I've toyed with the idea. I've tried for a day or two, slowly changing my eating habits to accommodate a second serving of salad instead of another chicken thigh. Try as I might, though, I can't take the full plunge and become a complete vegetarian. One can't deny the benefits of going vegetarian, but despite the health and environmental concerns, it just doesn't happen for me. These are the reasons why and my justification for remaining an omnivore.
Primarily, I like the way meat tastes and it fills me up in a way that fruits and vegetables don't. I do, however, subscribe to Michael Pollan's way of thinking. In his book In Defense of Food, he gives his simple tip for how to eat: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
It's important to point out that "Mostly plants" comes third and "Eat food" comes first. I'm much more concerned with eating fresh, whole, unprocessed foods than I am with eating only vegetables. The ideas aren't mutually exclusive, though in the age when the vast majority of our food comes from CAFOs, it would certainly appear that way. Attempting to avoid factory farms would be my primary concern if I were ever to completely convert to the vegetarian lifestyle. In an ideal world, I would eat meat a few times a week and it would be grass-fed beef. The meat you get at Burger King simply won't do. However, this is the world we live in, and I'm the first to admit that despite all my hemming and hawing about the industrial food industry, I will often eat meat from restaurants, fast food restaurants and even the odd taco truck.
Second: I do not believe it is inherently wrong to eat meat. The food chain is rough and life for animals, whether they're domesticated or not, is dangerous. Different species have always relied on each other for survival, and cows, chickens and pigs would not exactly be on easy street if we didn't kill and eat them. However, I don't consider this a justification for the inhumane treatment and unsanitary conditions of America's factory farms. The way we prepare and distribute meat in this country absolutely needs to change, for the environment and for our own wellbeing. I urge everyone to see Participant Media's Food, Inc. this summer. You'll cringe, then cry, and if you're anything like me, think about going on a hunger strike (I lasted about four hours).
If our industrial food system's practices changed, and animals were no longer fed stuff they were never intended to eat and left standing knee-high in their own excrement, I'd feel much better about eating them on a daily basis.
Last: It's available and it's cheap. Once again, I regret that this is the way it is. When peaches are $5 and a double cheeseburger is $0.99 something is definitely wrong. However, as a person living on relatively limited means, I find it essential to take the easy route on my way home.
So, once again, I want to be a vegetarian. I wish I could live completely off the land, consuming food from my own garden perhaps! However, it's just not in the cards. For everyone out there who thinks it's possible for everyone to go vegetarian or vegan, think about the millions of lower-income families, working several jobs a day, but having a duty to feed their kids. The McNuggets are cheap, simple and effective. What's the solution? Cheap plants that taste like burgers? I don't know. I think science has done enough already.