Change of Pace: A Look at Seafood

Today we take a little break from the extensive world of meats and focus on the world of seafood. Sadly, there is debate in this world as to if fish is actually a “meat.” For those wondering, it is. The animal is still being killed, the “meat” inside is being used for food, it contains proteins, and it’s still a living breathing being. The biggest debates come from the religious side (I’ll leave that one alone), but because this is a meat blog and I’m writing about it, clearly it’s a meat. So for those who think it’s different, especially vegetarians who try to get around, look in the mirror and realize what you are doing, you monsters.

Anyway, seafood tastes great and comes in a variety forms. But, like all good things there is usually some bad that comes with it. Much of the fish and seafood industry is heading the way of the meat industry and deserves attention as well. Seafood can offer some great products like salmon, swordfish, or the now popular Chilean Sea Bass, as well as crab, shrimp and lobster. There are controversies all over the world about certain items to eat (like the dangers of eating octopus head in South Korea, a very tasty treat by the way), fish that are constantly on the endangered list (like Salmon), and fish farms full of pollution (Thanks ARK fisheries).

First, let’s start with the previously mentioned salmon debate. There are people on both sides of the debate. Pacific and Atlantic salmon are both seen as heavily declining populations. If you’re into the whole trends, data, and maps thing the government has tons of sites set up here for Pacific salmon, a call for a 5- year review from March 2010 with an updated list of salmon species to be looked at, and a nice Atlantic endangerment article from Maine.  According to this report from Canada in October 2010, which includes a video, thinks might not be so dire:

The video, released by Positive Aquaculture Awareness (PAA) entitled “Salmon Extinction? A Reality Check”, uses the direct words of prominent activists who have claimed BC’s wild salmon are at risk of extinction.

“These outrageous quotes of salmon extinction were spread by activists with a clear goal in mind – to damage the reputation of BC salmon farmers,” says PAA President Cory Percevault. “But this year, we have literally millions of examples swimming back to BC rivers, proving just how wrong they were.”

But, why are things endangered?  There are more reasons than just the over-fishing part of fish farming. Diseases and hazardous practices can engulf more salmon species than it should according to the watershed watch.

Also in the Pacific Northwest, a political debate rages on over the Columbia Dam plan in America. This debate has raged on since the Bush administration and people feel Obama hasn’t done enough to change the original, faulty plans.

The 2010 plan assembles new information about climate change but does not offer any ways to help salmon survive the warming water temperatures and changing river flows that are expected, the motion argued. It added that the plan fails to follow the best available scientific information.

While there is both sides of the salmon endangerment concerns all over North America, one place that is safe is Alaska. The industry did take a hit when the world was looking for the cheapest food possible, but this article, from 2004, talks about what the Alaskan salmon industry went through.

Moving on from salmon, let’s take a brief look at the lobster industry. I recently read the book The Secret Life of Lobsters and it gives a pretty detailed account of the industry and the lobster itself. The lobster has also been in a heated population debate over the past quarter century. The book tells the story of how government forces and scientists have tried to enact regulations in the industry despite some data to the contrary. It looks at the fisherman/lobstering perspective, researchers, and government in the middle of this tenuous debate.

As you see, just like the meat industry there are environmental hazards, population debates, methodology debates, and anything else you can think of. Fish aren’t as easy to continue the local movement as water isn’t everywhere. But, there is one benefit of seafood everyone can enjoy. The pleasure of eating. And for those who lasted long enough, I will share some recipes that I’ve never used, but sound fantastic.

I’ve actually had similar variations to this simple recipe of the salmon variety. A nice Salmon with Lemon and Dill.

Salmon too fishy for you?  How about some simple grilled Sea Bass or a nice Tuna Steak

And finally, lobster. Instead of spending $45+ at a restaurant, how bout you make some at your home.

Grasshopper tacos with Fried Tarantula on the side

Bug Eatin, courtesy of PBS

I’ll start with the unfortunate news, and as a waiver, I have never tried a prepared insect meal or item. Sure, I’ve eaten the occasional bug that flies into my mouth or a worm from back in the day, but I have yet to seize the opportunity to eat a real bug. Recently, I’ve come across some links involving appetizing meals that include insects. Some have been stumbled upon and others sent to me. Eating an insect is still a lot more popular outside of the United States than in them. Places like Cambodia and Thailand specialize in fried bugs, Central Africa is known for snacking on ants, while Mexico is also known for inserting them in various meals. In fact, 4 out of 5 people worldwide eat insects regularly.

