Tag Archives: meat

Slow-Cooker Honey Soy Pork Roast

30 Apr

(First, as an aside. I still feel weird calling it a slow cooker, not a crock pot. You can take the girl out of New England…)

Anyway.

Today, I have for you all another delicious, easy, slow-cooker recipe for pork. This may be my first official Pinterest post on We Meat Again, as that is where I found this original recipe for Parmesan Honey Pork Roast, pinned by my dear friend Lindsey, who is the working momma of a growing toddler, and therefore, in need of many quick and easy recipes.

Linds, if you haven’t tried this one yet, you should.

The prep time for this is as simple as mixing up the sauce and tossing it all in the crock pot. 15-20 minutes max, and dinner’s served later that night.

I used a pork tenderloin, about one pound, so I cut back the recipe to scale, and it seemed to work fine. Here are my other suggestions for the recipe:

  • The suggested cook time is 6-7 hours. With the same liquid ratio, at seven hours, my one-pound tenderloin was a bit dry. I might try the shorter end of that time, or keep on warm for the last hour or so. Just make sure to check that the meat is cooked through.
  • This may be the first time I suggest a recipe modification, but … I don’t really get the Parmesan cheese in here. I mean, I love parm, but I felt I could taste it too much in the gravy, and next time, would likely just leave it out and let it become a more tangy, Asian-flavored roast.

  • Speaking of gravy, definitely take the time to make the cooking liquid into a gravy and serve it over mashed potatoes. That was probably my favorite part (though this does need to be done 20 minutes or so before the roast is ready, if you opt for homemade mashers).
  • Also speaking of Asian flavors, I used sesame oil instead of olive oil, and thought that worked really well here.

And there you have it. Another Marissa-tested slow cooker recipe for a yummy-smelling house with little effort. Enjoy!

Why It Is Ethical To Eat Meat

11 Apr

The New York Times’ Ethicist, an ethics-advice column, recently put out a call for submissions for short essays from carnivores explaining why we believe it is ethical to eat meat.

Of course, I had much to say. I even managed to get my thoughts down to the 600-word limit. Since I have no reason to believe this will ever actually make it into the Times, I thought sharing my thoughts here would be a great way to re-introduce We Meat Again, as a sort of manifesto for this blog.

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Eating meat is ethical because it allows the eater to face the reality of suffering head-on, so that we can choose how and where to invest our food dollars to do the most good. Suffering is an inevitable part of our food system, the unavoidable byproduct of any species trying to feed itself. The ethical dilemma of the eater, then, is not to avoid suffering altogether because that avoidance is impossible.

Attempts to circumvent suffering often lead to dietary choices that are willfully ignorant of the part they play. For example, vegetarians who purchase boxed meat substitute products like soy burgers or chik’n nuggets are simply purchasing subsidiary brands of the same multinational corporations, such as Smithfield or Tyson, that own and operate inhumane and environmentally destructive concentrated animal feeding operations. Recent exposes such as Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland have demonstrated that even produce sold at alternative grocery chains is picked by underpaid workers in near-slave labor conditions. Even the small-scale, organic, family-owned vegetable farm where I worked used fertilizer that was a chicken waste byproduct, a nearly-invisible part of an innovative and sustainable food production chain that would connect the most locavore of vegans to a system responsible for raising livestock animals.

The basic ethical defense of vegetarianism is utilitarian in nature, the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. Vegetarianism is considered ethically superior by some because the pleasure of a non-starving human is not justification enough for the widespread death and suffering of animals. Vegans or vegetarians who cannot abide the death of an animal for their meal certainly do their part in affecting positive change by investing in locally-sourced, chemical-free whole foods. But eating meat offers eaters a unique opportunity to positively impact the entire web of their food system.

While factory farm systems for raising food animals are still the primary source of meat in the United States, new models exist and are thriving across the country to provide consumers with sources of local, biodynamic and humane meat. By investing in these sources of meat production, we can attempt to offset the suffering implicit in any act of eating.

What I’ve seen of living animals on small-scale, locally-owned farms, and what I’ve learned about corporate connections, environmental degradation, and human suffering in the food system suggests that the way an animal is raised and killed for food affects much more than an individual’s eating pleasure. How the animal is raised impacts the ground on which it lives. The quality of that land impacts the farm and the farmer, and their larger community, environmentally and economically. The practices on a farm and the pricing of food affects whether a community has enough jobs, which affects whether or not members of that community will be able to afford to eat. Whether or not someone will buy an animal to eat impacts the labor conditions and pay scale of farm workers.

The question of whether or not to eat meat is not simply an animal-rights issue. It’s an environmental issue, a labor rights issue, a fair trade issue, an issue of our global community’s economic, environmental, and human progress. If our ethical goal is to live in harmony with our world, eating a hamburger doesn’t have to run counter to those ideals. It can be a way to invest in them, to practice them with every bite we take. Only by being honest about our participation in the suffering of animals can we seek to minimize it.

