Why I’m Not Eating Meat

by Sarah on April 20, 2012 · 19 comments

“Lately, I’ve been feeling this strange kinship with cows.”–Me*

*Multiple times, in many different situations. Often met with blank, confused stares.

After my post about my experience touring Polyface Farms and awkwardly introducing myself to Joel Salatin by telling him that I don’t eat meat, but if I did, I would eat his, it pushed Adrienne to publish a post called “to eat meat or not to eat meat?” Mostly, it dealt with her hesitancy to watching Food, Inc., and anxieties about becoming a vegetarian.

Since commenting on her post, I have been mulling over the idea that I should probably lay out my reasons for not eating meat here, so y’all could know where I’m coming from (not just Adrienne ;) ).I tagged this post as “accidents,” which was a category I already had utilized, but also seemed fitting for this topic. Becoming a ‘vegan with benefits’ was something that happened purely by accident.

After all, I am the same girl who declared her life so changed following her first ‘pork belly experience’ that she saved it on her camera and showed it to everyone she came into contact with for the next few weeks.

So how does a girl who once (or twice…or three times, maybe…) performed a ‘smoked turkey happy dance’ in the kitchen after eating BBQ in Texas become a vegan?

How can a gal go from proclaiming that the only reason to eat burger buns is to soak up burger juice

…to only eating burgers made from beans (and/or veggies nuts, seed, grains, as the case may be)?

Wait. And didn’t this girl once request the head of pig to be cut open so she could taste the brain?

And–for the love of bacon y’all–can someone who won’t eat meat also declare this to be one of her favorite self-portraits?

 ”I’m a meat lover who doesn’t eat meat.”–Me*

*Multiple times, in many different situations. Also usually met with blank, confused stares.

 Yeah. A lot of people don’t get it.

I gave up meat right after making my very first steak. The next day was October 1st and the start of the Vegan Month of Food, which I had chosen to participate in after Kristina informed me that I could go a week as a vegan–something I put on my Culinary Bucket List out of pure curiosity–or join a revolution and really challenge myself to a whole month.

So I did.

You can read more about it here, but even halfway through the month, I felt awesome. I loved it. And that’s probably why when it came to the end of the month…I just kept on being vegan. I tried not to label it. But in the end, the term “vegan with benefits” seemed to fit my lifestyle the best. I could eat foods made by friends without freaking out if there was butter involved. I could eat honey again! I could also eat an egg if the craving struck, not deny myself the occasional pimiento cheese splurge, or stress if I really wanted to eat an M&M or angel food cake or something.

[Dairy and I, sadly, just don't get along very well anymore.]

That being said, I titled this post the way I did for a reason. Note that I didn’t say “Why I Will Never Eat Meat” or even “Why I Don’t Eat Meat.” It very well might be a permanent thing. But it also might not be.

My comment on Adrienne’s blog was this:

As a “meat lover who doesn’t eat meat,” my choice is purely based on the fact that I feel better without it. After visiting Polyface, I also know that it is possible to raise animals humanely, and, therefore, I think that should I choose to go back to being an omnivore, I would only want to invest my money into quality-raised chicken, beef, and eggs.

After watching Food, Inc., the first time, I was “scared veg” for a bit, but went right back to buying whatever the cheapest chicken breasts were that week, etc. Now, since I’ve chosen to give meat up, I feel like I could invest the money into purchasing what I know is ‘good’ since it would only ever be the rare indulgence.

When I decided to keep eating vegan, I said I’d eat meat again in one of three situations:

  1. I needed to check an item off of my Culinary Bucket List (i.e. cheesesteaks in Philly)
  2. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Something like being in Italy or France or Spain and being offered a local delicacy…or having the opportunity to attend an Outstanding in the Field dinner and sitting across from the woman who raised the cattle on the plate.
  3. It is just too tempting to resist.

Only the Outstanding in the Field dinner has happened. (Although the smell of pork BBQ has nearly done me in about twelve times.)Even though I firmly believe that you can eat meat and have an incredibly healthy diet and lifestyle, I just feel better not eating it. Say what you want about cruelty and kindness. Perhaps I shouldn’t claim to eat vegan if I’m not also a moral and ethical activist, but at the end of the day it’s really this simple:

Why am I not eating meat?

