?src=recg

  32. hello haha narf
    May 7th, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

    none of this surprises me. your writings show your love and respect for the animals in your care. this all makes perfect sense.

    this line is so powerful: “I will live in service to them because I know they will die in service to me.” amen.

  33. shreve
    May 7th, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

    ahoy! I’ve been off the computer all morning but am back – I’ll answer questions in reverse (bottom up) ~

    31. M ~ wow ~ I will check that out tonight! thanks for the link.

    29. E ~ yes, I’ve cut all that out, and it’s actually cheaper!!! The secret is to MAKE YOUR OWN. Cleaners with white vinegar, toothpaste with baking soda, I have a homemade deodorant post here in the archives from a few months back, and a post about what I use on my face & body ~ only straight oils, no potions. Tons of info and recipes are on the internet ~ once the commitment is there, it’s easier than you think!

    29. P ~ I don’t name them either. The Farmily have names, the others do not. It’s a very fine balance of emotions!

    14. C ~ yes, she’s rad.

    5. T ~ uh, define friend!! As mentioned above, it is a very delicate and tenuous emotional balance for me. I do not want to eat Fiona. But I also adore the animals we do eat. The lines definitely have to be drawn early, at least for me.

    Thanks for all your stories and comments and perspectives!

  34. Chiriohs
    May 7th, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

    Once the chickens stop laying, they make wonderful chicken broth. Slow wet cooking is called for when cooking an older chicken. We eat the mean roosters we end up with when our baby chicks grow up. So far, I haven’t had a chicken too old to lay eggs to eat because of predators, but I have heard tales of their deliciousness. I love my chickens. It’s hard to kill them, but it’s harder to watch the suffering of old age or sickness. Not to mention the reward of good food from a hen who had a very good free-range life.

  35. Emma Bull
    May 7th, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    Bravo! I’m a vegetarian by choice and inclination. Your approach to eating mindfully, with an awareness of where food comes from and choices based on that awareness, seems like an excellent way to eat.

  36. Lisa
    May 7th, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

    It’s such a struggle in a major metropolitan area compared to what I see when I go vacation at my sister-in-law’s family ranch. It’s so black and white here. “happy animal” products are 2x as much at the grocery store, and 3x as much at the farmers markets. As much as I would want to, on Saturday at the market, I saw one single rib-eye steak for $18.

    We can’t even have backyard chickens where I live, so a dozen eggs at the market (from a farm 30 miles away) is $7.

    I grow my own produce as much as I can, and I’m entertaining the thought of a dwarf fruit tree but I am so envious of people who have affordable access to well-cared for animal products.

    My sis-in-law’s family medium-sized ranch, in Mexico, half their adult cattle (and some noteworthly babies) have names, so do the (crazy scary) guard dogs, the feral cats, and the other odd assortment of animals.

    I can’t say that I am an expert at these decisions, since I spend one month a year there, but I **really** appreciate how the good mothers are appreciated year over year, and finally retired to a role in settling down/protecting the young ones when they are first separated from their moms, and the bulls they keep are the less aggressive ones that don’t try to kill you when you walk near the herd.

    and if you are a white somewhat-city girl who has ever seen an aggressive bull (cow) tangle with a pit bull(dog), dear god, you know what I mean.

    regardless, I wish I had better choices.

  37. eni
    May 7th, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    I really appreciate you writing this post.

    This has been a topic that’s been bothering me a lot, lately. Especially on Tumblr, I find that those same feminists who are shouting “My body, my choice” when it comes to reproductive rights are often also the same ones who post things that attempt to shame non-veg*ns into a veg*n diet (the horrors of the slaughterhouse industry, why would you murder an animal when no human NEEDS meat to live (which is bullshit)?, etc.). I am trying desperately to understand why “My body, my choice” seems to begin and end with the reproductive system and, for these people, purposely excludes the digestive system.

    Meat consumption is not the problem. The consumption of animal products is not the problem. The problem is that people are seriously divorced from our food supply- both plant and animal sources. The problem is that people are not purchasing from people and places that lovingly care for the animals and crops they raise. These are the problems, not meat consumption in itself.

  38. Lisa Brown
    May 7th, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

    Seconding the comment about Temple Grandin. She’s an amazing person, and one in no easy position (from where she stands it’s easy for her to be shunned from both sides of the issue). She has a great book called “Animals Make Us Human” that you should check out if you haven’t.

  39. Kelsey
    May 7th, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    Hi Shreve,
    I love both the daily coyote and this website and have been reading for awhile, but never commented. I just wanted to point out, I am sure you already know, but I hear confusion on this subject frequently, that all meat contains hormones because they are naturally occurring in all animals. Like you I do not support injecting livestock with growth hormone to make them artificially bigger, but it seems to me that many people overlook the fact that there are hormones in all meat.

  40. Dana
    May 7th, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

    @pat…
    Thats my problem…once it is named it becomes of pet status. I had a friend who got a steer calf from the stock pens at the meat market and named him T-bone in hopes that when it came time she would be able to butcher him and be reminded that he was going to provide her with nice juicy t-bones. Needless to say, she got overly attached to him and ended up selling him to someone who butchered him. She said she didn’t feel as bad that way as she likes to think he lived out his life and died of old age. The second calf she got she named ribeye and was able to butcher him. He just did not have the personality that t-bone had.

