Thursday, October 30, 2008

Meeting Your Meat

The dialogue I incited about hunting (my cross-post of the essay on “Better Terms” drew comment from a real live professional hunting blogger…) has had some surprising consequences. It’s a topic that has, like religion and politics, a lot of passionate feelings on both sides of the issue. Who knew the right to kill would be so fiercely defended by its adherents? And who knew I would be branded some kind of heretic for hinting condemnation of the practice?

Yes…passions ran high. Vehement, valid points were made by both sides. And I think perhaps part of the answer is that when the passion—or the compassion—goes away, as Silverdoe pointed out, it’s time to hang up the gun.

As well, I think there needs to be more passion, even compassion, associated with going to the store and buying a piece of pre-butchered, plastic-wrapped meat. Forget intending to make some kind of connection to the animal we’re about to eat; we have a hard enough time connecting to a human being in the meat department. As Cynthia pointed out, where we used to at least have skilled, knowledgeable tradesman standing behind the meat counters at our grocery stores, we now have glorified stock boys. Where we used to be able to ask the in-store butcher to cut and wrap a specific size or piece meat for us, we now have the choice of picking some “mystery cut” off the counter and hoping it will suit our needs, or just skipping it altogether. We invariably end up buying more than we need, just in order to make sure we have enough. (I’m sure that is no accident on the grocer’s part…)

I challenge anyone to walk into a Wal-Mart, Safeway, Albertson’s, or whatever the Huge Grocery Chain is in your area, and pick up off the shelves the exact cut of meat called for in any higher-end cookbook. And if you want to buy a small amount of something, like two chicken breasts or a four-ounce steak, you are going to pay through the nose. Again, it’s no accident that the bigger the package, the cheaper the meat. They tout it as a money-saving package for large families…but it really is a ploy to boost the ticket totals. They’re probably even hoping the remaining meat will sit in your freezer until it gets so old you’ll throw it out. Or they’ll really hit the jackpot if you use what you need out of a large package and forget to deal with the rest before it goes bad. How many times has this happened to you?

We have become a nation of mindless consumers, of meat as well as just about every other commodity in existence. We don’t know or care where it comes from, we just have to have it. We don’t think twice when a retailer forces us to buy more than we need in order to make us think we’re actually saving money. We don’t miss the image of half a cow or plucked chickens hanging from the ceiling at the butcher shop. It’s so much easier, much less “gross,” to pay $14 a pound for a little blob of red stuff tightly wrapped in neat, sterile-looking plastic. With the paper towels and hand sanitizer located conveniently above the rows of shiny packages of mystery meat.

When we first moved to Oregon, we scoffed at what we considered the out-dated, latent “hippie” culture in Eugene. We roared with laughter when a teacher at the community college told her class (of which hubs was a member) that her Thanksgiving meal was going to include a turkey, but it was going to be locally, organically grown, and butchered “with full respect for the animal.” After the self- examination I’ve experienced since posting my anti-hunting essay, I don’t find that funny at all anymore.

It’s only taken twenty-five years to finally get that message…


Dannelle said...

We don't need to hunt, do we? I respect the creatures that make up my dinner plate and my morning yogurt! In California we are voting on animal cruelty and care- The commericals are very disturbing on both sides. Dannelle

Kathy said...

I have to admit my organic shopping and eating only started about seven years ago when the benefits of an organic diet were more or less proven to me by my niece who has MS. Eating organic did not maker her disease go away but her life has improved dramatically in terms of severity of symptoms since she 'went organic'.

It is difficult to touch base with the animal that gave its life for us to eat, but somehow I think their spirits forgive us our need for meat.

This hunting and meat eating and marketing IS a complex issue.