When people ask me why I'm a vegetarian, I brace myself for their scornful looks, disapproving remarks, and blatant rolling of eyes.
Likewise I'm sure, meat-eaters probably feel like they're in a constant state of scrutiny and judgement by those who refrain from eating meat or animal products.
So let's all be honest: this is a sensitive topic for both parties involved. With that being said, I'm going to do my best to be respectful toward people from both sides.
So why am I vegetarian? This might surprise a few people. Simply put, I'm a vegetarian because I don't agree with the way animals are treated and killed. It's not that I think eating meat is morally wrong. On the contrary, I feel animals were put on this Earth for both our enjoyment and sustenance. But I'm thoroughly disgusted by the inhumane treatment of many animals that make their way into our supermarket and therefore choose to refrain from purchasing and eating these products.
If you are an animal lover, I strongly encourage you to do some serious thinking and research into this topic (I have no intention of going into detail about it here). Make an educated opinion, not an ignorant one.
Animal by-products carry a similar weight on my conscience. Products that require the animal to give up its life are off limits for me (marshmallows and many candies that contain gelatin or lecithin are not vegetarian). Products like eggs and milk, on the other hand, are a different story.
Cows produce milk naturally. Chickens have to lay eggs. I'm not harming the animal by consuming these products. I am harming these animals if I choose to support farms that inhumanely obtain these products from said animals (not to mention the living conditions).
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately as to the cost of eating responsibly. Please notice, I did NOT say eating healthy. I am NOT telling you to not eat meat. As an animal lover, I feel I have an obligation to research and support only the farms that do no harm to the animals that give us our food.
Recently, I found out that Earth Fare distributes eggs that are from a family owned and operated farm right here in North Carolina: Latta Family Farm. The hens are free range, eat a vegetarian diet (important if you're going to eat them or their eggs), and are antibiotic free (meaning their living conditions aren't so horrendous they require antibiotics to stay healthy).
The cost for a dozen eggs is a little more than what Wal-Mart sells them for, but the peace of mind is worth it to me.
Next up, I've been thinking about our milk consumption. The price of a gallon of milk is already high, and drinking that 'fancy' organic milk is even higher (upwards to $5+ per gallon). I stood in front of the dairy section, having an internal debate about whether or not the cost of animal welfare is really worth the price tag that comes along with it.
And just like that, I snapped out of it. Of course it's worth it. Not only is it worth it for the peace of mind that I'm not harming the animal, but that I'm also getting a product that isn't heavily laden with chemicals, hormones, or drugs.
I think the world has been going about buying groceries all wrong. What if the cost of healthy living and responsible eating isn't expensive, what if the price tag of eating processed foods, boxed dinners, and ill-treated animal products is too low? Think about it.
Furthermore, how dare I complain about the cost of buying organic food when I have a $4 Starbucks latte in my hand!
If you eat meat or dairy products, you have a responsibility to make an informed, intelligent decision. The next time you're at the grocery store about to reach for that carton of eggs or the ground chuck, think about how it got there.
That's my two cents. What's yours?