  41. Penny in Co
    May 7th, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

    Good stuff Shreve. Living near Boulder, I have eaten organic etc for 20 plus years (mostly, not always). Boulder is like that…LOL Weston Price Foundation is an awesome website and he did much research regarding the need for all types of fat, animal protein etc. Sally Fallon “Nourishing Traditions” is an amazing book, if anyone is interested in the “old ways” of cooking….
    I agree with you on this topic! Raw everything is also amazing…I envy you the cows…..
    Lucky for us here, this is the norm and not the exception…even in many of the local restaurants!

  42. shreve
    May 7th, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

    36. L ~ totally. it’s SO much more expensive in urban areas.

    39. K ~ heavens, yes! I mean injections and assumed that was assumed – thanks for clarifying for all.

  43. Louise Daigle
    May 7th, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

    I completely agree with your beliefs. I too will only eat an animal that I know has had the best life possible. I only eat eggs and milk from local farms from people I know care for their animals. For now I am vegetarian, until I have the means to raise and slaughter my own animals. I feel it is very important to be there with them until the end. If they can sacrifice their lives, to prolong and improve our own, it is the very least we can do. Thank you for sharing!

  44. Calico
    May 7th, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing Shreve! I’ve often wondered over the years about the end result of the farm animals you write about. Food from contented, grass fed cows – what a wonderful food source you have.

  45. Brandi
    May 7th, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    Thanks for the post, Shreve. This is also why I raise my own chickens, for both meat and eggs, and milk my own adorable little goat. I honestly thank every chicken I carry to the chopping block; I have raised it well, treated it well, fed it well, it’s sacrifice is deserving of respect.
    Have a great day.

  46. wyomama
    May 7th, 2012 @ 8:09 pm

    Thanks for a lovely post. I just had a conversation with a neighbor who asked how I could possibly eat an animal that I’ve raised. I think my steer, who is cared for, named, petted, and loved on for his entire life, and then who gives his life to feed my family in as humane and peaceful a fashion I can manage is a much more ethical and humane choice than some anonymous steer loaded on a truck and hauled to a slaughterhouse and put into packages, whether he is “organic” or “natural” or “grassfed” or whatever would go on his label. Yes, it makes it harder on me – but I think I am healthier and wholer by KNOWING what the cost is so that I can live, and by approaching each meal with gratitude.

    As far as vegetarian or vegan diets being more kind? When the (mostly migrant) agricultural workers get as much of a voice as the cattle and chickens of America have, I think that assumption will be hugely questioned.

  47. Antoinette
    May 7th, 2012 @ 8:37 pm

    I don’t see how you can justify it without believing you are a superior being that can choose whether something will live or die. It’s not fair, regardless of how good a life the animal had. You’re still taking it’s life so that you can eat it. It’s weird.

    The end game is still the same. There is no difference between Charlie and a dying calf. I doubt you would eat Charlie or Chloe or Eli. So what makes the calf worth less than them?

  48. Green Goose
    May 7th, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

    Shreve, great post. Authentically written, thought provoking. I love your line… food=health and health=power

    You can’t even imagine how much of this is drumming around in my life right now. We’re ramping up the sustainability and organic elements of our little farm in Oklahoma, trying to make informed choices at least…

    By the way, have you read Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?

    Here’s my review of it just for fun:
    http://thelazyw.blogspot.com/2012/03/reviewing-my-new-manifesto.html

  49. Tervicz
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

    Hi Shreve,

    My definition of a friend would be someone to whom one has an emotional bond. Someone who does not just take but also gives happiness. An animal to whom you are not just a feeder and handler of the brush, but someone they want to bond with and hang out with. To you Daisy, Fiona, Frisco and Sir Baby might be friends. Even though you will eat animals you care for, killing one of these would not mean the loss of an animal but the loss of a close friend.

  50. Lesley
    May 7th, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

    I was a vegetarian for 15 years then started incorporating meat into my diet because of a B12 and iron deficiency. I became a vegetarian because of the unhealthy and inhumane industrial farming or factory farming practices. When I started eating meat again, I vowed to eat local, organic, humanely raised and slaughtered chicken and turkey. I rarely eat beef (mostly because I don’t like the taste). Like Shreve, I react to gluten and since refined carbohydrates pile on fat, increase bloating, and wreak havoc with my skin, I’ve pretty much wiped them out. Once in a while I’ll treat myself to something but it’s rare. So I’m pretty much a meat and raw or steamed veggies + healthy fats person now. I’ve also eliminated refined sugar from my diet, prefering Stevia or Manuka honey (sparingly).

  51. GD
    May 8th, 2012 @ 5:33 am

    I completely agree. This is part of the reasons I will NEVER eat veal and such.

  52. shreve
    May 8th, 2012 @ 6:03 am

    46. W ~ beautifully said

    48. GG ~ yes!

    51. GD ~ Veal is a “byproduct” of the dairy industry. I wish more people knew this. All those cows have to have babies every year in order to make milk… If you’re buying milk/dairy in the store, you’re supporting veal production.

    3. R ~ missed this Q before! Food for Life. It’s nothing like regular bread but it’s not bad :)

  53. Holly
    May 8th, 2012 @ 6:08 am

    Bravo Shreve, I have such a high respect for your way of life, almost envy, because everything is clean and natural. A lot of work, but healthy and smart.I must say that I try to buy meats that are from proper, dare I say old fashioned, grass eating, free wandering,farms, and eggs as well. You always pay more for something that is the way it should be, unfortunately, but that is the price to pay for good, nutritious food. Amen to you girl.

