The Herbivore's Dilemma


I joined PETA in 7th grade, the same year I stopped eating meat. It all started with the book, Diet For a New America which I read in Foods Class and was never the same.

Still, I had always been reluctant to eat meat, even as a little girl. I was a lover of all animals and dreamed of becoming a farmer when I grew up if only to keep cows and pigs as pets. Eating meat always seemed unnatural to me so it didn't take much to turn me into a vegetarian animal-rights activist which I decidedly became at the ripe old age of twelve, writing angry letters to Gillette over animal testing and Barnum and Bailey Circuses for their inhumane treatment of animals, not to mention participating in PETA pamphlet parties and donating portions of my allowance to the cause. 

I also worked for years trying to convert my parents and siblings into vegetarians. It only took twelve years before my mom stopped eating meat, herself, but I think it had more to do with these books than my dinner-table preach-sessions in defense of "poor piggies."

I went from vegetarian to vegan in High School and then started eating fish, which I continue to eat regularly now so yes, the title of this post is deceiving. I'm a seafood junkie. I'm also not opposed to the occasional turkey sandwich or Cobb Salad (hold the bacon.)

Beef, Pork, Chicken (and everything else)? That's another story.

Bottom line? I don't believe in the consumption of most meats. Not only for environmental reasons but because, plain and simple, I don't like the idea of hormone-pumped animals spending their lives suffering in their own shit and disease only to be slaughtered in horrific ways. Not appetizing to me is the thing. Don't want that karma in my bod.

The mass-production of meat in this country is so out of hand I cannot even fathom how the (meat) industry gets away so much of what it does. Some blame fast-food. Some blame overpopulation. Meanwhile: heads fall into the sand and stay there. 

When Archer was born I wrestled with how I would raise him. Would I learn to prepare meat for my son? Would I be okay with his eating of meat, specifically beef and pork products? I was okay with Hal eating meat, so long as he knew and understood I would never prepare it in our house. (Which he does and is cool with.) It wasn't like I would be putting meat in my body. Except, actually, as I soon found out: It kind of was. Because he's my son. And every time I fed him meat I felt guilty. Awful. Like I was damaging him. Because children eat what is put in front of them and they trust us, their parents to make good decisions in terms of their early eating habits. I found myself caught in a bit of an ethical dilemma... 

If I don't believe in the consumption of meat, does that mean my child isn't allowed to eat it? 

I'm not a religious person by any means but I started to understand parents who force their beliefs on their children. Plain and simple, its hard not to. Especially when one believes so strongly in something. I'm doing what's best for my children, they think. 

And so do I. 

It didn't take long before I starting serving Archer meatless alternatives. The same meatless alternatives I've eaten most of my life. Tofu and Boca burgers and soy meatballs...

And all was right in the world, again. 


Over the years, however, the thought of Archer eating pork chops or hot dogs has become terrifying to me. I have become increasingly paranoid that my son might grow up carnivorous with a voracious appetite for hamburgers and bacon -- two items that I cannot look at without feeling nauseous and flat-out sad.

This proves awkward when people offer Archer bacon or meatballs and I say, "No. He doesn't eat that," because it sounds like I'm speaking for him.

Which, yeah, I guess I am. And I wrestle with whether or not that's the right thing to do. 


Being a parent in the land of health-food, tri-weekly farmer's markets and vegan diners, it's far easier for parents to be understanding when I tell them that "No, Archer isn't allowed to go to McDonalds" or "no thanks" when he's offered pork products, but enforcing this no-meat policy for years-to-come is a completely different story. I mean... isn't it?

Who's to say Archer won't feel the need to rebel against my rules and at sixteen come home late one night stinking of a McDonald's double-cheeseburger, which might honestly be worse than him coming home stinking of beer and cigs.

These are my fears, people. And they make me feel like some kind of zealot. (Am I one?) Which is both scary and annoying. Archer should be able to make up his mind about what he believes in and what he should and shouldn't eat and yet.... NOOOOOOO!!! Don't do it! Nooooo!!!!

Perhaps my main fear isn't that Archer will experiment with hamburgers as a teenager so much as the possibility that ( like many and most) Archer will become a complacent eater: someone who eats what is put in front of him without thinking, knowing or caring where it has come from. I want Archer to know. And to care. And to understand what it means to eat certain things, but I want to teach him without scaring or upsetting him or being manipulative when it comes to my personal food ethics and beliefs. 


The issue isn't to raise my children Vegan or even Vegetarian but to raise educated eaters who know and understand where their food is coming from, how it lived and what we sacrifice physically and environmentally and (if you're like me) emotionally (poor pigs!) when we decide to eat certain food. Specifically, certain meats. This is one of my main goals as a parent, which I guess makes sense being that PETA was my pre-pubescent cause. (I dropped out of PETA at 15 because it was a little too over-the-top for me, ex: I wore leather shoes.)

I guess I just fear the judgment of others.

I can already feel myself turning into the mom who freaks the fuck out when the school tries to feed her kid hot dogs at lunch and I really don't want to be that mom.

And yet...

I think...

Yeah...

I might just be. 

........................................

I'd love to hear from some of my vegetarian/vegan/ anti-red meat parents on how you plan (or have already) raised your children in a meatless (or meat less) household and how you have enforced rules like "no fast food" and "no meat" without coming off as some kind of food-totalitarian, if that's even possible.

........................................

Oh! And speaking of food, my pal, Justin started a food blog which specializes in Vegetarian cooking and recipes. Check him out! 

GGC

87 comments:

AVB | 3:32 PM

Hey Bec,

My sister and I were raised macrobiotic until I was 12, then it got to be a little to difficult financially and time-wise for my parents to keep up with. Ironically, I don't possess the enzymes to process red meat correctly, so if I do ever eat it (which might be a burger once in a blue moon) it's not pretty.

At the time we were macrobiotic, my dad worked in the meat business, first as a government inspector (you don't want to know) and then as a purveyor supplying to restaurants in Manhattan. This was part of the reason we became macrobiotic. Growing up I did feel a little singled out with my tofu pup and flour-less, sugarless, dairy-less brownie at birthday parties, but on the whole, when you grow up with it, you really don't know any other way to eat. All I was told was that it was healthy and we wouldn't get sick. I think when you're a kid that's all you need to know. It wasn't until I hit 12 or 13 that the circle of life aspect of it came into play. And at that point in my young life, I was able to process it all thoroughly. But when you're a child it's your parent's choice, they're buying, you're eating. Remembering my childhood perspective, it really was as simple a that.

Hope this helps. You're doing a great thing for Archer, the baby and yourself as well.

And, I think I've had McDonald's twice in my life out of rebellion. I didn't even like it, and would never feed it to any children I might eventually have.

Allison | 3:45 PM

I have been a strict lacto-ovo vegetarian for years and struggle with this issue as well. My daughter is only 3 months old, but I've come to the conclusion that she is able to make an INFORMED decision knowing fully well where meat/fish comes from then she can make and informed decision for herself. Philosophically, I can't reconcile feeding my child meat or allowing others to feed her meat when she doesn't get where it comes from.

Anonymous | 3:48 PM

Having seen firsthand how some animals used for food in this country are often treated in factory-farms and then at the slaughterhouses, it boggles me that anyone can eat their flesh.
If you've never seen these horrific events firsthand, I invite you to watch Fast Food Nation and THEN try and eat a hamburger. Some of those burgers come with a whole lot more.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 3:59 PM

I highly recommend watching Diet For a New America for the same reason. Actually, I highly recommend all consumers of meat to do some research as to where the bulk of it comes from. I think we owe it to ourselves and our children to be aware of what we're putting in our bodies. Healthy eating starts with educated eating fo sho, yo.

Also, AVB, I didn't know that. Macrobiotic is tough, man. It's hard enough to maintain a totally Vegan diet. Your mom = impressive. Thank you for sharing!

LucidSplash | 4:01 PM

Out of curiosity (and this is not intended in a sarcastic or smarmy way at all) how do you draw the line between consuming meat and wearing leather shoes? What is the fundamental difference in your mind between wearing animal products and eating them? Additionally, what is it about fish or the occasional turkey sandwich that is different from Pork, Chicken, or Beef? I am thinking in terms of the organic versions of these meats so as to bypass the issue of hormones.

I am very interested to hear elaboration on these points and I really have nothing to add to the comments from my point of view as I am neither a parent nor a vegetarian. But I'm always interested to understand how individuals come about their personal belief systems and how they develop the lines and borders within them (must be my anthropology background).

Sierra | 4:19 PM

Hi! Long time reader, first time commenter because well I just have to chime in here. My mom (who has been vegetarian for over 30 years) raised both my sister and I as lacto-ovo vegetarians in INDIANA. When I was young, people didn't even know what vegetarian meant and the most common answer when I would tell them was "okay, I'll make pork/chicken/fish then."

She talked with us openly about why she has chosen not to eat meat or seafood and why she was raising us that way, but always added that it was natural to be curious and if we ever wanted to try any meat, it was okay and it was our decision. My sister has tried bits and pieces over the years, and I've never had any desire to try it.

I never felt like she was forceful about it. It was just how our house operated. She'd tell moms when we went on playdates the same way you would if your child had a food allergy.

