Mindful Meat Eating. ~ Mike Mallory

Via on Feb 13, 2010

cow

With thanks to Mike Mallory, who challenged me not to be so extreme, and actually learn more about what I was talking about—like the vital differences between organic and biodynamic. ~ ed.

Is there a middle ground between mindlessly eating Factory Farm Meat and Veganism?

Well, let’s go ahead and lay the cards on the table..

I eat meat…every day without fail…okay, basically every meal!

I’m a corrective exercise specialist. What that means is that I help people to get rid of complex back problems, and all sorts of other stuff I won’t get into. I’m also a meditator, with my own daily practice, along with running a shop that builds modern‐style meditation benches.

Does being a meditator and a meat-eater conflict for me? Can this be reconciled? Have a look at it from my perspective.

The problems I help my clients with, back pain and the like, often come down to issues with diet. Organ problems will shut down the muscles around them—organs being more important in the scheme of things. In nine out of ten cases of back pain, I find that a dietary problem is the underlying cause. Pain erupts from inflammation, and inflammation, in general, comes from poor dietary practice. Most of the American public doesn’t act like they know the difference between their stomach and a garbage can. Being that this you’re reading this on Elephant Journal, I’m going to guess that you don’t fall into that category (I hope, at least).

My dietary practices come from knowledge of racial and genetic needs. My ancestors came from the north….like, Scandinavia north. I’m about as white as it gets. What that also shows is my ancestors had grounds that froze in the winter, meaning they primarily subsisted on animal protein and fat for a majority of the year (just like Tibetans ~ed.). In the middle of winter in Sweden, there isn’t exactly a lot of kale and cacao production. They developed shorter digestive tracts. Now, if your ancestors came from Jamaica, you’ll likely have different needs. Get my drift?

The diets of traditional, inland Aboriginals in Australia included 75‐90 percent vegetable and 10‐25 percent animal foods. The coastal Aboriginals, who have access to fish and larger animals like Kangaroo, eat about 75 percent animal and 25 percent vegetable foods. Both were incredibly healthy, and had no words for cancer or heart attacks…because they didn’t exist.

The take home message is people can have vastly different dietary needs, and still remain healthy.

Each of us have different needs for protein, fat and carbohydrate, which are based on genetic setpoints—not your spirituality or ideology. When I get someone with a strong genetic need for animal products, and a strong interest in Tibetan Buddhism, this can create trouble!

We need to find a middle ground for the millions upon millions of people who need to eat meat, and want to live the mindful life, and are never going to become vegan. We need to find a way for them, us, to cause less animal suffering and environmental devastation, and better live in harmony and awareness with where our production of “meat.”

So how do we eat meat mindfully?

I’m not going to rattle on about how bad industrial farming is; Michael Pollan’s done a great job already. However, I’d like to share some of my own practices and beliefs to make sure that people with an interest in mindfulness can cultivate that state and still account for their physical needs too (if that’s an actual need, sometimes physical needs align with spiritual beliefs, in the case of a lot of Indian people).

We need to both respect how an animal lives, and respect what we do with what we eat. Are you going to take something’s life, be it an animal or plant, and then go sit on the couch and watch Oprah? I hope not. Animal protein can transfer a lot of vitality if used correctly, so make it a point to do something with it!

As we eat a less conscious being (plant or animal), we allow the energy that they’ve accumulated to transform into conscious energy, something that an animal or plant can’t do. Consciousness is only credited to humans, so out of love, we can take an animal and use the energy we take from it to create something beautiful in the world.

Energy transforms through the earth. You saw the Lion King right? Remember the circle of life? Bacteria feeds humus which feeds plants, and plants feed animals which feed us. By respecting each and every spot in the chain, we can create plants and animals that properly express all the energy available to them.

So. If you’re going to eat meat, then do it responsibly. Choose animals that have lived their respective animal life. Wild animals. Free range beef, cage free chickens, and so on  down the line.

I buy my beef from a rancher friend in Wyoming. I’ve seen the cows. They’re let loose for up to four years to roam the plains before they make it to me. Often times, the rancher doesn’t even see them for months on end! More natural than living in a cage? Of course. They get to express their real nature as a cow, living just however they want to. The meat ends up being very healthy at the end of the line, without all the detriments associated with commercially raised products. They eat grass, their natural food. When a cow eats grass, it doesn’t have all the indigestion associated with grains, and it doesn’t produce the huge amounts of methane that come with their agro‐raised brothers. Along the same lines, while eating their natural food, they don’t develop infections that make the rampant use of antibiotics necessary.

Where do I get my fish? From Alaska. I personally know the fisherman, and from where he gets the fish. I’ve been there. This isn’t practical for most people (or ecologically responsible perhaps), but if one person has done their homework, it can benefit a whole group of people.

