One person, under the Twitter handle @MichelleVegan, wrote, “McDonalds scalds baby chicks alive for nuggets.” The Twitter feed for Vegan.com chimed in: “My memories of walking into a McDonald’s: the sensory experience of inhaling deeply from a freshly-opened can of dog food.” Then, of course, PETA entered the fray with a photo of a coil of pink goop, implying that McNuggets were made from “mechanically separated chicken,” an allegation that McDonald’s immediately denied.
Regardless of the veracity of those claims, the episode underscored a new truth: Meat eating is not the simple pleasure it was in previous generations, and not just for those frequenting fast-food joints.
Even as millions of Americans continue to gobble down gourmet burgers, dry-aged steaks, chef-driven charcuterie and bacon-wrapped everything, they’re regularly forced to consider the potential consequences of their actions. Environmentalists want us to think about the greenhouse gases that meat production creates. Humane advocates want us to consider the suffering of animals. Doctors want us to ponder the health implications. And the medical community would like us to understand the potential fallout — otherwise known as antibiotic resistance — of pumping farm animals full of drugs.
It’s as if America has become schizophrenic about meat: As the reasons to reduce or eliminate meat consumption increase, so do the sources of particularly tasty morsels of animal flesh.
Washington is the prime example. In recent years, the Expense-Account Steakhouse Capital of America has practically become the center of the burger universe. We can secure a premium patty in countless outlets, including Shake Shack, Elevation Burger, Good Stuff Eatery,
Ray’s Hell-Burger, Big Buns Gourmet Grill, Thunder Burger & Bar and BGR: The Burger Joint. Shall we count the number of barbecue outlets that have opened in the past few years, too? Does this sound like a sign that Washington, home to some of the most well-educated people in the country, has absorbed the message on meat eating?
“We’re schizoid, as a culture, on meat eating,” notes writer Michael Pollan, who has grappled with this own internal conflicts on the consumption of animal flesh. “We love the taste and what having lots of meat has always signified — status, wealth — but at the same time it’s hard to overlook the high cost of meat-eating: to the environment, to the workers, to the animals and to our own health. It’s no wonder we’d be conflicted.”