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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Urge Costco to stop buying veal

Every time I receive an email from Mercy for Animals, PETA, or the Humane Society, I know it will be a rough day. It will be a day that all I want to do is go home and hug Winston.

Today was such a day. I arrived at work to find, "New MFA Veal Investigation." And as I watched the video, I was horrified, as most people are when they see confined baby cows. Nobody wants to see that. It is why the industries that support factory farming spend millions and millions of dollars to hide it from us.

After I watched the fate of these baby cows, Mercy for Animals (MFA) gave its call-to-action: Urge Costco to stop buying veal. Urge them to stop supporting this industry.

But why would a company choose to do this? Why would they deny a product to their customers?

Because they are pressured to do so. Did McDonald's want to stop selling Big Macs in Styrofoam packaging? Did Burger King want to stop buying pigs who are confined in gestation crates? Did Whole Foods want to stop selling lobsters?

No. They were all pressured to change their behavior by their consumers. And they are all industry leaders. If the demand diminishes, so does the supply.

Now, I am a fan of Costco. I like their business choices: they pay their employees well, and provide health care benefits. They stock vegetarian staples, like veggie burgers, quinoa and organic soups. I shop there. And I own their stock. And part of the reason they are an industry leader is because they earn the loyalty from customers like me who care about these things.

But, I am also a fan of reality. I know that Costco will probably not stop selling veal. But maybe if they feel enough pressure, they will start buying veal from states that don't tether baby cows for their short lives, and allow them have a somewhat-playful existence.

So, let's urge them. Send a letter to Costco's CEOs, and tell them to stop selling veal. I did. I told them that I was a customer and a stockholder. And if they didn't change, they would lose me as a customer. And I would tell my friends to do the same.

Click here to send a letter:

Remember that famous quote that all us crazy activists use? "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Guerrilla Gardening

Last weekend, Alex and I started a garden in our front lawn.

I had previously went through a phase where I had been fantasizing about moving to the country, getting a front porch (where I could yell at the ungrateful neighbor kids), and a huge garden (where I could grow fruits, vegetables and herbs).

The whole country-living phase lasted about as long as my stint with veganism did... although I did still want a front porch to yell at the spoiled children, and a garden. But then I realized that I could just turn the front lawn into garden. All that currently exists there are two lots of under-kempt, often-littered overgrown grass.

After a quick email to my absent landlord, I got the go-ahead to do pretty much anything I wanted. Given that my brilliant garden idea was hatched rather late in the season (August), Alex advised me to start out small: some planters instead of huge garden boxes that would be costly in time and money.

So after a quick trip to our urban gardening store, a yard sale, and the farmers market, we had planters, potting soil, and herbs.

A week later, we have a little garden that yields: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley and rosemary. And it seems like it is catching on with our neighbors too. We found some pots on the other side of our building growing what looks like jalapeno peppers.

So, it turns out that I didn't need to move into the country to grow a garden.

As for yelling at the ungrateful children who begrudgingly decided to stop playing their Wii for a minute to go outside? I can yell at them just fine from my front stoop.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Humane Tacos and sour cream fix

So, I have grumbled several times on this blog that one of the hardest situations I could see myself in (regarding this humane food project, not in life generally) is eating at a Mexican restaurant, and not being able to enjoy the gooey melted cheese and cool sour cream.

Hence, I have stayed away from Mexican restaurants like I will stay away from deep dish pizza joints when I go home to Chicago next month... to best of my ability, that is. Stay tuned for the inevitable failure on that one.

But I was c-r-a-v-i-n-g Mexican food -- cheesy-goodness with guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes, shredded lettuce and beans -- all dumped into a taco shell.

So, I bit the bullet and did it.

Not at a restaurant, but at home. Last night (Friday), Alex and I had our first taco night!

I went to Safeway and bought all of the vegetables: tomatoes, avocados, a red onion, black and refried beans, and shredded lettuce.

I then went to Whole Foods (which I, along with other foodies, half-lovingly/half- bitterly call Whole Paycheck) and bought humane cheddar cheese and humane sour cream.

On Friday, I rushed home from work to prepare the tacos. It was easy. We stuffed our tacos full of beans, tomatoes, guacamole, lettuce, humane cheddar cheese, and sour cream.

It was delightful, and I ate way too many, of course.

