The Meat Debate

There are many valid reasons to want to become a vegetarian or a vegan. Most of us know by now of the inhumane treatment of animals in the meat industry and the troubles with full-scale industrialized factory farming, which allows diseases to spread quickly as animals are raised in close confinement, and which has given rise to epidemics of meat-borne illnesses. Factory farmed animals are also the most medicated creatures on Earth–– from hormones to anti-microbial drugs to increase factory farm growth rates, you name it. And lets not forget all the other illnesses linked to meat over consumption, like heart diseases, obesity, hypertension, colon and other cancers, high cholesterol levels, varicose veins etc. [1]

Even with all those reasons against meat consumption, the truth is that there are nutrients necessary to proper human growth, especially of the brain, such as vitamin B12, biotin etc., which you can mostly get from animal products, or some herbs and sea vegetables that are not as easily available or that don't provide as much of the nutrients required.  

Because I've been a long-time student of this debate, (I still eat grass fed humanely raised meat that has not been treated once a week), I was excited when I learned about  Dr. Weston Price's research of nutrition in Nourishing Traditions, which according to Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig (food activists and nutrition experts) "demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats.” The urgency of Fallon and Enig's work is of "restoring nutrient-dense foods to the American diet through education, research and activism."

Although I know I may never have all the pieces to the "perfect nutrition" puzzle, I don't believe in one sided research. And living in the Bay Area, one can easily become "one more vegetarian," vegan, or be into paleo, or follow an all organic or macrobiotic diet, because we have great quality grocers, farmer's markets, and restaurants that cater to those nutritional lifestyles. But I think a little responsible meat eating once a week (until I find the best alternative) or when I eat out is okay.

If you are puzzled by the labeling of meats these days (I think we all are), here's a little cheat sheet from Issue six of Meatpaper. [2]

This means meat that is minimally processed with no artificial or synthetic products. It is not regulated, however, so anyone can put it on their package. This claim has no clout.

COOL (Country of Origin Labeling)
USDA regulated. It states where meat was raised, slaughtered, and processed (and if this means multiple countries, as in the case of some ground meat, they should all be listed).

USDA regulated. It means, very narrowly, that animals eat grass. According to the USDA definition, “grass-fed” animals can also be fed grain, and can be raised on grass in confinement, as long as they have access to pasture.

[The Omnivore's Dilemma documents that "access" can be -- and often is -- nothing more than a facility with a door to a small outdoor area. Livestock is transferred to this facility after they have been conditioned to remain indoors in a facility with no such exit.]

This means strictly that the animal has some access to outdoors. There is no regulation for use of this term, except in the case of chickens raised for consumption. “Pasture-raised” is a more meaningful term concerning the animal’s welfare.

USDA and third-party certified. This certification means that livestock wasn’t treated with hormones or antibiotics and was fed a pesticide-free diet.

Refers only to an animal’s diet and does not guarantee the animal was pastured or raised humanely.

This article addresses the treatment of living animals. Producers and retailers may also make claims about how the animal is handled between slaughter and purchase. Meat may be wet or dry-aged, frozen, and packaged in various ways.

Many ranches now choose to undergo an audit by third parties such as Animal Welfare Association and Humane Farmed to high-light their extra care. This type of label wards against practices like overcrowding, castrating, early weaning, and denying animals access to pasture. It measures the entire life cycle in terms of animal health and well-being.


This pre-organic standard treats the whole ranching operation as an interrelated whole. While some meats are technically organic, a biodynamic farm assures the meat also came from a healthy, self-sustaining system.

Producers who take part in this affidavit program state in writing that the animals were raised within 20 miles. This label is not certified [or confirmed] by a third party, such as the USDA or a labeling certifier. [2]

It also wouldn't hurt to get to know your local butcher. Here in Berkeley we are lucky to have  The Local Butcher Shop on 1600 Shattuck Avenue (entrance on Cedar), a sustainable butcher shop owned by a Chez Panisse Alum. It's fun to know your local food experts. I've gotten tips on how to cook things I've never eaten before from farmers at the farmer's market, and that gets me really psyched to bring new things home to cook. So get to know your local butcher or rancher if you want to get to know your meat.

