The other day, I was with my four-year-old daughter—who incidentally is like a vegan version of Princess Mononoke: a self-proclaimed protector and defender of animals everywhere and budding social critic. We saw a man sitting by the little urban river near the St. George Children’s Museum wearing a shirt that proclaimed, “Hey vegetarians, my food poops on your food.”
Oh, the burn.
When a guy is sitting with his family—all of whom look to be in poor shape and of questionable health—and he’s wearing a shirt criticizing any lifestyle choice, it’s almost an endorsement. Like a guy in a wheelchair wearing a “Guns Don’t Kill People” shirt. Yeah, buddy.
Anyway, it was hard to feel too insulted knowing that his own food poops in his food.
How did I come to this conclusion? Well, Consumer Reports decided, “Hey, we like doing fun stuff. Let’s buy a bunch of mangled cadavers—humans call it “meat”—and see how much dookie is in it!” Fun times with science, right? Those fellas are wacky.
These guys bought 300 packages of ground beef. It was a total of 458 pounds of macerated muscle. To make sure they were getting an evenly distributed sample, they purchased from 103 grocery, big-box, and natural food stores in 26 cities across the country.
And guess what they found? Poop. Poop everywhere.
All 458 pounds of it—every single pound—contained fecal bacteria like enterococcus and E. coli, both of which cause blood and urinary tract infections. No big deal. About a fifth of it contained C. perfringens, a cute little guy who causes about a million cases of food poisoning each year. A tenth of it contained S. aureus, a bacteria that makes a toxin so potent that you can’t even cook it out.
I could go on, but you get the point.
Every single time you take a bite of ground beef, you are willingly putting teeny weeny bits of doo doo into your mouth. Often, you’ve paid to do it.
Every time you feed that to your children, friends, loved ones, favorite sock puppet—whomever!—you are basically saying, “Here, have some poop. Eat some poop.”
For most of you, the ego—like any good little ego—has shifted into overdrive in an effort to conjure up ways to dismiss or minimize this information, desperately trying to find a way to argue, minimize, or deny it away so that you can eat another shitburger and feel good about it.
Look, I was raised in the Bible Belt, home of the self-destroying carnivore. My ironically Christian family was part of the deluded masses who believed that, A) we “need” meat to be healthy, and B) meat is healthy food. Of course, by 2015, copious volumes of research have been done that have dispelled these fallacies.
But the Gottfrieds didn’t know that in the ’80s. And like any good Catholic-Presbyterian family, they simply believed what they were told and didn’t think too hard about it.
So I didn’t encounter vegetarianism at all until I was in my mid-20s. That was ten years ago, and vegetarianism and veganism have rapidly become very mainstream over the past couple of decades in particular. But the Bible Belt isn’t the most progressive place in the world (sound familiar?), so the idea of simply never eating meat seemed so foreign to me as to be virtually impossible.
Once, on a whim, I shaved off my eyebrows in high school because I was curious about what it would look like. No one shaves their eyebrows, and I wondered why. (I found out. There’s a good reason. Drawing new ones on my face with magic markers was fun, though.) Another time, I jumped through a 30-foot flame produced by a burning sofa, this time singeing more than my eyebrows. I am generally not prone to risk-taking, but I do sometimes act on whimsy.
So what the heck, I tried it vegetarianism on a whim.
You’ve got to understand that I was a guy who didn’t really like any vegetables at all. Not even beans. Who doesn’t like beans? Mushrooms, asparagus, and other similar delicacies were likewise gross to me. Fruitwise, I might eat the occasional banana. I didn’t even know that greens could be cooked. To me, food was meat, dairy, and grains. That totally leaves out two entire food groups. I’m lucky to be alive! My palate had lived under a rock for 24 years.
But I was lucky to have been bartending at a fine dining restaurant at the time, and that meant free food. So for shift meals, I would ask the chef to just make me something vegetarian—anything, just go wild. Make me something dank, kind sir.
Pretty quickly, my palate changed completely, and I found myself loving foods that were previously totally unappetizing. It was a gastronomic 180. It was the culinary version of Saul’s epiphany on the road to Damascus.
So if you’re not vegetarian, it’s quite possible that the idea sounds totally bizarre. It’s possible that eating meat is so … well … normal that to not do it seems crazy.
Well, to me, eating shit is crazy. Chew on that, turd breath.
Now I could write a doctoral dissertation on the problems with modern meat production, much less any of the other reasons why one might want to be vegetarian. Heck, I could write a dissertation on only one of the problems with meat production, from the antibiotics these beasts guzzle (and how it gets into even our water) or the GMO foods they consume, or the millions of tons of feces they produce—that the EPA really has no idea what to do with—or how about the super bacteria and unique diseases created in factory farms? Remember swine flu? Bird flu? Ever come down with carrot flu? I didn’t think so.
But all I want to say is this: if you are justifying eating poop based on your appetite or some tradition—literally taking a poop-laced hamburger into your mouth and chewing it up, rolling that poop all over your tongue—well, you, my friend, are the victim of cognitive dissonance, brain-crippling conditioning, innocent ignorance, America-induced idiocy, or some combination of the four.
Don’t be disgusting. If I can stop eating shit, you can too.