To me, it felt exactly the same as all the other values that she passed on. She always just framed it as respecting all beings, which made sense to me even when I was very young.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 4:21 PM

Putting it ON my body (re: leather) is very different than putting it INSIDE my body. We eat to "nourish" our bodies and beef (if we're talking about leather, here) isn't something I believe is nourishing, knowing how it lived/died and what conditions/hormones were involved in its coming to be.

My eating of meat comes from the philosophy that "If i myself would kill it, I should be allowed eat it." I would and could never kill a cow, pig, lamb, etc... which is why I don't touch red meat.

Would I kill a fish? Yes. I have, too, on fishing trips.

I don't eat all fish, of course and am aware of what sustainable fish are best to eat (Tilapia, for example, which is a favorite of mine and what I cook most often.)

Poultry is more complicated. Organic poultry (Turkey) is something I'm okay with (on occasion). Farm-raised chicken I don't have a problem eating, because like I said, I could kill a bird for food and be okay with it. I don't eat chicken because I can't physically eat a hunk of meat... It freaks me out. Turkey I can eat in sandwiches and salads because its deli thin.

Kooky, right?

Lesha | 4:57 PM

Well, we eat meat but we are (slowly in some instances) making the conversion to locally grown/raised organic foods, including meats. My husband is the food maker and keeps the amount of meat we eat rather low, too. With our own veggie garden, our hopes are to instill a sense of wanting and needing to know the origin of the foods we eat with a preference and even dare I say pride in food that comes from our garden/community/town. I'll admit again, it's slow. We're more concerned about putting the right foods in our son right now then ourselves, so when it comes down to expense we buy the cheap bad stuff for us and the good local organic for the boy. Hopefully by the time we can comprehend the choices and the shopping, we'll have made more of a dent in our transition.

So, that's probably not quite even close to what you're asking, but that's us.

Philippa | 4:59 PM

Hey- I'm a lurker and first time commenter, but I wanted to express my solidarity on this issue. My husband and I don't eat meat, save for non-fish seafood and eggs, and neither does our 15-month old daughter. She's a happy, healthy toddler who eats a wide variety of food's just none of them animal flesh.

We're not craazzzyy fussy about this however, and we have in the past let others try to give her meat but only in situations where I would myself have taken a resentful bite of meat to keep the peace (like this one time at my mother-in-law's, when she tried to feed her minced beef). But, my girl doesn't eat meat and doesn't like it, so she won't take more than a mouthful (if that) before she stops eating (me too!).

In most cases, we like you, feel that we can make the decision about what she eats, and gently let those around us know what she does and doesn't consume. At this stage, it's our job. I wouldn't let someone put Coke in her sippy cup either, and you best believe that parents with kids with any kid of food sensitivity let you know aallll about it. Just do what you think is best, and try to be a social human at the same time.

Amelia Sprout | 5:05 PM

I was raised vegetarian in a very small town (like, less than 800) and it was hard. I would think it would be easier in the environment that you're in. You don't need to justify it to anyone. We eat meat, but M doesn't eat fried foods or sugary snacks. It is just the way it is. I do think that since he is getting older, you can and should explain why you do what you do.

As he gets older, he will want to try it, and I think that is something that you need to let happen. I grew up around a lot of kids who were raised vegetarian, and I think one of the best things that happened to all of us was that our parents were OK with the choices we made. Some are still vegetarians, some of us are not. All of us are conscience of the choices we make.

The other thing that I feel pretty strongly about is letting him know that people may make other choices, and that is OK too, they just aren't your choices. I saw the hurt and frustration that kids went through when their parents turned them in to little warriors for their causes. I really don't think that accomplishes anything.

Mom Interrupted | 5:05 PM

Well, I haven't been reading this blog for long, so I wasn't aware that you are such an extremist, hypocritical in my opinion, card carrying PETA member and vegan, kinda. I must admit, even after your explanation as to why you can't eat beef/pork but you have no problem wearing it, I'm confused. You couldn't kill a cow to eat it, but you could to wear it, that to me just doesn't make sense. I enjoy a wide varriety of food, I love both meat and vegi meals alike. That being siad, God didn't give us the teeth to chew meat for no reason. I was brought up on a varriety of food, and then upon meeting my husband got to learn first hand how it gets to our plates. His family is 4th generation cattle breeders. A small ranch (300 acres) with only about 30 head. It's a hobby, not a profession. Most years we are lucky if we break even. Our animals are handled with care. Never beaten, never pumped up on hormones. I've never seen a more beautiful place to live, and if I knew how to stick a picture in comments, I would, so you could see just how beautiful and green a place it is. My 2.5 year old daughter LOVES her time at the ranch. She already knows how to work gates, feed out hay, and change water in the irrigation ditch. I'm pretty sure she could tag and castrate too if we gave her the chance. I'm greatfull she will grow up in such a beautiful place, know where her food comes from, and hopefully follow in her fathers footsteps.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 5:13 PM

Your cattle farms I don't have a problem with, obviously. (If you read my comments) and as for calling me a hypocrite PETA card carrying Vegan, I am none of those things, which, again, Hi, read my post.

I have leather shoes. I don't eat beef. I also wear petroleum products and wouldn't chug petroleum. Is that hypocritical, too?

(I'm not rocking fur, either, if that's what you think.)

Also, I'm no fanatical. My husband eats meat and like I said, I'm cool with it. I just don't believe in putting it in MY body and therefor not in my child's.

Again, this is about EATING food. CONSUMPTION of meat and what it means to eat healthily (and responsibly, in my opinion.)

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 5:16 PM

... Because, honestly, you think those hot dogs they're offering Archer at school are from a family-owned farm where animals frolic and graze? Not so much.

anna | 5:18 PM

Hmm, tough issue. I am not a vegetarian, although I was one for a time--actually, I was vegan for a time, too--and, ironically, it was chiefly a means of distancing myself from my parents, who did eat meat. By being a vegetarian, I got to control making my own meals and the times I ate, etc. So it's not wholly divorced from the parents-and-their-kids-relationship-to-food you bring up.

It seems like whenever somebody discusses vegetarianism, the leather shoes argument comes up. I don't think it's an all or nothing question, and there are huge degrees of differences in types of vegetarianism, as well as reasons for doing it. I don't think anyone should feel like they have to justify why they eat the way they do. Nor do I think you should have to justify why you want to raise your kids the way you do. If you think not eating meat is the best way, then that's what you should do--just like with any parenting question, breastfeeding, attachment, cry it out, whatever. It's nobody's business.

Having said that, it does feel a little alienating to be a meat eater and read a post like this. Not because I don't respect your opinion/way of life, but because there is a sense that you don't respect mine. This may be entirely misplaced, but I think that any negative feedback about raising a vegetarian child (whether here or IRL) might stem from that.

Charlotte | 5:18 PM

Oh man, do I hear you! While I'm an almost-vegetarian (I eat eggs, fish, and yes, the occassional piece of chicken), my husband will stuff just about anything labelled as "meat" into his body, as long as it, in some way, comes from an animal. When I start talking about Boca Burgers, he replies that, as soon as our kid can chew, he'll take her to McDonald's. When I ask him not to go out and buy factory-eggs, but free-range eggs, he says he'll feed her meat pizza behind my back--anything, really, as long as it's cheap. Gah. I already see a struggle coming on here ... or him spending a lot of time sleeping in the bathtub, rather than our bed.

Charlotte | 5:23 PM

... and BTW, I love Sierra's comment. I want to be a mom like that.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 5:24 PM

Again, my not believing in most meat consumption doesn't mean I think negatively about people who do. My whole family eats meat (besides my mom) and my husband eats steaks in front of me when we go out to dinner. I say nothing because that's his choice. I do feel strongly that one should be aware of where there food comes from. But that's ALL food. I don't believe in soda consumption for the same reason, don't drink soda myself and won't allow it in my house, either.

This doesn't mean I don't hate on soda drinkers.

I have an issue with complacency (when it comes to the people I love) not meat-eating.

And OMG Charlotte, I would DIE. That's mean.

Annika | 5:27 PM

This is something I've struggled with (and continue to struggle with). I am mostly vegetarian and was raised totally vegetarian (macrobiotic at one point). My husband loves meat and was raised thinking that it is simply not a meal unless meat is the primary component. He is slowly coming around to my idea that meat is not an everymeal thing and that we should be picky about where the meat comes from, but it is definitely not an all-or-nothing way of eating for us.

My intention was to not give Sam any meat until he is old enough to understand where it comes from and make his own choice. I changed my mind when he started asking for the food on his dad's plate. I could not reconcile myself to the idea of not allowing him to eat what we eat when we only fed him what we ate (we introduced solids in a relatively unusual manner, skipping baby food totally). So he is allowed to eat meat, but it is never the first thing we offer.

I'm not 100% happy with this compromise but I am happy with it for now.

