Day 442: Kitchener, Ontario
I will never become vegetarian.
I can say that with absolute confidence. I enjoy eating meat but as someone with a meat loving blog name I should admit:
Eating meat is messed up.
The problem is that we hold this fantasy that the chickens who lay our eggs are out clucking around or the cows we eat lazily graze on grass in a pasture, or the delicious pigs we devour are out oinking in the mud.
We know that isn’t true.
What’s worse is that I know this more than anyone. I have not only watched Food Inc. but also Food Matters, the Future of Food, the World According to Monsanto.
I have read The Omnivores Dilemma, Eating Animals and many more books about food.
Yet somehow I cling to the very same meat fantasy that the animals are happy before they die and live in good conditions.
Here is my meaty confession:
Before I left for Latin America I didn’t eat a lot of meat. The reason I named the site Bacon is Magic is that I often used bacon as a garnish for a vegetable-based meal.
It best represented all that I am. I sprinkled pancetta on brussel sprouts, wrapped it around asparagus or used it as a secret ingredient in my roasted tomato sauce.
I made a lot of money and didn’t have many expenses so I could buy organic food and meat.
That soon changed.
In Latin America I ate more meat in one month than I had in the entire year prior.
You cannot buy organic food in much of Latin America and you just hope that they grow and raise food the way we used to before we were obsessed with bigger/faster/cheaper.
I pushed the reality of meat production out of my head and blindly ate the meat. I didn’t regret any of it – well maybe the kidney at Siga la Vaca.
But as soon as I arrived back in Canada I started to feel sluggish and tired. I gained ten pounds in Argentina. I had eaten too much meat. My body was lethargic and siestas weren’t solving anything.
The last week after I left Vancouver I decided to take a meat break. Within days I felt better and it reminded me that it’s okay to eat meat but in moderation.
This isn’t permanent. I’m heading to Manitoba soon and I’m excited to eat caribou and other game.
Food is part of a culture and essential to how I travel but when I’m not traveling I will be making more conscious choices.
You make some good points in this article. It’s far more destructive on the environment and requires far more resources to yield a certain quantity of meat relative to fruits, vegetables and legumes; however, with that being said I won’t cut meat out of my diet again (was veggie in university for 2 years).
I think that along with reducing meat it’s simply not terribly easy all the time to find healthy food when on the road. The long bus rides, lack of a kitchen & foreign food make choices more difficult. I find that trying to build in a daily exercise regime and trying not to consume too many calories through liquids helps at times.
In the end why did you decide to start eating meat again?
I honestly stopped eating meat mostly for health reasons & when I moved overseas to Korea to teach English I found it nearly impossible to find strictly vegetarian meals. I caved in eating some Chinese ginger beef which tasted absolutely divine.
I think that’s why I could never do all or nothing.
I am glad that you wrote this blog. I actually reside in Argentina for extended periods so for me, life in Buenos Aires isn’t a vacation. If I want to make it for the long haul, I have to eat anything but meat or I’m not going to be able to stay healthy in enough to do what I need to do. Meat is a great thing…if you can have it on a minimal basis 🙂
Completely agree with you!
As you know Ayngelina, meat is very important to me. Although I also feel that the key is being an omnivore – truly eating everything. I try to plan several dinners a week that don’t include any meat at all and even meals with meat in them always include other things as well.
Like you I’m pretty careful about the meat I eat at him (local, organic, humanely treated, etc.) but agree that it’s much harder to accomplish that on the road. I have to ask, what did you learn about meat farming practices in South America? Do you feel confident about the meat you ate there? A lot of the beef is grass-fed, yes?
Unfortunately in Argentina most of the meat is going the way of North America. The demand is high so in order to grow cattle faster they are now fed corn. A lot of people lament the meat doesn’t taste the same. But globally people want Argentine meat, but are not used to grass fed flavour so corn feeding makes more profit and makes foreigners happier. It’s rather sad.
I think most nutritionists will agree too much meat is bad. That’s why we have all those warnings about not eating too much red meat. I love chicken but don’t eat much red meat at all. Honestly, if I go out for a burger now I feel a bit sick from it. However, I am not one to turn down a steak or any piece of meat. I just think the important in our diet is balance. No, I couldn’t eat all that meat you did in Argentina. It just isn’t healthy.
