Robin, Colorado

Keeping humanely raised meat in the dorm fridge

Robin KlitzkeI have always been a meat lover. When I was in middle school, I dabbled with vegetarianism more out of curiosity than anything else. But at the end of the week, I always ended up at Texas Roadhouse ordering a medium-rare steak.

The flip side of this is that I have always been an animal lover. That may seem like a contradiction, but it’s true. Since I can remember, I have been fascinated by animals and how they think and behave. Until I started living in a dorm recently, I always had a pet: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, reptiles, and fish. My first “jobs” were teaching dogs and their owners basic obedience training, and grooming and exercising horses at my local barn.

I was introduced to the truth about factory farms rather gradually. During middle school and my first year of high school, I was required to watch the documentary “Super Size Me” in health class. What surprised me was the description of chicken nuggets. After hearing how these chickens are bred in order to make the nuggets, I thought to myself, “That can’t be healthy.”

This eventually led to my investigation about chicken treatment in farms. What I discovered horrified me. I was just barely a junior in high school at the time and playing soccer, running track, hiking, and riding horses while eating nearly my weight in all sorts of foods. I knew I could never could go vegetarian. But I also knew I could never willingly support the practices I had investigated involving eggs or poultry.

Thankfully my mother, who loves our animals as much as I do, listened to my dilemma, and agreed to find alternative forms of poultry products. In time, as I did more investigating, pork joined our list. After seeing the documentary “Food, Inc. we also became selective in our beef. Eventually even mutton and lamb were under scrutiny, and finally I was forced to confront the cruel practices of fish farms, which made it difficult to eat at my favorite restaurant, Red Lobster.

We lived in the rural community of Fortson, Georgia, yet the more we searched, the easier it was to find humanely raised meat and egg products. Finding humane dairy products has remained difficult, but overall we’ve managed.

I have now been eating only humanely raised meat for two years and have begun my college years at Colorado State University. Money is tighter than ever, and I am feeling the pressure to eat “unknown” meat once more. But I refuse. I keep a small collection of Applegate products, including hot dogs and lunch meat, in my dorm mini-fridge for when I get my meat cravings. In the dining halls, I continue to pick the vegetarian and, when possible, vegan options. Sometime I may even take advantage of the student kitchen if I get the chance. So far, my choices have only proven to be beneficial to everyone, including myself, and I am determined not to change now.

My college studies have further hardened my resolve. Now taking zoology classes and surrounded by people in animal science majors, I’m among the people learning to become the next farmers, breeders, and agriculturalists. Due to our classes, nearly all of us are exposed to the truths of modern-day farming practices, and most whom I’ve met are interested in animal welfare in the industry. With Temple Grandin being one of the professors at our school, consideration of animal welfare — both physical and mental — is a built-in policy here.

Even more encouraging is that, for the first time, I not only have people agreeing with my stance; I actually have converts. People ask if I’m vegetarian, and my answer is always, “Not exactly.” After I explain, instead of laughing at me or telling me I’m “over the top” — a common reaction back in Georgia — I now get many people saying, “I didn’t know all that. That’s really cool.” Sometimes I even hear, “I should look into that. What brands do you buy?” It’s been very encouraging.

For those of you undergoing such a change, I understand the wish to stop, but believe me, it’s worth it to keep going. Not only can you do it, but at learning institutes like the one where I am, you’ll often find enlightened individuals who only encourage you. And when all else fails, most college dining halls have great vegetarian options!

Even after I started college, however, I still thought that I and those I have converted were alone in this way of eating. My mother was the one to find this website. Who knew there was a term for this way of eating? Now I can proudly say, “I am a humaneitarian and always will be!”

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