Monday, August 30, 2004

Smart Alec's adds beef to menu. Oh the betrayal.

As of Saturday, vegetarian/vegan/generally-food-conscious mainstay Smart Alec's now serves a beef patty in addition to their chicken breast patty and veggie burger. This bothers me for three reasons.

First, increasing the diversity of uncooked animal products in a restaurant increases the diversity of potential food-born diseases patrons can contract from eating there. Smart Alec's has already served a chicken breast patty for a few years; uncooked chicken meat can contain salmonella and other pathogens, some almost exclusive to chicken. By introducing cow to the menu, Smart Alec's also introduces a slew of additional pathogens that can potentially infect the restaurant's food. Like chicken, there are some bacteria and viruses specific to beef; unlike chicken, we know of certain diseases found in beef that cannot be eliminated through cooking (mad cow is a stunning example). Further, this menu addition increases the chances that vegetarian and vegan patrons might contract meat-born diseases. As much as employees may try to comply with meat/non-meat separation rules (which, by the way are not state law - each restaurant has its own policy, and Smart Alec's happens to cook meat and non-meat separately), there is always the chance that a worker may handle raw meat and then handle vegan food that will not be cooked above 180 degrees; even if this employee thoroughly washes his hands, unfortunatley many meat-born diseases are not wimpy enough to fall victim to antibacterial soap. Again, increasing the diversity of meat increases the diversity of potential disease that can be passed on to vegan and vegetarian customers.

Second, adding beef is a mockery of Smart Alec's claim to serve "intelligent fast food." Like chicken, the production of beef is responsible for massive groundwater pollution, air pollution, overuse of pesticides, inefficient use of water, and waste of plant resources. I'll say it again: it takes eleven times the natural resources to feed an omnivore as it does to feed a vegan. Intelligent indeed. While chicken production is a tax on our environment, per pound, beef production is an even more atrocious polluter and resource waster. It's just a matter of degrees. Pretending that chicken was and "intelligent" choice was bad enough; adding beef to the equation is inexcusable.

Along those lines, there are no provable health benefits of eating beef (or chicken, for that matter). Consuming animal protein inhibits calcium absorbtion, increases one's chance of acquiring certain cancers (especially colon and breast), exposes one's body to countless artifically added hormones and pesticides, and contains no fiber. C'mon folks. For the record, we vegans live a few years longer than regular people, even when you correct for variations in behavior like smoking, excercise, stress, and general quality of diet. Again, beef does not contribute to the intelligent ideal.

Third, killing cows is mean. Killing chickens is mean, too. But at the risk of saying that one species can comprehend death a little more acutely than another, I'm going to claim that cows can comprehend death a little more acutely than chickens. No offense, chickens. It was a tight race, but you the cows just barely edged you out.

So what to do? I honestly don't feel like eating there anymore. Maybe I'll get over it, maybe I won't. Not that they're going to miss my business.


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