Despite the growing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets, meat and other animal-derived foods still make up the majority of most American's diets. Whatever your philosophical feelings are about eating meat, anatomically we are designed to consume a varied diet; our teeth alone demonstrate that fact. We have sharp canines for cutting and biting, and pre-molars and molars for chewing and grinding. Meat, plants, nuts, seeds and fruit were all a part of what we evolved to consume.
Image via Wikipedia
I, myself, am an omnivore, meaning that I include both vegetable and animal products in what I eat. Though I have experimented with vegetarianism in the past (mainly when I was in high school and college), I always felt more grounded,energetic and healthy when I included meat in my diet. Today, I enjoy mostly fish and chicken, but I do have beef and pork occasionally. I also eat eggs and cheese. I try to buy organic as much as possible, including grass-fed beef and eggs from pasture-raised chickens. It's not always easy to do, especially when eating out or at other people's homes. But I do the best that I can.
Price is always a factor. Organic, locally produced meat that is often healthier for us costs more, whether you buy it at the grocery store or the farmer's market. Why, you ask? The costs of production are much higher for small local famers. You have only to read the front-page story in The Post-Star this past Sunday to see what our local farmers are up against trying to meet the demand for their products in our area. They don't have the resources that the large food and agricultural companies do to both produce and market their products. Thankfully, the demand for their meat is growing. And while part of me cringes at the idea of a slaughterhouse (I still have nightmares after watching Fast Food Nation), I know that it would help lower the cost to our local farmers and help more people have access to healthier meat and animal products, including myself. So then the argument, "organic is too expensive for me and my family," could become less of an issue.
Really, we should all be thankful that farmers are trying to bring us healthier, happier animals and the products that come from them. It was great to read how much insight one of the farmers, Sandy Lewis, from Essex County, had into the benefits of raising grass-fed cows without the use of antibiotics. The animals benefit, and so do we. We truly are what we eat, and the idea of "garbage in, garbage out" applies to our diets. If you do include meat and animal products in what you eat, then do yourself and our farmers a favor and try to incorporate some organic local products into your meals. Even just once a month is a good start.
In my perfect world, we would all be able to eat organic, locally produced food 100% of the time. But we're not there yet. I think it will take making different choices with our money when we purchase food, including meat. Sacrificing other purchases to afford better quality food is what I have learned to do; it's a trade off. For me, the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs. I have seen where unhealthy diets lead so many people. It all starts with making one different choice, and going from there, one step at a time. And if we are all doing it together, what huge strides we can make for ourselves and our community.