I just don’t want to.

[Also that whole "feeling a kinship with cows" thing...:)]

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ notsodomesticated April 20, 2012 at 7:11 am

I’m kind of at the beginning stages of a similar mindset as you! I’ve always been the “ignorance is bliss” girl, and I’m also a meat lover who thought people who didn’t eat meat were crazy. But then I watched Food Inc. and Forks over Knives. And I read a lot of blogs. And my perspective started changing. So I do still eat some meat right now … but I’m trying to really decrease it from our diets. And I’m choosing to buy the quality farm raised, hormone free meats when I am buying them.

Thanks for sharing. For me, it’s definitely going to be a process. And I don’t see us completely giving up meat, because my husband would have a problem with it. But you never know! The more research that he reads, the more he seems to be having a change of heart! ;)

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Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count April 20, 2012 at 7:25 am

Great post, Sarah! I can’t quote the date but shortly after joining Weight Watchers, 25 years ago now, I started to take meat out of my diet. I had joined WW because there were so many people in my family suffering from weight related health problems and I didn’t want to join them. As I worked the program and progressed to my goal (I eventually lost 50 pounds) I realized that there were a lot of foods that I could eat, enjoy and still lose and those foods weren’t meat. After meeting Ralph 20 years ago, I went back to eating fish because he nagged me. But I didn’t eat it often. I’m not vegan, I still eat eggs, cheese and dairy although I rarely use regular milk. I am thoroughly convinced that these food choices are responsible for me being as healthy as I am at my age. I take no medications and I feel great. You’re doing a great job. Stay Healthy!!

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Claire @ Live and Love to Eat April 20, 2012 at 7:57 am

I agree with so many points you made in this post (and I’m only vegetarian). :)

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Adrienne J April 20, 2012 at 8:20 am

Such a great post!! You’ve totally helped me in figuring out what I’m going to do with my eating habits. Thank you! Food, Inc. is going to be watched this afternoon.

P.S. Your self-portrait is A-mazing! :)

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Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) April 20, 2012 at 8:39 am

Your writing is so much fun to read! I think people get caught up in sticking with labels, which is why I like your vegan with benefits thing. I’ve seen people put a label on themselves (like vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc) and then it seems like everyone stares at them when they eat, waiting for them to make a “mistake” so they can call them out on it. Although I usually prefer veggie-based meals, I love a good steak, so I’ll probably always be a whole-food-atarian… oh wait, but I just gave myself a label and now will be scrutinized when I did in to a cupcake! ;)

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Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers April 20, 2012 at 8:55 am

Thanks for sharing! I admire your lifestyle choice – even the benefits. :) I have severe cognitive dissonance with my diet. I love animals, but I too love meat. I’m just not bold enough to give it up yet, but I hope to one day… when I’m ready… or when pigs fly and we can no longer keep them in fences and raise them for bbq.

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Liz @ IHeartVegetables April 20, 2012 at 9:58 am

Love love LOVE this post! And not just because I’m a vegetarian ;)

I like the idea of eating meat in lesser quantities, so that, when it’s a “splurge” you’re willing to pay up for the humanly raised meat. I don’t eat meat at all, just because honestly, it freaks me out. There is something about eating meat that just makes me squirm! I’m sure it would be harder to give it up if I actually “craved” it.

I think you’re smart to do the vegan with benefits thing too, because like you said ,you don’t stress if you have an M&M or a delicious baked good that may have had butter in it. I think it’ll be much easier to stick with! Part of the reason I fell of the vegan bandwagon was because it was just SO restrictive! I felt like I missed out on somethings (like a bite of my friends wedding cake!) because “I didn’t know what was in it.”

Ok my essay-comment will end before I ramble too long ;) Can’t wait to see your lovely face on Sunday!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table April 20, 2012 at 11:01 am

I am in the same boat with vegetarianism. I just started saying I eat a plant-based diet. Sometimes I just need a runny egg for breakfast or a massive piece of truffled goat cheese and I don’t want to limit myself or feel deprived… but more often you can find me happily chowing down on collard green tacos and making cashew cheese. :)

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Tricia @ Saving room for dessert April 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I remember all those old posts. You explain things so well – and in a fun and enjoyable manner! First grade must be working for you :) ha ha – love ya, miss ya – come on up and we’ll do something vegan. My post today has tofu in the recipe! You would totally love it.

