This week my Language and Composition Class was focusing on topics from the Sustainable Table, which discusses various food themes such as organic, free range, local, pesticides, etc. Part of the presentations I saw were on farm factory animals and also on the meatpacking industry.
I can't even begin to explain how horrified I was to hear about the things that animals have to undergo when they are being turned into our food. Did you know that baby pigs have their tails and teeth clipped off, which seriously limits their communication since pigs use their tails to communicate? Or that little baby chicks are de-beaked? Or that some cows are forced to become so large through the use of growth hormones that their legs give out under their own weight?
And these are just the minor issues that the poor animals have to face. Pigs get cut open while still alive. Chickens are hung upside-down before being shocked. Many animals are in such unsanitary conditions that they have to be pumped with antibiotics every day, which is awful. It's the most horrific scene imaginable. I had no clue that the meat I was buying was endorsing these horrible practices.
I thought long and hard about going vegetarian-- after all, I barely eat any meat already and I love protein-rich vegetables sources like beans and tofu. But I have a family that eats meat, and likes meat, and that can't give up all protein sources. So I decided that, from now on, I am going to eat only animals that have been raised free-range (and, in the case of cows, grass-fed as well, because they get horrible digestion problems from the conventional foods). Also, I am going to focus a lot more on only eating meat once or twice a week, max, and avoid ordering it at any restaurants that don't get it from free-range sources. We are also looking into buying our eggs locally now, which is actually cheaper than at the store!
These cows looks a bit happier, don't they?
The reason I am talking about this is for two reasons. The first is this: we, as consumers whose money is powerful, need to be more aware. I don't expect everyone to change, but I think that if more people knew how the animals suffered then they would not want to be associated with such practices. I love the taste of meat, but I cannot morally allow an animal to die screaming in pain as its stomach is sliced open just so I can have a pork chop with my mashed potatoes for dinner. Please, educate yourself about where your food is coming from. At the end of this post, I have a bunch of links to direct you towards if you want more information.
In light of this, I decided to make an absolutely divine Tofu and Vegetable Rice Stir-Fry. This dish captures the fresh flavors of spring by combining sweet peas, crisp red bell pepper, chewy mushrooms, bright green onions, and delicate summer squash. A spicy mix of hoisin, freshly ground chile paste, and lemon juice makes this dish complex, burning, and incredibly satisfying.
Tofu and Vegetable Rice
Serves 4 Serving Size: about 1c.
- 2tbl freshly ground chile paste (Sambal oelek)
- 2tbl hoisin
- 1tbl honey
- 1tsp low sodium soy sauce
- juice of one lemon
- 6 oz extra firm drained tofu, cut into cubes
- 4oz bella mushrooms, cut into cubes
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 small summer squash (such as zucchini or yellow), cut into cubes
- 1/2c. sliced green onions
- 1c. fresh or frozen peas
- 2c. cooked brown rice
- Whisk together the Marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add tofu, and toss to coat. Allow to sit at ten to thirty minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, red bell pepper, and squash to the pan; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until starting to turn tender. Add the green onions and tofu (with the marinade) to the pan; cook another 4 minutes on medium, stirring often. Add the peas to the vegetable-tofu mixture; cook 2 minutes or until warmed through.
- In a large bowl, combine the rice and the vegetable-tofu mixture, and toss well to combine (you want that marinade coating everything!) Serve with more green onions, if desired.