My daughter, Elizabeth Dinkel, her husband, Aaron Meyerson, and their two children all care tremendously about animal rights. They live in California where it is not considered strange, but rather is like wearing a badge of honor, to belong to PETA.
Obviously, this has influenced my thinking, along with different presents from my children—Sallie’s buying me the book by Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Or the book which Aaron got for me, Fast Food Nation.
Or my grandchildren’s Christmas present to me of the DVD, The Cove, which is an absolutely riveting (and heartbreaking) documentary on the slaughter of dolphins by the Japanese (and the complicity in the scuttling of the whale and dolphin-killing ban by the Norwegians, (oh, my beloved Norway!)). Even the terrifying cartoon, Run, Chicken Run, comes into play. Suddenly, one day you wake up with the realization that you just can’t be part of animal cruelty any longer. But the joyful thing is that you needn’t. You can take part in one of the fastest growing movements in America—the move to cruelty-free food. And the good thing is---even if you don’t care about animal rights or the condition of the earth—which I truly hope and pray that you do—it’s healthier for you. Pesticides and herbicides are known carcinogens, and no one knows the end results of eating genetically modified foods, but it’s probably a good bet that they are not being used for their health benefits.
For those of you who have them near you, you can shop at Whole Foods. And you needn’t spend your Whole Paycheck either. Preparing your own foods from scratch (not always time consuming; I’m not trying to brag or sound holier-than-thou, but I work a more than full day six days a week, write this blog (although, at times, sporadically, I admit!), exercise every day and still cook from scratch), and eating less meat, and not buying more than you need gets your food budget down to a very workable level. So go on into Whole Foods (or FairFields or whatever is nearest you)
Their butchers are not only willing and helpful, but they have a wonderful chart posted on all their meat windows with a rating system for humanely-raised and killed animals.
If there is not a store near you, you can order from one of the best humane animal farmers of all, the White Oak Pastures, (whiteoakpastures.com) who not only sell on-line, but use virtually every single part of the animals. (I’m not sure about the beaks of the chickens, but they do sell the feet, so if you want to be tres francais and make truly wonderful chicken broth for gelee, here’s where you get the feet for thickening).
You can buy absolutely wonderful beef, not just steaks, but ground beef, and short ribs, and liver, and braising meats, and even suet for marking lardons and wrapping less tender cuts
And lamb, all cuts, so that you can make wonderful Moroccan meatballs from their ground lamb, and delicious Irish stew with potatoes and onions and carrots
And of course, chicken and turkey—the thighs which every recipe seems to call for today, and the wings, in addition to the whole birds (and those feet above!)
Mr Harris, the owner (and great grandson of the farm’s founder) had a Saint Paul on the road to Damascus moment, when he used to be a regular livestock farmer, and decided, to the ridicule of many others in his field, to take his farm back to his grandfather’s ways. He uses the Serengeti method of grazing in which large ruminants are followed by smaller ones and then birds, each doing their own part in the re-establishment of the natural building back of the land. His beautiful farms (and slaughterhouses) in the Southern United States have won him all sorts of honours and recognition, and, more importantly, loyal followers, including me! But more profitably to him, the account for the meat at Whole Foods. Buy on-line, or go there and ask for his meat by name.
There are lots of companies you can ask for by name, and be part of a more caring use of the earth. Patagonia, the company who started the use of recycled soda bottles in clothing—their catalogue is like reading an ode to the earth
Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, originally from Vermont and still with that Vermont “flavor” of the-little-guy-makes-good—and why not with flavours such as New York Super Fudge Chunk?
King Arthur flour and Red Mills oatmeal
And on and on and on.
We have even changed totally our buying of certain products here in our Leta Austin Foster Boutique. Once we found that our down supplier could supply humane-raised and slaughter down, we switched all of our down pillows to this. And we never, knowingly at least, sell goods from China—never, never, never in our sheets—any country that allowed melamine to be put into the baby food has no place in our store. Not that we are a big store who can make a difference, but we certainly do try.
I have been preaching this stuff for quite some time now—it was exciting to see that this morning’s Sunday New York Times magazine had big articles on the new humane and healthy fast foods and the move towards using the whole animal in butchery. It may be happening slowly, but it is happening.
Go out there, and do your part.