I stopped eating supermarket meat a few years ago, after reading Michael Pollan’s New York Times article about his visit to a horrific feedlot where a steer he had bought was pumped up with corn, soy and antibiotics in fetid conditions before being slaughtered.
We still eat meat several times a week, but we buy it from local farms. We are about to switch from buying eggs at Whole Foods to buying them from local farmers, and we may do the same with chicken. Our lamb and hamburger cost a lot more than at Stop & Shop, but we like supporting the local economy and feel more confident about the quality of the meat. Most of the animals from local farms have eaten grass, as nature intended, and not been mistreated.
There are lots of reasons to avoid meat from factory farms. First, there is the confinement of animals in a high-density, unclean conditions, where they are fed genetically modified corn and soy and growth hormones. Most animals must be given antibiotics to avoid infection resulting from these practices, increasing the possibility of these miracle drugs losing their effectiveness as bacteria develop resistance. Waste runoff from factory farms can pollute nearby water supplies.
Then there’s the impact on climate disruption, which is increasing as more people in developing nations desire more meat in their diets. According to a U.N. report in 2006, meat production causes more carbon dioxide and methane releases than either transportation or industry. The report estimates that eating a half-pound of hamburger is the equivalent in climate impact of driving a 3,000-pound car 10 miles. If you want to have an impact on the planet, giving up meat can do more than giving up a car.
If people continue to eat more meat, and more corn and soy are fed to animals instead of the humans, there could be a world food crisis in about 30 years, according to a report from U.K. scientists released this week. Coupled with population growth, increasing agricultural yields will not meet future food demands unless humans start eating less meat, the reports says.
We do not feel motivated to go all-vegetarian, because we like eating some meat and think that, in moderation, it’s good for us. The high price of the meat we buy might seem at odds with our lifestyle of radical frugality, but what we put into our bodies is important enough to make an exception.
Betsy adds: Another way we reduce our meat intake is by eating smaller amounts of meat per serving. When we make meat sauce for spaghetti, we saute up 1/4 – 1/3 pound of ground meat or sausage instead of the pound of ground beef my mother used. We often make stir-fries with one cup of meat combined with lots of vegetables and served with rice or other grains.
When she visited in July, my niece Kate told me about the way she stretches ground meat for burgers by mixing it with grated vegetables. This inspired me to extend the expensive grass-fed ground beef I had purchased to make enough burgers for the 14 people at our family gathering in August. Here is what I did. In a big bowl, I mixed 2 lb grass-fed ground beef, a grated carrot, a grated small zucchini, a finely chopped onion, 2-3 stalks of finely chopped celery and leaves, 1 cup quick rolled oats, 2 eggs, salt and pepper. I formed the mixture into 16 patties which we cooked over the charcoal grill. They turned out to be delicious!