The Great Meat Debate

I’ve been on a bit of a mushroom kick lately. Buttons and portobellos aren’t cutting it, and I’ve been craving some denser, heavier, meatier mushrooms. I’ve been dabbling in dried shiitakes, fresh shiitakes, and oyster mushrooms, but my favorite so far have been King Oyster Mushrooms.

They don’t taste like oysters, but they do have that umami flavor, and the stalks have a kind of calamari-ish chew to them.

Y’see, sometimes I crave meat. Lately it’s been chicken. And most of the time I start to crave meat, it’s later at night. And the only store open is the local supermarket. And all they really sell are factory farmed chickens. But my god are their prices dirt cheap. But in an effort to curb my late night factory-farmed chicken cravings, I’ve been trying to stock up on mushrooms as a “meaty” substitution to avoid buying non-“happy” chicken.

Okay, so you guys know I have some neurotic tendencies. And basically whenever I see chicken in the grocery store, all I can think of is this:

All I can imagine are factorys crammed with chickens yelling at me (I would have drawn more chickens, but one was hard enough). This is a result of reading a bunch of different things about the ills of factory farming, plus whatever other random gossip I’ve heard along the years and misconstrued in my own head. I’m not saying it’s correct or incorrect, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

If I’m feeling like I’m craving beef I see:

Yeah. I’m weird. I know. Oddly enough, I have pretty much gotten rid of craving pork at most supermarkets after reading about Smithfield/Cook’s, and that’s pretty much where all of our pork comes from in Albany supermarkets. Maybe I should imagine stuff like that, only adding in cows and chickens with pigs.

So basically, I have two options.
Option 1: Buy the factory farmed meat from the grocery store. It’s convenient because I can shop there late at night because I am bad at planning ahead. And the meat is pretty freakin’ cheap. But it only tastes okay. And it’s probably lived a life of mostly torture. But it’s there.

Option two involves remembering to buy meat ahead of time from a market or farmer. I feel much less guilty about these meat purchases, since the animals purportedly live better lives. I imagine sunshine and happy animals when I buy this meat. Kind of like this:

A little more expensive, but they taste so much… meatier. Actually, depending on where you buy your “happier” meat from, it can be a lot more expensive. But if you do a little searching, you can find some pretty good options. Unfortunately, I either balk at the prices half of the time, or forget about this option entirely. I tend to do option two in spurts.

If you haven’t been able to tell, meat sourcing gives me all sorts of agita:

I tend to go back and forth with some inner dialogue about the pros and cons of the grocery store meat and the happier meat. I tend to waffle and feel guilty if I buy meat from the grocery store. But all I buy now are chickens, and they’re probably the stupidest animals out of the pigs and cows and chickens, so in some way, I feel like I should feel less bad. Then again I’d probably eat a dolphin if given the chance, and they’re one of the smartest animals on the planet, so I probably shouldn’t go on animal intelligence on this theory… (SEE WHAT I MEAN?! The agita!)

But any way, so yeah, sometimes I buy chicken meat from the grocery store. I try not to, but sometimes I just can’t resist.

And then when I think those thoughts above and put the meat in my cart all I can think of are:

A bunch of angry people yelling at me about how wrong it is and what a jerk I am for buying it. I think they’re a combo of my inner dialogue, my vegan sister, militant vegetarians, and some animal rights people. To be honest, I’m not sure why I keep buying chicken from the supermarket if this is what I put myself through each time, but I think the “I wanna eat it nooowww” part of me wins out every time.

So lately I think that maybe reducing my meat consumption even more might be good, and I don’t need to eat just vegetables. I can eat mushrooms! King Oyster Mushrooms to the rescue!

As far as I know, mushrooms don’t feel pain. And I’m pretty sure they’re cool with growing in close conditions. So I feel no guilt buying mushrooms. And you can eat a ton of mushrooms and not get fat (unless you drench them in butter), which is also a pretty big bonus. And they have that meaty texture. I don’t really count them as a vegetable. To me mushrooms are like vegetarian meat.

So I compromised last night. Or at least I did what felt like a compromise. I reeeallllyyy wanted chicken, so, okay, I bought some. I went through the whole rigamarole above, but in the end, Albany John and I split one breast in a chicken and mushroom stirfry with a crapton of shanghai bok choy. I mean, yeah, the meat wasn’t the super fluffy and wonderful “happy” meat I’d ideally like, but we both split a breast for a meal. I mean, that’s baby steps, right? Lower consumption of chicken because of oyster mushroom slices.

So hopefully I’ll avoid this conundrum in the future, ’cause I thought ahead and bought some meat from a “happier” place. Now I can at least thaw some meat out when the craving hits.
And then I can feel guilty and vaguely uneasy about other things!
  1. Hilarious!

    PS – Try Chanterelles. They're nutty, hearty, and delicious. A little goes a long way so don't be turned away by the price.

  2. Love this post.

    I share your dilemma. We eat meat a few times a week, often as an accent. It is ridiculously expensive to get happy meat, especially as a family of 4/5. I stock up on good bacon (Niman Ranch) and use that a lot as an accent but really we end up eating a lot of vegetable/pasta based dishes. And eggs. Eggs are my saving because I can always afford eggsat the farmer's market.

    With your meat dilemma and Mr. Fussy's meat resolution, it would seem like we have the beginnings of a meat buying club…find happy, local pig or cow and go in on one. Ever consider anything like that?

  3. Yes meat buying does leave a dilemma, especially as I am not going to give up meat even if my wife has me eating fish twice a week.

    Most of our pork and a lot of the lamb is pasture raised, little of the beef is anything but feed lot, chicken is mostly factory as well.

    Any way I followed the crumbs from Jon in Albany and his post about Charcutepalooza.

  4. You can get a share of 60 pounds of organic, grass-fed meat for something like $130 from Tilldale Farms in Hoosick. They'll be doing a once a month drop off in Delmar starting very soon. Email JoAnn at Tilldale or Cheryl at Franzen's Scenic Acres (she has pasture-raised, organic free-running chickens). They're organizing the monthly drop-off for Delmar Farmer's Market vendors. We've been trading bread for beef, pork & chicken all year and boy does it all taste fantastic (plus your belly won't be doing all that flip flopping after dinner from the antibiotics & hormones).

  5. Sorry for the second post, but Heldeberg Market (Albany's online Farmer's Market) sells grass-fed meats too. Delivered to you door. Pricier than Price Chopper? Sure, but way better for you & more humane.

  6. DelSo said:

    It almost seems like we, as a society, have gone full circle and returned to our hunting and foraging ways as a means of obtaining healthy food. I wish I knew the person who first decided to pump animals up on hormones… I'd show him some PMS hormones and rip him a new one for sure – dumbass.

  7. I second the vote for Heldeberg Market. They are family friends- good people and all the meat, produce and other goodies they sell are from local farms that are sustainably run. They deliver to anywhere in Albany county.

  8. John V. said:

    I'm so glad you posted about this! I don't know anything about Albany, as I live in Central Florida (totally different world), but my wife and spent a long time searching for alternatives to factory farm meat. We found a surprising amount of local meat, and in the process discovered a LOT of reasons not to support industrial farming. I'm going to use one of thee illustrations in a post on our blog. I'll credit you and link to your blog. I hope that's OK! Good luck with your happy meat eating adventure.

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