But the best part is knowing that I can go to a Mexican restaurant and get a crunchy taco salad without the cheese and sour cream. Because, I can always make it myself!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Humane Tacos

You don't have to give up tacos just because you are being humane. Sure, you might not be able to eat tacos out (unless you bring your own sour cream and cheese -- Don't say I won't...), but you can sure make them at home. Here's how:

- Taco shells

- Shredded lettuce (you can just buy it in the bag at the supermarket)
- Diced tomatoes (I recommend fresh, not in the can)
- Guacamole
- Beans (refried or black)
- Organic Valley sour cream (here in DC you can get it at Harris Teeter and Whole Foods)

- Humane cheese -- shredded

- I don't really think anyone needs this... But if so, stuff your tacos silly and have a blast!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Win for animals in Ohio

Today, the New York Times reported on an "agreement" between animal welfare groups (like The Humane Society) and farms in Ohio that allows more room in cages for hens, baby cows (or veal) and hogs (including pregnant sows).

While this is a win for the animals, we have to ask: how much of a win?

It will be better for a pregnant sow to be able to turn around (now she is confined to a 7 X 2 foot long gestation crate). And it will be better for chickens (who won't be packed 6 or 7 hens to a cage the size of a newspaper). And it will be better for baby cows who will be able to turn around.

But how much better?

Will the sow be able to roam? No.
Will the chickens be able to stretch their wings and peck (with beaks, nonetheless)? No.
Will baby cows be able to run and play? No.

But this is a step, and an important one. It is not as much of an "agreement" as it is forcing factory farms to take steps to reform through the power of our voices and our dollars. It is proof that people actually are about where their food comes from, and what is in it. And we are using our dollars to change an industry that is long overdue.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ode to Quinoa

One of the best parts of trying to eat humane is experimenting with new foods and recipes!

In fact, one of ones I have really grown to LOVE is Quinoa.

Dubbed a "superfood," it is is used like rice or couscous, except it has higher nutritional value. You can find it nowadays at almost every grocery store.

Here is how I made it last night:
Stirring in 2-parts vegetable broth, 1-part Quinoa, I simmered the Quinoa
(like you do rice), and added:
- sauteed spinach
- cherry tomatoes (from my Aunt Deb's garden!)
- almonds (fried in olive oil, that gives the almonds a roasted, burnt taste).
- Italian parsley

After the Quinoa was ready, I added the ingredients, mixed and served!

It was a delicious, nutritious and humane meal!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hello from Maine Part I - Flatbread Pizza

Yesterday, Alex, the pup and I arrived in Maine to visit my brother (Brian), sister-in-law (Katie) and baby neice (Zevon) for a week. The day before we all piled into Roger's car, my brother called me and said, "So, Katie and I want to try to eat vegetarian while you are here."

First, I was so excited, but also felt guilty. While I know I can be opinionated and pushy with my views on meat and animal treatment, I never want to push those I love into something they are not comfortable with. My brother assured me that this was something he wanted to do, and hell... it was only for a few days.

Upon our arrival, Katie said we were going to dinner at pizza joint that had vegan pizza and got all of their incredients locally. The name rang a bell: Flatbread Pizza. My friend has been reminding me to go American Flatbread in Virginia for a while now. They serve local ingredients and get their cheeses and meats from local, sustainable farms. And I have been searching for the perfect below-90-degree day to hop on our bikes and ride out to Virginia for a delicious pizza lunch.

When we got to Flatbread Pizza in Portland, ME we had 20 minutes to kill, so I wandered around looking for someone who could answer some questions about the animal products.

I quickly found one of the partners. It turns out that the meat and most of the cheeses come from small, local farms around Portland. However, the mozzarella is not. The mozz (as is in most restaurants that buy local) is bought from a distributor, because so much is used and it is not economically viable to buy it from a local farmer.

This needs to change. There are farmers who make mozz, but until there is constant demand for them to expand and sell wholesale, the "local" restaurants are still going to get their mozz from factory farms. So, I enjoyed my vegan pizza (yummy veggies, without cheese), while the rest of the crew enjoyed veggie pizzas with cheese.

I am curious if American Flatbread (not the same chain, but clearly related), also makes a local exception for mozzarella. If they do, they should think about changing. It is one of the most popular cheeses and restaurants can use their dollars to help change the inhumane way it is produced and sold.

I think Alex and I will be making our bike ride to Virginia sooner than later.