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Maria April 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I very distinctly remember starting the vegan challenge with you! I didn’t find it to be hard actually, but it had quite the opposite effect on my body – I wasn’t used to so much fiber and it really made me feel icky. This just goes to show how each and every one of us are different and our bodies are different…which is why I don’t think labels should exist – they just aren’t realistic. And I’m very glad that meat and I agree with each other, because giving up bacon would be tragic for me. :)

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Candy @ Healthy In Candy Land April 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I love, *love* this post. So well said, without being preachy or with any sort of “holier than thou” connotations. It’s just what works for you right now, with plenty of reasons why. (As a vegetarian for the past 18 years, I share your kinship with cows. I love them and want one for a pet someday.)

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Kristina April 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I remember those conversations we were having last fall, before Vegan MoFo… I LOVE that I am part of your vegan story!! :D

those cows have the sweetest faces!

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Heather @ Better With Veggies April 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Very cool story! I think it’s great that more and more people are breaking the traditional stereotypes for why they don’t eat meat (and/or dairy and/or eggs). I know I don’t fit the traditional mold either – I have a very similar backstory with my old love for all kinds of wierd foods. Thank you for sharing your reasons, it’s great to learn more about you. :)

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Ashley @ Freckles & Spice April 20, 2012 at 6:42 pm

I love hearing people’s stories for why they make their decisions. I love when it something that developed over time for their own reasons.
My steak eating, entire box of little debbie cake eating brother became vegan overnight because of his very preachy peta- like girlfriend. I’m all for vegan – it’s my fav food but for your own reasons and for the right reasons.
I don’t really subscribe to a particular diet either. I just give my body what it wants. And it is ironic because I’ve just made changes sort of the opposite of you. I never really liked meat that much and I just started adding it back into my diet for health reasons. I make sure it is lean, hormone free, and grass fed. Now that makes a burger I can like.

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Leila @ Spinach and Skittles April 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm

I always thought I wanted to be veg, but after giving up meat for Lent last year I realized I felt worse not eating it. Apparently my body chemistry is opposite of yours. But we do have cow kinship in common. My parents live next door to a black angus ranch and each morning/night my dad walks the dogs down to the mailbox, and past the cows. Each day the cows come up and “talk” to him and give him kisses. He’s one with the cows. It’s pretty cute. Their 2 year old “puppy” does not have the same kinship, however.

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Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean April 21, 2012 at 11:00 am

perfect explanation. very similar to how i feel!

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Danica @ It's Progression April 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm

that’s all the explanation you need–because you want to!

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Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli April 22, 2012 at 11:05 am

You couldn’t have said it better any other way m’dear! I think if someone decides exclude (or include in some cases*) something in their diet, it should be for THEM and no one else.

*First let me say, that the more I read your blog, the more I seem to want to use asterisks to set apart another thought…in this case that thought would be when I decided to add tofu to my diet. You would NOT believe how people feel compelled to comment on my eating habits when I am enjoying my lunch at work. “Are you a vegetarian now?? One, like it’s a bad thing…and two, like it really freakin’ matters what I chose to eat! Ok, that’s enough of an aside for now. Ahem…

Back to your post…Like Adrienne, I have to admit I was a little leery to watch Food, Inc as well. I actually made BB watch it with me (with the lights on) just in case. ;) It DID open my eyes to many things in the farming/food industry, but I didn’t feel guilty for eating meat…I’ve just decided to use more discretion when shopping now. Years ago, I would just go to the store and pick up whatever meat was cheapest, but over time I learned there was reason certain ones were so much more expensive. I’ve purchased cage-free eggs for some time because I can honestly taste the difference, but I know now that if for some reason cage-free eggs increased to like $10 a carton while the regular ones were a buck, I’d say bye-bye to my beloved runny yolks.

In the end it always comes down to what’s best for YOU…what YOU feel comfortable with…and what makes YOU happy!

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