  54. evan
    May 8th, 2012 @ 7:27 am

    Hi Shreve, this is a great post! I started having some problems with commercially processed breads, I bought a rather fancy bread maker at a garage sale and started making my own bread. I prefer knowing what ingredients go into my bread. It’s helped me. Thanks for discussion point.

  55. carolyn
    May 8th, 2012 @ 8:21 am

    My favorite line in your post: “I will live in service to them because I know they will die in service to me.”
    Thank you for sharing. You inspire me.

  56. Marg
    May 8th, 2012 @ 8:34 am

    I hope you haven’t finished with answering questions. I haven’t been able to read all the comments so I might be repeating but….What did you mean when you said “Daisy dries off before a calf”??? City girl here has never heard of this and can’t believe my favorite cow (I have a hard time calling her that) stops producing milk for any reason. Please explain the why’s and wherefores if you are so inclined. Thanks in advance.

  57. BethK
    May 8th, 2012 @ 9:00 am

    Yes! Excellent! Well said! I wish I was able to live so close to the source of my protein, but I do try to be conscious of where it comes from and support practices like you describe above. :)

  58. shreve
    May 8th, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    M ~ happy to oblige!

    So, like all mammals, Daisy must get pregnant to produce milk. A cow (and deer and elk and antelope, etc) naturally weans her baby after about nine months – at this point, the calf/fawn/etc is large and strong and no longer needs to nurse.

    Meanwhile, the mother has gotten pregnant again – Daisy and other domestic cows cycle monthly if they are not pregnant, but their wild cousins (deer, elk, etc) cycle annually, and this is based on the seasons – it coincides with the weather and the forage and the birth cycles of predators – all are linked to ensure success for everything – from the animals to the grasslands. Anyway, the weaning of the first baby takes place a few months before the birth of the second baby. Again, it’s all part of the natural order, so that the mother’s body can devote all it’s energy to the later stages of pregnancy and the milk and colostrum she produces will be solely for the new baby and not swiped by the older one.

    While domestic cows aren’t linked to the rhythms of the wild in their day-to-day life, their biology still is, and all cows follow this pattern – those in a dairy must have calves every year in order to produce milk for the grocery store (as I mentioned above, veal is a “by-product” of the dairy industry).

    Even if the dairies tried to keep milking them straight through (which I’m sure some have tried), the cows naturally taper down their milk production and dry themselves off. And Daisy, too! She’s due to calve mid-July, so I stopped milking her this weekend. SAD FACE!

  59. cassie
    May 8th, 2012 @ 9:35 am

    I had to read this post and think about it. I am not vegetarian, but have been in the past, and stay very close to borders today. I couldn’t do what you do, but I respect it greatly.

    Once I pet it, I could never eat it.

    However, I buy only free range, grass fed when I do buy it, yet I often become guilty as I eat meat. Still haven’t figured out how to resolve that.

    I’ll have to think more about your reasoning and see if that way of thinking can help stop feeling guilty. Interesting post. Thanks.

  60. Dana
    May 8th, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    OMG I didn’t know Daisy was pregnant again! Congrats Shreve!

  61. Marg
    May 8th, 2012 @ 10:53 am

    I love learning something new. Thanks for the education. This isn’t important but just curious, do you still have all of her offspring? I can’t imagine you selling one of her babies but then that’s just my romantic, not business side thinking.

  62. Artemisia
    May 8th, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    Thank you, that is _exactly_ it!

  63. shreve
    May 8th, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    M ~ yes ~ Frisco & Fiona.

  64. daria
    May 8th, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

    Yes, this is exactly right and doesn’t contradict your love for animals at all! I can’t imagine anyone giving you grief about this (though I suppose people can always find something if they tried). Personally, I don’t eat meat because a) right now I can’t hunt or grow my own, and b) I may be wrong, but I think that it would be good to cut down our huge demand for meat products, so I have chosen not to buy even the “organic, etc.” options at local stores. And c) As an avid meat eater for 25 years, I actually haven’t noticed changes in my body since going veg, so that works for me. :)

  65. Theresa Szpila
    May 8th, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    Hi, Shreve,

    Thank you so much for such a heartfelt and intelligent post.

    Growing up, my mother insisted upon saying grace before meals, but it wasn’t the usual prayer. In our house, it was “We thank God for this food and we thank the animals who gave their lives so that we may eat.”

    My Mom would have been baffled by the idea of being a vegetarian, but she recognized, and made me understand from a very early age, that food came at a price not measured in dollars and cents.

    Some things we never ate, such as lobster or bi-valves, cruelly boiled or steamed alive. Other “foods” were given up for other reasons, such as the misery and pollution in which many animals are raised, or the polluted waters in which many fish are farmed or from which they are trawled, etc.

    I don’t want to eat any creature whose life has been made miserable by factory farming, pollution, over-fishing, or inhumane slaughter. In a balanced world, the playing field would be fairly level. But “man” has taken himself off the playing field altogether and so skewed the world out of balance that eating meat seems unconscionable on so many levels that I wish I could be vegan.

    However, I have several medical conditions that prevent me from being vegan, or even completely vegetarian, so I try my best to be as close to vegetarian as I can get. I do eat cheese, use butter, drink milk (in coffee and tea), and eat eggs. I buy organic when I can, and I buy eggs only from free range chickens who have been organically raised.

