I recently experienced a mini-epiphany about food waste – particularly meat-waste – that I feel is worth sharing. I want to preface this article by stating that I am not a vegetarian, though I do practice ‘Meatless-Mondays’ and make an effort to eat several other meat-free meals each week. My reasons for being a flexitarian (go ahead and judge, vegetarians) stem from the idea that it’s more sustainable, but also, I drive past a hog-filled transport truck every morning on my way to work that honestly rips my heart out. If it were not for this daily encounter with ‘the truck’, the majority of my meat-eating experiences would almost completely be removed from the source.
Recognizing this problematic disconnect with the origins of our food in North America, I have turned into somewhat of a foodie in the last few years – a novice locavore, if you will. I’ve turned to freezer-cooking to make the most of Ontario’s highly seasonal bounty, and I’ve also picked up a few preservation and pickling techniques along the way. I take advantage of Grand River Organic’s local and fair-trade weekly food bag – yum! This resource has encouraged me to experiment with local foods I didn’t even know existed (hello, purple carrots and kohlrabi!), and the connection with local farms through the Sustainable Market has encouraged me to reduce my household food waste. These efforts have enhanced my appreciation for local produce, but there is still a great mystery, and perhaps intentional ignorance, about where my meat comes from.
When the odd bag of mushrooms goes neglected for too long in my fridge, or a bunch of spinach becomes wilted beyond aesthetic appeal, I commit to planning my meals more efficiently next time, and regretfully place the items in my green bin. If and when a few chicken breasts or meat-containing leftovers are overlooked for too long in the meat drawer, I have the same response.
An animal - that ate, and made decisions, and could reproduce – was killed, so that I could purchase its flesh and incorporate it into a delicious entrée. I had flash-backs to the handful of times I could remember being too busy or distracted to cook meat before it spoiled. Those animals died for nothing. Their bodies were slaughtered, cleaned, packaged…to literally decay in my fridge and end up in the trash.
This realization has had a major impact on how I plan my meals and prepare our family’s food. I now have an enormous amount of respect for our meat-containing meals. I’m sure there are lots of opportunities for improvement in the meat processing industry, but the least I can do is appreciate what went into my purchases and the sacrifice that was made for the food on my plate.