Heidi | 5:28 PM

i'm a vegetarian because i don't like to eat meat. and while i agree with your views on why you are a vegetarian, i do cook meat for my hub and my child. i wrestled with raising her meatless, but i decided that i wanted her to have as varied a diet as possible and if later in life SHE made the decision to be veg then that was up to her. I do stand firm on the NO fast food. she's 2 and a half and never had mcdonald's or any fastfood chains. outside of all the animal rights issues of how meat is produced in this country, there is so much junk in our food today. (high fructose corn syrup is in everything.) i try to give her foods that are in their most natural state...meat or veg.

tracy | 5:43 PM

I'm a meat eater. I don't know man, there's something so splendid about a 2am Wendy's run when the baby is at Grandma's that I can't resist...And really? As far as feeding my child I do the whole organic/locally grown/farm raised chickens and cow thing [my neighbor has pigs, and chickens, lucky me] but I don't stress about it. I grew up in a household eating hot dogs on occasion, but mostly healthy good-for-the-body stuff and I'm 100% healthy today. I don't have the time, or energy, or funds to worry too too much about a hot dog once in awhile, or a cheeseburger once every few months from Wendys. When it's school time I plan on making my daughter fantastic healthy lunches 4 days a week, and letting her have a "school lunch" one day, as a treat. Will I teach her about food, organic farming, etc? You bet cause next year we are going to grow all our own fruit and veggies [so psyched] but I also will let her indulge once in a blue moon. And uhg, Peta, I despise Peta. Talk about scare tactics and manipulation!

Anna Marie | 5:44 PM

My husband and I only eat fish and shellfish and I had planned on raising our kids that way as well. But when my daughter had a hard time gaining weight I started looking for the high-fat, high-calorie foods and *ugh* many of them contained meat. So, until I am comfortable with her weight gain (and she FINALLY hits 20 pounds so I can turn her carseat around) I will feed her meat. But as soon as I can, I will change her to a more animal-friendly diet.

Mom Interrupted | 5:46 PM

I understand you are doing what you feel is best for your family. Even my very meat and potatoes guy has had to bend to my more middle of the road, it's good to eat tofu and a salad can be a dinner, ways, although sneaknig tofu in on him has yet to be successfull. To me though, if you can't kill it for one thing, how can you kill it for another? Healthy eating aside, thats the argument that doesn't make sense to me. sorry I came across quite so bitchy. I actually visited our friends site already, I'm not very good at comming up with my own vegi meals, so that is very helpful.

Ambrosia Girl | 5:48 PM

Unlike you, I love meat. But, like you, I'm grossed out by the way corporate farms handle their animals. Free-range grass-fed meat is expensive, so we eat vegetarian a lot of the time. And mooch off my friend who sells organic eggs and chickens at farmers market ('Healthy Family Farms' -- they do all the markets from Santa Barbara to L.A.).

So that means a lot of dinners heavy on the tofu and veggies. We've backed off of processed soy products (like TJ corndogs, Morning Star stuff), because of the studies out there linking developmental problems with soy. Especially with boys.

And I totally don't think Archer will become a complacent eater. Said friend above, has an 8-year-old boy that is total food snob because she raised him to eat healthy. "Oh, I don't drink cow's milk," he told me the other day. "I drink almond. It's healthier." Seriously, what eight-yr-old says that? And what eight-year-old snacks on cherry tomatoes and brings homemade sushi rolls to school? I think it's great.

JuJu | 6:04 PM

I think my daughter started her period so young because of the hormones in certain foods/milk.

We're not vegetarian, but I have replaced some meats with vegetarian alternatives. Taste-wise, my family doesn't really know the difference. Healthwise, I think it's a huge difference.

A friend of mine was raised vegan, but eventually began eating dairy. Her husband eats everything. Their daughters are being raised sorta-vegetarian, they do eat turkey and chicken and fish. (Though she still does not eat any meat.) She just casually mentions what they do and don't eat, like at school or birthday parties or whatever, and it's not a big deal at all.

You just have to do and enforce what you think is right and healthy for your family - but I know you already know that. Guess I'm no good with the advice. ;)

Sarah, no URL just sarah_and_donald@yahoo.com | 6:27 PM

My parents, European as they are, were always quite concerned with making sure that my sibs and I were educated eaters. They purchased the books first, books they read to us one chapter at a time before bed. And they bought cookbooks too, cultural cookbooks, cookbooks with meat alternatives and that discussed food preparation in different cultures and the WHY and HOW.

Then there were the field trips. The zoos. The farms. The dairies. The factories. The cattle ranches. The slaughterhouses. The restaurants. And then there was THE PROJECT.

We went kosher for a few months, again to understand the WHY and HOW. We also had to plot veggie gardens in limited space, to teach us that we could be subsistence growers even in a college dorm, that there was never an excuse not to be smart about nutrition. We went to Buddhist temples and talked to monks about eating habits. We met dieticians and farmers, people who talked to us about human nutrition as well as bovine nutrition or the nutrition of other animals and how it all fits together. A healthy cow can absolutely be healthy for a human to consume, and education is key on that topic. One summer, my mom took us out to the farm she was raised on and taught us how to raise and prepare our own meat, how to raise healthy goats, how to bleed healthy lambs, how to pluck healthy fowl, how to freeze meat properly, how to divide meat and prepare it. And at the same time, she also took us to places that prepare meat alternatives, exposing us to the hidden truth that sometimes meat alternatives are produced as irresponsibly as meat in this country. Sometimes meat alternatives are just as bad for your body, so we had to learn how to research companies and their practices.

Finally, my parents always encouraged responsible eating habits in front of us. For every "normal" cookbook in the house, there was a soy alternative cookbook as well. Whenever we looked up a Betty Crocker recipe, my mother would ask us how we wanted to make the recipe healthier. We were buying local organic produce twenty years before it became a trend.

And also, my parents taught us how to prepare our own meat and vegetables. We learned how to grow an herb garden and a vegetable garden. We went to orchards to pick fruits and learn about the impact of pesticides, etc. on the whole food chain. We went to hospitals and talked to the children with severe allergies to processed foods.

To be honest, it seems like my parents may have gone above and beyond when I write out this comment. But in the end, they produced five healthy, educated eaters. I don't consider myself a vegetarian or a vegan; I tell people all the time that I will eat meat if I feel that it is a reasonable choice. For me, it's about health and my own health naturally depends on the health of the foods - from fruits to meat, from vegetables to oils - that I put in my body.

I would say that although I am an educated eater, much of my food consumption relies on the habits my parents instilled in me from a young age. I always read ingredient labels if I'm at a market. I always write up menus at the beginning of the week and consider how to make the menu healthier as the week progresses. I don't take medication without researching the impact on my nutrition.

That said, I am a meat eater. I only eat fresh meat from farms that I am familiar with, farms whose practices I agree with entirely. When I can, I raise my own fowl and use our own eggs. I purchase from local dairies that I agree with too.

I look at meat-eating this way: my teeth and digestive syste tell me what my body needs by telling me what my body is created to process. A balanced and varied diet that my body can effectively digest is always healthiest, always matters more than whether or not I eat meat or meat alternatives. I have no problems with people making other choices, but this is mine. As I raise my children, I hope to follow in my parents' footsteps. What matters to me is that my children make their own decisions, but are educated about them, not that they make my decisions but are uneducated about it.

Wearing animal and plant products is an entirely different ballgame =)

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 6:37 PM

Sarah? You're awesome and your parents? Just... Wow. You should seriously write a book. Thank you for sharing.

superblondgirl | 6:59 PM

It's crazy how food can turn into such a heated topic. For me, I grew up in a middle-class meat and potatoes family, but I have two sisters one of whom just stopped being vegetarian and one who is pretty hardcore strict sort of vegetarian plus(she reads labels to check for gelatin, she doesn't wear or sit on anything leather, etc. etc.) My husband and son and I eat meat, and unfortunately, because we don't have a ton of money, we end up eating whatever is on sale that given week - we just can't afford to go organic free-range grass-fed, much as I would love to (it tastes better!) and if I offered my husband a tofu-based meal, he would flip out. He grew up with a hippie mom who told him that sugar was "the white death" and he didn't eat meat for years, and he's still rebelling against all that in some ways.
We do eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and try to limit our processed and prepackaged foods, eat tons of whole grains, have our own organic vegetable garden, stuff like that, but often it really doesn't feel like enough - I wish we could do more. I've been toying with the idea of trying a local food sort of experiment - you know, only eating stuff made/grown within x amount of miles - and I think that would go over well enough here if we could afford it. We have a few great dairy farms near us (sheep and cow), a place that roasts local coffee, plenty of farmstands... again, it's just a matter of cost versus keeping everyone fed and content, you know? Ugh, you can see how I feel guilty here. I would love to try all these things and I feel like my hands are tied by my husband in a lot ways - I don't want to fight with him about SOY, you know? I'd rather save that for something big! ; )

Andy | 7:02 PM

OK, I just have to get one thing off my chest, which brownfemipower says a whole lot better than I can:
http://brownfemipower.com/archives/2647

I think until a certain age, the age when he starts asking 'why?' and really wants an answer, it's fine to feed him what you'd prefer unless he asks to do otherwise.

Billie | 7:28 PM

I'm going to leave the meat/no meat conversation alone but wanted to say that you are Archer's mom. You get to choose what he watches on t.v., what clothes he gets to wear, and where he goes from one day to the next. Why does that stop at what goes in his mouth. I don't want Sage drinking soda (as one example) and have explicitly told her school that (they don't give that to them anyway, however, I still wanted it known). If offered somewhere else, I will step in and say no thank you. Why should that be any different for you and meat?