    I can only hope that the words “organic” and “free range” and “no antibiotic-enriched feed” mean what they say, because treating animals, all animals, humanely, whether we eat them or not, is of paramount importance to me.

    Do I ever eat meat these days? Yes. I do. Sometimes I must. Given my various health issues, there are times when I know I must eat meat or fish or suffer the health consequences.

    On those occasions when I do eat a formerly-living-creature, I do most humbly and sincerely thank the animal or fish who died so that I may live.

    I never take that sacrifice for granted and I am never cavalier about it.

    It’s an uneasy peace I forge with myself, but, for now, it’s the best I can do.

  66. HappyLittleBird
    May 8th, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

    @ 31. Marina ~ I found this response to that NY Times contest to be a fascinating point of view on this subject. Here’s the Link: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/is-eating-meat-ethical/#axzz1rK1cXe4y

    Others feel free to check this article out as well, it’s a good read!

    ~L

  67. The M Half
    May 8th, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

    This is a great way to express yourself (of course). I agree wholeheartedly that every body is different. Some bodies require animal protein and some bodies reject gluten. The ethical discussion comes in with the treatment of said animals. I have been learning quite a bit through your blog, and am now starting to wonder whether I have an issue with gluten. This is not the question you want to ask yourself on your first of 11 vacation days in Italy, though, I promise!

  68. Tabitha
    May 8th, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

    I love this post. Its so articulate and beautiful, thank you for sharing your views. I would love to follow that life style, being able to source only free range, happy healthy, meat. But to be honest with you, its expensive. It hard to find. These are not excuses, I know that if I truly believed in this, that I could do it. I could rearrange my budget to include these products, I could change the way I shop to be more mindful. And although I DO believe in what you say, I have such a hard time living up to it. But I am going to try. I am going to try to make more time, but higher quality meat, even if it means buying less. I am going to try. Give the cows a hug for me.

  69. Birdy
    May 8th, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    As humans, we have been using (and abusing!) animals for most of our existence. But there should be no stare decisis on our actions! A shift towards respect is sorely needed in the mentality of our species. That being said, I agree whole-heartedly with your post and your emotions.

    I grew up partly on my aunt’s farm where we lived very closely with the animals that would become our food. Much like learning about where babies came from, I learned young the truth of the origins of our meat and have long since accepted that I am an omnivore. I need, much like you, animal protein to live. It is here that I am reminded of an episode of Farscape where the peaceful and inspiring Zhaan is stricken with a desire for flesh. “Home on the Remains.” Mind you, never eat a dentic.

    I am also of Native American descent (my grandfather was Huron/Minataree) and hold strongly to the belief system set about by those origins in regards to what I eat. I have hunted and killed my own meals. I have paid my respects and given my thanks to those animals whose lives I took.

    Oh, a quick side note on vernacular: animals never “give” their lives for consumption by predators. We take their lives from them. Even the age-old method of hunting in which prey is ran down to the point of deadly exhaustion never involves the animal giving their life. Their life is ran out of them by the hunters.

    That being said, I am grateful for where I have lived. In all of my years (not so many as to be wise but enough to claim some stake on intelligence), I have had access to meat and animal products that have been gathered with respect. Living in metro Atlanta means I live in the heart of many like-minded individuals and just next door to farms ran by like-minded families. My home in the north of course offers the very same only there is far better hunting up there.

    Lastly, there are so many other ways in which animals are horribly abused. As I said above, humanity has a long-standing history of abuse. Being in pharmaceuticals, I found myself appalled at the usage of horse hormones to assuage menopausal symptoms. For the sake of your many aged female readers, the details shall be spared here but a simple Google search would satisfy any curiosities. The horrifics of it drove me to reconsider my career choice and I am now settling in to finish my degree in conservation biology.

    Shreve, as always, thank you for your insights and imagination. Your words and photos always capture the beauty of average by harnessing the rare.

  70. Felyne
    May 8th, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    Being a naive little girl from New Zealand, the first time I drove up the i5 past Bakersfield my kiwi friend and I thought the vast roofs in the approaching distance was some kind of huge transfer station… then the horrifying shock hit us that this was where they were living. Cow concentration camps. There is no other name for it.

    I eat meat, but I choose where I get it from. I will not support this kind of animal cruelty, and while free range eggs and grass fed produce is quite expensive, that is what it costs to have animals treated humanely. And just like an expensive Ferrari – if I can afford it I buy it, if I can’t I go without. There are plenty of alternative foods to choose.

    Cows living in mud and eating pellets of god-knows-what without a slice of grass to be seen is not healthy or natural – for the consumee or the consumer.

    I’m so glad you raised the food is fuel issue Shreve, I’ve been asking myself for a few years now – when did people forget that food is fuel and not some whimsical tastebud experience?

    Much good care Everyone.

  71. PatH
    May 8th, 2012 @ 4:09 pm

    Thanks Shreve for making this post educational and experiential. I concure with Penny in Co. that Weston Price is a great site to read more about the benefits of pasture raised meat, eggs, raw milk, etc., and benefits to our bodies.

    I too was ill in the 80′s, went Vegan for awhile and had to change to add more meat since this is what my body needed (and I had stopped for political reasons not liking what I heard about the meat industry). I was introduced by a natureopath to eating good protein and pasture fed or organic meat/eggs only. I noticed an incredible difference in the quality of nutrition and taste in naturally raised animals and plants. I can’t remember the last time I bought Safeway or grocery store meat and always purchase from our farmers market local growers.

