Why I Eat Meat (And Why You Should, Too)
Jacky Hayward | Chef's Blade
Another important thing to note is that humans, among most other species without rumens, cannot digest grass. Michael Pollan, in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, visits Polyface Farm, which raises grass-fed beef along with a whole slew of other livestock raised on their natural food. Without going into a long description of the merits of Polyface Farm, Pollan’s discussion of the advantages of feeding cows grass, from the perspective of energy consumption, is one of the strongest arguments for eating meat. At Polyface Farm, the cows are rotationally grazed, which means that the cows are allowed to eat in one area of the pasture before being moved to another area of the farm to eat the following day. In this manner, the cows partially eat the grass stem, but not the whole stalk. As a result, the grass grows back much faster than it would if the cows were allowed to stay on one plot of land for an extended period of time and ate the grass stalks to the ground. Because of this constant trimming and growth cycle, the pastures at Polyface Farm, and at other farms that rotationally graze their livestock, produce more biomass than the same plot of land would if corn were raised in its place.
One of the strong arguments against eating meat is that great amount of food energy wasted every time an animal eats another animal (a 9-to-1 ratio), but in the case of cows that are grass-fed, they are eating biomass from which we cannot glean food calories. In addition, the energy to grow grass comes from the sun, which means cows are, in essence, converting the sun’s energy, through the venue of grass, into food energy that we can consume. And, importantly, grass fed beefy is mighty tasty.
And to my final reason for eating meat: It tastes good. I crave it. I am lethargic both physically and mentally without it. I also have canine teeth. Vegetarians and vegans often say that humans have evolved to a point where they don’t need to eat meat to survive. While I would be able to live without meat, my life would not be as good. Just as cows can live on corn meal rather than grass, humans can live only plants, but maybe they shouldn’t. I believe there is a biological reason I crave meat: My body needs it.
I will reiterate, however, that there is good and bad meat. I am only encouraging you to eat good meat. Yes, I realize it’s more expensive, so I urge you to eat good meat less frequently or in smaller portions. Eating a cow that was pushed on a forklift and eventually onto your plate is unhealthy for you and inhumane to the cow. Doesn’t it seem better to eat a smaller, healthier, happier steak than a forklift-ed one?
Further, the energy argument I stated above is only valid for rotationally grass grazed cows. I guess my frustration with the vegetarian/vegan anti-meat rhetoric is that it’s too narrow; there are ways to eat meat responsibly that are arguably better for the environment and for our food system than being a vegetarian or vegan.
And so, I will now say again: I eat meat. I will continue to eat meat. And I think you should too.