Meat is Life, From the Archives

D.E. Larsen, DVM

“What would you say if I told you I thought you ate too much red meat,” Dr. Goddard asked?

This was my first appointment with Dr. Goddard. He was trying to get a new style of practice off the ground, and I needed a new primary care doctor.

“I don’t think your profession knows squat about nutrition.” 

“That is sort of blunt,” Dr. Goddard says with a surprised look on his face.

“First eggs are bad. My mother-in-law lived for her eggs in the morning. Her doctors put her through hell for the last few years of her life. Now eggs are fine.”

“Okay, I will give you that one,” Dr. Goddard said. “But let’s get back to the red meat.”

“I am not sure you have looked at my file. I am a veterinarian. At heart, I am a cow doctor. Except for my 4 years in the army, my entire life has been involved with cows. I eat red meat, and that is not a discussion topic for this visit.”

“I don’t understand how you guys can feel good about caring for animals and then sending them to slaughter,” Dr. Goddard said. “The saying, meat is murder, comes to mind.”

“I think you are trying to bring this appointment to a close,” I said.

“No, I am sorry, I just don’t understand,” Dr. Goddard said with an apologetic tone.

“Do you want the long story or the short story?”

“I guess I better hear the long story,” Dr. Goddard said.

“How far are you removed from the farm? I mean, did your grandfather live on a farm?”

“No, my roots are in the city for a whole lot of generations,” Dr. Goddard said.

“So when you drive down the freeway and see hundreds of sheep grazing on the grass seed fields, how many of those sheep to you suppose would be there if they didn’t sell lamb chops in the store?”

“I hadn’t given it any thought,” Dr. Goddard said.

“Not even considering the expense of maintaining a flock of sheep for a year, the labor is considerable. People wouldn’t do it for fun.”

“I see your point,” Dr. Goddard said.

“But you wanted the long story. Those lambs that go to market probably live less than a year. But my profession ensures that their year on earth is good. And we ensure that the meat that reaches the market is the best available in the world,” I said.

“A short life is far better than no life. And the market lambs sacrifice themselves to give their mothers and some of their sisters a long life. So I would change your little quip to be more like meat is life,” I said.

“And the story goes on. I place at least some of the blame on your profession for the family farm’s demise in this country. You guys have been in cahoots with the food industry in your drive to reduce consumption of meat and dairy. Not only the egg issue, but butter is another one. You pushed margarine to replace butter. So you had your patients consuming trans fat instead of butter. Your understanding of Cholesterol metabolism at the general practitioner level was way under my training.”

“I am not sure I will take the blame for the demise of the family farm,” Dr. Goddard said.

“It was a complex issue, but you guys were cheering from the sidelines, at least. And what was the result of that loss? You guys make your recommendations and do your heart surgeries and your drugs, adding a few years onto the life of an old man. With the loss of the family farm, you also lost a whole cluster of farm kids. Farm kids served as stabilizing influencers to their peer groups. Without the farm kids, we have seen drug use spiral out of sight. We lose far more years of life to overdosing than you save in the old men. We lose probably more years yet to the pits of addiction. That all happened at the same time, I don’t think you can convince me there is not a correlation.”

“You give me something to think about,” Dr. Goddard said. “And I guess you are not much interested in my spiel on red meat.”

“No, but I want you to know, every time I throw a steak on the grill, I give silent thanks to the animal who provided it. And in a couple of seconds, many animals flash through my mind. The cows I pulled from a creek or saved from death, the calves who I worked so they could be conceived, the steers in the feedlots, and the ones going through the slaughter process.”

“So, after all of that, do you still what me as your doctor,” Dr. Goddard asked?

“When I was playing ball in high school, I was told that it was a good thing when a coach chewed you out. If he didn’t think you were worth his time, he would say anything. You just need to mark that file to not discuss red meat.”

Photo by Julia Volk from Pexels

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

One thought on “Meat is Life, From the Archives

  1. Like a broken clock that shows the right time twice a day, that doctor was not completely wrong about red meat, though … the studies they had on colon cancer and the links to red meat are pretty conclusive lately. Do I still eat red meat? Of course I do. Just not as much as I used to. I also know that I need meat products to keep my iron numbers up – when I have a longer spell of eating more vegetarian food, my iron numbers are too low.


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