    Through a program offered through Weston Price we visited several farms and ranches via a volunteer day years ago. One rancher took us to his pasture fed pig area (with chickens all around) and he got on the ground with his momma pig and hugged his “little lady” (kinda like Shreve). He was tremendously grateful to his mothering pigs and we all were teary eyed. He gave them a wonderful animal life and in return they gave him a good life. He would bring back from the cheese factory in Pt. Reyes, 100 gallons of the excess whey for his pigs diet.

    This scene of a farmer showing affection to his pigs touched me deeply. We hiked up the hill overlooking the ocean feeling there were really happy cows in California eating grass nurtured by the sun and living well. Why would I want to eat anything else.

    It was wonderful to read all these comments on the subject. Even though I have a buddhist philosophy against killing, when you eat mindfully and respect all life we do create a circle and then promote better farming practices and food production. Our choices do count.

  72. Kim
    May 8th, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

    I love this post and the conversation that’s coming out of it. Isn’t the change over the last few years in how we think about food (as a society) remarkable? Imagine having this conversation a decade ago.

    Anyway, I’m an urban dweller and a conscious consumer, who doesn’t eat meat (out of habit, at this point, rather than active choice), but who does eat eggs and cheese. I’ve found that the way I can afford to make long-term commitments to healthy and responsible food sourcing is to do it incrementally. I started with a few veggies from the farmer’s market, and now hardly eat anything out of season, grow a little produce on my patio, never buy eggs except from pastured chickens, and am about 50% of the way to sourcing all my cheese from sustainable and humane sources. I’d like to do better right away, but my conscience is satisfied with the continual improvement and long-term plan for eating responsibly. I think the principle would amplify with meat eaters- if you can reduce your consumption of feedlot meat in stages, your taste buds and wallet will have time to recalibrate, and you can do some real good for animals, people, and the planet.

  73. arinn
    May 8th, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

    very interesting! i have been vegan for 1yr and before that was vegetarian for 5 yrs. my reasons for it are very similar to yours, only that i don’t really care for animal protein/can function happily without it/don’t crave it, so my diet works really well. i understand that my diet doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s really good to see omnivores like you who are so responsible & aware of what you eat & where it comes from!

  74. Mari
    May 8th, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

    Did you try organic dairy and eggs first before adding meat also? I’ve noticed quite a few vegans will go from no animal protein to eating meat. For some reason they skip the in between of getting their protein from eggs and/or dairy.

  75. shreve
    May 8th, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    70. F ~ “whimsical tastebud experience” !!!!!! brilliant.

    72. K ~ Excellent point.

    74. M ~ I did. I still test it (only consume dairy and eggs for a spell) but… it’s never changed.

  76. Amber Star
    May 8th, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

    I have been thinking of keeping chickens. We live in town, but chickens can be kept here. I love the eggs and love the colors, and the fact that they eat TONS of mosquitos is all in their favor.

    My sticking point is what to do when they get old. Unlike my aunt I’m pretty sure I could not wring the neck of one of them. That was a trumatic moment for me and the chicken when I was very young. I learned that day about how food gets to my plate. My plans are on hold for the keeping of chickens until that issue is resolved.

  77. HappyLittleBird
    May 8th, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

    Sorry, to keep commenting, but I find such amazing things that I must share!
    http://www.farmsteadmeatsmith.com/
    This is a link to a couple in Washington that have their own slaughtering/butchering business in which they have classes and a web film series, “On the Anatomy of Thrift”, on the matter. Their message is just what Shreve and others have been discussing, Having a respect for life, your food, and how you obtain it. The Series is a must see as it’s beautifully done. While I must warn, if you have a weak stomach at the sight of butchery it may be better to read what has to be said, but it is presented in such a manner that actually tears me up in Joy that you can truly love the food you eat from beginning to end.

    I also wanted to say to all those that have commented so far (Shreve too), whether for or against the consumption of flesh, Thank you. I have such a hard time seeing hope or trusting in humanity that I have managed to bring my self into panicked tears (generally out of sight) on numerous occasions. But to see so many who are either taking note of, or doing the best they can in their current surroundings to make the changes they want to see gives me such overwhelming joy and much needed hope. I’m generally of a tough love/mama bear mentality, but this, along with some other connecting issues, is something I am quite emotionally passionate about and in hopes to keep the momentum going I feel you all need to know what you are all doing, even if by just a little, is absolutely Amazing. You should all be proud of yourselves. I truly mean it, Thank you.

    PS – Shreve, I think you blogs have become wonderful little par-time Social Networks!

    HOPE FTW!

  78. Jenny
    May 8th, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

    Simply beautiful!!

  79. Chris
    May 9th, 2012 @ 2:43 am

    Hi Shreve
    I completely get it.
    I was thinking this morning about what good reasons there were for eating meat (that is for me to eat meat – I have been vegetarian for about 30 years on and off)living in a city in England I couldn’t think of one, your reasons however are spot on and I support you in your choices, if I lived where you live and was so close to the ‘meat prodcution’ I would eat meat, without question.
    Your reasons for not eating meat initially are mine too, I cannot countenance the industry and the factory farming methods used in many countries including my own.
    I love animals but I don’t think they are little people dressed up in fur!
    You don’t need my approval or permission but I just wanted to say ‘yep – I get you and I think you’re right’ – and that is from a veggie of many years standing.

