I recently read an article in Wall Street Journal Magazine (July/Aug 2012 issue) about Dan Barber, the head chef at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY. I have to say as a farmer and sustainable meat eater, I was impressed with how well Dan seems to “get it”. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of eating at Stone Barns and although it’s very expensive, it was delicious and a fun, different dining experience. Instead of a menu, you look at a list of everything available in the kitchen. After reviewing the list, you tell your server if you’d like the five or seven-course meal, and inform them of any food allergies or aversions to items on the menu. Then out it comes – course after course of suprises. You look at the neighboring tables and wonder if that might be something about to come out for your table. It’s sort of similar to the CSA model of agriculture that we run at our farm. You get what you get, based on what’s freshest. Now, about the price; I’m not saying this is the way we should all dine each week. Stone Barns is in a unique situation to be a model of how we should all be rethinking our food system. It’s about eating locally and letting the ingredients drive the meal instead of looking at a recipe and gathering the components to plug into the equation. I also appreciate how Barber explains that vegetarianism isn’t necessarily the most envirmental choice. So often, I find that people are divorced from the fact that we are in fact animals and part of a system. Farming is a system too. Life can not happen without death. Vegetables thrive on animal waste. Our bodies thrive on animals and vegetables. It all works together. Below is a clip from the article:
“I’d like some to explain the phenomenon of the self-righteous vegetarian to me. I’m not here to say I don’t eat vegetables—I do, a lot of them—but, from a soil perspective, they’re actually more costly than a cow grazing on grass. Vegetables deplete soil. They’re extractive. If soil has a bank account, vegetables make the largest withdrawals. So without animal manure, where are you going to get your soil fertility for all those vegetables in an organic system? You are, by some measures, forcing crops into a kind of imbalance.Butchering and eating animals may not be called kindness, but eating soy burgers that rely on pesticides and fertilizers precipitates destruction too. You don’t have to eat meat, but you should have the good judgment to relinquish the high horse. There is no such thing as guilt-free eating.” Read more.
I also highly recommend, “The Vegetarian Myth“, by Lierre Keith for those interested in reading more about sustainability and specifically the moral, nutritional and environmental reasons behind eating sustainably raised meat.
Photo credit above, Dan Barber at Stone Barns Center. Photo by Katherine Wolkof.