(US-ny) The Butcher's Conscience
- From behind a glass case displaying freshly cut meats, Joshua
Applestone is explaining how he gave up his vegan diet and became a
butcher. Contrary to my own recent experiment with the 100 percent
animal-product-free lifestyle—which I gave up after five minutes due
to an uncontrollable urge for cheese—Joshua was vegan for 17 years.
"As I got older my body started to change. I found I couldn't eat
enough avocados and beans to meet my protein requirements," he said.
Not that becoming a butcher was the thought that immediately followed
his decision to add meat back into his diet. About a year and a half
ago, Joshua and his wife, Jessica, were brainstorming on what to do
with their lives. At the time they both worked at New World Home
Cooking in Saugerties (Joshua as a chef, Jessica as a server). And
while they loved food, they didn't love the demanding hours of
restaurant work. At the same time, Jessica had been looking for the
healthiest, most humane and sustainable meat sources for her personal
They wanted nothing to do with purchasing meat from other butchers and
supporting the current system of factory farming, which involves
feedlots, overcrowding, antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids,
pesticides, stun guns, and fields of manure. Fish didn't appeal
either, due to the problems associated with fish farms. With her
disgust towards commercial farms paired with suspicions of the
misleading nature of food labels, Jessica realized the safest route
would be to buy directly from local farmers she and Joshua met and
As for Joshua, he remained vegetarian for his first seven months as a
butcher before being around all that meat finally got to him. "After
my first 40 pounds of bacon I was hooked," he says.
The bacon that seduced the vegan is, of course, not an average slab of
meat. It came from Berkshire pigs that lived the kind of life pigs are
meant to live—rooting around in the soil and giving themselves cooling
mud baths in the summer. The organic meat is preserved nitrate-free
with sea salt and honey. If you've never cooked his bacon, Joshua will
give you instructions as he wraps a pound in crisp brown paper: "Don't
overdo it. Cook it clear, not crunchy." (Although if your husband
insists on ignoring that fine advice and cooking it as stiff as he has
always cooked it, the bacon is still exquisite.)
To me there are two dilemmas to eating meat. Killing an animal to eat
it is an unpleasant reality. But it's far worse to imagine the
animal's life was one of torture and suffering. Personally, I found
the Applestone's shop soon after a vegan friend leant me a video that
reminded me why I used to be a vegetarian.
For me, eating meat is a new experience. I dream of what I want to eat
in the days ahead and I drive weekly to Fleisher's on Friday or
Saturday. I think of my friend in Italy who shops for fresh food every
day. I feel Italian. I feel French. I feel smart and healthy and
Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats' new location is 307 Wall
Street in Kingston. The retail shop is open Thursday to Saturday;
Thursdays and Fridays: 11am-7pm; Saturdays 10am-5pm. (845) 338-MOOO;
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