Ethical meat hard to come by

Columnist Sarah Sanders finds that the taste of meat can be tainted with guilt.

Columnist Sarah Sanders finds that the taste of meat can be tainted with guilt.

We took the first bite of our burgers at the same time. I tasted the cheese first due to its horseradish kick. I didn’t use any ketchup, as not to spoil the real flavors I wanted to experience. I savored the peppers and mushrooms next.

But I was waiting to taste the meat. Would it taste too salty, too greasy or both? Would it taste familiar?

We all looked at each other, waiting to see which of us had savored the taste. Who would have thought the first meat-based meal I had cooked in almost five years would be shared with three other vegetarians?
sarah sanders
We agreed the burger – made from organically raised and grass-fed bison meat from Landisdale Farms in Pennsylvania – tasted great. According to a survey I created about people’s meat-eating habits results, sometimes the taste is reason enough.

“I enjoy cooking it, and I enjoy the taste,” Anonymous Participant No. 9 said. “I eat for pleasure.”

Others agreed. Even those who saw problems with the meat industry admit to occasional indulgences.

“I only eat humanely-treated meat for the most part: grass-fed, free-range, local if possible,” Participant No. 5 explained. “This is expensive and hard to come by, so it results in me being almost vegetarian. But when I do have a leg of lamb every now and then, it sure as hell tastes good.”

Even I will admit that the beefy flavor of a burger was something I really liked as a kid, and I realized after my Sunday night meal that I still like it.

But I realized in high school there is something more to food than taste. I found out that there was often something in or about the food that I ate – usually something with which I wouldn’t agree. My survey showed that 18 out of 35 respondents abstain from meat consumption, mostly due to this “something.”

Before I really dive into this issue, I want to address my survey results. They seem skewed don’t they? After all, more than half the U.S. population is not vegetarian, despite what my results might imply.

The truth is, as a vegetarian, I have a lot of veggie friends on Facebook. The other truth is that vegetarians tend to be more vocal about eating meat, even though they don’t.

Back to the issue: “I don’t like the way the meal gets to the table,” Respondent No. 28 said. “I think it is kind of gross, overfeeding animals to get the biggest steak, pumping them up with antibiotics to keep them from getting sick so they can keep them in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.”

Antibiotics are very common in the raising of livestock. As animals in factory farms often live in close quarters, efforts to prevent disease are necessary. Consequently, consumers are eating  medicated chicken, cow or pig. On the larger scale, this has led to an increased frequency of drug-resistant infections in U.S. citizens.

“At first [I didn’t eat meat because of] animal rights, but now [because of] environmental reasons,” Respondent No. 1 said. “Meat is also just a fancy way of eating corn. Meat is just a harmful means of killing the environment.”

Not only does the U.S. meat industry create 61 billion pounds of waste each year, but these animals aren’t even eating what they should. Corn is cheap. Thus, the grain usually serves as the main diet for livestock even though they’ve evolved to eat grasses.

Rather than allow the animals to graze, i.e., eating grass that’s already there, factory farms keep them confined and feed them massive amounts of corn, which has to be farmed in addition to the corn you eat, i.e., a waste of resources.

As a vegetarian, you learn the various reasons you should stick with that lifestyle. However, I felt this meal was necessary as an unbiased journalistic exploit.

While we finished our burgers, I came to the conclusion that although this meat was delicious, and although it was raised using sustainable methods I can support, this probably won’t happen again for another five years.

First of all, the bison meat we purchased from the Fair Food Farm stand at Reading Terminal Market was priced at a little more than $11 per pound. Secondly, I wasn’t still dreaming about the burger come Monday. It was great, but not that great.

And ultimately, I know I can’t kill a bison. That’s what it comes down to for me. I can see myself pulling a carrot out of the ground or even milking a goat. But killing a bison seems both impossible and unnecessary.

This disconnect is enough for me to avoid the meat altogether.

As always, I feel like I’ve only scraped the surface of this huge food issue. So I urge you to find out more. You don’t have to watch disturbing PETA videos to get the point that factory farms are unpleasant places.

If you do eat meat, however, I encourage you to try to establish a relationship with it. And if you feel uncomfortable doing that, reconsider your diet.

Sarah Sanders can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. …”If you do eat meat, however, I encourage you to try to establish a relationship with it..”
    It has been said that you are what you eat. This is why I like to raise my own food. If you can, raise your own animals so that you know what they have eaten. Failing that, buy from a local butcher shop. They can sell you meat from local farmers. The price may be higher than buying meat in a styrofoam container wrapped in plastic at the big box store. But the care and quality of the meat is usually better.

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