Veal on the Menu: no lectures please!

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Is your food politically correct?

Overfished species, inhumanely treated farm animals— menus are minefields of ethically suspect foods. In the past few weeks, a Hollywood hangout abruptly closed down after being exposed for serving whale sushi, and the U.N. voted to keep the near-extinct bluefin tuna on dinner plates.

Amoral bon vivant or epicurean standard-bearer?

For many of us, vegetarianism is not an option. What’s an omnivore to do? Here’s the story behind the controversies surrounding the meat we eat.

Foie gras has been called the delicacy of despair. The super fatty goose or duck liver is distinctly rich and buttery, a texture that  has traditionally been achieved  through a form of force-feeding known as gavage. The birds spend their lives in pens while fatty feed and grains are pumped through throat tubes straight into their stomachs.

Crustacean Cruelty: Lobster and other shellfish flesh begin to toughen immediately upon death. Even a freshly-killed lobster will taste inferior to one that is plunged live into a pot of boiling water. The effect of this on a lobster’s pain receptors is unclear. Whole Foods and other markets have discontinued the practice of selling live lobsters and soft-shelled crabs. The clam and mussel lobby has not been as effective.

Shark’s fin soup has been a Chinese delicacy since the Ming Dynasty. Sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs, but they have met their match in the newly-risen Chinese middle class. The soup has become so fashionable that some shark species are speeding toward extinction, threatening the ocean’s ecosystems. Fins are ‘harvested’ through the brutal practice of finning, in which the fin is cut from a living shark that is then returned to the ocean where, unable to swim it sinks to the bottom and dies. Animal cruelty and the environment—two controversies in one!

Veal is a by-product of the dairy industry. To keep giving milk, cows must regularly have calves. The female calves become future milk producers while the male calves are raised for veal. Milk-fed veal is pale pink, lean, and finely textured. To maintain that tenderness, producers limit muscle development by confining the calves to individual stalls, also known as crates. These living conditions have been the focus of animal rights activists who first appealed to consumers back in the 1980’s with photographs of tethered calves penned in cruelly small cages. Veal sales have never fully recovered.

These are sticky decisions with political and moral consequences as well as implications for health, nutrition, and budgets. Only you can decide what feels right for you.

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One Response to Veal on the Menu: no lectures please!

  1. Cousin Bobby says:

    I like your blog.

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