Former Vegetarians Start Magazine About Meat
ALISON STEWART, host:
Meat, meat, meat. That is the guiding subject to the new award-winning magazine called Meatpaper. The magazine explores the world of meat arts, explains the many facets of pig slaughter. It also encourages responsible meat consumption -and this, from two former vegetarians that serve as the magazine's editors. One of whom joins us now.
Amy Standen is also a reporter for "Quest," KQED's local science and environment show. Hi, Amy.
Ms. AMY STANDEN (Editor, Meatpaper Magazine; Reporter, "Quest"): Hi, Alison.
STEWART: So a former vegetarian editing a magazine about meat.
Ms. STANDEN: A magazine of meat - yes.
STEWART: How does that happen?
Ms. STANDEN: Well, what we like to say is vegetarianism is just another response to meat. So Meatpaper is a magazine that is not just for meat-eaters, it's for meat-shunners, as well, and anyone who has a curiosity about meat. And what we found is that meat is just a great symbol for so many of the big questions we all deal with. It's a great subject for artists. It has great cultural significance. And as vegetarians, it's - a former vegetarian, I should say - it's something that Sasha Wizansky and I have both thought a lot about over the years.
STEWART: You've coined this term fleischgeist. What is exactly does that mean? I'm assuming it's a take on zeitgeist.
Ms. STANDEN: Yes, it is. So fleischgeist is - it is the spirit of meat. And what we're referring to is this explosion of interest in meat that we have seen - that we've all seen over the last few years. It's part of the zeitgeist. It's this interest in meat where it comes from how the animals are treated before they become meat, whether or not we, as human beings, should be eating meat at all, what meat suggests about our own mortality, about - the ethical questions we all or many of us struggle with. It's this - just amazing resurgence of interest in this particular kind of food.
STEWART: It's interesting that meat is something that people will take a moral stand about. You don't really think people take a moral stand about cheese.
Ms. STANDEN: No.
STEWART: About bread.
Ms. STANDEN: Vegetables, no. It was - we could make a magazine about carrots, but I think it would be a much more limited venue for us or much more limited subject.
Yeah, meat - well, meat is really troubling. I mean, it's less troubling, I think, when you get it at the grocery store, wrapped in cellophane - that's the meat we are all sort of accustomed to dealing with. There's a certain kind of cognitive suspension that we all go through when we buy meat - or many of us do. I think most people don't really want to know a whole lot about where they meat comes from, what kind of life the animal lived - those kinds of things.
Once you start getting involved in it or, you know, curious about those kinds of questions and finding out more, you are confronted with a lot of questions. And, you know, many of those are moral questions - the questions, of course, that vegetarians pose to us and decide not to eat meat at all. But many of them are philosophical questions, you know? What's the difference between our own meat and animal meat? And where do we sort of draw the line about certain animals that we will eat and certain animals that we won't eat? Why do we eat cows and not horses? Yet in other cultures, people do eat horses.
STEWART: All right. I'm going to take you the task for the one thing that - I'm just taking off my journalist hat…
Ms. STANDEN: Uh-oh.
STEWART: …that bothers me when I saw it. And it's not…
Ms. STANDEN: Mm-hmm.
STEWART: I used to be vegetarian. I'm not anymore.
Ms. STANDEN: Mm-hmm.
STEWART: But when I saw the various meat art…
Ms. STANDEN: Mm-hmm.
STEWART: …all I could think to myself was there are families who need to be fed. And…
Ms. STANDEN: Right.
STEWART: …here we see meat…
Ms. STANDEN: And here is a woman covered in flank steak.
STEWART: Yeah. There's just something…
Ms. STANDEN: Yes.
STEWART: …about that that really bothered me.
Ms. STANDEN: Mm-hmm. I think that's a completely legitimate response to it. I mean, to tell the truth, I have the same response when I see artists who, you know, cover entire buildings in cellophane or something, you know? Obviously, people don't eat cellophane, but I think, oh my God, what a waste of plastic - all the petroleum. I mean, I think there is so much in art, especially contemporary, big art that is - you could say wasteful of resources. And I think that makes complete sense as a response to some of the artists that we have shown, who, you know, make huge installation projects full of meat - that then rots. And isn't that a waste of an animal's life?
STEWART: One of the things that you discuss in the magazine is responsible meat-eating. Obviously, vegetarians or beacons would say, okay, that's a contradiction in terms.
Ms. STANDEN: Mm-hmm.
STEWART: Can you explain what you mean when you talk about responsible meat consumption?
Ms. STANDEN: Sure. I mean, what I can do is explain what other people mean…
STEWART: Sure. Absolutely. You're the editor.
Ms. STANDEN: …when they talk about responsible because - well, exactly. And what we're reporting on people who, you know, have strong opinions about how we should be eating meat. And what you would hear - what's - you know, a chef like Chris Constantino, who is a chef here in San Francisco at a restaurant called Incanto. What he would say is, responsible meat-eating is eating an animal who has led a life that, you know, did not involve too much confinement, an animal that was treated well, an animal that was slaughtered humanely, which, again, a lot of people would say is an oxymoron.
But there are different ways of slaughtering animals - some of which were better than others. And also, I think the most important thing - it's a respect for the animal that has you as the diner eating all parts of the animal. In other words, not just going for the t-bone or the, you know - but eating the heart, eating the liver, eating the brain, eating, you know, any part of the animal that is safe to eat, which is most of the animal. And that sort of - it's called - known as the whole-animal ethic. And this is part of the fleischgeist. You're seeing chefs all over the country serving food that has not been on American plates since the 1950s.
STEWART: We're talking to Amy Standen, who is the editor - one of the editors of Meatpaper. And one of the things, I think, that's interesting about the magazine is it also - you bring in stories about meat culture, about things like the history and how butchers survive these days in the world of the mega-mart and Wally World with the giant meat centers and the Costcos of it all. Tell us about butchers as a dying profession.
Ms. STANDEN: Sure. And that's something we've heard. That's something I didn't know much about when we started working on this. But it's a theme we see in submissions that writers send us. That, you know, it used to be that every neighborhood had a butcher or two and you knew those people. And they took in from the slaughter houses big, you know, an entire side of beef, which they would then butcher into specialty cuts. And they would sell those cuts to customers. And they would know where they came from. They would know where the animal came from. They would know a lot of how to prepare that certain cut of meat.
That's really all changed in the last - oh, I don't know how many years, but I would say probably 15, 20 years. You have - most butchering is happening in big factories where they're cut by machines, not people. And then much smaller cuts of beef are sent already - you know, meat in general - are sent already pre-wrapped to stores like Safeway or Costco. And then people like us go and buy them. And so - but what's interesting is that's changing.
And in issue one, we had a story about a trio of butchers - all women - who run a shop in San Francisco called Avedano's. And they've sort of rescued this 1950s butcher shop and brought back that profession. And they're learning how to do it all over again. And we are hearing from people all over the country who are doing similar things. And these are young people. I mean, these are people who have really had to go sort of, you know, people in their 20s and 30s who've had to go seek out butchers in their 60s and 70s to teach them this craft that had kind of skipped the generation.
STEWART: Amy, you've produced two issues, you have a third on the way. The question which is obvious, but I wanted to wait until the end to ask you is you were a vegetarian. What happened?
Ms. STANDEN: You know, to tell the truth, I could - I'm always growing(ph) on the edge. And I very well may go back to being a vegetarian one of these days.
STEWART: Amy Standen is one of the editors Meatpaper. She's also a reporter for Quest, KQED's local science and environment show.
Hey, Amy, thanks for being so honest.
Ms. STANDEN: Thanks, Alison. Great to be here.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.