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Feb 18, 2008 01:04 PM

eating ethically (as a 'hound)

Hearing about the massive beef recall in the US caused me to pronounce that I would just not eat anymore meat or poultry from factory farms. (Of course, this isn't the first time I'm thought of more or less "ethical" eating, since factory farming techniques have been well documented.)

Anyway, I can easily (& more expensively) buy humanely raised food to eat at home. But, what happens when I go out to eat? Am I supposed to be a modified vegetarian who eats fish? Or, should I ask where the beef/poultry is from? Is there some other way to tell?

I'd love to hear from people who have wrestled with this issue....thanks.

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  1. In the UK, restaurants that have ethically sourced their supplies are normally pretty quick to mention it on the menu. I work to the assumption that if it isnt mentioned then it isnt ethical. Sometimes I have to swallow my principles along with the cruelly raised chicken.

    At home all my meat and poultry is usually organic or free-range.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Harters

      That's what I figured....if they are going to be "ethical," they sure as hell are going to market it. And, as someone who pretty much frequents dives--ethnic and otherwise--it is going to be tough to try to live up to my principles. While I really doubt this will ever happen, in the very back of my mind there's a fear that being an "ethical" meat eater will turn me into one of those annoying and joyless people who pick apart everything and eat to live....Imagine!


    2. Given that organic, humanely raised meat and poultry is more expensive, a restaurant would be likely to tout that on its menu. I try to buy the humane meats for my own personal consumption, but I wouldn't demand that a host do the same. If I am invited to dinner, I just eat what I am served without trying to act morally superior or otherwise putting the host in an awkward position. Myself, I don't eat much meat to begin with, but for people who consume a lot, cost might be a factor in foregoing the more expensive humane meats. And if I am hosting a dinner which will require me to buy a lot of meat or poulty, I do usually buy the factory farmed stuff. Not rich, just a bit of a hypocrite I guess.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nofunlatte

        I don't know if it's hypocritical or just a reality. It would be boring to stick to your principles all the time. Where's the fun in that? ;-)

      2. First of, I am psyched you started this thread, secondly -- I am surprised the mods haven't taken it down. Perhaps they realized that consuming food is not something that happens in a vacuum, and that many issues go into the choices we make about our food.

        That said, the recent reports on animal cruelty in slaughterhouses wasn't/isn't news to me, but it once again made my stomach turn ...

        I was a vegetarian for a good 2 years in my teens -- not because I opposed eating animals in general, but because of the incredible mistreatment that goes on in those factories.

        I find it difficult around here to get a lot of organic meat (and does that even mean humanely raised? I know for a fact that regulations about that are much tighter in the EU), whereas in Berlin you have the choice between many different butchers who specialize in selling "happy meat", as I like to call it. Is it more expensive? You bet your ass it is. But with those recent horrible images in mind, I have absolutely no problem spending more, if it means the animals are treated with decency.

        One of my favorite Greek/Mediterranean places in Berlin also only offers free-range lamb, beef, chickens, etc., but of course that is not the only resto I frequent, nor would I shun a "regular" resto that sells factory meat.

        I admit that I am less adamant about it in the US, simply because of convenience. The crux of getting older & more pragmatic, I suppose.

        1. "Ethical eating, like ethical living, is not about absolutes. It's about doing the best you're willing and able to do – and nurturing a will to keep doing better."

          I have found the above quote to fit my view on it all. I am a modified vegetarian who eats fish - but this often runs into problems with farm raising, over fishing and other industry practices.
          I try 1st to eat local foods and 2nd to eat organic or ethically conscious- Its not always an option. I look for restaurants and special seasonal menus that value these issues, and I try to recommend and frequent them 1st. Fortunently there seem to be more and more of these places taking this issue to heart. and they aren't all college kid co-ops juice bar joints

          Being from Baltimore I have an especially hard time when it comes to MD Blue crabs- I feel they are a part of my heritage and somewhat a part of my gastronomic identity, yet they battle extinction every year. I reserve them for special occasions and donate to the save the bay fund.

          1. Ask questions.

            Support local produce.

            Grow your own (veggies that is, not meat!)

            Ask more questions.

            Don't get too hung up on the whole "ethical" thing.

            That's what I've done. I grow my own pumpkins and potatoes, and have some stone fruit trees. WHEN I CAN, I make an active choice to buy ethical foods (I am in Australia, so I have a pretty wide choice).

            I started off by deciding NEVER to buy anything but organic free range eggs. That was my base line.

            If I can't afford them, then we don';t have eggs. I never compromise.

            BUT, there are some days when vegan-friendly, organic, carbon-ffotprint modified ethical lamb chops are just WAAAAAY out ot the budget. So I don't beat myself up. I buy a small amount of "normal" meat and offset it with some garden veggies.

            The thing I found was that many places (at least here in OZ) ARE selling local ethical foods.. they just didn't know it. My butcher had never heard of S.O.L.E until I started asking questions.

            And now more people are asking about things like single source meats and ethical raising of beasts, you can see that the market is growing. Hell, here in OZ even the big spewpermarket chains have recently jumped on the bandwagon:

            Our very own kmh blogs about it here:


            I have 5 kids and live in the suburbs of Melbourne, and with very little thought and pre-planning, I can usually make pretty good ethical choices for all of our meals.

            1 Reply
            1. re: purple goddess

              vegan friendly lamb chops? now that is something!