So, still weighing the question in my mind, I went to the local health food store, where I stared at the meat in question, pondering what friend Sandy asked: would I be happy with myself for eating a former pig, or would it weigh on me too much?
As I pondered my inner happiness (while gazing at raw meat), coworker Vera (whom I call Auntie) came up to me. Surprise!
"That's really good," she said, pointing to the object of my confusion and desire. "I had some a while ago." Pause. "Why are you looking at meat?"
I explained my predicament, and she left me in peace to make my decision. After a bit more pondering, I considered my reasons for going vegetarian.
1.) Factory farms/butchers are unnecessarily cruel to animals, who live and die in horrible conditions. The pig that became this meat lived on acres of land in its own social hierarchy, undisturbed by human manipulation. It had a happy piggy life.
2.) Factory farms feed animals unspeakable things, everything from animal byproducts to antibiotics they don't need. Applegate never gives its animals antibiotics, and feeds them an organic grain diet. Plus, they don't even use preservatives in their meat - nothing unpronounceable, anyway. Just celery powder and sea salt, with a smidge of cane syrup. So I don't have to worry about ingesting something that was bad for the animal or bad for me.
3.) I just don't like factory farms. Applegate is a chain of mostly family farms.
My personal moral bases were covered: the pig was happy in life, was butchered humanely, and wasn't fed anything unspeakable. This was as close as I could get to a family-farmed animal. So I pulled the package out of the freezer. Yes, the freezer. I'll get to that later.
I went to stand in line behind Auntie, who was conversing with the desk lady about a friend who had cancer, I think. Health Food Lady was telling Auntie her friend needed to stop eating animal fats - something about them storing cancerous cells.
"She needs to stop eating all animal fats - meat and dairy, too." Health Food Lady spoke with great force in her voice, and her hands illustrated the point vividly.
I don't think I buy that. Show me the science and I'll believe you, but humans have animal fat in them whether they eat animals or not.
Auntie left and I approached the counter. "My first meat since last fall!" I proclaimed to her, a bit nervous about actually making the purchase.
"Why?" she asked, looking like a tiger ready to pounce.
I proceeded with some caution. "I've been vegetarian, but this meat is from humanely raised animals, so I'm okay with it." Standing in line at the store is not the best place for an in-depth conversation about personal views on this stuff - it's complicated.
"Is that the only reason you became vegetarian?" Because if it is, you're not a good vegetarian, her tone seemed to imply.
"Well, no, for health reasons too, but this-" I pointed to the bacon "-wasn't fed antibiotics or anything else bad."
"Animal fats are bad for you on their own," she responded quickly, giving me an if-you-eat-this-you're-totally-going-to-hell look.
Luckily a phone call took her away before she could crucify me or make me feel guilty, and another employee finished my transaction. Health Food Lady is definitely one of the Scary Vegans, the kind who like to wander through grocery stores and put stickers of butchered chickens on all the meat packages. Maybe she even thinks keeping animals as pets is cruel - I don't know. Regardless, she was kinda freaky and I really don't enjoy being criticized for my purchases by the person selling them to me. It's called respecting the beliefs of others.
And so I bravely ran away home. I recalled a feature on the Applegate website where you can see exactly where your meat comes from, so I typed in the product number ("barn code," as they call it) and watched
These people are clearly not actors, which made me feel more comfortable.
That was all Friday morning. Friday evening, Spousal Unit and I went to Santa Fe, where we had a delicious Olive Garden dinner and went grocery shopping at Sunflower (yes, that's what our dates are like), which, as it turns out, also carries Applegate products for a much more affordable price. Usually, we try to buy local, but there's only so much you can get in a little town in the middle of nowhere.
The bacon I purchased where we live was, as I mentioned, in the freezer, and its sell or freeze by date was March 21 (which is tomorrow). Sunflower's bacon was fresh, and the date I found on theirs was March 30. Totally buying it in Santa Fe next time.
On Saturday morning, we had our Terribly Unhealthy Breakfast of the Week.
It was delightful. And though I was anticipating a stomachache (because I'm not used to meat), I didn't have a single pain. My stomach likes happy pigs as much as my tastebuds and my brain do.