    I have recently rationalised eating fish and do so to try and reverse the effects of age on my joints! I won’t eat farmed fish and I won’t eat those that are not sustainably fished.
    Mackerel it is then!

    Cheers
    Chris

  80. donna
    May 9th, 2012 @ 6:59 am

    I agree with everything you said, I try very hard not to eat meat that hasn’t been raised ethically and never goes through a feed lot,one of the best books I have read about this is Hit by a Farm by Catherine Friend.

  81. Jennifer
    May 9th, 2012 @ 7:34 am

    Well said. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Thank you.

  82. Maggie
    May 9th, 2012 @ 8:12 am

    “My sticking point is what to do when they get old.” Amber Star, why can’t you just continue to care for them and let them live out their lives? After all, they will have sustained you with their eggs all those years, can you not sustain them until old age and natural death?

  83. Maggie
    May 9th, 2012 @ 8:15 am

    “… am about 50% of the way to sourcing all my cheese from sustainable and humane sources”
    Kim, there is NO humane way to produce milk or cheese as, in the real world, it ALWAYS involves impregnanting cows and then taking their babies away from them – they feel emotional distress from that! The male calves are usually sent to be veal, one of the most inhumane products available. I say this as someone who has not yet elimanted cheese from my diet. Milk, yes, cheese not quite.

  84. Bekah
    May 9th, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

    Maggie- There are humane ways to produce milk or cheese. It’s called letting the cow lead a natural life. We have a milk cow who leads the happiest life in the world and gets to keep each of her babies, who don’t end up on the chopping block. She is spoiled rotten and the only time she’s upset is when her LGDs are upset at strangers on the farm. She’s due to calve next week and it will be a VERY happy time on the farm, not just for us but for her as well.

    Shreve- I love reading your blogs and keeping up with the Farmily. I started keeping up with your animals before I even moved in on this farm last summer. Your blogs introduced me to farm life. Now that we have chickens (broilers and layers), pigs (meat), and our milk cow, life is a bit more complicated because you do have animals as pets and animals as food. We rarely name our broiler chickens but we named our pigs (due for slaughter this summer. We slaughter all our chickens by hand. While the first time it was difficult processing the chickens now it’s a lot easier. We know these chickens had the best organic, free-range life possible on a farm. Along with our broilers, we also process any hens who are too old to produce eggs. The saying on our farm is “There are no useless animals on the farm”. From our LGDs to our indoor guard dogs, to the milk cow, to even the horse, everyone has their job.

  85. Sarah McGowan
    May 9th, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

    Thank you for this post. And – thank you for your post about Mike switching his job. I do not like to insert myself in other people’s choices – especially when I love so many of the other thing that they have to say – but both posts made me happy :).

  86. Rachel
    May 9th, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

    Respect. Thank you for sharing!

  87. Noel
    May 9th, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

    Pretty cool post, and some very thoughtful comments too. It’s the THINKING that I see happening here that keeps me visiting. Explaining to your readers why I hunt would be easy, for that reason alone.

    Don’t take this the wrong way, Shreve, but I’ve been here occasionally since my ex-wife gave me a copy of your book – so it’s been almost since day one – and it’s pretty cool to watch you mature. So many people just stop at some point and let the world take care of them. You’ve taken steps to be the kind of truly independent person that most folks just aren’t interested in, or don’t see the value in. I’m impressed. [I get to say this because I'm old, 44, but I'd be impressed if I wasn't too!].

  88. Theresa Szpila
    May 10th, 2012 @ 8:01 am

    After reading all the above comments, I am in awe of the level of caring and the depth of thought everyone has displayed.

    But now I’m in a new quandary.

    I feel really stupid now, of course, but it never occurred to me that dairy cows had to be routinely bred in order to keep producing milk. I never knew cows dried off between calves.

    Veal was one of those foods we never ate because of the cruel lives the calves were forced to live. I always assumed those veal calves came from cows raised for beef. I never realized they came from dairy cows, and that by consuming milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, I was actually being part of the problem, not the solution. I am appalled at what my ignorance has contributed to.

    I can probably work out alternatives for milk and butter, and I can give up ice cream altogether, but if I’m to eat as little meat as my health issues will allow, I feel I need the cheese. So, now what? Are there any real alternatives to cheese?

    My uneasy peace with myself has just become a lot more uneasy.

  89. volt
    May 10th, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

    aack – I don’t understand why any of the workers there have to be so violent and abusive.. like being immobile and standing or laying in their own excrement isn’t torture enough..

    Animal Abuse at Wyoming Meat Processing Plant:
    http://www.care2.com/causes/hsus-exposes-severe-animal-abuse-by-wyoming-meat-processing-plant.html

  90. volt
    May 10th, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    not interested in consuming flesh, but I do like eggs sometimes.. ignorantly I thought “organic” meant humane also..

    Organic Doesn’t Mean Humane For Poultry
    http://www.care2.com/causes/organic-doesnt-mean-humane-for-poultry.html

  91. yokelyorker
    May 10th, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

    Cannibals share your confusing macerations & lust for tender bellies.

