Ethicurian's delight

Posted by Stacey McLachlan on Wednesday, August 10 0 comments

"Ethicurian": It's a word now! I thought my socially concious/coincidentally beautiful friend Lisa had made it up to impress me, but it turns out that there's a real live movement (or at least a webpage) centered around eating sustainably and the humane treatment of animals. Lisa is my food hero, even though one time I went to her house and her dad was quartering a deer in their garage.
Every vegan/vegetarian chooses their diet for their own reasons, be it health or the earth or blah blah blah. I'm personally in this game on behalf of the animals. But even though I don't want to put a pig's dead carcass on my sandwich doesn't mean I want to deny anyone else that special experience: in my humble opinion, meat is not inherently bad. It's these factory farms that get my (free-range) goat. 

Meat is complicated, man, and you can't judge a person by their hot dog. Yes, the animals many people eat are raised cruelly, but if we divorce the experience of meat eating from that (which we shouldn't! That's what ethicurian-ing and this vegan thing is all about!), meat brings pleasure to people: through taste, through nutrition, through memory and culture. Though the journey of most of the deli section is often filled with unspeakable horrors, the end result can be very important to many people. Nobody needs meat every day (or even at all), but I personally don't think that it's wrong to want to. 

After all, it is possible to reach that destination on a very different road: a road of compassion. (Metaphor ending now. You're welcome.) We're lucky to already have more information on our food than any generation before -- free-range and organic labels, and our good friend Internet -- to help us make educated choices, although more is definitely needed. The supermarket seems to currently work under an "innocent until proven guilty" mantra, with GMOs and factory-farmed foods hiding in plain sight without any labeling to indicate their dubious origins. It seems weird that artificially or unethically produced items should be the default, and that healthy, wholesome foods should have to make claims to the contrary.

I guess Whole Foods thinks it's backwards, too: They're launching a new meat labeling system that should save the dear, sweet ethicurians out there some effort. If there's too many words in this Globe & Mail article, let me break it down for you: Whole Foods is the first mass supermarket chain to adopt livestock welfare standards, and it's kind of a big deal. What those standards are will vary by the type of animal, but in general, the farmers need to refrain from antibiotics, growth hormones, and animal by-products in feed, and from trimming beaks, docking tails, or removing teeth. Living space and distance from slaughter destination hopefully play a role too (though the article neglects to mention how the slaughter method would affect the grading). Look for the green "5+" labels for the happiest, healthiest steaks. You'll have to pay a little more, but hopefully consumers will realize the health (and flavour) benefits of eating animals that isn't bloated with medication are worth an extra dollar or two.

Until everybody follows Whole Foods' lead, the ethicurians of the world still have a lot of work cut out for them (do you know the research that goes into finding an organic dairy farm? DO YOU?). But it's a start! High fives all around! 

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