I overdid it, didn’t I 🙂
I want to bring some nuance to your main point about meat… Yes, meat production as a whole is messed up, contributes negatively to our health, and ruins the environment. But that’s not all meat.
I had the pleasure of WWOOFing on an organic farm in Alberta last year, and I saw nothing but health and balance in that meat production. The animals were raised freely, and in accordance to their animal nature. They did not ruin the environment, as much as contribute to it in a balanced way, by enriching the soil at the same time they benefited from it.
And that meat never left me bloated. It made me feel strong, strong enough to do 10h/day farm work. Plus, I knew my meat came from happy animals.
So I don’t think it’s either Food, Inc. or vegetarian. You can eat healthy meat that contributes positively to the environment and to social justice. Mostly, this means buying small-scale, local and ethical, and it does require research.
Now, granted, even on the farm, meat never constitutes the focus of my diet, just a complement to a load of veggies and fruits. So yeah, there can be excess there for sure. 🙂
You seem to have been at a really special place. I wish more were like where you WWOOFed.
I agree and I know it’s difficult to stay away from meat while traveling, expecially if you like it 🙂
Interesting idea Daniele, thanks for the link!
I know this is a serious topic and that people are concerned about all that you spoke of….but I have to say I burst out laughing when I saw your second picture. And then I sobered up and read the rest of this blog. And then plan to go out and cook lobster for supper!
jess is a vegetarian and while i havent jumped on board yet, i see where she is coming from. jonathan safran foer’s book eating animals is a really good read on the subject.
Yep it was hard to ignore his message, although I could have ended it 30 pages earlier.
Argentina destroys waistlines with or without meat!
I am slowly shedding the empanada weight but it will likely take all summer.
As long as you stay away from monkey we are OK
You have a deal!
Loved this! As a near-lifelong carnivore and only recent vegetarian, it’s so nice to see that people who choose to eat meat can and do consume in moderation. It is SO hard while traveling to stick to veggies only but it’s amazing how it makes your body feel. Kudos for your honesty!
What was the hardest thing to give up? Me it would be pork for sure, I could say goodbye to chicken or beef.
I grew up on a farm, but I can’t say I always appreciated knowing exactly where my food came from. (Especially when my parents would try to rope me into plucking chickens… uh, no thanks.) When I was growing up I used to wish our meat came from the grocery store like “normal” people’s meat. (And, apparently, when you invite people over for dinner and they ask you what you’re eating and you say “Bob” that’s weird or something.)
But, now as an adult I appreciate that my parents taught me the importance of respecting livestock and giving it a good life before it dies. I would also never become a vegetarian, but I don’t tend to eat much meat when I’m traveling — especially not red meat. This is partly because I’m in Asia but also because I feel a lot more comfortable when I know were my meat has come from… and knowing that it had a name where it came from. (By the way, if you’re going to name your pigs after the nuns at your Catholic school, you really shouldn’t tell the nuns. Just saying. 🙂 )
Once I remember looking at a chicken leg and finally realizing it was a leg of a chicken, we are so removed from grocery store meat. But your parents are right, I guess I am struggling with the fact that the animals we eat are miserable before they make it to our plate.
I loved this post. I feel the same way. I used to try to pretend that my meat was all “happy” and stuff but then I actually started to learn about it and I was sad and then my meat was sad too, but I love it so don’t want to give it up. I found an organic farm that xo
Es to town once every month or two and I buy it in bulk so now I think it actually costs less than before and I can sleep a little happier knowing that my animals roamed free in pastures eating grass and were happy, until… You know. It’s not perfect but I’m trying.
I am with you, it seems that I don’t have an issue with eating meat, it’s how the animal lives before it comes to my table.
omg that pig head photo is disgusting!
I struggle back and forth with the meat thing. I only ate fish for a year+ and during this time never felt better. Yet I went back to land animals, gotta have that hamburger, I crave it. It’s a balancing act.
Yeah the pig photo is from Cambodia, and the stench was overbearing. But I love the creepy look.
