Recently we passed around an interesting Opinion Piece by Dan Barber Executive Chef of Blue Hill Restaurant in NYC and the Blue Hill at Stone Barn in Pocantico Hills, NY. Dan also runs a sustainable farming program at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills.
Dan is one of the sage & sane voices in the “locavore” movement and needless to say, he knows quite a lot about sustainable farming and preparing farm products for the table. From the buildup, you’d expect him to be a raging, rabid Vege-a-holic, but is he? And what was Dan’s interesting opinion?
His opinion was that there seems to a certain growing cult-like, messianic devotion to Veganism, including a smugness and self-righteousness about shunning Meat.
Dan was urging vegans, “Vegans (with a capital “V,”) & VEGANS (all caps) to reconsider mounting their high horses. He suggests that perhaps they should dismount, get close to the ground and speak to a farmer to learn something more about the soil and how production functions on an actual working farm. I remember personally hearing the following come out of the mouth of a Vegan on a visit to Southern California, “Why do we still need farms? I get all of my food (vegetables) at the store.”
Well the vegetables come from someplace and require a lot of hard work to produce. Ignorance about farming doesn’t reduce the importance of soil care and soil management. Deplete the soil and you “break” the farm. Vegetarians don’t seem to realize that, and I quote Dan, “vegetables are actually more costly from a soil perspective than grazing cattle. “Vegetables deplete soil. They are extractive. If soil has a bank account, vegetables make the largest withdrawals.”
The soil depletion by vegetables begs the question of who will make the necessary deposits (no pun intended). Domesticated animals are natural fertilizer factories and have been part of the vegetable life-cycle on farms for thousands of years. It is pretty tough to have one without the other, oh unless you resort to truck loads of synthetic petro-chemical fertilizers, which can’t be better than Ol’ Bossie, Lamiekins, or Charlotte.
It is not kind to kill but eating meat is also not a battle of good versus evil. It is life. It is a cycle we were all thrust into. It existed before us and will after us. Nutrient dense soil produces deeply flavorful, and healthful vegetables. Without a market for the whole animal (including Meat) no fiscally sane farmer will raise cows, sheep or pigs, which in turn can fertilize the soil. Draining the soil will eventually sicken us all.
We think moderation is important and don’t advocate a total meat diet. In fact, we suggest that you eat less meat, but eat better meat. If consuming meat infrequently, you can maximize flavor and enjoyment by procuring better USDA Grades of meat, even Heritage Breeds, and better Portion Cuts. As a special occasion meal you can take your time with the dish and make it shine. If you don’t know how to maximize your meat recipes, learn how. Smart Kitchen is one affordable option, but there are lots of ways to learn.
Dan goes into more detail in his piece but he makes a nice summation statement: “there is no such thing as guilt-free eating.” We’d like to second that and remind everyone in the debate that stress is a killer too.
We invite the vegans, Vegans and the VEGANS to stop preaching and take it down a notch and just share. If we dialogue, then we can all hear each other agreeing that vegetarianism is a good and healthful option.
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