a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Meat Your Maker

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’ve been vegetarian and/or vegan for most of my life (since age 16). I’ve extensively studied and experienced the ethical, environmental and health issues, problems and benefits involved in meat and dairy consumption. I understand that most of what goes horribly wrong in the beef and dairy industry happens in factory farming. Without going into the details here, I’ll let you connect to the links and just tell you, It’s worse than you think.

Although I’ve experimented with variations of vegetarianism over the years, as a whole, I follow macrobiotic philosophy, based on the consumption of whole grains and plant foods, sea vegetables, smaller amounts of seeds, nuts, fruits, traditional condiments and, in some cases, occasional animal foods. Mostly, it’s a process of eating whole foods mindfully and continually finding balance.

I’ve learned more about local farming since moving to a small town (2 years ago) where local farmers participate in the Farmer’s markets, CSA and provide food for the local co-op. And, after sincere contemplation, I’ve begun to occasionally indulge in locally produced meat and dairy. Intellectually, adding locally-raised eggs, dairy and meat back into my diet works for me – I am still eating food that was organic, free of hormones and antibiotics and comes from animals who were raised humanely. I also enjoy knowing the farmers that provide this for our community and consciously wish to support their efforts and livelihood. However, once the novelty of new foods wore off, I’ve found my desire for animal food falling off again, too.

According to macrobiotic philosophy, we are what we eat – physically, mentally and emotionally. Meat is good for physical strength and for maintaining an aggressive edge over the challenges in life – getting things done. Possibly some lifestyles or work demand this, but too much of it can throw us into a state that becomes too combative or tense. Animal products in general are very acidic and very yang – or contractive. Accordingly and theoretically, it can feed self-centeredness and dull sensitivity, deplete the body of other nutrients and stress the digestive organs. Personally, I found that raw cheese was easier to digest but any other slowed me down. Organic eggs taste delicious, but eating them often makes me edgy. When I’m especially tired from physical work, a little meat perks me up, but otherwise, it doesn’t suit me.

While our food choices should always follow environmental and ethical reasoning, when it comes to individual health and happiness, the important thing is knowing the effects of what you consume and and learning from them. Since I’ve gone back to eating some meat, I’ve noticed an increase in intensity in my life – some of it welcome and some of it not so much. When it comes to animal products – for me, less is more and I’ve learned about myself from my experience.

Macrobiotics means “big life” and requires a study of the self as a whole – life, work, personality and situation and being aware of how to balance all of it to a sustainable place. Living, eating and thinking this way is a big job – but one with more rewards and less limitations than you could possibly imagine – both for yourself and the world.

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