Sunday evening, after I finished cooking a couple deer steaks in a large skillet on my stove, I got to thinking about some of the things I’ve been hearing concerning food.

The past four years — probably longer, I’ve heard countless terms like “local foods” and “sustainable systems,” and “compassionate eating, humanely raised, green sources” and so on.

Many of these things come from good intentions and there’s a lot of good to be found here.

Enough is enough

But the fact of the matter is, just like I can eat too much of my favorite foods and begin to get a little sick, I’m starting to get sick of this so-called “conscientious eating” thing.

I’ve been a conscientious eater as long as I can remember. And I have no regrets for anything I’ve eaten nor have I ever felt “guilty,” except for maybe a few times when I over-ate or stole a bite of something before I was allowed.

The first thing I’m conscientious of is where my food comes from, and I don’t just mean the name of the store, a region on a map or a specific farmer.

What I’m talking about is belief-based — the belief in a higher power as sort of the supreme supplier and provider. The maker of rain and sun, ourselves and the Earth we inhabit.

You might believe something else and that’s fine.

But when I eat a meal, I give thanks to God for providing the things farmers cannot, and I’m thankful for the farmers and growers who use what is provided to them, to grow and prepare my food.

Here’s something else I’m conscious of. Buying local foods is great when it’s available and affordable, but if I find something that looks good and it’s from Florida, New Jersey or Honduras, I don’t hesitate to buy it.

When you buy “distant” you help growers in other places around the globe, sometimes in places less fortunate, and that’s not so bad.

Eating meats

What really gets my beef is the idea that I’m more “compassionate” if I eat fruits and vegetables instead of meat.

I read a CNN article this weekend by animal rights activist Gene Baur, asking readers to “eat more compassionately” in 2012. What he’s really asking is (no surprise) for more people to become vegan, and more to feel “guilty” over eating animal protein.

I eat “compassionately” all the time, but I don’t eat the “cruelty-free tofu scramble” Gene suggests. I call it scrambled eggs, and I use real, true eggs produced by real hard working poultry farmers who take their jobs as food providers seriously.

Nor do I drink “milk made from almonds, rice, oats, coconut, soy or hemp.” I drink milk made from cows, raised and milked by multigenerational farmers who get up before the sun, to see that their animals are cared for and in good order.

Another view

For me, compassionate eating is respecting the work and sweat of those who grew and prepared the meal I’m eating — giving the animals the care and treatment they require, and ensuring that I have a well-balanced, good tasting meal — from the green beans to the mashed potatoes, to the steak placed neatly beside them.

Gene writes, “It’s 2012 — isn’t it time we stop eating foods produced by industries that treat animals like unfeeling commodities and start eating in a way that reflects the healthy, evolved, compassionate society we aspire to be?”

And I write, “Isn’t it time we quit compromising with individuals and organizations who are against animal agriculture, who do not consume animal products in the first place, and who want to see you and other livestock farmers out of business?”

Sure, let’s eat more compassionately in 2012, but let’s give some thought to sound-good phrases like “compassionate eating” and what they really mean, and who they affect.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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