If you purchase an industrially farmed animal product, not only are you supporting that poor treatment of animals, but you’re also supporting poor farming practices that gave rise to the improper feed that the animals received. The feed was grown on infertile soil that was mined for ingredients, not farmed. Real farming gives back the same amount of nutrients that it takes. Organics have the ideology correct, but biodynamic farming actually follows the principles. Google it if you like.

In conclusion, choose your diet based on your physical needs, then take your spiritual values into account when you choose what you eat.

With thanks to Michael Mallory for daring to look for a middle ground:

Web   www.BFWhealth.com
Blog   www.performanceandwellness.com
Side   www.zenposture.com

"john long" pork kitchen boulder

John Long, a famous “mindful” pork producer in the Colorado area. Photos from The Kitchen in Boulder, Colorado.

mindful porkpork pigs

Some helpful videos:

Watch a naturalist from the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Drumlin Farm explain the difference between caged and free-range chickens in this free online video.

Expert: Tia Pinney
Contact: www.massaudubon.org
Bio: Tia Pinney is a Teacher Naturalist and Adult Program Coordinator at Mass Audubons Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
Filmmaker: Christian Munoz-Donoso

Introduction. Pigs. Natural behaviour of wild boar. Intensive pig farming. Free-range alternatives. More info at http://ciwf.org on the Compassion in World Farming website.

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20 Responses to “Mindful Meat Eating. ~ Mike Mallory”

  1. Nathan Smith smithnd says:

    On the grain fed v. grass fed cows: I had thought that it was the opposite of what you site, i.e., that grass fed cows produces lots more methane than grain fed ones. Of course there are lots of other benefits to grass-fed beef…

    See here toward the end of the page: http://www.foodrevolution.org/grassfedbeef.htm

  2. Mike, lots more for you to respond to, if you so choose, from our FB Page http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal. I'll copy it over.

    • Via FB:
      Allyson, Lynn and 8 others like this.

      Jamie
      The Primal Blueprint – by Mark Sisson. Check it out.

      Durga
      Primal Body, Primal Mind – by Nora Gedgaudas. Also a great one.

      Sundari Elizabeth
      Is veganism really ahimsa? Barbara Kingsolver writes that a vegetarian (or vegan) diet "doesn't provide quite the sparkling karma you think it might." What about all of the songbirds, insects, and small mammals that are displaced and die whenever a wheat field is planted? Those big machines they use in the fields chew up a lot of animals (foxes, raccoons, etc) when they work. Even if you buy organic, locally grown food, the farmers still used organic pest control methods that generally kill the aphids, tomato hornworms, etc. It may be that a steak from a grass-fed, pastured cow takes fewer lives than a soyburger from a field. Do we believe that a cow is a "higher order" of life than a bug or a raccoon, and therefore has more value?

      Sundari
      My point is, all eating takes life. Those who think they're not taking lives by eating a vegan diet are unaware of the realities of food production. Therefore, my belief is it's best to make choices that are as conscious and informed as possible, not just draw categories of veganism vs. meat consumption.

      Darrin Buehler
      I have been vegetarian since October, 2008. It was born out of my daughter's love for animals and her inherent desire and passion to not play a role in their suffering. For us, our hearts are more compassionate and our feelings more cognizant, as a result of our commitment. This feeds our body with energy that is unique and different, from the … See Moreenergy one can attain from "converting animal energy into consciousness". But I am increasingly aware that I can merely live my humble existence in a way that speaks my truth; rather than tell others if there path is right or wrong. This article repesents an improvement over some practices; and for many, a falling shy, relative to other practices. Any living being whose life is taken in support of our sustenance, deserves a moment of awareness in honor of their spirit and the loved ones left behind.

      Durga
      Also, The Vegetarian Myth – by Lierre Keith.

      Phillip
      In the old days, one said a blessing before eating. I never did this in the biblical sense, but learned from American indians who thanked the spirit of the animal for giving its life so that they may maintain theirs.

      In the age of mindless consumption, at the very least one can be thankful for the sacrifice (no, seriously. It's not about the rancher or meat packing corporation who are in it for profit only; it's about the animal) that has been made on your behalf. Just something to consider the next time you chomp into a burger or slice into a steak, crack an egg, fry some bacon, etc. Just picture the animal and give a silent 'thank you', and be mindful of the sacrifice (rt. sacred).

      Kezia Jauron
      @ Elizabeth, the difference for me is intent. As a vegan it's not my intent that other life forms suffer for my food. That it happens at various points in the supply chain is something I unfortunately can't control. However when you eat an animal, it's your intent that it die for your pleasure. And let's not forget the vast volumes of grain and other crops that are grown to feed livestock, not people. Wouldn't those who eat livestock also be responsible for killing songbirds and bugs and etc.?

