I consume copious amounts of protein.
If you are what you eat, than I am one hulking heap of high quality beef, pork and poultry. Meat is, to my sophisticated palette, the most important food group. I drink lots of milk, I eat plenty of eggs, and I'm not afraid of Brussels sprouts or asparagus, but nothing holds a candle to a bone-in Ribeye or America's cut pork chop.
Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire founder of social media juggernaut Facebook, turned heads earlier this spring when he announced he would only eat meat from animals he harvested himself.
That's right… He's only eating meat from animals he killed by his own hand.
A novel approach to what might be called "conscious consumerism," Zuckerberg's personal challenge for the year (apparently last year he learned Chinese) drew praise, condemnation, and no small amount of confusion.
I'll admit to scratching my head for a minute when I read the story for the first time. I don't have a problem with Mark exsanguinating his own lamb or dispatching is own fowl, of course, but I wasn't sure exactly what the story meant for those of us frequently called on to defend a carnivorous way of life.
Meat-eaters in general were pleased with the decision. Rocker and famous hunter Ted Nugent was understandably pleased, and reached out to the aspiring meat-cutter to offer advice on hunting game.
Food writer and Huffington Post contributor Laurel Miller, on the other hand, took Zuckerberg to task for only killing, and not actually fabricating the food animals on his plate: he sends the carcasses to the local butcher shop for further processing.
In my mind, Miller is only half right. First, let's look at what Zuckerberg said about his endeavor:
"I think many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat, so my goal revolves around not letting myself forget that and being thankful for what I have. This year I've basically become a vegetarian since the only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself. So far, this has been a good experience. I'm eating a lot healthier foods and I've learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals."
I give Zuckerberg a grade of A- on this theme. Being thankful = good idea. Eating healthier foods = good idea. Learning about farming and raising animals = very good idea. Eating less meat because you're only eating animals you've killed yourself? Not so good. Protein is a very necessary part of our diets, and animal-derived proteins are the undisputed king when it comes to what a body needs.
That being said, let's go back to Miller's repudiation of Zuckerberg's efforts. Miller is miffed that Zuckerberg isn't going the whole nine yards and processing the meat himself. I'll agree that going through the entire fabrication process is a valuable lesson for any consumer. My first experience with the Ohio Cattlemen's Beef 509 course at Ohio State's Animal Science Meat Lab was enlightening even for me as a life-long beef producer.
Let's not, however, throw the baby out with the bath water. Zuckerberg is light-years ahead of his neighbors, most of whom have likely never been on a farm, nor have any clue about how meat gets from ranch to rail.
The bottom line of the Zuckerberg experiment is having a greater appreciation and respect for where your food comes from. As celebrity "foodies" from Rachel Ray to Michael Pollan will tell you, knowing more about your food, how it is produced, and where it comes from makes us better consumers, and can make us healthier humans.
The Zuckerberg experiment is not without pitfalls, of course. The tendency to see this as an opportunity to promote a vegan agenda, some will no doubt play up the aspect of meat consumption centered on the actual harvest of the animal. Likewise, aggressive food marketers will use this opportunity to promote various food ideologies, be they "sustainable," "organic," or whatever other buzzworthy food fad may crop up.
Even so, my hat's off to Mark Zuckerberg. The next time I fire up the grill and pop a top, I'll raise my glass and give a hearty cheer for a man willing to get his hands dirty, so to speak, and learn a little more about the food on his table.