Meat is making a comeback with some unlikely converts. Yes, my husband has started eating meat again after a seven-year hiatus as an ethically motivated and health-conscious vegetarian. About a year ago, we arrived at a compromise: I would eath less meat-choosing mostly beef, pork and poultry produced by local California ranchers without the use of hormones or antibiotics-and he would indulge me by sharing a steak on occasion. But arriving at that happy medium wasn't as straightforward as it sounds. In the three years we've been together, several turns of evenst have made both of us rethink our choices and decide that eating meat selectively is better for the planet and our own health. And judging by the conversations we've had with friends and acquaintances, we're not the only ones who believe this to be true.
For Andrew and about a dozen people in our circle who have recently converted from vegetarianism, eating sustainable meat purchased from small farmers is a new form of activism-a way of striking a blow against the factory farming of livestock that books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma describe so damningly. Pollan estols the virtues of independent, small-scall producers who raise pasture-fed livestock in a sustainable and ethical manner. In contrast, he provides a compelling critique of factory farms, which cram thousands of cows, pigs or chickens into rows of cages in warehouses, feed them drugs to plump up their meet and fight off the illnesses caused by these inhumane conditions, and produce innumerable tons of environmentally destructive animal waste.
The terms "grass fed" and "pasture raised"-meaning that an animal was allowed to graze the old-fashioned way instead of being fed an unnatural and difficult-to-digest diet of mostly corn and other gran-have now entered the food-shopper's lexicon. But Andre and I didn't fully understand what those phrases meant until we got to know Greg Nauta of Rocky Canyon Farms. Nauta is a small-scale rancher and farmer from Atascadero, California, who grows organic vegetables and raises about 35 animals on pastureland. Since we met him at the Hollywood Farmer's Marker a year ago, it has become even clearer to us that supporting guys like him-by seeking out and paying a premium for sustainably raised meat-is the right thing for us to do. Once again, the consumer decides and the free market will provide. So much for nannystating our menus.