  92. Hawk
    May 10th, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

    I appreciate this post a great deal also. We are frightfully removed from the realities – good and bad – of how our food arrives at our stores…so many people these days seem not to know that bacon comes from a pig and so forth…

    For myself, I was raised with a simple philosophy: “It was killed, and deserves to be eaten.” Which wasn’t some kind of callous commentary on the fate of the animal we were eating…we respected what we ate, we used every part of the animal to sustain our lives, and we were grateful for that creature’s sacrifice of its life for ours.

    Changing how we treat animals in the “mass market” as it were is going to take a long time, a lot of changes, and at no time will it ever be easy. Yet how much healthier might we be, if we were even half as close to our food as you have had the opportunity to be? We would not make light of a burger and fries quite the same way if we had more to do with the animal that burger came from; if we had to do more work to obtain it or had to face the facts of the slaughtering and processing.

    I know a few people who might swear off beef forever if they knew what goes on in the cattle industry…

    Thank you for these insights and thoughts. They are always appreciated.

  93. Marie H.
    May 11th, 2012 @ 10:54 am

    This reminds me of a moving scene from an old comedy, The Gods Must Be Crazy. The Bushmen from the Kalahari have a subsistence diet and so highly value their food and its sources. Before (or after, I don’t remember) after killing the deer that he needed in order to survive, the Bushman, whose name I forget, prayed over it, thanking it for his sustenance. I saw the movie more than 20 years ago, but that taking seriously the source of one’s food has stayed with me.

  94. Martha
    May 11th, 2012 @ 8:10 pm

    Ah Shreve always so eloquent!
    I remember a story my mom told me about when her and my dad were house shopping and came upon the home she still lives in. It has 2 acres in a small town. The guy selling the property made a comment about my folks getting chickens. For eggs, until the stopped laying then they could put em in a pot. My dad laughed. Said “No Chickens! We would have a yard full of geriatric hens walking around with little canes.”
    A few years ago we bought some hens. We now have 9 in the back yard. We live in the city. I LOVE the eggs. But each chicken has been named. Is loved. And I have cried upon loosing the two we have lost. I will be a mess when my Audrey passes. They are pets to me. So they will not be eaten. That said. I can no longer eat chicken. I know the lives the “store ones” live. But finding cage free poultry to eat here is not happening. Beef, well I have a lead on that. But I dont have a freezer to put half a steer in! Household electric wont handle it! LOL But I love steak.
    I dont eat veal, pork or lamb. Nor do I eat venison.
    To me eating my chickens.. or a steer I raised would be like eating my horse Rhett. It just isnt going to happen.

    But I have the up most respect for those that can and do. As well as for those that choose to live Vegan or whatever else.

  95. debbie
    May 12th, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    Most people would agree(hopefully) that factory farming is a living hell for animals. So…the life that the animals experience with you Shreve is at least many steps better. Except for branding and castration methods which sound extremely painful and cruel the animals live a more natural life. Most people in industrialized nations get way too much animal protein. If you examine healthy cultures around the world the amount of animal protein they get is around 1-2%.Very small amount of the total diet. Human breast milk is less than 5% protein. And we are the only species to eat the milk of another species past the point of weaning. The love affair or addiction to animal protein is also killing us. The rates of degenerative diseases are sky high among animal eaters and this has nothing to do with whether they were factory or pasture raised. Egyptian mummies have been examined via CT scans and found to have atherosclerosis and other degenerative diseases. These were the wealthy Egyptians that ate a rich diet including animal protein. A new book by Dr John McDougall called the Starch Solution is a wealth of information about the best diet for humans. Goodbye obesity, goodbye most degenerative diseases. Why suffer?

  96. Charley
    May 12th, 2012 @ 11:57 am

    Shreve,

    Me too, gluten intolerant.
    Help! Where do you get your vegan and gluten free bread? Brand? I get mine from Colorado Springs via a gluten free store here in Salt Lake City area.
    I hope you get this far down the comment list….

  97. annbb
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:29 am

    Well said.
    I fresh-water fish. When I clean the fish, I “thank” it for proviing me with a meal. It sounds corny, but I do that every time. I think the Native Americans also had ways they thanked the sources of their food as well.

  98. shreve
    May 13th, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    C ~ Food for Life. It’s nothing like regular bread but it’s not bad :)

  99. pogonip
    May 13th, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

    Exactly right.

  100. Homepage
    May 14th, 2012 @ 2:29 am

    Homepage…

    HONEY ROCK DAWN…

  101. Scargosun
    May 14th, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

    I have often wondered that about you but not in a judgmental way considering that I too eat meat but love animals. Your explanation is very similar to mine but I am not gluten intolerant. I am just CAFO intolerant. :) I believe that every animal that is sacrificed for a human plate should be treated with the utmost respect. I mean, if a human gave you a kidney, you would thank them profusely and love them for it. The animals are giving even more. Why they can’t be treated as such is beyond me.

  102. Meghan
    May 15th, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    To Losech: I totally agree with you about eggs. About 3 years ago I started buying organic/vegan/cage free eggs after I saw how hens were kept in traditional factories. The eggs are about 3 times the cost but not only do I feel better about buying them, they taste SO much better. I am going to start buying better meat, too. So many great comments here!
    Shreve, I’m in MN or I would love to buy your beef. I sincerely hope you are very successful and are soon nationally known!

