Tuesday, May 26, 2015

on meat.

If you haven't heard, the project to grow meat in a lab had a proof-of-concept a couple of years ago. (Actual cow cells, not some protein replacement.) The taste was a little funky, and it cost more than $300,000, so there was room for improvement. The scientist has managed to cut the cost by more than 80%, which is remarkably fast progress for any product's path to commercialization. Barring calamity, someone will be trying to sell it within 10 years, probably much sooner. Hopefully it's edible, because the upside is huge: while we should continue to complain about how much water almond trees use (and must use every year to keep them alive), livestock in California uses a lot more. Plus the way we produce meat is quite literally horrifying.

I eat it anyway, because I have to.

The selfish part of me isn't sad that I have to eat meat, because meat is delicious, and banh mi is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. I have had a couple stretches of not eating meat, and they were complete disasters.

The first time was accidental: I stayed 3 weeks at San Francisco Zen Center, which doesn't serve meat at all. The food was good at the time--it varies depending on which student has been placed in charge of the kitchen, a position so important that Dogen wrote his most famous essay about it--so I didn't really miss meat. After maybe a week and a half, though, I was chatting with a resident, and I commented that I felt like my energy level had been ticking steadily downward.
"Oh, yeah," she said. "You need a hamburger. I need to duck out periodically to go eat meat somewhere."
Off I went to Rosamunde Sausage Grill, and I felt better after the first bite.

The second time, I was farther in to Zen practice, and felt very keenly that I should stop eating standard urbanly-available meat, because it's really just a catastrophe for the planet, and unspeakably cruel to the animals. I figured I'd try it for a month and see how it went. I ate what seemed like pounds and pounds of lentils and beans, though I also wasn't really eating cheese or butter at the time.

I was running every other day, and after a couple weeks I suddenly realized that running had been getting harder and harder. My legs felt like they were made of lead, my muscles had no bounce-back; things I would expect every so often, but not every time. After 3 weeks, I ate some kind of meat thing, and again felt better immediately.

Now my body's all horked up and weird--or rather, it's mostly normal for the first time ever, but only with the aid of medication--and experiments in vegetarianism are out of the question, especially because the kind of energy issues I've dealt with for the past couple years feel suspiciously like those times I wasn't eating meat. It's sort of sad, though.

Maybe "cultured meat" will save the day.

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