I’ve put quite a few things on here so far about lamb, veal and beef, but not much about pork. Now I will change that! I do get down with the swine, unlike Jules in Pulp Fiction.
Ain’t she a beaut? If you’ve never been to Columbus, Ohio, here is what you are missing. Aside from me, of course.
Red veal? What’s that? Basically, it is veal that is not strictly milk fed. It is slightly darker in color, slightly stronger tasting (though not nearly as strong as beef), and still as tender as regular veal.
Ok, now its the fishmongers turn-
I am a fishmonger. I didn’t know I wanted to become a fishmonger until about 2 years ago. I don’t come from a fishmongering (?) line of relatives, I didn’t grow up near the ocean and, hell, I can’t even catch a fish with a pole to save my life. Having grown up in a land- locked region, my family hardly ate fish (clam chowder, fish sticks, and lobster on fancy occasions was the extent of it). Three years ago, however, I was persuaded to dedicate my passion and work to fish. I was extremely fascinated to learn about something that I just didn’t know about. The most vast wild source in the world was out there and all I had to say for it was “bumble bee tuna.” The results, one of the most rewarding and bottomless topics of knowledge and diversity I’ve ever encountered.
Let’s face it- we as Americans are not fish eaters. It isn’t a necessity, it perhaps never was. Eating fish is a privilege- a luxury some might chime in. High quality fish in America is usually more expensive than land proteins and usually harder to seek. A lot of us associate good fish with fancy restaurants like high end sushi bars or ‘suit and tie’ dining environments. Also, the attention the media has placed on land animals and meat products, I feel, has hidden seafood. A lot of people have fear (I know I do) of buying fish or seafood on their own. Countless times I have asked grocery stores, companies and other suppliers of the source of a particular seafood and was told that the information was unknown. Is the (commercial) fishing industry that secretive and ‘fishy’ that they can’t reveil what really goes on? Yes, probably. When buying seafood one must be concerned about how long a fish has been out of the water, whether or not (and how long) it has been previously frozen, whether or not coloring or preservatives have been added to increase shelf life and just the principle of those who are trying to sell the product to you to not knowing the source of the product. As important as it is for us to support and buy responsibly from the land, equally we must learn and make the right decisions from the seas. Too much of the low priced seafood offerings from restaurants, grocery stores and other shops take short cuts and buy from distributors that buy from other companies that buy large lots of fish that were caught under environmental destructive practices. Methods such as commercial trawling and spotter planes using technology to locate and capture a huge mass of fish are depleting our last vast source of wild food and creating a global food scarce as the human population rises.
As a fishmonger I spend alot of my time researching and going out of my way to find out where each fish that I sell (and support) comes from, how it’s caught and how long it takes to get to me and how fresh it is when I sell it. I won’t sell fish that is more than 7 days out of the water. This makes it extra challanging to me as a fishmonger to buy and select product, utilize or eat myself without generating loss or waste.
I like to suport local as well. By buying more local or regional, especially in the case of seafood, you are cutting out the middle guy and are more able develop solid relationships and trust with those who sell to you. In the United States (other countries as well) state, federal and even regional fishery boards are made up of a team of scientists, environmentalists, fishermen and anayists that regulate and control safe, sustainable, and fair fishing laws. Technology advancements methods such as tagging and radar are showing us where there are alot of a specific species and also where species lack to control and protect areas where the regenaration rate is lower.
Over the next posts from me, the fishmonger, I will lend to responsible vs. unresponsible fishing methods, sources for sustainable seafood and information, and just notes on people and places that are doing the right thing. As Bubba from Forest Gump put it, “Thats about it..” (for now..)
I am a butcher. I work in a local market, breaking down beef, lamb, pork and goat every week. For me, meat is money. With that being said, let the ethical epicurean exploration commence!
It is easy to slip into meta-ethics here. What is life? Is a carrot’s life the same as a cow? Why or why not? I won’t do that, but it is worth thinking about.
If we approach “ethics” in terms of what is best for humanity, eating meat is absolutely ethical. The meat industry, from the Swift Family of Companies or Cargill to small, local butchers (like the one I work for), employ thousands of people in this country. It is ethical to employ people. It is ethical to continue operations of third or fourth generation farms which have been producing quality, wholesome meat. It is not ethical to plant nutrient depleting soy and corn in the same plots of land which fed herds of cattle and thereby numerous families.
The by-products of the meat industry are integral to a huge number of industries; health and beauty, pet foods, and medicine at the forefront. One direct line that many of us see and use daily: pet food. Our pets don’t eat grass (except when ill), we don’t want to feed them corn (I’m looking at you, housewives on the Blue Buffalo commercials), and we are concerned with “all-natural” ways of feeding them. It would not be ethical to only raise livestock for the consumption of our pets. Look at the bottle of hand lotion sitting in your medicine cabinet. Chances are it contains gelatin. It would not be ethical to raise livestock only to procure their gelatin for hand creams. I have personally sold pig hearts for students of medicine to study, pig eyes for optometry students, pig skin for medical students to practice suturing, and whole pig heads for dental students to study dentation. It is ethical to consume the disposable products of the medical industry.
It would be wholly unethical to release our domesticated livestock into the wild. These animals, after generations of breeding programs, would not be able to survive a month out of their enclosures. Should they manage to survive, they would become pests (think feral hogs in the southern US). We would then find it necessary to kill them so that they don’t destroy the crops which we painstakingly planted in their former habitat.
Consuming meat is not the ethical issue here. The production of meat, however, is the issue. Though I mention Swift and Cargill, they are certainly not exemplary. They serve their purpose, as they are, but if all of those people worked in smaller, more controlled environments, there would be far fewer issues with meat in this country. With smaller operations, prices are higher, and product is better controlled. Higher prices mean less consumption. Less consumption leads to better overall health. I do not champion perpetual Peter Luger-esque portions of porterhouse. To that end, I, a butcher, eat meat twice a week at most.
Ethics are subjective. Respect is key. Food is love.
I will be writing a response to the NY Times, based on their requests for readers to submit short essays regarding whether the consumption of animal proteins is eithical or not. I’ll post my entry here at a later date.
Being a butcher is not the easiest thing to do…especially when you are primarily vegetarian. I grew up in a 90% vegetarian household, and still hold true to that today. So, why am I a butcher? I have no idea. I suppose it started as a sort of rebellion (my step-dad is the vegetarian), and it just stuck. I love the fact that I have a skilled trade, that I am in concert with a long line of artisans. Unfortunately, it is a dying art (no pun intended), and is not as well respected in the US as it is in other countries, especially in Europe. I’m not entirely certain why that is the case, although it must have something to do with McDonalds or Monsanto. Everything evil and awful in the world can be traced back to either McDonalds, Wal Mart, or Monsanto. Or maybe this Kony guy has something to do with it.
Butchers, as a rule, tend to make light of pretty much any subject, joke about things that really shouldn’t be joked about, are crass, ill tempered, and ugly. Lucky for me, I fit into all but the last two of those stereotypes.