Back of the House

Bill Buford Takes the Meat Dilemma by the Horns

Bill Buford: perplexed.
Bill Buford: perplexed.haha Photo: Getty Images

Bill Buford’s meat-oriented think piece in the current New Yorker, based on his having read three recent books by committed meat men, has as its moral the necessity of knowing, and caring about, the animals you ingest. This has come to be pretty much a dictum of modern foodie culture, but we’re not so sure about it. For one thing, having read the piece through, we still don’t know what Buford’s attitude is toward regular meat. Sure, he likes it when his pork comes from some ancient butcher who raised it in his living room and cut up every part at a big shindig with his fellow French villagers. But does that mean Buford will stop eating commodity meat? Somehow we doubt it.

Complicating matters is the fact that Buford, like many well-meaning carnivores, is willing to believe some facts that are plainly not true: Grass-fed beef, for example, is never as well marbled as corn-fed, and hence never as sweet and juicy — humane treatment and natural law notwithstanding. And Buford’s meat messiahs are also totally committed to eating game — as if there were something intrinsically admirable about killing animals in the wild when perfectly good pork chops and hamburgers are sitting in the supermarket cold cases. (For our part, we could go the rest of our life without eating a woodcock shot out of its tree.) We feel where Buford’s coming from, but the bottom line is that you can’t reconcile meat and virtue any more than you can make tofu as good as steak. So our philosophy, in this as in so much else is, why try?

Red, White, and Blue [NYer]

Bill Buford Takes the Meat Dilemma by the Horns