Caitlin | 7:28 PM

A fascinating discussion with many interesting viewpoints. Rebecca, thank you for writing - and thanks to the commenters for their insights.

kittenpie | 7:32 PM

I think you feed your child what makes sense to you and what you consider healthy and in line with your values, as long as you are considering their entire range of needs. My biggest concern with people raising children vegetarian is whether they are getting the proteins and amino acids that they need, because those are essential building blocks, and it takes extremely mindful eating and research to get those things without any meat in a diet. I think many vegetarians ARE careful of that, and I'm sure you would be, but not everyone educates themselves as to how our bodies would normally use those parts of the carnivorous part of the historic human diet, which worries me a bit. As I say, though, I don't worry about Archer because I know he has one smart mama.

Jennifer | 7:37 PM

Okay, so let me say this: I eat meat. I eat red meat. Both times I went vegetarian or red meat free, my body responded in such a bad manner that I had doctors telling me, I need to eat red meat. If I didn't I could probably never eat it again and be fine. I do not, however eat pork or feed my two girls pork. My hubby does, his family does, people I know do. I simply don't. And hubby respects my decision to not eat it and feed it to our children. I have a best friend who is vegan, and so we talk about it a lot. In her case, she lets her kid eat meat but doesn't try to fix it for her. She's a single mom so it's tough, but again, her daughter was very tiny as a toddler and a picky eater so the doctors said feed her whatever she will eat. Meat it was.

The choice is a personal one and I get not being able to feed your kid something you yourself won't touch. I use to taste every new baby food I fed my daughters for the same reason. If I won't eat it, why should they?

I also believe that if your child wants something, they will let you know. My youngest doesn't eat a lot of meat, except chicken nuggets and all-beef kosher hot dogs. The rest of her diet is fruits and veggies and occasionally (like once a week) a bowl of noodles. My oldest would rather eat pasta and nuggets than fruit. To each their own-and yet I'm trying to make sure both get a balanced diet.

As long as you can support and respect your kids when they are old enough to decide for themselves, I don't see why you shouldn't teach them to eat as you do.

As for wearing vs. eating...I bet most of us have animal products in their clothing and don't realize it, beyond the obvious leather. Myself, I don't wear leather but for another reason entirely-I don't like the way it looks on me. On others, fab, but me? Not so much. Sometimes it's about all about the beauty baby!

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 7:43 PM

Great comment, Jennifer. Animal products are in everything from makeup to shampoo, and when I was on my Vegan rampage I was very aware of maintaining a vegan lifestyle, wore canvas shoes, used organic shampoos, etc. That's not my fight, anymore, although I highly respect it. It's the eating it that really freaks me out.

And I think you're absolutely right. Archer can make up his own decision about food when he old enough to do so. In the meantime, I'm here to serve... dinner.

Sabrina K. | 8:55 PM

We're not vegetarian here, so while I don't feel you on that, I am VERY choosy about what is in our food and where it comes from. Partially because my kids both have an insane amount of food allergies and most prepared/convenience foods from the store are chocked full of really random stuff and once you start finding out what some of that stuff is, you realize how GROSS it is. On that note, I have a garden in my teeny-weeny yard (it takes up 1/2 the yard, and it's only 3foot by 6foot), and my dad raises beef and the occassional chickens as a hobby, and it's all done very humanely with no hormones or weird bulk-up kinds of feed, and never has any preservatives or fillers. That's mainly what we eat. We eat out sometimes, but even then I still have to check the ingredients for the kids' allergies, and I get ill reading that stuff sometimes! I don't see anything wrong with raising your child vegetarian, just like I don't see anyone raising their child Catholic. It's just like you said, you do what you think it best, and when they're old enough to decide they rebel for a while, then decide for real what they think. I plan to raise my kids to be aware of what's in their food as well as where it came from.

BMC *hearts* bacon | 8:55 PM

i love bacon. and filet. mmmm. and leg of lamb. so good on the grill. veal i could live without. and you know mama would remove her own leg for a cheeseburger.

and i will eat all of that with the same mouth i kiss your face and smooch on your baby, sans wipedown. you go on and do wtfever. just make sure old boy gets his protein somehow.

our kids are annoyingly vegetarian by choice. i wish foo would learn to make out with a cheeseburger. one of life's simplest pleasures, really. they both simply refuse most animal proteins. although bub will tear up a fish stick if he's feeling right.

none of that has anything to do with anything. what i meant to say is i love you.

Rita Arens | 9:01 PM

I was a vegan for about five years and a vegetarian for ten. I eventually stopped because it became too difficult after I got married, but I still don't really eat red meat. It wasn't political for me, but I think you have every right to tell Archer your feelings about anything in life. He'll make his own decisions, sure, but he'll do that about everything. I think he'll respect you for having an opinion when he gets old enough to think objectively. So go on with your Boca burgers, woman!

Windy | 9:08 PM

GGC love the post and its nice to know there are so many parents out there who care what their kids eat including you : ). I was just wondering b/c I am a little green on the whole leather products vs. food issue. If we are supposed to be worried abut the ethical treatment of animals what is the difference between eating a cow that has been abused and given hormones vs wearing one on our foot or carrying it as a purse? The cow had the same horrible life no matter how we used it's body parts right? For the record are there organically grown, farm raised,corn fed cows that are made into leather shoes avail and if so do we even care? Someone who has posted and feels this way please help!!!!!!I am so damn confused???????THX

the weirdgirl | 9:14 PM

I have to second both superblondgirl and Kittenpie. Like superblondgirl's husband I had hippie parents who, though they never went vegetarian, ate very healthy. We raised chickens, had an organic garden, prepared everything very fresh, low salt, low fat, low red meat. Once you grow up with those habits you tend to keep them. There is a lot more that you can do, but as superblondgirl said, it's freaking expensive to eat that way all the time! We do what we can but a lot of the locally grown/produced food we buy is limited to dairy, bread, and veggies. (Though I'm growing more of my own every day.)

Then, like Kittenpie, my biggest concern with raising kids on any type of restricted diet (either too much meat or not enough) is how it affects them developmentally. Even if I was a vegetarian I think I would give meat to my kids.

On another note, I don't eat nearly as much red meat as most "meat-eaters". (I've just never been a huge fan.) Everyone keeps talking about their soy diets. I eat a ton of dairy and beans, but hardly any soy. Don't people know how many wondrous and yummy beans there are besides soy?

melanie | 9:37 PM

Almost a year ago, my five kids and I came across the go veg website. It took only five minutes for us to go from meat eaters to vegetarians. It was their idea even. I thought it would be hard to convince my husband but he was all for it. (he sneaks meat outside of the house, lol).

Some of my kids have gone back to part time meat eaters outside of the house. They are educated in this decision and it is theirs alone. No meat enters this house because I won't cook it. They are ok with that too.

I often wonder how I would raise a baby if I had another and I think it would be a veggie baby. There is plenty of time for it to grow up and make its own decision.

I mean, I think meat eating is unhealthy. I also thinking smoking or drinking is unhealthy and would not let my baby do it. They can make an educated choice when they are older. Ya know?

In other words, you are not raising him on beliefs but you are raising him on facts. We are not built to consume and digest meat. He can decide when he is older if he wants to come home smelling like cheeseburgers (this totally made me laugh).

jlene18 | 10:03 PM

So I would look at this like the religion thing you mentioned - there is no harm in having your child(ren) eat a certain way while in your house (or believe a certain way, or follow certain rules)...but give them the resources to make the decision for themselves. IF he chooses to go meat when he's old enough, well, so be it. But in YOUR house, especially if you're cooking, you've got the say-so.

On another note - my grandparents, who eat meat AND raised cattle on their smallish (200 acres) farm (as well as crops...) won't eat meat at fast food restaurants...ESPECIALLY McDonalds. My grandfather visited one of their plants once (complete with cattle farm) and was so disgusted that he can't bring himself to eat meat when out AT ALL. He only eats that which he KNOWS has been raised the way they did - grass fed (or hay, rather). So perhaps the idea wouldn't be so bad if you KNEW that they were raised gently and well (he didn't even brand them, they wore tags and were free-roamers).

Amber | 10:05 PM

as vegetarians, semi-vegans in reality, the boy and i talk...question...analyze this issue regularly and the consensus we've come to for our future children is that when they're children, we as parents will make the decisions we feel are best for them: that includes no meat, no fast food, little to no TV, etc, as they grow they will have the opportunity to make those choices for themselves. when they're adults i don't care if they agree with my choices, but i want them to understand why i made them. like you, i think it's more important to raise children that are aware. i don't want an army of little sheeple, and it scares me how often i see that going on.

to be honest, i have no problem freaking out at the school that wants to feed my kids hot dogs, or, to a lesser extent, the parent that refuses to cook a veggie burger for my kid that their little one's BBQ birthday party (i wouldn't expect them to buy the burgers, i would provide them). and the reason for that is that if my child had an allergy schools and other parents wouldn't hesitate to work with that. in my opinion, this is no different.

if my 16 year old came home stinking of mcdicks, i would be sad, but i don't think it would bother me. teenagers test boundaries and experiment and that's ok, because to be honest, as much as i don't want my child to blindly follow the crowd, i don't want them to blindly follow me either. what matters is that they know how to critically analyze and think for themselves, even if that means heating cheeseburgers and hosting yearly hunting parties.

another big one for me is that if, as teenagers, they do decide to eat meat they are to understand that they will not under any circumstances cook or store it in my house. that's the one thing i wouldn't budge on, myself.