I maybe could give up beef and chicken but never fish.
I was vegetarian for a year and lost weight, felt healthier and way less sluggish like you mention. Thing is, I missed chicken too much. I know the dastardly ways they are raised (don’t be fooled by the term ‘free-range’ people), but I still have my little fantasy of them just laying down to sleep instead of being butchered like they are…
Really? Chicken? I have had so much it doesn’t tempt me at all!
Let’s face it, we are carnivores. We are born as meat eaters and regardless of what we determine our diet will be we will always be carnivores.
I find that eating meat in moderation and varying between beef, lamb, chicken and pork works best.
I agree we are carnivores but I wonder if we are eating much more meat than we really need.
I became vegan after reading “Fit for Life” 28 years ago… I am almost 50 and still as active as I was 25 years ago. I am almost never sick, have no stress, headaches, digestion problems… It changed my life completely and I only regret that I didn’t become a vegan sooner. I respect people who eat meat. It is their choice, but it is a fact that it is a lot harder for the body to process than fruit and vegetables. For me it had less to do with the suffering of the animals (even if it is an outrage how they are being treated) but purely health related.
Wow that is impressive, the hardest thing for me to give up would be cheese, don’t you miss cheese?
Scott makes fun of me because I have a hard time touching and preparing raw meat. He has made me realize that I want to remove myself from the fact that I’m eating something that was once alive, which is weird since my parents raised pigs to eat when I was a kid. I actually think it was easier for me to know where the meat came from and now I have no idea what I’m eating. Could be dolphin for all I know. 😉
I am always fascinated by people who raised animals, did your parents have a farm or were the pigs just for the family?
I hear ya, Ayngelina! I was meat deprived while in India and the first few days were horrible. But then I started to like the flavorful vegetables. Traveling all over SE Asia (where meat is much more expensive than veg meals) has lead me to appreciate the benefits of being quasi-vegetarian. I feel a lot healthier and I have more energy throughout the day. But being a full-pledged vegetarian? No way. There are too many delicious dishes that I just can’t miss out on!
I remember pork in the Philippines, I would never say no to it either 🙂
I do the opposite. I do not eat meat while traveling, because I know that much of it is not refrigerated or cooked properly. However, after a month of rice and beans and delicious tortillas, I fear I may have added the same 10 pounds!
Sadly, you’re missing out on the best meat available. Standard meat in North America is industrial, flavorless and generally unhealthy. Meat in developing countries usually is more local, small-scale, and a whole lotta tastier. It may not be stored in industrial-strength fridges, but people know how to store meat.
Just sayin’… Give it a try, next time!
What countries would you recommend, I just ate a ton of it in Latin America.
When I thought I was going to go to India I planned to go meat free the entire time simply for sanitary reasons plus there is so much vegetarian food available. I had no idea the last country I would visit would be so meat heavy.
You needed to warn us veggies about the pics in this post!
Curious, why would you never try being a vegetarian, even if for only a month? I grew up eating a lot of meat, probably for almost every single meal I had some kind of meat, but when I gave it up at 18 it was the easiest thing in the world and I’ve never made a better decision in my life.
Hehe you read my mind. A few days before I posted this I decided to give it a go for a month to see how easy it could be.
I don’t think I’m able to become vegetarian either, but the less meat I eat, the better I feel.
When I lived in London I completely cut out meat from my diet because I felt sick every time I had some. Here in China I eat meat sometimes but when I go out I tend to order fish or dishes with mixed meat and veggies. In India I felt great, they have a huge choice of vegetarian dishes.
I realize I feel heavy all over if I eat too much meat, so I stick to my once-a-month meat habit (just because sometimes I do crave it) and I’m fine.
I have never been a big beef eater, but I do eat a lot of chicken and obviously pork. There was something about Eating Animals that really turned me off poultry.
I don’t even want to know how much weight I’ve gained in Argentina. But I don’t think it’s the meat in my case 🙂
I have been appalled by movies and books I’ve read on how our meat products get to our table, but yes, I still eat it and probably always will.
