MEAT OR MINDFUL?

Meet factory farmed Henrietta, a cold shopper and a fleeting introduction to two pigs, as the demand for cheap meat is questioned in an attempt to be more mindful.

”Stop eating Paula! It’s getting tight in here.’
‘You stop eating… And if you piss on the floor one more time I’ll…’
‘Where do you expect me to piss?’
‘Look, Henrietta, it’s not my fault you’re impaired.’
‘Impaired?’
‘It’s to be expected my dear, let’s face it, you’re the result of a beakless mother and an unarmed father.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Your father… Rumour has it, he was spurless!’
‘That’s rubbish. I’ve heard that story pushed on to every unsuspecting chick in here.’
‘Unsuspecting? What’s unsuspecting about you? I’m breathing your urine because your lame genes can’t cock your leg high enough to get it between the bars!’
‘Between the bars? You have piss running down your ankle and I certainly didn’t cock my leg in your direction!’

A thunderous noise of metal grating on metal fills the air.

‘Arrrrrgh my eyes! What’s that? I can’t see! I’m burning!’
‘Mercy me! It’s daylight. We’re saved!’

'Meat or Mindful?' - Frozen factory farmed chicken still life photograph | Pic-nik: A conversation of food

Blimey, I should have flung on a sweater for this outing. Right chicken it is! Bammm. In the basket and away from these fridges. Right, something green, broccoli, broccoli’s a fine match! Where’s the broccoli? Oranges… No. Leeks… Warm. Shit, hold on! Are these the breasts of a ‘Broiler’ bird? An ammonia breathing, hastily fattened fowl? Does it matter? How much were the other breasts? Wait it’s cold near those fridges. Forget it. To the potatoes!

The head all too easily bounds from having chosen its meat to the question of what should accompany it? Broccoli or fine beans? Cauliflower or kale? Vegetables, for most, are the accompaniment, not the main player, and in our exuberant rush to choose our meat of the day we are countlessly unaware of having already swept past them, ‘they were on the first aisle on the left’. The fact is we don’t take our greens seriously. Add to that, the unconsidered knee-jerk manner in which we select our star of the show, the habitual skipping of the skimpier, the altogether more chicken proportioned breasts, in favour of the frugal fat induced poultry and you have to concede that we perhaps don’t even take our meat all that seriously either. Why? Why such a damning statement? Why should we swap out expensive toothpaste in order to afford the moral meat? Hasn’t our generation afforded such luxuries? We’ve figured a way to intensify and produce meat at a good price, so why not make the most of it? Buy the extra whitening and save another day to dwell on the squalid conditions that breed such a bird, such an oink, such a moo, we’ll make a point of righteously ticking ourselves off another day, when our pocket weighs less heavy, as soon as that wage package finally lumbers up to inflation. Really? Will we? Or are we spinning ourselves a yarn? On that very day the moth’s dance from the wallet capable of affording the good stuff, will they? Will new found riches really make us more likely to wear the hearty pin badge that says ‘I care for the creatures I eat’, I’ll buy the free range, the corn fed? Are we not simply hiding from the truth and throwing blame on Tony, David and Teresa? In short yes, that is the very bunker we are all burrowing in. The reality is that we’ve evolved, we’ve achieved big and cheap and as a result, that’s all we can steer ourselves to afford. Why should we pay more? Why skimp on something else? Is factory farming cruel? I’d imagine so, then we’d argue so is the housing ladder! We are convinced, if we want to eat meat it should be affordable? So where’s the argument!? Well grab a pen and get out your ring binder. Yawn. The argument is vast and varied.

'Meat or Mindful?' - factory farmed - ox tail still life photograph | Pic-nik: A conversation of food

Should we first talk about sustainability? The untempered growth of the world’s population versus food production? The question of prioritising food for humans or food to feed animals to feed humans? Mmm, a conundrum. Or should we talk about methane? How cows farts are warming the world? Not forgetting that where there’s a need to break wind, there is something brewing in the pipeline, bringing us swiftly onto water, as shifting the amount of shit our demand for meat produces – failing a ginormous litter tray – is implausible without some seepage, in short shit from shit is getting into our glass. Nice! Now huff and puff and think about the amount of pig we eat. It is highly likely that for some the screeching glut is served up twice maybe even thrice daily and that’s before we began with the bizarrely popular ‘pulling’ of its flesh. Odd that we thought piggy wiggy needed another avenue to the table, especially as we’re even in the habit of ‘Bicing’ and making a snack of its skin. With barely a morsel of the swine going begging let’s give him a break, as the majority have been starved of daylight with only the joy of biting on one another’s tails for something to do. ‘Ouch! that’s my tail brother!’ ‘I know!’ Many more rally cries can be heard, not from pigs but discerning folk with the statistics at hand that clearly point out that our consumption of meat is unsustainable. But for us commoners, we deliberately shy away from forming any structured argument, we refuse to refrain from eating the wretchedly raised, we may mutter, it’s simpler to eat less meat, but in practice we are sterile and we must try to find some spunk to load the gun. Let’s get excited, let’s begin to imagine the bounty of veg even the cheaper cuts of fillet could afford! Let us marvel at the idea of a basket brimming with spinach, asparagus, cabbage, beetroot and collard greens.

'Meat or Mindful?' - factory farmed - pig tail still life photograph | Pic-nik: A conversation of food

Sorry I fell asleep, wondering how it turned out for Henrietta. Did the little hen end up in a nugget or a casserole? Were we talking about eating less meat? Had we got to stuffing a mushroom and calling it supper? Mmm, joy! I think the pans will need to be dusted off to make this exciting. Oh, but then isn’t that the prize!? No more stuffing Henrietta, lets experiment on a marrow, an aubergine a scrimquat! It’s not going to be easy, but I’m assured vegetables can be great, are great! The same message is ringing out from all lifestyle supplements, every well-wisher is more than happy to occupy a corner of your dining table and preach the very same. Yes, it is tedious, this constant do this, do that, yet again cry once more for Sid and Nancy! As eating lean on meat is not a new trend for the anarchist, drones of freedom fighters have practised vegetarianism and veganism in protest against corporate capitalism, environmental collapse and animal cruelty. It is true, the angry mob didn’t like the idea of their chickens been penned too tight or their pigs brought up on slatted concrete, the anarchist didn’t hide behind affordability, for them, it didn’t boil down to price but instead, it was all about sensitivity, about being mindful. F#*k eating cheap meat people and get that vegetable working. I skulk in the shadows of my own words, already looking forward to my next steak, but endeavour to ensure it’s led a life and been rained upon as have I.

* A scrimquat is not a vegetable or a recognised word in the English language.

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