  103. Carolyn
    May 15th, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

    I only eat meat and eggs if I know where they come from. I am fortunate to have several farms not far from here where I can find exactly what I want, and my co-worker has chickens and I get my eggs directly from her. The first time I had some of her eggs, I about fainted with joy! I wish I could make my vegan daughter understand why I have chosen this way of eating, but her blinders are thick. :( I hear “How CAN you?” way too often for my liking but your post has given me food for thought (so to speak) about other ways I can help her understand why.

  104. Leslie Barnett
    May 16th, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

    I have been a follower of Charlie and your website for several years now and have enjoyed it. But, guess since I have been educating
    myself the last few years on the advantages in so many ways, to living a gentler lifestyle
    by being a vegetarian or vegan (am working in the vegan direction), that reading your comments on killing and eating these innocent creatures after raising them, and photographing them, wow, I can’t deal with it.
    Particularly in these times where there is so much info out there on better eating and availability of healthier foods.
    time to move on!

  105. Barbara
    May 17th, 2012 @ 4:02 am

    I appreciate the honesty of this post, and there is no doubt that the animals that you eat live a happier life than most.
    As a vegan, I can’t understand loving a sentient being and then eating it, but that’s just my point of view.
    I suffer from blood iron deficiency (always have, before I became vegetarian and later vegan) but I’d rather pay for one or two yearly iron injection cycles than eat more meat or eggs. It just makes me too sad and for me there is no going back.

  106. Jon Kaufman
    May 17th, 2012 @ 9:29 am

    Thank you for this post!

    I have my own weird feelings about eating meat — I really enjoy eating meat, but I’m uncomfortable with some of the processing methods, and I really don’t like taking meat “for granted.” I often feel like there are only two points of view out there, either go completely vegetarian/vegan *or* eagerly, thoughtlessly consume like some really bad stereotype of Americans… and that whichever one of those two someone chooses, they’re then supposed to regard it with religious fervor. It’s really reassuring to see that someone else has thought something about the issue which isn’t simply dualistic, reductionistic.

  107. Paula Goodrich
    June 22nd, 2012 @ 8:57 am

    My friend and co-worker Carol Henry sent me to your site and was telling me how amazing you are – this post brought tears to my eyes, as it was so beautifully written. This is the first time I have seen someone put this so eloquently, and without involving politics or religion….

  108. Michelle
    July 17th, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

    Almost word for word, this is how I respond to to being questioned/guilted by my vegan/vegetarian friends. Thank you, I feel validated!

  109. Maureen
    August 8th, 2012 @ 12:47 am

    I wish more people had that kind of awareness. Then again I wonder why some people supposedly need animal protein and some don’t. What is it? And is it really true or haven’t they just found the right way to eat a vegetarian/vegan diet? I know people who have been appalled by meat since they were little kids and some who just don’t go for vegetables and eat mostly meat. I personally think, we don’t have the right to kill an animal for food if we have other choices because no matter how nicely we treat them before they die, we ultimately take their lives. Do we have the right to take our neighbor’s life for any reason? No? Why then do we think we can decide over an animal’s life? I struggle with the human superiority complex. How would we deal with the issue if we thought that animals were truly equal to us human animals in their right to live? And isn’t it a bit arrogant to say,’well everybody just needs to see how they want to deal with it’, when there is the life of an innocent, defenseless animal involved? Well, kill it or don’t kill, just as you please. There goes a lot of reflection into killing humans but not so much into killing animals. It is not only about the food source but the ethics behind it. Meanwhile, while we do kill and eat animals, the way Shreve is doing it, is definitely the best way there is.
    There is a great book out there: Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows.

  110. Sierra
    August 17th, 2012 @ 6:57 am

    If you must eat meat, the way Shreve is doing it is the only way that it possibly makes sense — so I’m glad to see that people are realizing this and I do hope it causes more people to think about their food choices more thoroughly. The question that keeps popping into my head is: If you wouldn’t want to eat the animals you consider “friends,” how is it that you separate them from the animals you do eat? Isn’t a cow a cow? I’m vegan because, to me, humans, pets, wild and farm animals really aren’t so different. We all feel pain. And since I’m perfectly healthy without taking another animals life, what right do I have to do so?

  111. Sarah H
    August 24th, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

    I completely agree with you philosophy regarding meat, life and respecting the animal that has become food.

    We’ve had laying birds for the last few years, but this year I raised 50 meat chickens from chicks; I cared for them, talked to them, let them in & out of the barn twice a day and then loaded them into crates on their appointed processing day and lovingly took them to the abattoir for them to be killed and processed. We sold some, but most went into our deep freeze. All along I wanted them to have the best chicken lives they could possibly have and they did. Not only does the meat taste better, there is a sense of serenity when eating them knowing they had a good life.

    At any rate, we’re talking pigs for next year and maybe starting to raise a few cattle the year after that. No matter what, we’ll make sure our animals have excellent lives because they deserve it.

  112. simplycarola
    September 6th, 2012 @ 12:43 am

    Some comments have been about the difficulty reconciling knowing or naming an animal and then later killing it.
    I’d like to offer a framework for that: The moment we enter into a relationship with any animal we become responsible for that animal. We have domesticated animals, whether they be our pet dogs or our service cows, for thousands of years now. That domestication act puts the responsibility, the ability to be responsive, fully on us. How we shape that relationship is our choice at every moment of that relationship.
    Remember what the fox said to the little prince (Antoine de Saint Exupéry) “(…)if you tame me, then we shall need each other. (…) You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

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