I probably cannot blame it all on meat, red wine, cheese and empanadas are also to blame 🙂
I feel exactly the same. I eat meat sparingly but I don’t like to think about where it comes from. Andi’s suggestion of a “trial period” as a vegetarian is a good one. I’ve done that for up to six months at a time and it wasn’t hard. But so far nothing has motivated me to give up meat permanently.
I don’t think I could ever do it completely but it’s funny Andi mentioned the trial period because I just announced I am going to try it for 30 days.
Depending on where I’m traveling, I have gone more or less meat eating. In Ireland as a study abroad student, I rarely had because our fridge was the size of a shoe box for 3 people. In Barcelona, I had meat 2 meals a day which is way more than at home. LIke you, I can easily have primarily veggie meals with a sprinkle of magic fairy dust (aka bacon). I don’t think I could survive BnA. I just don’t like beef that much. Or pork. Just the cured products of pork.
Great discussion starter!
Central America seemed to be a bit easier because beans were everywhere but it seems that the more developed the country the less prevalence of beans.
i struggle with this so much. as an extremely eco-minded person, i just look at the production process involved with meat, and raising cattle and all the effects on the environment, and it makes me really feel guilty. like you, i made the best choices at home, but then on the road, often those choices don’t exist. think you’re right, for those of us who love it, moderation helps!
I went full tilt with meat in South America, now I feel like I need to step back to try to make up for all the destruction. In the future I will definitely embrace moderation.
I’ll admit I grew up eating more meat than I probably needed. My father liked to hunt and fish, so game like venison, and elk were always on hand. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been going with more veggie focused meals. Too much meat does make me sluggish, but I don’t think I could give up meat forever.
For some reason game meat bothers me less, maybe because everyone I know who hunts tries to use every scrap of meat.
As a fellow bacon lover, I have no intentions of giving up meat. As a result of preference I find myself best described as a weekday vegetarian. Most of the time, I don’t have cravings for meat. It’s not my favorite food group by any stretch of the imagination (dairy is a whole other story). As you and many above have touched on, the environmental and health impacts do weigh on the mind, but I feel comfortable with my level of consumption.
I like the idea of weekday vegetarian, it gives the feeling of cutting back without missing out.
I think it’s all psychological in how we look at meat “before” eating. I’ve watched those documentaries too and sort of know the process of meat. I find it interesting that we see the “real” process of meat and we think it’s horrible, yet, if we think of the happy cows and the oinking pigs we also think it’s horrible. So, in my opinion, meat eating is something most people will always do (I love meat, btw), but we will always find an issue with it… one way or another… Is there a happy medium?
I know, its weird that I have less issue that a happy cow was killed. You are right there will always be an issue when you realize something died to become your food.
I’m mortified by the first photo of the pig heads, and yet there is no way I would choose to give up eating pork. Ultimately, I don’t believe mistreating livestock in life is any more cruel than eating them in the after life. But I think you do have the right idea: meat is great just in moderation, like everything else. And I am forunate that I have a choice in what I eat, unlike most people in the world who do not. This is probably the reason why there is such a demand for quickly produced meat.
That is one of the things I realized, we have the freedom of choice – to choose healthier food, most people do not.
I had always wanted to go vegetarian because I knew of the health benefits but could never make the leap.
then one day 5 years ago I read something about how destructive the production of farmed meat was to the environment and I made the decision to go vego.
I haven’t eaten meat since. I still do eat seafood and some wild meat, but not farmed.
I have never regretted it, and found it incredibly easy to do. I don’t miss meat at all and find my health much better for it.
I think anyone can quit anything once they make the decision and commit to it. To decide means to cut off from all other options. That’s all you gotta do. I’m interested to hear how it works out for you as I know how much you love meat!
It will be an interesting journey for sure.
I’m an animal lover. I’m a meat lover too, but a vegetarian at heart. This dilemma can be difficult to rationalize, but I just tell myself that if I didn’t eat that fish/cow/bird some other animal would.
I’m not sure who would eat the cow 🙂 but I used to tell myself that cows would eat us too if they could. I guess I forgot they were vegetarian!
I’m a vegetarian but I *never* preach my beliefs to meateaters. People are entitled to eat whatever they want though I often find that meateaters think it’s hilarious to wave meat in front of my face and say, “Ooooh, lovely meat. You don’t know what you’re missing. We’re made to eat meat.”