As always, I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment, tweet at me, or drop me an email to share your thoughts, ask questions, or request future post topics!

Do We Need to Eat Meat?

19 Dec

On my belated introductory post a few months back, I asked readers to contribute any questions they have about me, my blog, my diet or why I eat the way I do, and I got this great question from Cristina of An Organic Wife:

You went vegetarian for moral reasons. Do you want to comment on whether we “do or don’t need to eat meat” as some vegetarians argue?

For those of you who don’t want to reading a wandering, musing answer that touches on much more than nutritional needs, here’s the short answer: Some people need to eat meat. Others need to eat less.

It’s been my experience that middle-class people in developed countries (such as myself) do not need to eat meat. We need much less protein than we eat as a nation, and we are capable of getting it from other sources. While there are other nutritients included in meats (zinc, iron, omega-3 fatty acids in fish, etc.) these are also widely available from other sources in our world. And if you’re in any doubt about what you need to eat, and in what quantities, you should talk to a nutritionist, as they have the knowledge to measure your body’s particular requirements.

But I think there’s more to the question than simply a nutritional response.

I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about this, because the word “need” can convey so many different ideas. Do we need to eat meat for nutritional purposes? Do we need to eat meat for biological purposes? When I was first considering eating meat again, I had already  been convinced that I could do so environmentally, locally, and that I could support small-scale, non-corporate entitites by doing so.

But I still struggling with the notion of whether or not it was “right.” And for me, right in this sense, at that time, meant natural. The question for me was: given that I have alternative sources of protein and other nutrients that I would get from meat, can I justify the fact that an animal dies for me to eat? Given that we are no longer hunter-gatherers, do we, as a society, need to eat meat?

So you can see that for me, need has also always been a muddled question of moral rights, humanity and our place in the natural world, as well as one of health and nutrition. My idea of what is “natural” has always been rooted in my firm belief that we humans are still mammalian pack animals. Much as we may have accomplished by way of civilization, our bodies are still animal bodies with the same basic animal needs. What follows below are a few short excerpts that have recently been excised from my book that try to explore my answer to Cristina’s question.

Be warned: my extreme nerd obsession with biological anthropology is heavily present.

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Meat, we in the developing world have been told for awhile now, is dangerous. Coronary heart disease. Heme iron, present only in animal meat, appears to change the lining of the colon, and cause abnormal cell growth, leading to an increased risk of cancer. Same goes for breast and prostate cancer.

According to a massive study headed by the National Cancer Institute, conducted over the course of a decade on half a million Americans, people who eat more red or processed meat were also more likely to: smoke, weigh more for their height, consume more total calories, consume more than the recommended weekly amount of alcohol, consume more total fat, consume more saturated fat. Subjects who ate more red meat were also less likely to: eat fruits, eat vegetables, eat the recommended daily amount of fiber, take vitamin supplements, be physically active. But the study controlled for all of these other factors and conclusively isolated increased consumption of red and processed meat as a cause for increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

In other words, science agrees that eating more red meat is, in fact, bad for you.

Consuming more red meat, or more processed meat, significantly and conclusively increases our chance of dying sooner than we ought to. All other things being equal, eating more than four ounces of red or processed meat a day makes a person 20 to 40 percent more likely to die.

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Biological anthropologists study the evolution of modern humans by examining hominid fossils and modern human populations, trying to draw connections from past to present. They hypothesize, because of what they know about bones and brain size, about bipedalism and cranial anatomy, that modern humans still inhabit prehistoric bodies. So, the nutritional requirements of modern humans were probably established at some point in our past, as part of an endless cycle of evolution. The food we ate dictated how and in what ways our bodies were able to grow and change, and our new bodies affected our ability to gather, prepare and eat new foods.

But complications arise when examining the diets of early hominids who ate many different types of diets over the last five million years or so. Australopithecines of Africa were scavengers, eating a mixed diet of animal protein killed by other animals, plants and nuts. Homo erectus was a hunter who used stone tool and developed the ability to cook or roast animal flesh, who also ate plants extensively. Neanderthals hunted large game in cold climates, relying on fruits and nuts during the coldest months when access to animal game was limited. And the earliest incarnations of Homo sapiens hunted small mammals, dug and foraged plants, and picked berries. Importantly, these early humans—who would not look out of place if they walked among us today—developed the ability to gather wild grains to grind and bake into breads or cakes. Later, descendents of the same species, our most recent chronological ancestors, ate a fully mixed diet: roots, fruits, leafy vegetables, nuts, and a small proportion of animal fat, smaller than at periods earlier in human history.

So the question is not only what did our ancestors eat but also who are our ancestors?

