I’m not a vegetarian. Which some people find strange for a veterinarian. But here’s my take: I accept that animals can be raised humanely, sustainably, and morally defensibly. Which, for me, is totally consistent with the veterinarian’s oath I’ve pledged.
However, the more involved I become in the world of agriculture, the more I narrow my options on what I’m willing to eat.
Example: I haven’t eaten pork in months or touched veal in years. Traditionally raised foie gras is no longer on the menu, either (I could weep for the loss, I loved it so). And my changing fish restrictions are slowly chipping away at the vast variety of protein sources my diet once enjoyed.
It mostly has to do with raising my own animal protein in the form of goat’s milk, eggs, and the occasional chicken (I’m fixing to slaughter one hen-pecked girl soon and have a straight run of chicks on the way). Engaging in this activity means I’m much more in tune with what I’m willing and not willing to do with my animals. Hence, what I’m willing and not willing to eat myself — or feed my family, for that matter.
But it also has to do with what others are doing. Because now that I’m taking baby steps into this interesting world of feeding myself and others, I’m much more in tune with the rapidly evolving world of sustainable farming on a micro level.
Micro-ish, anyway. I take my cues from farmers like the one whose e-mail updates I now consistently receive after I inquired after their bison’s slaughter practices. Or the husband-and-wife team of grass-fed Angus farmers up in north central Florida whose eighth of a steer I’m considering for my freezer. (Because they slaughter on the premises … and because they’ve invited me to come visit.)
Yes, now that I have an extra milk and cheese fridge I have many more financially feasible options. I don’t have to shop at "Whole Paycheck" and spend $21.99 a pound on anything anymore. I can buy direct from the source. It also means I can trade eggs and cheese for fresh fish from a friendly fisherman I know.
So you see, it goes stepwise, this addictive foray into the world of managing what you eat. But here’s the great thing: You don’t have to start raising chickens and goats and llamas and geese to get into this — nor do you have to bait your own line. If you’re a believer in humane and sustainable practices in animal agriculture, you, too, can shop smart.
That growing list of animal protein restrictions? Embrace it by exploring the new diversity available online. Here are some of my favorite places to start:
Heritage Foods: It’s mostly to do with small farmers raising small herds and small flocks using old-school ways. Last year’s turkey came courtesy of Heritage Foods. And it was amazing … and expensive. But they do offer specials, which will arrive in your e-mail inbox every week if you want them to.
Local Harvest: Everything for the locovore — from Farmer’s Markets and u-pick-ems near you, to raw milk, goat meat and honey purveyors.
Eat Wild: Here’s where you’ll get everything grass-fed. It’s where I met my Angus family.
Remember, you still have to investigate your sources. Phone them, e-mail them, do your due diligence. But these are a great place to start. How about you? Do you have other resources for us?
Dr. Patty Khuly