14 - 2007

Where’s the (local, natural) beef?

Our household eats some meat. Not a lot. I was a vegetarian for 10 years, and when I married Mr. Cheap, a real carnivore, he used to get his meat fix out of the house.

I remember once, we wanted some chicken. I bought a package of chicken breasts at Wild Oats and felt like I was buying crack after a decade without meat.

Then I discovered that occasionally eating red meat relieved the chronic canker sores I’d been suffering. My theory was that the protein burst provided the amino acids my body needed to heal itself.

A couple of years later, add one pregnancy where a major craving was beef flautas (go figure!) and a child who is a carnivore, too (“Mmm, beef!” she used to exclaim as a baby. “I don’t like that this was a lamb, but it’s soooo good,” she lamented last year) and we do eat meat. Maybe a couple of times a week.

I’ve done so with mixed feelings. There’s all the information about how methane released by animals pollutes our atmosphere. Then again, Colorado ranchers will argue that without animals to break up the range and spread plant seeds, more of our state would turn into a dust bowl. And I shudder to think what weird hormonal concoctions are cooked up inside animals treated cruelly their whole lives.

This fall, I read the first half of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (I’ll read the second half when I get it back on hold from the library — it’s a long waiting list). Kingsolver makes some really interesting points about meat eating. For one, she points out how crucial meat is to survival in difficult or arid climates (like, in fact, Colorado, without some real manipulation of the environment). She also mentions the argument that if one eats (from) one cow, for instance, one life is taken, whereas when eating plants, many “lives” must be taken to sustain a person — it’s all in how you see it.

Regardless of those arguments, our family is happier — “well”-er — when we eat a little meat. So I have been looking into localizing and de-cruelty-fying our meat consumption.

The great news is that it seems easier to do this than it is to find all-local produce or local milk. I’ve found two beef producers and a poultry and egg co-op, all within an hour’s drive of Denver.

Slightly tougher is that to buy direct, you must buy in bulk. We’re looking at buying a quarter beef (1/4 of a beef cow/steer) for our freezer. But a quarter might be 110 to 150 pounds of meat. We probably don’t need quite that much — especially as we like to alternate with chicken. E-mail me at cheaplikeme (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested in going in on some of the beef and live locally.

And then raise a glass (and maybe a forkful of kindly raised meat, here and there) to Little Cheap’s concern that she does not want to eat animals who were not raised kindly — and to the idea that she can do just that.

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