Today is the first day of hunting season for shotgun users and I’ve been hearing gunfire echo over the mountains for the last month in preparation. The past few weeks of hunting season have been strictly for bow users only. Over the next month or so, there’ll be a plethora of camouflaged, gun-toting neighbors creeping around in the woods that abut my property, and sitting in makeshift deer stands. My husband saw a crossbow wielding neighbor stealthily striding out of the woods last week and felt like I had dodged an arrow.
As a new country lass, the first experience I had with a hunter was when I was hiking. Rounding a corner, our group chanced upon a man; perfectly still, holding what looked like an AK-47, looking like a stocky, camo-version of Bruce Willis in Die Hard. The gun made him look at least eight feet tall. He stared. We stopped. He silently crept towards us and then passed us without so much as an excuse me. We kept calm and carried on.
This month, many family members and friends will be hunting, hoping to help stock our fridges with free meat for the winter and that brings me to my real point: meat eating. I agree that we don’t have a deer problem; the deer have a people problem. The roads cross the deer, not the other way around, but if people insist on continuing to eat meat, hunting is a better way to procure it than from the house of horrors that is industrialized meat production. I’ve drastically reduced my meat consumption in the last five to ten years because I can’t bear what is happening to factory farmed animals. I watch the videos of cruelty to chickens, pigs and cows, along with the industry’s bad practices like waste removal and forest clear-cutting and am duly disgusted. Pigs seem to be suffering the most, but I could be wrong. Now that the FDA has approved GMO salmon, I will definitely never be eating that again. A few years ago, I tried to go a bit further. I decided to not eat meat unless either I knew where the meat had come from, or I knew the farmer and it was extraordinarily time consuming. The experiment didn’t last long, quickly degenerating into me not eating any meat at all except a local, organic chicken once or twice a month or grass fed beef when my local store stocked it, which was a rarity. Venison given to us by family members lasts us quite a long time after hunting season because our meat consumption is low. A recent interviewee on my radio show told me that she eats meat as a garnish or a condiment because the meat she eats is of such high quality, she only needs an ounce or two. At home, I now only eat ethically raised, organic meat or venison a few times a month.
My dilemma is eating out, not that I do it often, but I love a good burger and I insist on supporting local business. A new restaurant opened up in my neighborhood and I’m desperate to see it succeed. It opened up this past summer, but I’ve only eaten there three times. I would gladly pay more for a sandwich with grass fed beef or organic meat in it. Peekamoose has a tasty grass fed burger; the Phoenicia Diner just removed its grass fed roast beef sandwich from its menu, although I think I remember spotting a grass fed burger on the menu this week.
Now my dilemma has been extended for a short period because, as a journalist, I have couple of jobs writing about food. So my compromise has been to not eat meat at home while I’m on the job, which I have managed this week apart from a piece of roast beef and a mouthful of bacon. Feel free to put details in the comments section, or email me if you’d like to forward information on local Catskills meat producers and we’ll start a new section on sources of locally raised or organic meat.