It’s like, “Dude, stop being a douche. I don’t preach to you, you don’t preach to me.” 😛
But, yeah, all my boyfriends have been meateaters and I’ve always said to them that if they’re going to eat meat, make sure it’s organic and bought from a local butcher.
But I can understand about not really knowing much about where it’s come from in Latin America. Then again, do they have the mass production that the US does?
You know I’m not really sure. In the cities, Argentina, Brazil and Chile it’s definitely mass production mostly because of export but I think it may be to a lesser extent in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and the others.
A lot of people assume an attitude of that’s the way things are and there is nothing that can be done about it, but really its all about making a conscious effort to choose wisely. A person’s purchasing power is so powerful, but it is easy to be clueless of what goes on behind the scenes in our world and some people don’t want to put in the effort. I became a vegetarian almost four years ago not because I think eating meat is inherently evil but because I don’t like the way animals are treated. It’s a small change in the large scheme of things but if enough people send a message by what we choose to purchase then company’s will have to start listening.
I totally agree with you. It all starts with one person deciding to make the change and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.
I feel you – I was a vegetarian for 5 years and a vegan for 1 year prior to moving to South America. Here, it’s basically impossible to eat vegetarian.
I still don’t eat much meat, but at work lunches I just eat whatever is given to me to be polite, as well as to avoid the “wait, you don’t eat meat?” conversation because it’s really the last thing I want to talk about besides “You’re so gringa, why are you in Chile?”
Maybe it’s a lame reason/makes me seem not very strong in my beliefs, but if I’m at a work thing, I want to talk about work, not myself.
What people eat is such a hot topic at work. Rease at Travelated is constantly berated by her co-workers in Buenos Aires because she brings lunch whereas they order enough food for an army.
We are very conscientious about the amount of meat we eat. Since it can be very difficult to be vegetarian when traveling (especially in BsAs), we have put in place what we call a Meat Offset Program. On the rare occasions that we choose to eat meat, we counter it with a full day of being vegan. Since we are addicted to cheese, we don;t relish vegan days. This means we are VERY selective with the meat.
Works well for u
That is a really interesting way to balance thing. I could never give up cheese either, I eat it every day.
I stopped eating beef and pork seven years ago. On the whole, it has helped me healthwise. I weigh less than I did then, don’t feel as full and sluggish as often and am getting a more rounded array of nutrients and vitamins. But I date a full vegetarian and have noticed myself eating even less of the meat I still eat — poultry and fish –, which I think has robbed me of some essential nutrients. So I, too, am searching again for the meat balance.
You know after reading Eating Animals, the animal I struggle most with is chicken, I don’t know but I feel sick every time I think of eating it.
Fascinating finding out about how you named your blog — and finding out it was nothing as I expected!
I know I really need to find a clever way to make it sound more interesting.
I am always surprised at how much meat people can eat! I eat just chicken and all the rest for me looks disgusting! Not sure how I could survive in Argentina as you did, Ayngelina.
Well I ate a lot of meat, and now I’m paying for it.
Haha Ayngelina, we have so much in common. I can only handle meat in small doses, but I’ll never give it up entirely. It’s how I was raised. But it’s a good thing to do your research, I think…even if sometimes it’s terrifying.
The more I read the less I eat!
You bring up some great points and I love your honesty. I used to be a bacon lover, a meat lover at that. Once my father passed away from Cancer, my life changed and this included the way I ate. I don’t preach my lifestyle to anyone. I have it on my blog in case someone is interested but unless you are eating organic foods you are truly hurting your body. I stay away from meat because it’s easier. I wish it were less expensive to eat healthy and expensive to eat non-healthy. I guess that is in my fantasy land. Great post!
Meg just saw that you are doing a 30 day raw food vegan challenge, wow that is impressive.
I eat so much less meat when I travel (especially red meat), and I always feel better for it. When I was back in Sydney briefly earlier this year I even thought I might be able to switch sides and go vegetarian, but I quickly got used to eating it again.
There is definitely something to be said, both health and environment wise for easing back on your consumption of meat.