1. The Case Against Meat
2. It’s a Jungle Out There: What do meat labels mean? by Marissa Guggiana on Meatpaper: Your Journal of Meat Culture. Issue Six


Warming-up with Ginger

Photo by 戴奕驥
The last few days have been rainy in the bay area, and I got a tad stuffy and congested. So I bought organic ginger at the farmer's market.

Not many people know of ginger's wealth of nutritional and medicinal benefits. But in traditional Chinese medicine as well as Ayurvedic, Ginger is present in half of all prescriptions, as its yang (or warmth and energy) is a stimulant that warms the body and boosts circulation.

It's stimulating properties also help a slow metabolism speed up, digestive problems, and its nutrients increase immunity to colds and flues. Although it's mostly used to calm the gut, it also helps heal ulcers, sooth menstrual pain, reduce sinusitis and throat soreness, and its anti-inflammatory chemicals, rightly named gingerols, are beneficial to people suffering from conditions such as arthritis and asthma.

Some other medicinal uses include thinning the blood, toning the heart, and reducing cholesterol levels.

During rainy days I like to prepare a nice warm cup of ginger tea:
I wash my organic ginger, cut it in thin slices, put as many slices as I can fit in my tea ball, put it in a cup and add boiling water like I would most teas, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes (the longer you steep it the more powerful, flavorful and fragrant). I prefer to keep it steeped even while I drink it. Sometimes I add a little lemon and/or a natural sweetener like honey or agave (especially if I have a cold and a soar throat). And walla! A fragrant tea to warm-me-up and stimulate my senses.

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Moonrise Kingdom

The new Wes Anderson previews are hilarious! Check-out the casting too. I'm going to die laughing over here. I hope before I die I meet Mr. Wes and he lets me star in one of his films, AND Mike Mills (whom I have a film maker crush since watching Beginners). So excited for Moonrise Kingdom to come out!

Update6-8-12: Saw Moonrise Kingdom at the California theater here in Berkeley three blocks from my house! I'm so lucky to live so close to two of my favorite film venues, including the Film Archives! Anyway, I'll expand on my thoughts later on a new blog post, but for now I have to say that Anderson never disappoints– the movie is as artful as everyone should expect. Even the books characters read during the film were specially illustrated for the film. Aside the hilarious plot, this film is all about the details: the costumes, the sets, getting to see serious actors in hilarious rolls...   If you are not able to see beyond obvious and can't appreciate artful details, this movie is probably not for you. Needless to say, LOVED IT!



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On my holiday vacation had lunch at this colorful street in Old San Juan...

at this tapas restaurant:

...that reminded me I should make a blog about tapas, and my favorite tapas spots in Berkeley and San Francisco while I'm at it.

This one was a perfect outdoor experience because it was centrally located between the sea and El Castillo de San Cristobal. I wasn't there for the live Flamenco, but I'm told it gets even better with the music at night. I bet it's a hot spot for people stopping on cruises because it's near the port. So it may be a good idea to make reservations.

For those not foodies like me, Tapas are traditional Spanish appetizers or small finger food dishes. They are usually served to compliment good artisan cheeses, chorizo, olives and wine.

Here in Berkeley I have Fonda, Barlata, and I'm thrilled to have César a few blocks from my flat at 1515 Shatuck, which serves a mad paella and a good variety of artisan breads and cheeses. If you don't live near by nor are planning a trip to Berkeley, you can buy their book and make your own tapas a la César at home.

I'll continue to add my faves in San Fran with more time...

Winter 2011: Tropical Forest and Caribbean Beaches

While on winter vacation in Puerto Rico, spent a magical sun filled day around the tropical forest with one of my sisters who lives there and studies horticulture at the UPR. One of her professors and her husband lead us on a little excursion and treated us to a typical Christmasy feast culminating with a delicious Arroz con Dulce. I'll have to post the recipe here for all to enjoy. I'm working on the healthy version of it with natural sweeteners. Here are some photos...

and some of the most beautiful beaches...
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