Wendy Woolf | 11:05 PM

When Rebecca came home from 7th grade cooking class and declared that she was "now a vegetarian" I wasn't surprised. In fact, I had been expecting this day to come for a long time. I asked her why she had decided to make this life change and she, with tears in her eyes, began a heartfelt explanation based on facts about how animals are raised taken from a movie she had seen in class. I supported her decision, but as a committed carnivore, I continued to feed the rest of my family meat. I closed my eyes and ears to the truth because it seemed too difficult to make this life change. And I, too, didn't get the difference between killing for food and killing for shoes. (By the way, the PETA stage only lasted a short time ;0) Fast forward to 2007. Due to several converging factors, I made a life change, a very personal decision as was Rebecca's years before, based on my desire to put in my body only things which I believe are ethically and sustainably grown or raised. I read Michael Pollen's books which are smart, non inflammatory, and make sense. And, as Pollen states, every day is an "omnivore's dilemma" which includes decisions about shoes. At this point, buying shoes that have been made from cows which are grass fed is difficult or possibly impossible, especially when you have foot issues. But the amount of leather for shoes worn for years is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of meat we consume. It is the large American appetite for meat which has encouraged and created the "factory farms" that Rebecca and I are so vehemently against. And although I would love to buy free range shoes, I am limited by what is available, hence the "dilemma". Hopefully, the day will come when I can buy shoes from leather that has been humanely raised. Today, however, I can chose meat which has been grass fed and humanely raised or not eat it at all.

Anonymous | 5:47 AM

hi ya,

(i haven't read the other comments, sorry if this has already been said...)

WATCH 'EARTHLINGS'
(find all 3 parts on youtube)
you will never doubt your decisions again.

i am vegan and after watching this doco so is my 3 y.o.(very happy, very healthy, very clever... i could go on and on of course!). he is also learning that food does not come shrink wrapped at the supermarket, he's 3 and loves trucks, but if it's a cattle truck he says "oh, the cows are sad, they need a drink of water" cause i let him know they have been on a long trip and haven't had water or food. he's awareness is important to me, and i'm sure he will grow up making informed decisions in all aspects of his life.

my meat lovin' hubby is now a non dairy consumer (he says that's a decision based on common sense, if he doesn't need his own mother's milk, he doesn't need another animals!!) and will only consume SLOW FOOD, animals raised with traditional farming, and slaughtered as humanly possible, completely opposite to factory farming.

you and anybody who watches EARTHLINGS will be awakened, sounds dramatic but i have no other way to explain it.

o.k, one more time...

SEE EARTHLINGS!!

cheers
chel

Anonymous | 6:00 AM

hi ya again,
just been reading comments... wow a bit to chew on there...bwahaha!!

i thought i would add this fun tidbit...

playing silly word games is a big hit in our house, and i guess you know 3 y.o's like gross stuff....

so one of our games is "you eat..."
i'll say something like boggers, oh the hysterical laughter, my son says shoes, again laughter all round, this goes on and on and my son will say "you eat cows/ chickens..." and cracks up just as much as for boggers, even to a little kid the idea of eating a cow (he just loves animals) is as crazy as eating his shoes!!!

i hope he holds on to these thoughts, it's the disconnection that is a huge part of the factory farming problem.

chel

nancy | 6:22 AM

I only skimmed through some of the comments (which seemed very vitriolic) and so I might be making a point someone else made. So forgive me.

This is about how to prevent Archer from rebelling against your stance as a vegetarian:

Don't ever push it on him.

He will notice that you're not eating bacon. He will notice you driving past McDonald's. He will (eventually) ask why you choose to do certain things and not others.

And then you explain to him YOUR reasons about YOURSELF.

If you preach and forbid and scare him, he very well might end up coming home reeking of Whopper grease some night. But if you gently put forth your POV, he will be able to make choices for himself--intelligent, well-thought-out choices.

He needs BOTH sides of the argument to be able to do this.

By the way, I fully support the choices you are personally making. I lived veg for a while and I understand the challenges.

Hillary | 7:07 AM

Just the fact that you're concerned about this is going to keep Archer and the new baby from being complacent eaters. I eat meat, though I have played around with being a vegetarian. But I grew up in farming country, with kids who raised beef cattle as 4-H projects. Those animals were their friends and their jobs and, eventually, food. My dad went hunting every fall and we had deer meat all winter. I knew where my food was coming from and was shocked when I went to college to meet kids from the suburbs or cities who scarfed down hamburgers without the slightest idea of what a cow looked like.

You're the mom know and you can feed Archer however you want. You're in charge. But you also have a responsibility to give him the tools he needs to take care of himself when he gets older. Show him what you want him to know about food and then be ready to step back and let him make his own decisions. (Years from now, of course. My point here is you can't control them forever.)

Anonymous | 7:16 AM

Good post and something that I will be dealing with very soon. I'm 35 weeks pregnant with my first and both my husband and I are vegan (btw i have gained a shit load of weight and the baby is going to be huge).

We have discussed this issue and think that it is best for the child to make up its mind at the right age. I mean deciding on what that right age will be difficult but when she comes to me and says mommy I want to eat pizza with the other kids am I going to deny that? I don't think so.

My job as a parent is to give her guidelines to follow not laws or morality guilt. I will try my best to inform her of why we eat the way we do but I can't expect her to really understand that until she is much older.

I won't have animal products in my house but once she leaves home for a birthday party I have to allow her to experiment. From experience the more you force on your kids the more they rebel and I would like her, as well as you, to be an informed,conscious person.

I joined PETA when I was 8 but have sense canceled my membership because they are wacky!

My mom also became vegetarian recently but not only because of my influence but because she finally came to the conclusion that she couldn't live a fully non-violent life when the food she ingested was treated so violently.

Thanks for the topic I look forward to more discussions on this.

Candace

melissa | 7:28 AM

Hi there, GCG. I am a pescatarian (rarely used word for someone who doesn't eat 'most' meat but consumes fish). I became a vegetarian while pregnant with my son (17 years ago) and remained so until he was maybe 5. That's when I met my meat chompin' husband and oh! the steaks and chicken and BACON!!! I'm getting off track. Sorry.
I went from vegetarian to complete carnivore to vegetarian to vegan and now pescatarian. I have a severe dairy allergy and low tolerance for processed soy products so I've had to make more adjustments in my diet than let's say, a lacto-ovo vegetarian would.
My children (now 16 & 10) were raised as meat eaters. We rarely allowed fast-food (maybe one every 3-4 months and then it was always Chik-fil-a)and I would have to say that if you raise a child without fast food it's easier to just not have it as an option.
I cook 2 meals almost every night; one for myself and one for everyone else. It's just a way of life for me. There have been quite a few vegan recipes that the entire family has enjoyed and that's always nice.
My husband has started eating less and less meat for the simple fact that I'm cooking some really great stuff for myself. My kids are always encouraged to try what it is I'm having but in all honestly, the usually opt for something else (the daughter loathes beans in all forms). My children, while happy to eat a chop salad with chicken, also know what to avoid when not eating at home. My daughter knows no fast-food, no dairy and my son will ask his friends to go to Subway ilo of the McD where he can get a veggie sub.
To me? As long as my children are eating healthy I'm happy and that means chicken or turkey sometimes. We’ve limited my daughter’s intake of all dairy simply because I do believe the hormones affect her development. We’ve been doing this all summer and the difference in her mood swings alone are enough to make me stick to the plan.
Now, my daughter packs lunch for school simply because I think school lunches in public schools are some of the most horribly processed foods out there. When your child informs you that the options were: hot dog or hamburger, fries, a cheese stick and milk (water costs $1.35) what else do you do? We sat down together and came up with a meal plan. She made sure it was going to taste good and I made sure it was nutritious.
In the end, go with your gut. Introduce the foods that you feel good about to Archer; give him options. I’ve done this all along with my own children and now, I’m confident they’re making good decisions when I’m not around.
Best of luck!
Melissa

Anonymous | 8:27 AM

Why doesn't Hal give him some meat this way he can at least try it. He's old enough to make his own decisions on what foods he likes and doesn't like. I don't know, I feel like he should at least have a choice to not want to eat meat.