I really haven’t eaten that much of it so far in Central America…I prefer to err on the side of vegetarian when I travel but I expect that will all change once I hit Argentina!
Oddly enough in Central America I found more non-meat options and they seem to be more receptive to vegetarians than in South America. I traveled with quite a few in Nicaragua and we almost always ate meatless at regular restaurants.
i’m facing the same dilemma… i love meat and will never be an exclusive vegetarian. my sister, however is a vegetarian, and teaches me a lot about the food i eat (i’ve seen food inc. too). i love food, meat and veggies included, but i find today’s food alarming; not just the drugs they pump into our meats, but also all the chemicals in every drink, and sauce. bread isn’t even safe anymore. it’s creeping me out and i feel like there’s absolutely nothing i can eat without ultimately getting cancer or something awful.
Well then I should warn you not to watch the new documentary Forks over Knives – or maybe you should!
At least you had fun in Argentina 🙂 Ever watched Food Inc? That made me re-evaluate how much meat I should eat…
I have, I’ve also seen some documentary beasts like The Future of Food, 3 hours of how genetically modified food is made, even I had to take a break in the movie.
Living in Argentina now, I couldn’t avoid meat if I wanted to. Things are a bit different here though as cows lead a nicer life (I imagine pigs too as the pork tastes better, but not sure). The beef is fantastic and tastes great without all of the spices we use in T.O. Oddly enough I have started eating a lot more veggies too. Love the lettuce and salad here.
I initially thought beef was better too when I got to Argentina but it looks like it’s starting to resemble North American ways more and more to keep up with the demand.
I was just going to tweet you a picture of my tacos… I guess I’ll wait a month!! 🙂
I can eat fish tacos. Don’t hold back!
I think, ethically, no one should eat meat. Apart from anything else, cows are often fed on grain which starving humans could be eating.
Peter Singer writes amazingly on animals and pain, as well.
Am I going to give up, though?
Not with all that steak out there, sadly.
I feel exactly the same way about eating habits when traveling vs. staying at home. I’m a vegetarian in America, but doubt that I’ll continue that trend next time I’m out of the country. It may be wishful thinking, hoping that other countries aren’t as into fast/cheap/efficient, but I think that embracing food is a huge part of embracing culture. And who’d want to miss out on that?!
I know I am heading to Italy and Spain this fall and while I know vegetarians do it, I just don’t want to miss out on the pancetta and parma ham.
Eating meat is not problematic, but eating excess meat is for sure pathetic. I find chicken as the most zesty & enjoy eating it. Veggies are still more recommendable & healthy in comparison to the Non veg dishes.
Congrats for composing this good post & thanks for sharing your views on meat consumption.
Meat is an inseparable part of any cuisine. A lot many dishes will become extinct if meat is not there. I love meat too. But yes a controlled eating is also very important. The best idea is to eat all foods – Meats & vegetable, fruits & desserts also. Yummy.
I’ve had the same dilemma. I try to go by the same principle of buying better meat less often when I’m at home, but this is difficult to do on the road. When I was in Spain, I cooked my own dinners for two weeks just to play catch up on my vegetable consumption. Salad and stirfry never tasted so good.
I’ve lived in BA for almost 6 months now and haven’t eaten any meat. I’ve been vegetarian for over 7 years and nothing could make me eat meat — literally nothing. Not even a gun to the head. I know too much about what happens to those poor animals to ever put them in my mouth for pleasure. That being said I have a different relationship with food than most people; I don’t really eat for pleasure, I eat to sustain myself. Sufficed to say I live primarily on a diet of vegetables, fruits and beans and have my vitamins and minerals checked once a year by my family doctor in Toronto. I have never had a deficiency because I think I’m pretty educated about food. Anyway — I wanted to write and say that I appreciate your post on this, even though I don’t agree, it’s nice to know that you’ve put some thought into it.
Thanks Franco. It would be interesting to be in BA and not eat meat. I find most of the food there is so heavy and if it doesn’t have meat in it it has a ton of cheese.
I find those photos gross and offensive.
What we put in our body affects the way we think thats why we are so fucked up cos we consume death all the time
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