(Originally posted at David Wihl's personal blog)
This week, a blog post in Fortune described how Mark Zuckerberg came to the decision that he’ll only eat meat from animals he himself kills. I strongly support the ethos behind this. Too often, we are disconnected from the source of our food. Every major religion encourages prayer before and / or after eating so that we may take pause to appreciate the effort that went into getting good food on our overabundant table.
Michael Pollan’s excellent Omnivore’s Dilemma goes into this in depth. The author decides to prepare a meal completely from the fruits of his own toil and sweat. He grows the vegetables and herbs. He mushroom hunts in hidden spots of local forests. He even scrapes salt from rocks near the sea. The most arduous and time consuming task is hunting and killing a wild boar. A meal for twelve takes two months to prepare. I bet it tasted good!
A decade ago when my son was three, we served him a small piece of steak at dinner.
“Dad, what are we eating?”
“What is steak?”
“Steak is meat.”
“What is meat?”
There was a purpose to his questioning, unlike the typical three year old behavior of asking until exasperation.
“Meat is the muscle of an animal. We are eating part of an animal.”
“What animal are we eating?”
“We are eating a cow. Steak is the muscle of a cow.”
Now, he had seen cows before at the farm. He had petted cows. He’d seen dairy cows being milked. He could not connect a big living cow to this cooked slab on his plate. The wheels were spinning and he was trying hard to connect the dots. It took him three days.
“Dad, I want to kill a cow.”
He wanted to make the ends meet, to see the whole process from living animal to cooked steak. It was an ephemeral moment more for me than him. I realized that I had spent my whole life eating animals without taking personal responsibility for the animal’s life. If I was going to eat meat again, I had to be ready to personally kill the animal or I would be morally vacuous.
Later that year, I took a hunting class, bought a gun, and then the nice Jewish boy from the suburbs hunted his first prey, beautiful eider sea ducks in a small camo boat near Duxbury. While I still don’t kill every animal I eat, I now have a deeper respect for the profound meaning of eating another animal.