For those adventurous enough to seek insects to eat, do not fear. There are some brave chefs in America that do incorporate what is known as entomophagy, the eating of insects. In fact, less than a month ago the New York Times had a set of articles dedicated to the habit. First, they described an $85 dollar dinner event at the Brooklyn Kitchen highlighting the flavors and uniqueness that these insects offer.

Scorpion Soup

They also discuss some history of insects in food and talk with famous eaters like Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods. To go along with the article, the NY Times setup a Q&A for Zimmern to discuss the bug world and some other items. And in case you wanted some recipes, NYT has you covered. They tell you the insects you can eat and some of the ways to eat them.

Of course, New York isn’t the only place interested in this kind of food. While, New York and L.A. often see the beginnings of fads around the country, there are plenty of other places interested in this bug world. At the University of Wisconsin (hey, I go there!) a former professor, Gene DeFoliart, used to do quite a bit of research on the topic. He ran a website called At the website you can get the newsletter that he and other professors from around the country contributed to regarding the subject.

Now, we’ll move on to what you’re really interested in. The what to eat, who to eat, how to eat. First, we’ll start with Rick Bayless and his grasshopper tacos.

“If there’s one dish that Chicago’s super chef Rick Bayless wishes Chicagoans would lighten up about and learn to love, it’s: “Grasshopper tacos. Whenever I mention them, it always elicits a gasp from people because all they focus on is the most bizarre qualities of that particular dish. The Mexicans have been eating insects for centuries …”

That quote came from the Chicago Tribune in 2007, and he isn’t the only one attempting to keep that tradition going in the United States. Robert Sietsma talks about his own experiences trying out grasshopper tacos in Philadelphia. And for those thinking grasshoppers don’t have any benefits, he’s quick to mention protein is twice as much as beef and there are plenty of nutrients available within.

So now that we have been tasting some grasshopper tacos, how about some fried tarantula? One man, Jerry Hopkins has tried pretty much everything you could imagine in the world, including these Cambodian treats (On a side note, read about him trying his son’s placenta, not sure if even I could do that). Darrin DuFord takes a real look at the history and how to eat fried tarantulas. And, if you prefer another insect to be fried, checkout this Phucket dining guide. Of course, in America this delicacy is a lot harder to come by. So, let’s instead move on to dessert.

I’ll start you with a chocolate ant recipe. If you’re too lazy or gross to do it yourself, order them from the candy warehouse.

I’m assuming for those still left, the lingering why still remains. First, those food fearing nations might need to truly suck it up and eat insects for the fact that food supplies aren’t what they used to be. The article also talks about a great salad with crickets if interested.  Also from the article, the most telling part of this battle that will creep up quicker than people think:

“The world is already struggling to feed itself, a crisis that shows no signs of abating unless population trends make a sudden U-turn over the next five decades. The oceans are being plundered at such a rate that – according to a recent UN report – even if we halve the number of fishing trawlers operating, fish stocks would still be unable to replenish themselves quickly enough to recover. Developing world nations such as India, China and Brazil, meanwhile, are cultivating their own rapidly expanding middle classes who are emulating the West in their demand for meat.”

In addition to the carrying capacity and food supply, general environmental effects are very important. The more animals killed, the worse it is for the environment as a whole.

“The livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.”

That report from the United Nations in 2006 helps explain why eating bugs might not be so bad in the long run to get your protein.  This article from Discover magazine helps break it down a little more.

Alright, so we’ve reached the end. Here’s one more in depth look at the culture of entomophagy.  And favorite bugs from around the world from PBS. (I felt obligated since the picture at the top is theres after all.)

And some helpful recipes:

A variety of grasshopper recipes including Grasshopper Fritters.

Recipes from Clemson, including Mealworm spaghetti.

Banana Wormbread and a host of others.

The Pig- Mr. Versatility

I’m just going to come out and throw this statement at you: The pig is the most versatile animal in the meat industry today.

