Best Of 2014: Meet Your Meat

There's no easy way around it: Eating meat involves killing an animal. We looked at several sides of that potentially hazardous moral quandary this year—and every one of them had a face.

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Dec 23 2014, 6:00pm

Photo by Denny Culbert

2014 was a year in which we thought about meat a lot, considering everything from how it's raised to how it's killed to how depressing it can be to eat when you're alone in a municipal airport sushi bar and realize that the flesh you're chowing down on comes from a whale.

Photo courtesy of Marius Tvethaug.

Speaking of whale meat, this year we learned that in Norway, it's still a part of the traditional local diet, though it's fallen in popularity as a new generation questions the morality of whale hunting.

And our exploration of unusual (and sometimes disgusting) meats didn't end with whales: we also looked at eating wild rats in Cambodia; hunting and preparing seal meat in the northern reaches of Canada; indulging in raccoon, otter, mink, and porcupine at a black-tie dinner in a New York City outer borough; and making squirrel potstickers and Southern-fried squirrel using dead rodent meat we found on the side of the road.

Photo via Flickr user John Brian Silverio

Of course, when you're talking about meat, you're also talking about animal slaughter. This year, we visited a halal slaughterhouse and ate a meal with its owners on our series Soul Food, and we also spoke with the fantastic Temple Grandin about humane slaughter and how ritualistic kosher and halal killings can be a bit fraught.

Photo by Jeff Vanuga/USDA

And inhumane slaughter is just one aspect of the meat industry. This year, we were depressed by news that 80 percent of US meat producers give their animals food laced with a drug that, when ingested by humans, can lead to the growth of tumors and can negatively affect the liver, kidneys, thyroid, and prostate. Yummy!

knife-smile

On the flipside, we also met a number of people who carefully and compassionately raise their animals on a small scale, such as the mangalitsa pigs at a farm in Cornwall. We spent some time chilling with a cow that we purchased in upstate New York, well before it was sent to slaughter. We learned how Cajuns collect blood for blood boudin, and how crabs and turtles meet their ends at China's live fish markets.

Photo by Denny Culbert

When you're digging into your holiday roasts this year, remember that it once had a face.