The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

Conscientous Carnivoring January 15, 2010

Credit: Apartment Therapy

This summer I heard the fact that if you wanted to make the most impact, you would be better off becoming a vegetarian than replacing your Hummer with a Prius.

Well, I immediately began cutting down on my meat consumption. But as with most eco-friendly tips that are thrown about these days, it wasn’t that simple.

You see, cutting down on the amount of meat you consume is a great thing to do. In a world where water and food resources are being strained, it makes sense to eat your calories in corn itself. It takes 16 pounds of grains to produce one pound of beef. Yikes!

Here’s the catch: the factoids above assume you are eating corn fed beef. Mmm, corn-fed beef. Sounds great, doesn’t it? If you go to the fancy steak house, Lewnes, in Annapolis, they tell you a beautiful story about the rich marbling of their corn-fed beef from Texas. But the best meat, the meat that is delicious and – more importantly – safe when it comes to food-born illness, is grass fed beef from your local farmer.

Yep, if you can ask the name of the cow or pig or chicken or turkey that provided your dinner, then you know that farmer took extra special care of that animal. Grass fed beef is more sustainable naturally, because the cows eat grass – not corn – which keeps corn from being taken out of the food chain. If everyone ate grass fed beef instead of corn-fed beef, that would reinsert 80% of the corn grown in the US back into the mouth of Americans.  Grass fed beef also doesn’t require a bunch of pesticides and hormones.

I learned all of this from Michael Pollan, and it changed my view of meat and food.

So that leads me to my new designation: Conscientious Carnivore. It’s a growing movement that is turning vegetarians back into carnivores. This article this morning from The Gothamist turned me onto the phrase, and I love it. It means that you can enjoy sizzling bacon, as long as you know that pig was free of hormones, was raised sustainably, and got to wiggle its little corkscrew tail in happiness, instead of shoved into disgusting pen with a bajillion other pigs.

It means you are still eating sustainably, and showing the meat industry that you have standards when it comes to meat. That you want safe food, delicious food, food that doesn’t take corn out of the mouths of those who need it.*

So be a conscientious carnivore! Head to the farmers market, or almost as good, Whole Foods, and grab yourself some grass fed beef, free-range chicken, or scrumptious bacon. And read this book. I will.

*The corn fed to cows is not edible by humans. But think of what the land used to grow it could be used for instead. Sweet corn! Orchards full of apples! More sustainable grown beef!


Vegan shoes. Ethical or a rip-off? November 1, 2009

Filed under: experiment,green angst,Green fashion,Places to go — Alden @ 11:56 pm
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I like leather. I like how soft and smooth and nice it feels on my feet as it hugs them on a cold day. I like the way it looks when it’s stitched with heavy thread and studded with metal rivets. It seems substantial, like it’s a real investment in my wardrobe that will last long enough for me to hand it to my daughter some day.


I also like fur. I like the way it softly caresses my neck and shields me from an icy wind. I have fond memories of snuggling into my mother’s wolf and rabbit floor-length fur coat. When she wore it, it meant we had a special night out to the ballet, to a play, to the symphony. It meant a delicious dinner at a fancy restaurant all the way in Baltimore or D.C. – or when I was even younger – the Nutcracker in Raleigh. I associate fur with a new flouncy dress and a special trip to New York to see The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera, and eating from the biggest buffet I’d ever seen at the Plaza.


This is why it was a real stretch for me to seek out and go into a vegan shoe shop called Moo Shoes on the Lower East Side. I have no moral issues with fur or leather. But I figured that if eating less meat is good for the environment, buying less leather must be too.


First, let me make something clear. I would never be a vegan. Vegans say pearls and silk are bad. I never heard of torturing silk worms to make them produce more silk. They also can’t eat dairy products. That’s just silly. Someone in Germany even asked me if it’s true that a vegan will wait for an apple to fall off the tree before they will eat it. Ummm, hope not!


So here I am at Moo Shoes, trying to be open-minded. Moo Shoes is such a stereotype in action. They had No Meat! buttons piled in bins, posters, stickers everywhere. The girls behind the counter were surly and unkempt. Not exactly inspirational fashion plates. Though I did enjoy petting one of the two cats.


I picked up a pair of booties, the ones in the picture above, to try on. Look closely at the picture. If you have ever experienced leather shoes with thick stitching and stacked wooden heels, you can tell just from the picture that these are not high-quality shoes. They didn’t feel high-quality either. When forced my feet into the plastic casing, they chafed against the inside. The shoes felt brittle. In short, they felt like $30 shoes from J.C. Penny’s junior section.


But I rationalized. “If they’re cheap,” I thought, “I can wear them and wear them out and it doesn’t matter! I’ll save money and save the environment. ” So I turned the box around to look at the price.


$129. Seriously? I yanked the shoes off my feet, put them back in the box, and marched out of the store. The shop girls who were ignoring me, mostly, seemed happy to see me go. They might have noticed my trusty black leather purse that I’ve carried for four years. It still looks fashionable and perfect.


I suppose they were just jealous.


If you want to read a laughable article where someone extolls the virtues of vegan fashion (you can still wear denim bustiers apparently, thank GOD) check out this site.