Instead of advertising pork as “The Other White Meat,” let the world know that the pig can be cooked in a bevy of ways. Before we rip into the un-Kosher meat, let’s look back at my history with the pig.

Growing up in a Jewish household, pork was not something promoted within the house. Sure, I had the occasional strip of bacon at a Big Boy breakfast buffet or a pepperoni pizza (a double violation of the rules), but it was rare. The first time and most familiar I had become with a pig was Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web. He was lovable, no doubt, and I understood why my people wouldn’t want to eat such fun creatures.

As I grew older, so did my fascination with food. By this point, the scenes of Wilbur no longer endeared me. Not even Babe could deter me from ripping through bacon and ribs on a regular basis. Then, in 2009, my admiration for the animal reached its peak.

As I walked through Madrid, the Museo del Jamon stared me down. I knew at that moment, I would have to make a new friend. We flirted at first. I’d walk by it on my way to a real museum and tell myself, you’ll go inside soon. I’d go as far as walking in, looking around, and walking out.  It was still early in my travels and I knew minimal Spanish to begin with. I took chances at other restaurants first, engulfing jamon iberico sandwiches at random locations. I finally knew I wanted to make sure I took advantage of this Museum of Ham. Finally, with a day to spare, I entered determined to eat. I remember pointing at the sign and accepting whatever they gave me. I knew at that moment, the pig could never disappoint.

Since then, I’ve eaten all sorts of pig from Morcillo (blood sausage) to pig ear and whole pork knuckles (cartilage included). The pig can be used and eaten in a variety of delicious ways.

And now, after getting my self-obsessive pig story out of the way I will take you threw the pig breeding process.

Pigs are typically noted as dirty animals and a tad bit destructive. This means, especially early, you have to monitor them closely. Keeping them in a clean environment is important. Don’t believe the media scandal that tells you pigs love their own filth. If you help keep their area clean, the pigs will do their part as well. For those offended by their mud baths, the truth is, they need those to keep cool and clean, plus they invented the mud bath well before spas began charging hundreds of dollars for them. Check and mate.

This site about pig breeding helps introduce the basics of early life. Important to note, if the mother pig isn’t in some sort of crate/contraption, the breeder runs the risk of having the piglets crushed during the first few month. With usually 14 teats to extract milk from, the piglets are well serviced. From there, they begin to live the normal life of feeding. Here are five additional tips of the type of environment they should have ready to go.

From there the cycle continues. This pig production chart from helps show the process and time it takes to get to the slaughter point. 

As you see at the end, the slaughter is the final destination. If you want to see the actual process check out this photo and caption timeline of the final chapter in a pig’s life. I do warn it’s a bit graphic and even depressing if you’ve ever been attached to pigs like Babe, Little Cory (of Boy Meets World fame), or Wilbur.

But the good news are the final products. Led by bacon and accompanied with ribs, ham, pork chops, and everything else, the pig offers up many delightful tastings. How about some Dr. pepper ribs or bacon wrapped smokies. And check out a wide range of recipes from

And to cap it off, here’s a video from a friend (from My Backyards Chicken fame) highlighting the greatness of one product, bacon.

When Searching for New Meat, Don’t Overlook the Tongue or Liver

There used to be a time when items as simple as the tongue and liver were quite commonplace for daily meals. In some countries, it still is. In the United States, however, true organ meat (yep, that tongue in your mouth is an organ) became a terrifying thought for hungry consumers. Many have no problem destroying their own livers with copious amount of booze or wasting taste buds with smoking and poor food choices, but to eat an animal’s tongue or liver is crossing the line.

Liver and tongue really aren’t that hard to find, even in America. Go to any Jewish deli and find yourself a nice tongue sandwich or at the least some chopped liver. Even if you search hard enough at a grocery store, you might be able to find some chicken or beef livers. Farmers markets don’t usually advertise those parts of the body, but trust me, they’re not throwing out anything they can sell. If you’re in the south, especially Texas, tongue or liver aren’t that unaccessible. And, if you find a traditional old family restaurant you might even be able to get the classic liver and onions kids grew to despise or love in past generations.

Organ meats, however, are attempting a bit of a comeback. With gastropubs the “hot” genre of restaurant in America, these delicacies are more common on menus all across the country. The liver is often made as fancy påtés and pickled tongue on rye is now a posh meal to be washed down with a high volume beer.

