I feel the need to warn you right off that there is a picture at the end of this post of a cow having been slaughtered and in the process of getting its hide taken off. It’s what happens to cows (and other animals) when they are slaughtered and their parts are used for, among other things, food. When you sit down to enjoy that nice piece of steak, you’re eating flesh from an animal that once used to be alive and — if it was lucky enough — roamed the prairies, eating grass and stuff. Even if you eat a tuna sandwich, you’re eating flesh. It’s meat.
It’s a different kind of protein.
It’s not a bad thing. I’m not writing this as an indictment of meat-eaters. I’m not going to go all judgmental on you and tell you to not eat meat because the animal that was killed to feed you that meat had a family… Or a face. It’s one of those silly facts of life that we grow animals to feed us. It’s one of those silly facts about nutrition that we humans have adapted to eat meat, and that there are huge advantages to eating meat. Compare any population that doesn’t eat meat to one that does, and you see how the meat-eaters have, on average, better health outcomes.
Yes, there are differences at the individual level, and that’s why I write about “populations” more than individuals. Some people, because of X or Y reasons, should not eat meat. A more vegetarian or vegan diet is better for them. But, in the aggregate, we omnivores were made to eat meat. And that much concentrated protein, vitamins, and minerals are too good to completely disregard.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know where their meat comes from. They go to the store and buy it and go home and cook it. There is little to any thought about the work that goes into getting that meat on their plates. (From a public health perspective, there is little to any thought about the work into keeping that food safe.) Sure, they complain about the prices of meat, eggs, cheese, or milk, but they don’t seem to realize that it is hard work to get all those things to the table.
Is there a benefit to knowing? I think that there is. It certainly has made me more appreciative of what people do on a day-to-day basis in order for me to be well fed. (A little too well fed, if you ask me.) I’m more willing to pay a little bit more for meat because I know how hard the people that work at meat packing plants work every day, and the dangers that they face from repetitive motion injuries. And it’s not just meats. People work very hard to pick fruits and vegetables and raise plants.
I learned to appreciate meat at a very young age when my grandfather took me to the slaughterhouse in Chihuahua. He would go there on a daily basis to pick out and pick up the hides from cows and horses that were being slaughtered. So I got to see these animals being killed, skinned, and cleaned. (I distinctly remember seeing the organs and wondering what each one was.) It wasn’t anything that scared me or scarred me. Grandpa made it clear that this was the “circle of life”, that all that meat was going to go to feed people. (Even the horse meat, I think.)
As I stated above, there’s a picture coming up of a cow being skinned. You’ve been forewarned…
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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