Tag Archives: meat

My Inappropriate Blog Title

Three weeks ago my blog title and WordPress handle, iwishiwerevegan, became a reality.

Having been a vegetarian for about seven months, I had slowly been pushing myself to incorporate more plant-based substitutions – little changes, like Silk’s Vanilla Almond Milk for cow’s milk, Earth Balance for butter – all of which have been easy.  Then one day, I decided to go the whole day on just  plants.  And why not another?  And why not…

Mirroring my transition to a vegetarian diet, months of piecemeal thoughts and reading up finally allowed me make an overnight switch to a vegan diet.

I’ve realized that I enjoy writing about my experiences, reading about the food journeys of other bloggers, and above all, researching more about agriculture, food, and health.  Sorry for the absence, but I know you’ll forgive me – please keep this conversation about food going, and I look forward to being a part of it.

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Filed under My Journey, Uncategorized

Really, USDA?

I don’t understand.

According to The Daily, the United States Department of Agriculture will continue purchasing BPI Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings, also known as “pink slime,” for school lunches.  Consisting of connective tissues and other scrap parts of cows normally unavailable for human consumption, this ground “meat” is then treated with ammonia to eliminate salmonella and other bacteria.  The USDA does limit the amount of pink slime that a school meal can contain (15%), but considering that McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King have completely banned its use, I wonder why the government still deems it acceptable for students’ consumption.

I’m not normally one for writing to my government representatives, but in this case, I don’t know what else to do.  Having previously interned at a government agency, I know that the USDA really has no say over deciding what kind of meat to use – they simply enforce laws that Congress creates.  If you feel as compelled by this issue as I do right now, consider letting your representatives know that you do care.  Some poor intern will probably read my e-mail and respond to it with a pre-drafted response, but at least I can be another tally mark of people who have written in about the USDA’s purchasing of Lean Beef Trimmings.  If enough people care, then so will our representatives.  Hopefully.

Contact your reps:
http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Watch Jamie Oliver explain the “pink slime” process:

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Filed under Big Issues

Workers’ Rights

Food processing came up in my basic Microeconomics course, of all places.  We were assigned to read an article called “To Make a Tender Chicken” by Barbara Goldoftas from 1989.  While we were supposed to be learning about how changes in labor, etc. can affect costs, I was focused on other aspects, such as the story of Mary Smith.  After working in a chicken processing plant for only seven months, the repetitive nature of her job had debilitated her hands so much that she now has difficulty holding items due to a newly developed carpal tunnel syndrome.  Also, the article discusses bullying tactics the plant bosses used to keep workers from seeking adequate medical treatment (such as firing those that do).

So how is it looking today?

Thinking back to when I first watched Food, Inc., I remember being horrified that meat companies would specifically advertise to immigrant workers.  I wasn’t horrified about the workers being immigrants, but rather that when immigration enforcement came through the facility, arresting and deporting the workers, the company simply restocked on new immigrant workers without a care in the world.

Even the United States Department of Labor can’t make working at a slaughterhouse sound appealing:

Butchers and meat cutters, poultry and fish cutters and trimmers, and slaughterers and meatpackers often work in cold, damp rooms where meat is kept to prevent spoiling. In addition, long periods of standing and repetitious physical tasks make the work tiring. Working with sharp knives on slippery floors makes butchers and meat cutters more susceptible to injury than almost all other workers in the economy; however, injury rates for the animal slaughtering and processing industry have been declining. Injuries include cuts and occasional amputations, which occur when knives, cleavers, or power tools are used improperly. Also, repetitive slicing and lifting often lead to cumulative trauma injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back strains.

– “Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

Supporting human rights is one reason why someone might go vegetarian, and right now I’m glad that I am one.  I know that there is more I can do – buying local, for example, or researching the companies I buy from.  I’m making small steps, but I know I will get to a more sustainable lifestyle one day.

To read more about slaughterhouse workers:

An article from the Food Empowerment Project

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Positive Responses

Two nights ago at dinner, I commented on how delicious the kung pao tofu tasted.  My roommate has now started exploring the vegetarian section more often, and she had also put some on her plate.  Although she wasn’t a fan of this particular tofu seasoning (“Too spicy”), she offered some tofu to her boyfriend, who was dining with us.  He liked it.  And suddenly, without prompting, he shared that he has been eating less meat, and that he hasn’t had a steak in a long time.  He and my roommate began jockeying to speak about how each was trying to eat less meat.  I happily took it all in.

I was happy for a few reasons, mainly that my no-more-meat lifestyle was received positively and even supported by friends.  I was glad to introduce my friend to a new food, and the fact that we were even having a conversation about eating less meat reminded me that not all of my friends think I’m crazy.  Which is a nice feeling.

 ***

My second round of tofu tacos is almost gone, thanks to my hungry suitemates.  My roommate even wants to buy the tofu next time, and we’re going to mix it with rice to add extra texture in the next batch.

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Filed under My Journey

This Vegetarian Still Loves Meat

Sitting in the backseat of my friend’s car, my heart sank as my friend described the sandwich place she was taking us to for dinner and the amazing deli meats they had.  I suddenly realized that, whenever I went to a sandwich shop, I always ordered a ham and cheese sandwich or a meatball sub.  Both of which are no longer options thanks to my newfound vegetarian lifestyle.

I’m not big on salads (something I’m working on), but I figured that, if nothing else, I could probably get them to throw one together.

We arrived at sandwich place, and to my surprise, they had a vegan section on the menu!  So I ventured to try something new – some sort of wrap with soyrizo.

The biggest challenge so far about being vegetarian is that I previously ate some form of meat at almost every lunch and dinner.  Suddenly I am forced to rethink how I structure my meals.  What I formerly considered side dishes (rice, vegetables, beans) have now become main dishes.

I am most worried about continuing to eat properly as a new vegetarian.  Especially at places where I am used to eating meat as the main part of my meal, I need to learn (and really, just to accept) foods that can, and should, be the main dish.

On another note, I realized today that being vegetarian affects the food I eat from my Cuban heritage.  My favorite medianoche sandwiches are stuffed with ham and turkey, and many of the little pastries I love are full of chicken or ham.  Yes, Cuban food does offer vegetarian options, but I wonder if I would eat meat occasionally in the future to feel more connected to this side of me.  It’s something I’ll worry about only if the time comes.

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Filed under My Journey