So what makes these items something you would ever want to try?

First, the tongue, definitely the more uncommon of the two. And just so you can get started, here is a recipe from the New York Times earlier this year for Barbecue Beef Tongue. Tongue isn’t the healthiest of red meat alternatives, but it’s quite tasty. After getting over the initial shock of “Wow, I’m eating a tongue,” you’ll find the texture and flavor to be quite tender and juicy. Obviously you get the basic proteins that are found in most red meats, but the most important purpose is the amount of B-12 in the tongue. B-12 is another one of those essential vitamins that are often obtained through supplemental means. There’s nothing wrong with taking a chance on the tongue if there are health benefits you can get naturally.

On the downside, there have been some worries over time of the tongue/mad cow connection. The trick around this, get the tongue from someone you trust. If a cow is over a certain age, around 30 months, that’s when their tongue becomes more susceptible. The tonsils must also be completely removed in order for it to be considered safe. But do not feat, there are regulations in place to prevent this and it is monitored closely. In 2009, there was actually a beef tongue recall. I suggest your first attempt, if you can afford it, would be to get your tongue from a deli or nice restaurant. Then, explore it on your own.

Below is a solid recipe for tongue tacos when you’re ready to take that leap into the kitchen.

For more tongue facts go here.

Now, the liver is a bit more popular in mainstream, the past, and probably around most cultures. It’s not as daunting as a giant tongue, but many people are turned off by the smell and taste. Often liver is accompanied by onions or strong sauces to counteract some of the turn-offs. There are also the options of grinding it into a pate or creating a chopped liver with onions, eggs, and other mixtures many of the benefits can be obtained.

And there are a lot of liver benefits. It is one of the most mineral rich organs that people like to dive into. As explained the University of Nebraska’s meat science division, liver is a great source for riboflavin, copper, Vitamin A and Vitamin B-12 (like our friend the tongue). It also can give you protein, iron, zinc, and other items that aren’t traditionally sought out, but important for the body. Liver isn’t that high in fat compared to other organs and can be taken from a calf, cow, pig, or chicken. For a classic recipe, here is some good old liver and onions to strive for at home. Don’t worry, there haven’t been any recent liver recalls in the U.S.

But let’s not forget, like every body part, this one has controversy too. Perhaps the most popular edible liver out there, foie gras (goose liver), has made a comeback at fancy restaurants. Places like Chicago lifted their ban on the item that melts in your mouth . Of course, foie gras, while tasty if it’s done right is much maligned for the animal cruelty that goes into creating the perfect goose or duck liver. Many farms are said to force feed these animals to get the liver as fatty as possible. In fact, some are fed fat directly in mass quantities that no animal would consume in regular doses. For a solid read, our friend wikipedia breaks down the Foie Gras debate worldwide. In the past few years, however, there has been a strong movement for “freedom foie gras” and letting them live in a way where they aren’t being stuffed to die. Check out this Minnesota foie gras farm to see how they have managed the delicate delectable.

Feel free to leave comments about your favorite memories or fears about trying these organ meats.

Antibiotics and the Meat We Eat

Cattle Production courtesy of USDA website

We all get sick and animals are no different. Many people take vitamins, supplements, or even antibiotics to try to prevent their own health from degrading. If you feel a cold might be coming on or the change of season leaves you vulnerable, why not pop a few pills.

But, what about for the delicious animals who many of us enjoy from time of time?

Right now, commercial farms all around the country are in a heated debate with the Food and Drug Administration over antibiotics being administered to animals. Many of these producers give antibiotics before any signs of disease, but to stifle the opportunistic diseases that may emerge. And it doesn’t hurt that certain antibiotics can make the animals a bit more on the plumper side without feeding them as much.

The New York Times recently looked at the issue and what the FDA is attempting to do about it. While these new “guidelines” may not lead to full-out banishments on using drugs, it might help prevent some from feeding these animals drugs, especially when unnecessary. A sick animal is one thing and a large part of the issue we’ll dive into shortly, but giving antibiotics to produce a larger product is where we’ll start.