Marie-Ève | 8:36 AM

We are definitely in the meat less category, we're not vegetarian, but we don't eat red meat or pork. Lots of fish and seafood, some turkey and occasional chicken, as well as veggie dishes. For me it's part of a whole health initiative, so I also (mostly) don't buy processed food, try to choose organic whenever possible, limit sugar, bad fats, refined grains, etc. Although I was always aware of the need to eat well, it was only after I had a child I was nursing and who needed to be fed that I felt the need to step it up a bit.
It's not something I learned from my parents: growing up we ate a lot of red meat, potatoes and bland canned or overcooked vegetables. But at least now they have kept up with the times and eat better and much healthier.
My personal pet peeve are my in-laws. They still eat very poorly, and have unfortunately opened my son up to the wonderful world of junk food including trans-fat filled industrial cookies, Pepsi (which they have with every meal), potato chips, donuts, etc. I'm lucky in that he eats anything and loves broccoli, but just like any other kid, once you give him French fries, forget about him wanting anything else!
On one hand I don't want to be an extremist and tell myself that as long as it's a rare thing, I should really shut up and let his grandparents "spoil" him a little... On the other hand I really hate it, and wish I'd have the guts to tell them that "no, he doesn't eat that" (like you do). I don't, however, because they would really be insulted and take it personally. One time, at OUR house, I tried to gently bring up the topic over tofu dogs, but it ended up backfiring as they simply didn't eat anything and my FIL left the table saying that "if we were to listen to that healthy eating crap, all we would have is hay and alfalfa." I feel like there such a huge gap there that I can't even hope for a resolution.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 9:00 AM

These are great! Thanks for all your comments, ladies and gents! Like I said in my post, Archer has been exposed to meat, and I feed him Turkey sandwiches every day in his lunch so he isn't a vegetarian. He does prefer fish and if we were to eat somewhere where I knew EXACLY where the meat was coming from, I wouldn't have a problem with him eating it. The problem is, there are very few places where one knows where the meat has come from and I will not feed my kid meat when I don't know from what circumstances they came. (When Hal brings meat home its typically of the hamburger variety, which, no... I'm not down with Archer eating that, thanks.)

I also do agree that at some point he will have to make up his own mind about what he eats. Sooner than I think but I also agree that is true that my anti fast-foodness and sensitivity to meat will rub off on him much like my parent's ethics rubbed off on me (we didn't eat fast food, have soda in the house, watch tv, etc) and someone said (which was a great point) that we WANT our children to rebel against us at some point. It's perfectly natural and I absolutely expect it. Great point. And yes.

Thanks for your comments, peeps.

Martina | 9:59 AM

Congratulations on everyone making educated choices for their families... It's definitely a choice that requires dedication and effort.

I grew up on a Beef farm in Alberta Canada. 2 or 3 times a year we would pick a cow and have it processed at a locally owned plant... so we know what went into our cows and how they were handled at processing.

When we started running out of cuts, we would purchase supermarket meat... huge difference in taste and fat content... ugh. So I never really took issue with the slaughter of animals (death is always a part of farm life and taught at an early age) But I do have a problem with corporation processing

I have cut down on my store bought meats drastically, still take meat from the farm when I can and I try and stay away from processed meats (anyone hear about the Listeria breakout in Canada? http://www.mapleleaf.ca/ Up to 12 people in Canada of died so far... no one should die from eating food)

My children have started to ask where food has come from. I tell them and I will let them make their own choices. We eat meat, but also offer lots of veggie alternatives too. My oldest has interest in spending time with his granddad and learning the process.

Wendy | 10:40 AM

You're the parent and you have to do what you feel is best for your children. I'm semi-vegetarian. I like chicken, but not really pork or beef. However, I'm out-numbered by voracious carnivores. And my husband will eat pretty much any and all parts of a cow. Yuck.

Great post. I hope you come to some sort of resolution.

kendra | 11:13 AM

We are not vegetarian ourselves but have friends that are and are raising their children that way. Many of us know and make sure if they are coming for a potluck that there is a non meat alternative available (usually an AWESOME eggplant parmigana.....but I digress). Their oldest daughter is 7. I'm not sure their process but somewhere along the line they have taught her about their meat preferences. I was at a birthday party with this family where the hostesses mother did not know this family was vegetarian. This grandma offered the little girl a hotdog to which she replied "No Thank You. I don't eat meat." Then away she skipped to the cheese and veggie tray. The grandma didn't think twice about it. I think if you share with your kids the reasons for your choice- very matter of fact like - and how to respond when asked.....you should be cool.

LD | 11:20 AM

I think you can only do what you feel is best at the moment, but I also think that if your husband hasn't embraced the meat-free lifestyle, it seems like Archer's going to get curious eventually. But then you can teach him about where the food comes from, what is the result of eating it--all of that stuff you came to on your own.

courtney | 11:21 AM

I heard a quote (can't remember who said it) but it basically went "someone is going to brainwash your child, so it might as well be you". Which is very true, I mean even if you don't let them watch tv, school is there to do it, and other kids are there to do it. So if you feel strongly about it keep it away from him, and when he gets old enough explain why "we" don't eat meat.

Also I had a friend who was raised vegetarian, never ate a bite of meat in his life, and in high school he didn't care how much crap he took, he would not eat meat because he knew where it came from (which I think was part of the reason I had the biggest crush on him).

mfk | 11:35 AM

I think you actually have a refreshingly balanced view on this and it seems like you're going out of your way not to force your opinions on anyone else, which is awesome. As long as you allow Archer to question your views (and Hal's), in my opinion he'll grow up to be thoughtful about his choices. And who knows, he might go through a cheeseburger phase just to get it out of his system, and then go back to veggie. I think even the sheer fact that he's exposed to two people whose opinions differ but who respect each other's choices (that would be you and Hal :)) will give him a lot of insight into the issue, and into life choices in general, as he grows older.

Jenny | 11:50 AM

I eat meat myself and I say that you oughtta give archer some leeway: if possible, get free range meat and have him try it just to see. I say Archer needs both tastes to make an actual decision.

Sarah Myers | 2:44 PM

I wish I had been raised with a better conscious about what I put in my body. Not necessarily vegetarian, but just aware of healthier options.

My grandparent's raised me and I grew up eating ate all kinds of garbage - fast food, processed everything, candy/ice cream/sugary treats every day. I'm not sure if it out of guilt (my parents weren't around), or exhaustion (they had already raised their own kids), not keeping up with changes in parenting (I was a kid in the 80's and 90's), or just because fast food is cheap.

Regardless, I grew up a very picky eater who really only liked junk. Which was a huge disadvantage (aside from being overweight most of my teenage and young adult life). I've spent the last 3 or 4 years forcing myself to try new foods, learning how to enjoy a healthy balanced diet that focuses on fresh fruit and vegetables and "everything else in moderation". I don't eat fast food (err, not counting my love for socal taco shops). I rarely eat meat - more because it's expensive, I live alone, and I don't have a grill. If I do buy meat it's hormone free and farm raised.

I'm still a picky eater. I don't eat fish, eggs, or most pork products. But I love a good steak (sorry) or grilled chicken.

When I have a family someday I will make the effort to raise them to be conscious about what they put in their bodies - making fresh fruit and vegetables a staple of their diets, instead of fast food and processed sugary treats.

Katie | 2:52 PM

I'm not a vegetarian anymore, but I was for about five or six years. I'm not a parent either, but plan to be some day not too far off. The meat that we eat is organic, as I'm terrified of my food being pumped full of hormones. That's not just a meat thing; that's all my food. And I plan to raise my future children solely on organic foods, and probably in a red-meat free household.

I would say your approach is a good one. You're not being completely totalitarian about it, because you don't care if your husband eats meat. I think you just need to educate your kids as they grow about why you don't feed them meat, how the animals are treated, etc. But I also think that you should educate them about organic meat, so that if they do make the decision to eat meat when they're older, they'll at least choose meat that isn't pumped full of hormones; meat that doesn't spend its life in a tiny cage with no sunlight. I think there's a huge difference between going out and having a hamburger at McDonald's, or going out and buying organic meat from a farm that treats its animals properly. And your kids should know the difference between the two. At least, that's what I hope for my future kids.

Jenn | 3:10 PM

Wow this is a great post and lots of great comments!

I have been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for 16 years and recently, I stopped drinking cow's milk and eating milk-based yogurt. I can't stop the cheese (rennet-free of course!) though. Just can't. Pizza just may be a food group! And I tend to avoid eggs in general, but if something is made with eggs (or whey or milk), I will still eat it. Living with an omnivore and trying to go completely vegan could mean the end of my marriage! Haha!

I have no problem with others eating meat. It's their choice. I will prepare meat--I make a mean (or so I'm told) bacon-wrapped turkey at Thanksgiving. I buy the meat my husband consumes, which means I try my best to go hormone-/antiobiotic-free, free-range, organic, etc...He's going to eat meat so the least I can do is make sure he's eating the best quality meat out there.

Our son is 16 months old and so far? Not a fan of meat. (Makes me chuckle.) He used to sometimes eat the meat-based baby food and for a while, because of his peanut size, we were mincing up chicken and putting it in the baby food for extra protein. Lately, he won't touch the stuff. He mainly eats: organic yogurt, organic whole milk, whole wheat pasta, and tons of fruits and veggies. And he loves Annie's Organic Cheddar Bunnies! We'll try to give him little pieces of whatever meat my husband is eating and he takes a bite, chews on it a bit, then spits it out and won't take anymore.

School (daycare) food is FAR from ideal and I've taken issue with certain things--no 1-year-old should be given french fries and hot dogs!!! They are working on their menu (whole wheat bread, people!) but it is still not ideal. His daily reports come back that he's eaten this food or that, but I have to wonder how much of the meat he ate and whether the bulk of his meal was the fruit and veggies that went with it. (They don't allow outside food without a doctor's note, which, believe me, I've considered getting!)

