I ate meatloaf last night. That might not seem like a big deal to anyone reading this, but it is to me. You see, I’ve been a vegetarian for the last seven years. I originally decided to become a vegetarian because I felt a moral obligation to stop supporting the meat industry. I don’t agree with the way that most meat animals are raised. I’m not going to go into the specifics of this in this post, but feel free to do more research if you would like.
Now, my husband and kids have always eaten meat. I was able to keep my now 3 year old a vegetarian for the first year of his life – but as soon as DH slipped him a piece of bacon, he hopped on the meat eating bandwagon as well. It’s quite difficult to prepare different meals for us every night. I found myself skipping the meat of any given meal, and eating just the sides. This way of eating became very hard on my body and I found myself becoming fluffy, sluggish, and easily annoyed. There was a point when I thought I was eating well if I had a microwaved frozen soy burger on a highly chemical ridden cheap hamburger roll. I added iceberg lettuce and a slice of store bought unorganic tomato for some added vegetables. It was sad. I was sad. I was starting to fall into a pit of depression and I had no idea why.
Then we started our garden this year, and in the process of reading about gardening, I realized how important food is to our bodies. It’s our fuel. I had to change our eating habits or it would slowly kill us. I’m the mom, the wife, the chef – and it’s my responsibility to prepare healthy meals for my family. The feminist in me cried a little when I typed that, but it’s true. I’m the one that prepares most of the meals, and I’m the one that is responsible for the type and amount of food we have in the house and any given time. I’m perfectly okay with that and I’m starting to relish having that role.
The first thing that I did to change our eating habits was to start baking bread. We found a honey wheat recipe we like and a white sandwich bread recipe that we like. After I got in the habit of making bread twice a week, I decided to stop our breakfast cereal habit. I took it off of the grocery list and stopped buying it. Instead, I make a triple or quadruple batch of pancakes and freeze the leftovers for quick breakfasts. I keep oatmeal muffins and zucchini bread in the fridge. We make our own granola and granola bars. We eat more fruit and drink more whole milk. We eat pastured chicken eggs that I sneak fresh vegetables in. We eat homemade jam on homemeade bread. And, we are all healthier because of it.
Now that I have gotten the hang of breads and breakfasts, the next logic step is to buy meat from small local farmers. On the surface, it looks a litle more expensive, and it is – but with all of the money I am saving from not buying breakfast cereal and store bread, I can buy it without it affecting our budget. When I saw the farmers selling the meat and learned how much the animals were cared for before they died, most of the reasons that I stopped eating meat flew out the window. I still don’t like the idea of an animal dying to feed me, but I’m learning to buy meat from animals that I know had a decent life. The fact is, most lifestock would not even have a life if everyone stopped eating meat. Surely a few years in the grass and in the sun, followed by a quick and humane death is better than nothing at all – isn’t it?
I can eat meat and still love animals. I can eat meat and not support the big coorporations that were only interested in profits. I can eat meat and support small farmers who make ther livelihoods from their land and their animals. So, I bought some pastured chicken from a local farmer, cooked it up, and took a bite. I was expecting it to taste as rubbery and chewy as I remember chicken tasting, but it didn’t. It was delicious. I was expecting to feel nauseous and have stomach pains, but I didn’t. My body was more prepared than my mind was for eating meat again.
I don’t want to get slammed with messages saying I’m a horrible person for this decision. It’s my decision to make. I was a vegetarian long enough to feel that I have made some sort of a difference, and now I’ve made the choice to only buy meat from local farmers. Soon, I will be one of those local farmers. Soon, I will have to put down a sick animal. Soon, I will get to see animals born, and I will have to see them die. It’s the circle of life, and I’m a part of it. I need to prepare myself for that inevitability. I know I have a long way to go, but I also know that I appreciate livestock a little bit more now that I’ve allowed meat back into my diet. I respect livestock and their purpose more now, and respect can never be a bad thing.