Script for Episode 011: The Ethics of Meat

| April 3, 2012

Bison tenderloin with roasted baby potatoes, asparagus, balsamic onions, and Worcestershire sour cream with a Sriracha inlay, garnished with lemon balm

Hey No Satiation Nation. We’re talking today about the ethics of meat, but before we get all heavy, I’ve got to announce this: I’ve got a new mic, can you tell? I feel like Chet Baker, here. Not so much with the trumpet as with the voice. You know how he does that breathy, crooning kind of thing? That reminds of David Byrne’s TED talk, “How Architecture Helped Music Evolve” Byrne sais Chet Baker’s vocal stylings were made possible by microphone technologies.

[Byrne excerpt]

So I got a new mic. It’s rented, actually. I’m not making money on this thing. Not yet. We’ll see. Speaking of not making any money and trumpet players and stuff, if anyone wants to buy a trumpet, hit me up at will at no satiation dot com. I’ve got to sell that thing to take my wife out for a fancy dinner for our twelve year anniversary on April 8. I guess I should give a shout out to her for sticking with me all that time. Also, I should give a shout out to her longtime friend, Natasha Manley who sang a wonderful rendition of My Funny Valentine at our wedding. And she recorded another version to save my bacon on our anniversary a couple of years ago. So shout out to Natasha. Thanks for being awesome and having such a great voice.

Wait, this is not a podcast about music or audio recording. That’s another podcast. You are food nerds, not audio gearheads. As food nerds, you all would have loved the edible book festival at library at The University of Texas at Austin. People had to make book themed dishes and then they were judged. This year’s winner was Tart of Darkness. It was a chocolate tart. Check out the look tab of for some pics.

Ok. That’s enough stalling. We have to get into the meat of this podcast. Or we have to get into talking about meat on this podcast. Shout out to Travis for the heads up on this: The Ethicist column in The New York Times published an article, called “Calling All Carnivores” It was a call for entries for people to tell a panel of judges why it’s ethical to eat meat. This is not going to be preaching to choir, here, folks. The judges panel is made up of “Peter Singer, Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer and Andrew Light.” They are not all vegetarians, but they are people who think about the food they eat, and they have raised questions of ethics regarding meat. Check out the read tab of the site later this week for a link to the contest, but briefly here it is: You are invited make the strongest possible case in 600 words about why it’s ethical to eat meat. I’m crafting my entry right now. In think about this, I had to re-listen to David Foster Wallace reading his wonderful article for Gourmet Magazine, “Consider the Lobster.” Wallace could not have stuck to 600 words on this issue if he tried. In fact, I’d venture to say he had a 600 word footnote. But he is such a nuanced voice on the issue. Here’s the excerpt.

[David Foster Wallace excerpt]

We really lost a great thinker when David Foster Wallace died. The force of his prose and the thoroughness of his thinking is astounding, and one might say, exhausting. I feel like I can hear the exhaustion and depression in his voice in that reading. The nuance and thoughtfulness that he exhibits is the type of thing I aspire to in this podcast. When I say it’s a podcast for food nerds, I’m talking about anyone who has the patience to ingest this whole article, either by ear or by eyes. So go get that article “Consider the Lobster” if you haven’t already.

Another thing that I came across in my research today is the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. In it, he talks about his up-and-down relationship with vegetarianism. This is narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross:

[Jonathan Todd Ross reading Jonathan Safran Foer excerpt]

I really get where David Foster Wallance and Jonathan Safran Foer are coming from. You can hear the ambivalence in those pieces. I get this. I grew up outside of Kansas City and I’ve lived in Texas since I was 19. Those are meat centric places. It’s not just that meat is what people like to eat. Places like Kansas City and Fort Worth were built on meat. They were cow towns. Their economies are still wrapped up in meat. So, just like oil, it can be hard to just opt out of meat all together. There’s a great line in that Chuck Palahniuk book, Lullaby, where this vegetarian character named Oyster says something about a bean salad that someone brings to a vegetarian pot luck. The salad has Worcestershire Sauce in the dressing and Oyster says “That means anchovies. That means meat. That means cruelty and death.” This is the slippery slope. This what Wallace was talking about. Do you really want to think about the scope of your compassion? Do you really want to think about how far outside your own species you will extend your kindness, compassion, and empathy? It’s heavy, man. It’s so much of our culture. I’m going to go wait in that line at Franklin Barbecue next week as part of my anniversary celebration. I’m probably going to eat more than my share of meat. In a recent article, Mark Bittman, who I mentioned was one of the judges of this contest writes “Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average.” I bet when I go to Franklin, I’ll eat more than 8 ounces of meat. That means I’m planning to consume more than twice the global average of meat to celebrate my anniversary. And that’s just one of the places we’re planning on going.

But there might be hope. Bittman notes that there has been a trend “more expensive but []… higher quality” food and suggests that “meat may become a treat rather than a routine” that maybe “the half-pound-a-day meat era will end.”

I’m not going to give away my argument, just yet, but I suspect it will something along those lines. We need to think about what foods we want to eat at every meal, and what foods do we want to eat at special occasions? How do we want to honor the animals that we kill for special occasions? The whole point of no satiation is that we have to consider our food for a minute before we shove it in our faces. I’m talking to myself here, as much as anyone. I try not to eat fast food, but I can’t say I’ve never walked right out of a yoga studio and across the street to a get some fried chicken from a gas station. I actually did that once when lived in Key West. And, just this morning, I shoved Chick-fil-a in my foodhole in the car because I had a coupon for a free chicken biscuit and I’m broke. It was like that scene from Don Delillo’s White Noise when they are eating fried chicken in the car. He writes:

the car was sufficient for our needs. We wanted to eat, not look around at other people. We wanted to fill our stomachs and get it over with. We didn’t need light and space. We certainly didn’t need to face each other across the table as we ate, building a subtle and complex cross-network of signals and codes. We were content to eat facing in the same direction, looking only inches past our hands. There was a kind of rigor in this. Denise brought the food out to the car and distributed paper napkins. We settled in to eat. We ate fully dressed, in hats and heavy coats, without speaking, ripping into chicken parts with our hands and teeth.

That was me and my wife this morning on the way to work. Man, this turned out to be a cornucopia of turn of the century postmodern writing about food. Mostly by dorky white guys, but that’s ok. You all are food nerds. You can take it.

Alright, that’s the show for this week. We’ll continue the discussion about the ethics of meat next time. I interviewed a butcher today, so that will be in there. You all are blowing up out there. My audience keeps growing and I must thank you all heartily for listening. Folks, remember the twitter deal. Follow nosatiation on twitter and DM me your mailing address and I’ll send you a sticker. I need twitter followers. But I only have like seven stamps. But, look, I’ll get more if I need to.

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About the Author ()

Will Burdette has cooked in restaurants and institutions, written food reviews for an alt weekly, and volunteered for food related non-profits. He's on the board of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. He's working on a dissertation at the intersection of food and new media.

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