I was a strict vegetarian for 10 years. Now I'm a sort of sometimes-meat-avoider: my wife and I keep a meatless kitchen but eat whatever when someone serves it to us and sometimes when we're out. As I've writtenbefore, the virtuous identity marker "vegetarian" is less important to me than it used to be. But I still think eating way less meat is the single biggest bit of lifestyle "greening" most Americans could do.
Several weeks ago, Chipotle founder Steve Ells published a column headlined "Conventional vs. Grass-fed Beef." As you've probably heard, Chipotle prefers the latter—the fast-casual burrito chain has a lotto say about agricultural reform, ethical food, etc. But here the subject is more complicated than the title suggests: Ells was defending Chipotle's decision to stop buying exclusively domestic beef in favor of importing some of it from Australia, where the grass-fed supply is better.
It's a classic food-ethics connundrum: should you go with the higher production standard, or the food produced closer to home? Chipotle chose the former, a perfectly defensible choice if you just have the two.
When I went to Williston, North Dakota to report for the Century on churches in the oil boom, I had dinner at a place called Banquet West, a free meal on Sunday nights. At my table on that stormy March evening were people from around the country.