The saying has been around for years, but rings true in many forms of life… quality over quantity. For starters, pigs and cows haven’t traditionally been small animals. It might cost a bit more to feed them the truly appropriate amount of food, but if the situation were somehow reversed (in a magical world where animals ruled over humans), wouldn’t you prefer food over drugs before being slaughtered? Health is one thing, but this is one version of antibiotic treatment that shouldn’t even be up for discussion.

So, now we come to health. Antibiotics used to prevent illnesses before they ever have a chance to think about emerging in the animals. The largest concern with this seems to be drug-resistance for both animals and humans to diseases as the animals and future generations are placed on the same regiment. Scientists and researchers have seen an increase in potential links according to PBS frontline. The PBS frontline episode debuted April 18, 2002, and eight years later the debate rages on.

With so many foodborne illnesses still a potential problem like e-coli and salmonella, do you really want to be eating the meat that might get you sick and prevent an easier solution of recovery. The New York times article mentioned above spoke with a variety of doctors, including Thomas Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Speaking to a meat producer, Todd Carr from Pecatonica Valley Farm in Hollandale, Wisconsin, he said no sub-therapeutic drugs are used at the farm he shares with his wife Amy. And while all animals have the potential to get sick, such as cows getting pneumonia, once the penicillin or other drugs are administered they are no longer used in meat production. Depending on the situation, the cows can still be used to help raise their calves.

Of course, the real issue for farmers and even those buying their products is simple, money. If a product costs more to produce, it will cost more to buy. And if it means more labor for farmers, having to monitor their animals a bit closer, that too might cost more money. But, in 2006 when the European Union banned antibiotics for growth, after a ban in 1998 of specific drugs, they were able to adjust. Even if it were to cost both sides more at the time of production and purposes, the long-term costs of mystery health issues might add up to more in the end.

In June 2010, the FDA released these guidelines. And by the end of 2010, we’ll see if guidelines turn into regulations.

Intro with some Buffalo

Let me start off by giving a brief introduction into my world of meat. I eat a lot of it and I don’t discriminate. Doesn’t matter the animal, nor body part (ears, bone marrow, sweetbreads, etc.). My list includes the basics like cow, pig, chicken, lamb and seafood. It goes on to buffalo, venison, kangaroo, emu, ostrich, alligator, crocodile, duck, quail, taco bell meat, wild boar and continues on for a little while. I’ve never been one to care where it comes from or how the animals are fed as long as it tastes good.

But, the truth is, animals raised in specific manners both taste better and are healthier.

There are a lot of controversies in the world of meat and a lot of meats people are often afraid to explore because they don’t know where they are coming from. This blog will help confront issues like antibiotic use, organic meats, specialty animal farms, and other controversies popping up in the world.

Buffalo courtesy of U.S. National Archives

Today, we’ll start with a meat that has become more popular in America. The rising interest in healthy living continues to rise in America, yet many refuse to give up the deliciousness of red meats. And so, bison (or buffalo) meat has moved to the forefront of many looking for an alternative.

We’ll start at the beginning. The meat itself before any kind of commercialization jumps in is said to be leaner, comparable in taste, and a lot healthier in general. According to, the fat content, cholesterol, and calories of Bison meat is all less than beef or chicken. Plus, add in some of those crazy omega fatty acids everyone is a fan of and buffalo may be a magical meat.

So, bet you want to raise some.  There are some benefits and downfalls of getting involved in buffalo farming. The National Bison Association gives a list of “advantages” for Bison. Things like lower disease resistance, no artificial shelter, and long productive lives tend to be the focus. Of course, Bison are a bit more on the wild side than your normal cattle as well. They can get a tad bit anxious and are a bit more on the difficult to contain side. Plus, while it is healthier and slightly more popular, for some reason people find themselves afraid to take chances on their meats. A slightly different taste and a whole new animal altogether will force some to shy away.

Of course, now that it is more popular, it’s also beginning to face the same problems that mass production of meats encounter. Back in July, over 60,000 pounds of bison meat was recalled for an e-coli breakout.

And for those who didn’t know, back in the 1800s Bison were near extinction in the United States. Over 300 years have surpassed, but if this part of the meat industry skyrockets and people want their bison watch out for numbers to begin dipping and prices to start increasing. Prices are already a bit more with the distinction this is a “specialty” meat.