ALISON STEWART, host:
Now, from one end of the meat spectrum to the other. If you're interested in all things meat, you might want to subscribe to a magazine called Meat Paper. The subject matter includes meat art, animal slaughter, responsible meat consumption, and it's edited by two former vegetarians. A little while ago we spoke to one of them. Amy Standen is also a reporter for Quest, a science and environment show on public radio's KQED. Here's part of that interview.
(Soundbite of interview)
STEWART: So a former vegetarian editing a magazine about meat.
Ms. AMY STANDEN (Editor, Meat Paper): A magazine about meat.
STEWART: How does that happen?
Ms. STANDEN: Well, what we like to say is vegetarianism is just another response to meat. So, Meat Paper 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've 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, as former vegetarians, I should say, it's something that Sasha Wizansky and I have both thought a lot about over the years.
STEWART: You coined this term "fleishgeist." What exactly does that mean? I'm assuming it's a take on zeitgeist.
Ms. STANDEN: Yes, it is. So, "fleishgeist" is the spirit of meat, and what we're referring to is this explosion of interest in meat that we have - 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 - 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 hear people taking a moral stand about cheese, about bread.
Ms. STANDEN: Vegetables, no. 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, 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 all are 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 their meat comes from, what kind of life the animal lived, those kinds of things. Once you start getting involved - you know, curious about those kinds of questions, and finding out more, you are confronted with a lot of questions, and 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? 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 to task for the one thing that - I'm taking off my journalist hat.
Ms. STANDEN: Uh, oh.
STEWART: It bothered me when I saw it, and I used to be vegetarian and I'm not anymore, but when I saw the various meat art all I could think to myself was, there are families who need to be fed, and here we see...
Ms. STANDEN: Right, and here is a woman covered in flank steak.
STEWART: Yeah, there was something about that that really bothered me.
Ms. STANDEN: I think that's a completely legitimate response to it. I mean, to tell the truth, I have this same response when I see artists who 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've shown who make huge installation projects full of meat that then rots, and isn't a waste of an animal's life?
STEWART: One of the things that you discuss in the magazine is responsible meat eating. Obviously vegetarians and vegans would say, OK, that's a contradiction in terms. Can you explain what you mean when you talk about responsible meat consumption?
Ms. STANDEN: You know, a chef like Chris Cosentino, 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 are 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 any part of the animal that is safe to eat, which is most of the animal. That's called - known as the "whole animal ethic," and this is part of the fleishgeist. You're seeing chefs all over the country serving food that has not been on American plates since the 1950s.
STEWART: Amy, the question which is obvious but I wanted to wait till the end to ask you is, you were a vegetarian. What happened?
Ms. STANDEN: I - you know, to tell the truth, I could - I'm always teetering on the edge, and I very well may go back to being a vegetarian one of these days.
STEWART: That was Amy Standen of Meat Paper.
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