As an omnivore who has chosen to live without meat because no animal should have to go through our factory farming process just so I can have a sausage, I am constantly on the lookout for alternative options. Unfortunately, I find tofu about as appealing as Kleenex under most circumstances, and the vegan “replacements” for my formerly favorite foods (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken strips) don’t so much mimic those foods as taste so completely unlike them as to reinforce how much I miss them.
For example, I can try adding “tofu crumbles” to my spaghetti sauce to remind me of the ground hamburger I used to put in there, but there are three problems: 1) the tofu crumbles cost twice as much as the rest of the ingredients put together; 2) they take time and effort to cook properly; and 3) they do not actually taste like ground beef (or like anything). I do not need the texture of ground beef in my spaghetti sauce so badly that I must go out and buy tofu crumbles for it. (Bring on the mushrooms and fresh peppers instead!)
There is a new movement wandering around which is trying to encourage people to eat less beef, poultry and pork by using replacement meat sources instead of removing meat entirely from the diet. This is supposed to appeal to carnivores because you don’t have to declare yourself a granola-eating vegan (I do not like granola, myself) in order to reduce the amount of beef in your diet: you can remain a dedicated carnivore, and even say you’re doing it for the environment, rather than for the animals, further reducing any appearance of sympathy you might have had.
Along these lines, a journalist from Vice decided to eat live food from a pet store for a week, one meal a day, to see what replacing traditional meat sources with something less environmentally intensive to raise might do to her diet. Her actions, including grinding crickets into a replacement pancake flour and the creation of what is essentially a mashed potato casserole with mice in it, remind me strongly of my trying to find alternative meat sources for my spaghetti sauce. The recipes take additional work and time; the unusual additives don’t add much pleasure to the meal; and in every case there’s a cheaper, faster, vegetarian option available — simply don’t add the alternative meat source. Hey, look, it’s a perfectly serviceable potato casserole with no mice in it!
….those little guys were raised in a sterile lab, which is more than you can say for your average chicken nugget.”
Plus, well, the mice are often being raised in the same kind of factory farming conditions to which I object with beef, poultry and pigs. It doesn’t have the same impact on the environment, because mice don’t need the same kind of space or materials that the larger animals do, but it certainly has a similar impact on the mice, which was kind of my problem with meat in the first place.
The author’s problems with killing the live minnows (You do not euthanize fish by adding salt to their water. You do not euthanize fish by adding salt to their water. You do not euthanize fish by adding salt to their water!)reminds me that even — and especially — these tiny animals are “slaughtered” for consumption in terrible ways, mostly because they’re too tiny to scream audibly and therefore any method is “painless”. Mice are generally gassed with CO2, which can be a terrible way to go if performed badly (which it usually is). This also fails to solve the issues with factory farming that led me to give up carnivory.
Whether they have a smaller impact on the environment or not (they probably do), and whether their handling of them is in some way “better” than our treatment of pigs, cows and chickens (it probably isn’t), I don’t need crickets (or minnows, or mice!) so badly as a source of protein (peanuts! almonds! peas! quinoa! spinach! sunflower seeds! beans!) that I need to kill 50 of them to add texture (and, apparently, an almond or shrimp flavor) to my plate of spaghetti. I had enough problems using 1/50 of a cow to get the flavor I actually wanted!
How about an option that’s plentiful, cheap, lives naturally in crowded conditions and is easy to obtain?