So basically, I don't want to PUSH vegetarianism on my son. He seems to be 'choosing' it for himself right now. Will he ever have a ballpark hot dog? Probably. Will he ever go to McDonald's? Probably, but not on our watch. If he has a friend who has, say, a birthday party there, I'm not going to deny him the social scene, but I will hope that I've instilled in him the good eating habits to make better choices. That's what's important to us: that he knows healthy eating. I'm not perfect (I just had Cold Stone ice cream today--yum!) but the good FAR outweighs the bad.

I'm the "extremist" in my family: cloth diapering, vegetarian, no BPA, paraben-free products, caffeine and soda-free, no artificial sweetners, no trans fats, as little HFCS as possible, composting, recycling fiend, homebirthing, etc etc**...My husband is along for the ride with most of it--except for a lot of the food stuff (with the exception of trans fats). I respect that. And so long as HP makes healthy choices with his food and doesn't turn into some Dorito-eating, HoHo face stuffing, case of soda-a-day junk food junkie, I think we'll be okay. We've gotten him off to a good start.

** And no, I don't wear Birkenstocks, bathe in Patchouli, or wear my hair in dreads! I'm surprisingly 'mainstream' looking--I don't even have tatoos!! ;-)

Joceline | 6:04 PM

We don't eat any meat at home, though I'll occasionally eat some if it is served at someone else's house (I'll always take a vegetarian option if it is available though). We are raising our son (who is only 10 months old) more or less the same way you described with Archer. I just had to explain (awkwardly) to both my grandma and my MIL why he doesn't need to eat Otter Pops, Jello, sugar coated graham crackers, and hot dogs. My thought is that I know he'll come across those things at some point, try them, and maybe even like them, but at this point he has no idea they exist! He thinks blueberries, grapes, and apples are just about the best things ever created, so I plan to foster those preferences for as long as possible!

ct | 8:51 PM

After reading the comments, I'm shocked. I didn't know there were so many different variations of a vegetarian. I don't consume red meat, dairy, or eggs...not because of any reason other than they don't agree with me. I tend to be ultra sensitive when it comes to the physical side effects of foods.

I say your child, your decision and more than likely other people will respect that.

WickedStepMom | 7:48 AM

Red meat is out-law from the house. I happen to be allergic to it and so it is just not cooked in my house at all. Cross contamination could be very bad. The kids understand that and don't even ask for it. I also have some other food allergies (preservatives mainly, yeah I know I am wierd), and so we eat a lot healthy than most people. (i.e. No fast food, precooked products, prepackaged products.) They seem to like it just fine, in most cases. Othertimes they just want to eat ice cream for dinner.

Mommy Melee | 8:21 AM

This was a really fascinating post! I wouldn't worry too much about other people's opinions when you don't want them to feed Archer meat. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are vegetarians, and they're raising my nephew the same. We go out to eat with them a lot, and they stay at our house a lot, and with the exception of one accidental bite of a turkey hot dog that wasn't a tofu hot dog, my nephew hasn't had meat in all 2.5 years of his life. No one really questions them when they politely let people know that as a family, they are vegetarians.

I do think it's interesting that you don't want Archer to be complacent about what he eats. In a way, right now he is complacently following your lead. It may be that when he grows up he "rebels" but there are WAY worse ways that he could go against your personal beliefs or wishes. (Maybe not worse for you emotionally, but surely worse for him in regards to safety, health, etc.)

I think what your doing is awesome, and as long as he understands what's going on when he's old enough to understand what's going on, I doubt you'll have problems. You might be "that mom" once in a while but aren't we all--over something or another?

Anonymous | 9:49 AM

I'm fifteen and have been a vegetarian my whole life, not because of animals rights or religion, but because my mom was one. I was never forced into vegetarianism,I always chose it. As I hear more about hormones, factory farming,and contamination, I'm glad I'm a vegetarian. I have tried a little meat (Canadian pizza) but never plan to do so again. As long as better options are provided, there is no reason to have any hesitation about raising any child vegetarian.

Norm | 10:19 AM

Hey, wonderful post. I think your approach is entirely sensible. There is a growing thing called the "slow food movement" which is trying to restore humane practices to animal raising -- gives me hope for the future as an omnivore ;)

At the risk of being a debbie downer, though, as a marine biologist I feel obligated to point out that the environmental cost of exploiting wild seafood is probably equivalent to that of factory farming. It's a catastrophe. Not sure what the answer is, but rigorous local and international cooperation on conservation is going to have to happen or there really isn't going to be any seafood at all :(

Anonymous | 8:54 PM

Hi,

I have two children ages 3 and 5 and we have raised them to be mostly vegan. I grew up eating meat and changed my habits in college after educating myself on factory farming methods and seeing first hand how inhumanely cows were treated on dairy farms.

So far we haven't had too much flak for our dietary choices and my oldest will just say that we don't eat that if meat or cheese is being offered someplace. She'll be bringing a bag lunch to school even though buying a meal would be much less of a hassle. We do let them celebrate friends' birthdays with cake and ice cream and go trick or treating on Halloween (eating milk chocolate). We have also said they can try meat or cheese at their grandparent's if they wish to. So far they have chosen not to.

We have explained that we don't eat meat because we don't want to eat animals and generally animals that are eaten and dairy cows aren't treated so well.

I also try not to make a big deal of it and have talked to them about how everyone has different rules and choices in different households. At this age it hasn't been an issue and they have accepted to eat what they've been given. We stress that different people like to eat different foods. If they grow up to eat meat, then that is their choice. They are individuals and may not carry our beliefs with them, but I hope that I at least teach them to be respectful of people's choices and that they understand why we made the decision to go from meat eaters to vegans.

I've read your book Rebecca and it's clear you go with your gut and make choices that are a reflection of you as an individual and this decision should be no different. Go with what feels right for you at the time. It may change as you and your family evolve. Archer and your new baby will grow up in a household that has 2 parents with varying beliefs and practices on a range of issues, diet being just one. You will both be examples to them. Don't sweat the outcome.

Char | 6:56 AM

We've raised our daughter to be demi-vegetarian, as we are seafood people too. It's our option for dining out, or for our families to cook for us as they seem to have a hard time grasping the idea of cooking without meat. I struggled with the flack I got from our parents as they felt and had heard it was bad to raise children without meats due to the lack of protein...a big time false fact. We've raised a fairly well educated 6 year old daughter to know where her food comes from, and at this point she claims to find meat gross - personally I do too.

In anything you do in life you'll be judged....whether it's a food choice or a clothing choice. My in-laws have already judged me as being crazy because for probably the first 2 years of my daughters life I sent a sheet with her schedule on it always including that we don't want her to eat meat. I didn't care that I knew that they'd respect my decision to not feed her meat, I wanted to make sure that they knew we were for certain not going to give it to her under any circumstances.

My daughter is now entering the 1st grade, she knows and claims she doesn't eat meat proudly. I am dreading making her lunch almost every day of the school year, but in the end I know what I'm making her is far better than the crud they would feed her at school!

Dr. Pig | 9:49 AM

Actually, you are an incredible hypocrite. My wife is a vegetarian (though I am not), and I fully respect that, so no problem there. But your distinction between eating meat and wearing leather doesn't jive. Because while I understand the nourishment argument, you lament the way the animals are raised and slaughtered. Well, if that is truly your concern, the cows that produced the leather for your shoes were raised and slaughtered in exactly the same way as the cows in Mickey D's hamburgers. If you want to be "vegetarian" (which you're not - you need a different label for yourself, though why you feel you need a label in the first place is interesting in itself) and wear leather, fine. My wife is the same way, although she really is a vegetarian. But please don't pretend that there is any fundamental or philosophical difference between eating meat and wearing leather if your rationale involves the treatment of livestock that produce these products. And as for somehow thinking that cows and pigs somehow have it better than turkeys and suffer less... If you really think you can kill a turkey and make a sandwich out of it I'll send you the turkey.

Eliza | 11:55 AM

People love to get all high and mighty about food and labels like vegetarian/vegan/macrobiotic/kosher etc. Please! Can't we all just eat what we want to without being judged for it? I mean, it's just food, people!

I have not eaten meat since I was 10 years old, although I do eat eggs and dairy. My two kids (ages 2 and 4) don't eat meat either, but if they ever want to eat it in the future, I'm fine with it. It's their choice.

Rebecca - others have said it better than me, but I completely respect your food choices regarding your child, whether or not you allow him to eat meat. All labels aside, he's your kid and you don't need to justify your decisions about what he does and does not eat.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 2:13 PM

Pig -- If you seriously want to talk about hypocrisy when it comes to beef vs. leather and "major issues with eating an animal vs wearing one" then we're all a bunch of hypocrites when we (anti meat peeps) so much as eat an organic salad. (Organic produce is grown in animal byproducts including blood, bone and waste -- from non-regulated farms. This is the only way to grow organic without fertilizers/chemical treated soils.)

I love how leather is always the issue for people who don't "get it"... Do you KNOW how many animal byproducts go into EVERYTHING? Leather shoes are only a small portion of where the rest of the animal goes after being slaughtered for meat. So if you seriously want to get on me for my choices, do some research, doctor.