      Darrin Buehler
      Philip – I appreciate your contribution re: prayer. if you read my last sentence above, it is aligned with your viewpoint. Being fully present with the magnitude of our impact on all creatures, great and small, is certainly something we could all agree upon. And from there, I believe, organic transformations will occur. The more sensitively connected we allow ourselves to be, the more we will live in right livelihood, even if it does not look tactically the same for each being.

      elephantjournal.com
      Elisabeth, in answer to your first question, yes. In Buddhism, humans are considered the highest form of life because we have the capacity for awareness of ourselves, and therefore, ironically, mercy. Which is why I'm a vegetarian, personally. Though I agree with your general point, that "no harm" is relative. Still, why not try and harm less?

      I'm more taken with Michael Pollan's argument re eating meat, mindfully: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/06/elephantjo

  3. elephantjournal.com
    Philip, love it. "May it be of benefit" is a shortened prayer we Buddhists say when we eat chow.

    Tobye
    This discussion comes up all the time and no one ever thinks about how the plants feel! They do feel you know…. yet there are people who dont eat meat because of ahimsa that think i'm mad for mentioning how the plants feel.
    Whatever you put in your mouth, you could do it with praise for yourself and praise for the sacrifice the living organism has made to sustain your life, as, in your simple breathing out you sustain the life of plants.
    Don't just bung it into your mouth willy nilly thinking your cool because its organic and sustainable!!
    Bring back saying "grace" I say!! fair play Phillip!!

    Angie
    I concur…what Tobye said. I ask people about the plants' feelings sometimes as well…and I grow them…for consumption. It's all about consuming with compassionate awareness and deep gratitude.

    …in my humble opinion. :)

  4. angie says:

    The fact is, it is not sustainable. Not everyone can eat in this manner, with the world population of over 6 billion. Meat is a luxury and it requires many resources to convert plants to meat. The world needs to head in a sustainable direction. We are very spoiled in America.

    • Mike Mallory says:

      There's an old book called "Farmers of Forty Centuries", by DH King, which outlines how China has fed FAR more people on just a small percentage of its land. meat and vegetables.

      In that time in rural china, 2/3 of an acre would feed far more than one of our 40-acre farms today!

      The only reason we think it's not possible is because our current industiral farming techniques not only pale in comparison of output, but destroy the earth at the same time.

      There is plenty of research out there, but the current agro-farming model keeps that information from being public-

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  7. mike mallory says:

    Good points leah, I agree. Most labels don't mean anything. most people will still misinterpret.

    We gotta try though right? Little steps are still steps ;)

  8. mike mallory says:

    Osho is one of those guys who will always stand on both sides of an arguement………..He sides on contradiction by itself! Gotta love it-

    I think you're right Eric……If I find that for myself (and not for moral reason, or because I read it in a book), then I'll forego my carnivorous ways; but that moment has yet to come.

    cheers-

  9. Tor says:

    Hi Mike Mallory,

    I just wanted to write and congratulate you on your fantastic article Mindful Meat eating, thank you for mentioning our work.
    As I’m sure you are aware Compassion in World Farming is the only charity working specifically to end factory farming. We are a small but dedicated team who work tirelessly to promote better treatment of farm animals. We receive no government funding and as such are not in the position to fund large media campaigns; therefore we greatly value your work to promote our cause. It is fantastic to have eloquent advocates such as yourself onboard working as virtual ambassadors, spreading the word about farm animal welfare. Digital online technology has made it possible to reach an audience of millions using the peaceful weapon of the word. It is amazing to note the impact that just one person can have!

    If we can be of any future assistance please do not hesitate to get in touch and we'll help you in any way we can.

    Thank you for your support.

    Kind regards,

    Tor

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  15. Boris Malenfant says:

    As long as the USCG is a branch of the U.S. military, it should be equipped to handle the ASW missions. Having said that, the USCG will probably never be resources for the mission…. Great post

  16. Mike Mallory says:

    yep….sure have. Did the raw vegan thing for a while…….didn't feel as good in the end, and couldn't keep up with my training. Digestion wasn't normal, found it very hard to stay on, etc.

  17. mike mallory says:

    confine and torture….no! That's what I wrote about in this article!

    If you read the works of Jogadish Chandra Bose; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagadish_Chandra_Bos… shows that plants can "feel pain, understand affection etc.,"……In other words, they are also sentient beings. Have you read "The Secret Life of Plants"? Its summarizes his work pretty well in that book. That one made me think long and hard ab out if theres' actually a difference in taking the life of a plant over an animal.

    I make no personal distinction of one sentient being over another……..So in the end I just listen to my body-

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