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Changes in the human diet spurred changes in human society, both nutritionally and socially. When Homo sapiens learned how to harvest wild grains, they began the process of learning to cultivate those grains—the very first farmers. Once we could plant crops in rows and have ready access to food, once that reliability was secured, humans could relax a little. We could stay in one place, making us safer from predation, helping us to begin building what we now know as civilization.

But earlier than that, about two million years ago, when early hominids began eating meat regularly, we suddenly saw a rapid increase in growth and development. Our bodies received the energy they needed to stitch together thicker, stronger muscles. Calcium shot into our bones, and our skeletons began to shift and expand, growing taller and more narrow, for better balance. The dense vitamin value of meat—those b-12s and zinc and iron—went straight to our heads, feeding the evolution of our massive brains in both size and ability. Modern humans use nearly a quarter of their resting energy to feed our brains. Chimpanzees use 10%. Gorillas use 8%. Meat was the most nutritionally-dense, energy-rich food available to people over the course of our development, and meat has therefore caused much of that development and that is what makes people say we are “meant” to eat meat.

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Hunter-gatherer societies still exist in the world. Here in the United States, we may sometimes forget that there are places on the planet without Wal-Mart or interstate highways or suburban subdivisions, but they are there, and biological anthropologists spend most of their time in the field studying these people, mostly in rainforests and Pacific islands, in order to better understand how our ancestors might have lived. Modern human hunter-gatherers move, on average, eight miles a day in search of food. No McDonald’s drive-thrus. No Chinese take-out. No home delivery of groceries. If they want meat, they need more than a phone to get it.

It is this distinction that led to the consensus, among biological anthropologists, that it is not only the amount of meat consumed that causes obesity and other diseases in developed countries—but that the amount so drastically overestimates the amount of work done to get it.

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While many people in the developing world eat or have available enough food in sheer caloric intake, their diets are severely lacking in micronutrients that can only be derived from animal-source protein. Livestock consumption provides a micronutrient-rich supplement to a staple-plant based diet in developing nations. Animal-source foods (including meat, milk and eggs) are particularly appropriate for combating the range of nutritional deficiencies faced by people in developing nations, from providing them with additional iron, calcium, and zinc, to stabilizing a food supply which often fluctuates seasonally.

Beyond limited access to food, the developing world is full of people who have trouble eating even when food is available—like children whose stomachs are small, whose intake is physically limited, or HIV/AIDS patients whose bodies are slowing, sluggish, reduced to fulfilling basic needs, for whom digestion is a full day’s work. Because it provides such a high amount of protein per ounce, meat is uniquely poised to help fulfill nutritive requirements for those populations.

The truth is, there’s no one answer to the question of whether or not we need to eat meat — the answer is different for everyone.

Some people need to eat meat. Others need to eat less.

Do you think people need to eat meat? What have your personal experiences been with trying to — or trying not to — eat meat that might impact this? Leave a comment or drop me an email and share your thoughts!

Test Tube Meat

30 May

My loyal readers (as I imagine those of you who are left after this hiatus must be loyal) I apologize for my extended delay from We*Meat*Again! I have missed thinking and writing about food even just since Thursday, and have an ever-growing collection of book-marked articles and ideas to work my way through. I’ve had a recent string of bad luck that culminated in a (minor) car accident Saturday evening, and so real life has gotten a bit too busy for me to keep the blog properly updated.

It may take a few more days before I’m fully back on track, so I thought now would be a good time for a question post, wherein I share a news item about which I can’t quite formulate an opinion and see what you all think! Now, as anyone who knows me in person can testify, I cannot promise I will just automatically adopt the opinions in the comments, but perhaps they will sway me one way or the other.

Today’s Topic: Meat from a Test Tube

The Brief Overview: Science is surprisingly close to being able to use stem cells or bioreceptors to grow animal protein in a petri dish. We’re not talking about growing full animals here, but rather growing just the protein from the animals we consume, starting only with cells.

For a more in-depth discussion of the science here, check out SEED magazine’s interview with a “meat alternative” developer.

This would mean producing animal protein food without any of the issues of environmental pollution discussed in this post, or under any inhumane conditions that made me a vegetarian in the first place. In fact, it would mean getting to eat hamburgers without any blood or slaughter at all.

And not fake burgers–nothing chemical or artificial here. This would be actual animal meat.

So why does it feel weird? Shouldn’t this, for an ethical omnivore, be the perfect scenario? There’s something holding me back from fully embracing this idea. It’s not taste or appearance, as I’ve never seen or tried in vitro meat. What is it that prevents me from seeing this as a sustainable, ethical way to consume animals?

Would you eat meat from a test tube? If not, why? What about this might make us uncomfortable? Here are some comments from folks via GOOD magazine’s twitter and Facebook feeds on this topic.

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