Baby in Broad | 4:50 PM

I think fearing the judgment of others is perfectly natural, especially when it comes to parenting. People get really sensitive really quickly when kids are involved.

I'm raising my son vegan (not so hard yet--he's 9 months old), and I too am afraid of being the psycho-anti-hotdog mother. But I try to remind myself that people will judge me regardless of what I believe about food and choose to feed my family. If it's not diet that's the issue, it will be something else.

It sounds like you're doing a great job. Archer will most certainly grow up to be a sensitive, thoughful eater.

Rachael | 5:18 PM

My best friend has 3 kids, one's still a baby but the other ones are 4 & 6 years old. They have raised their kids vegetarian because they are vegetarians themselves. The kids have never had meat - they eat a LOT of fake meat, chick patties and fake lunchmeat and fake meatballs etc, but they don't ask for meat. They know where meat comes from, and they don't want to to eat it. When they get older they might feel differently, and she will allow them to make their own decision. But for now, it's not something that my friend has really had to enforce because it's just the way they live their lives.

I think that if you raise Archer in a meatless home, and you don't go overboard about meat, but also let him know it does come from animals, I don't think you will have a problem. I don't think you'll HAVE to freak out. As long as he knows that it's his right NOT to eat meat if he doesn't want to, and he knows not to feel pressured by the school or his friends, he'll be fine.

Jenny | 12:44 AM

I hate to say it,but I sorta agree with Dr. Pig too: If you're gonna be against meat production, you ought to be against everyday products. Do some research on it: there's fake fur and leather out there.

Decision Making Mommy | 8:31 AM

I really don't think it's anyone else's damn business how you choose to raise your child. If you don't want him to eat meat, then don't allow him to eat meat. It will probably be hard to enforce since your husband does eat red meat, but as "ok" with him eating it as you are, you probably wont freak out as much as you think if your son (or daughter) wants to.
We are too interested in labels anymore, all that should matter is that you care enough about your son to want whats best for him! Screw anyone who thinks any differently.
Surprise! I'm a red meat eater!

Hatchetgirl | 6:24 PM

You've seen those small billboards around town "My kitchen, my rules!" Well I strongly believe in that. If you don't want your kiddos to have meat, well there you go! And like a PP said - it's no one's business how you feed your kid. And who the heck cares if you don't eat meat but wear leather. Pfffft. Doesn't bother me and definitely shouldn't bother you!

Mleh - you love your son (and soon to be daughter) and you feed them! That, to me, is enough. :)

EG | 10:23 AM

This won't help your questions at all, but I still thought I'd chime in.

My toddler is almost a self-imposed vegetarian, which actually has been really good for our family. We're now eating more beans and eggs as our protein source, and as our grocery bill is going down by introducing vegetarian options, I'll be able to get the free-range natural meat & poultry from the farmer's market without breaking the bank. Hoorah! A win-win.

EG | 10:32 AM

Whoops, forgot the second part of my comment:

I'm with Billie, Archer is you and Hal's baby. So as long and you and Hal are a united front, raise him how you see fit.

But recognize that eventually he will make the decision for himself, so educate him in the meantime and be ready to have your heart at least temporarily broken by a Big Mac.

Anonymous | 9:04 PM

I taught my children (by example) not to eat anything that has a face. It worked well when they were very young and it continues to work well now that my eldest son is in college.
Eldest son lives in a dorm with other vegetarians. They cook together, take turns shopping at a farmers' market and so on. He doesn't wear leather shoes and clothing although the car his grandmother gave him as a high school graduation gift has leather seats. That produced some soul-searching and dinner table discussion but in the end he decided to keep it. I really can't fault him: not many 17-year-olds can be expected to refuse a new BMW.
The younger kids (boy/girl twins, 9) steadfastly refuse to eat chicken or eggs. They sometimes beg for McDonalds but more for the toys than anything else. They raised a calf for a 4-H project this year so steak is out, probably permanently.
They attend a private school that has a pretty decent salad bar and surprisingly healthy lunch choices.
It's not easy to raise kids to respect their bodies and other forms of life around them. I'm glad my children learned to think before stuffing fast food in their mouths.

Jaelithe | 1:31 PM

I'm a vegetarian. My husband is not. I will cook meat for him, and others. I try to make sure it is organic and humanely raised when I can afford it.

My son eats meat. I let him. He also eats fake meat-- fake burgers, fake chicken nuggets-- with me.

I am sure I would be more strict about his meat consumption right now if I had not struggled so mightily to get him to eat any nutritious solid food at all. At this point in my life I have accepted that my son lives mostly off of chicken nuggets. I try to see that sometimes it's soy chicken.

It IS very important to me that my son learns where his food comes from and becomes a mindful eater, at least eventually. That is why it is so important to me to have a garden in our yard. This year he planted pole beans from seed, and helped water and weed them; now they are twice as tall as he is. He won't eat them, of course. But he knows they are food. He knows food comes from the earth, and the sun, and it grows and lives before we eat it. And I think once a person really knows that in the bones, it can't be forgotten.

Heather | 9:37 PM

Miles is, like me, a vegetarian. I debated early on whether or not to cook meat for Miles, but it seemed weird to me that I would feed him something I myself won't eat.

He eats a ton of fake meat - ask him if he likes chicken, bacon, sausage, etc. and he will say yes. He doesn't know he is eating the fake kind.

I figure if he decides to eat meat later I won't forbid it (just maybe hide some factory farm photos in his books).

Interestingly, lately whenever we play with his toy kitchen he is cooking meat. What's for lunch? Meat. What does Batman eat? Meat. Did his meat-eating father put him up to this??

Go beans.

ALEXA YOUNG | 8:43 PM

Hi. I'm just raising my hand to say I'm complacent, have my head in the sand, eat all kinds of meat and feed it to my son. (Soda, too!) I don't wear all that much leather, but mostly because manmade stuff is cheaper (and Target doesn't sell a whole lotta leather).

This conversation is actually making me way more nauseous than eyeing a big, juicy steak or a plate of bacon, though--'cause it's the first time I've been moved enough to decide I should perhaps give the whole issue more thought than I have in the past.

See, Bec, this is one of the many reasons I love you. And thanks for never judging me--at least not to my face--for eating meat OR for being a complacent, head-in-sand girl. :-)

XO

Anonymous | 5:04 PM

I think it's great that you're teaching him not to eat meat (or at least to be aware of where it comes from and let him make that choice himself) but you're going to have to come up with a good reason about why it's okay for cows to suffer and die for your shoes but not for your food. I don't understand how vegetarians can say they care about animals and then wear leather. Does not compute.

Ashley,Jay baby Scout | 9:52 AM

This is a very interesting topic...especially recently in my home. I come from a West Texas family who raises cattle. My husband comes from mostly vegetarian parents (they eat some fish). I experimented with vegetarianism during college and fell in love with all things Boca. However, I still loved my homegrown beef (it was yummy and economical...we got it straight from the butcher). My husband was strictly veg, until college...and then ate meat 50/50.
So, when I met my husband (and accumulated a few vegetarian/vegan family members and friends)...I continually thought about my diet. When we got pregnant...I couldn't stomach any kind of meat for the first four months...except turkey bacon (weird). For about two months now, hubby and I have been on a sudo-veg diet (every meat but fish is off the table). We also are struggling with "do we feed her meat?" question, but our daughter is only 7 months old. We decided that we are going to talk to our pediatrician (whom we LOVE and trust), then make the decision for ourselves. I really am not comfortable raising her to eat meat now (especially after reading this post and others like it, as well as the comments). I have a feeling tho, my family will not be so accepting of our decision (tho, my parents are somewhat "ok" with eating Boca and other meatless products). :\ I'm also struggling with how to tell them not to let her eat things (i caught my mom giving little bit a "taste" of ice cream last week!!! AAAAA!).
k, don't know if this helps or not...but i would suggest, like others, talking to your doc if you trust him/her.

Sara | 12:45 PM

This is a obviously an old blog, but I thought I'd comment anyway. One of my college friends was raised by a vegetarian mother and a omnivore father. As a 20-something adult she rarely ever eats meat. Since she didn't grow up eating it, she thinks it tastes weird. So except from the occasional bite of someone else's pepperoni pizza she is a vegetarian.

duck | 8:24 AM

This has obviously been posted for a long while but I wanted to say something. I live in a small city and at one point we considered moving south to Houston Texas. Interesting place to visit but it couldn't be our home. Too far from the land. We had to drive an hour to see something other then cement. We intrinsically knew moving there would have brought on cataclysmic changes to our life style. Its only now, after reading your article and the comments do I realize that it was this sense of disconnection to the land that bothered me. Not having direct connections to egg farmers, chicken farmers, pig farmers and beef farmers and a few grain farmers (flax, canola and wheat-one of whom will grind it for me) that I have here, never mind the local caught fish with no mercury, wild rice, wild game etc that I have here would paralyze me. I live in a northern climate so the option of having locally grown produce is non existent beyond berries and a very very short season for veggies but thanks to some friends in July and august. Never ever did I think that my backwater small Canadian city would ever have anything on American cities.