Earlier this month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted to his personal Facebook page that he had just killed a pig and a goat. The action was part of Zuckerberg's year-long challenge for 2011: if he is going to eat meat, he can only do it from animals he kills himself.
In a letter to Fortune, Zuckerberg explained the genesis of the project:
I started thinking about this last year when I had a pig roast at my house. A bunch of people told me that even though they loved eating pork, they really didn't want to think about the fact that the pig used to be alive. That just seemed irresponsible to me. I don't have an issue with anything people choose to eat, but I do think they should take responsibility and be thankful for what they eat rather than trying to ignore where it came from.
According to Fortune, Zuckerberg began his project by killing a lobster. And when he doesn't have meat or seafood around that he can kill himself? He eats only vegetarian options.
Over at Mogulite, Amy Tennery makes a bit of fun of the Facebook founder:
I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to have nightmares about a knife-wielding Mark Zuckerberg tonight. This gives a whole new meaning to the Facebook "poke".
Don't get me wrong, I applaud Zuckerberg's efforts to eat in a more ethical and sustainable way. I'm never going to be a vegetarian, but I think everyone could benefit from eating a little less meat than appears in the standard American diet. And there's no question I support having a strong connection to the source of your foodif you grow your own, or know your farmers and producers, you're simply going to eat better, less-processed meals.
But I don't get the uproar. As far as I'm concerned, Zuckerberg's just another famous guy with a new hobby. Two years ago, his equivalent project was wearing tie every day. A tie. Last year, he learned Mandarin, which at least is a little more challenging than donning an accessory. I'm glad the dude sets goals, but I fail to see anyone's getting exercised about the fact that he made chicken stock out of chicken feet. Regular people make stock like that every day...but an Internet mogul does it, and it's news?
Of course there are plenty of people who never see the animal their food comes from. One of my friend's daughters, when talking about Easter dinner one year, asked if they were having "plastic lamb," which is what she called meat from the supermarket. After all, it always comes wrapped in plastic, and it's impossible to draw a connection between the meat on the Styrofoam tray and the living, breathing animal it once was.
But it's also not so strange to think of someone killing their food before they eat it. No, I've never killed a pig myself, but I've certainly killed plenty of live lobsters in my day, and I've caught fish that ended up on a grill not much later. And even if I'm not in a position to kill the animal I'm going to eat, I feel infinitely better if I am eating meat or seafood from a source that I know treats those beings as humanely as possible on the way to my table. The only way to do that is to eat meat that comes from farms I trust.
On Ecolocalizer, Rhonda Winter considered the broader effect of Zuckerberg's announcement:
Given Zuckerberg’s public position and scope of influence, his enthusiastic support for a more hands on method of localized food production, as well as for taking more personal responsibility for what we eat and knowing where it comes from, is likely to have a huge ripple effect throughout our popular culture.
A huge ripple effect? I'd argue our popular, and perhaps unpopular, culture is already paying attention to issues of localized food production and the associated food security. The number of regular operating farmers' markets in the United States rose 16 percent from 2009 to 2010, and even winter markets, which operate between November and March, outside of the peak growing season in the United States, have grown 17 percent since 2009. And earlier this month, Edible Communities, a chain of publications that focuses on local food culture in nearly 50 regions throughout the United States and Canada, received the James Beard Foundation Award for Publication of the Year. Clearly, attention is being paid.
In 2007, when Michael Pollan published The Omnivore's Dilemma, perhaps the thought of someone in the suburbs killing their own food was a little bit radical. But the only reason Zuckerberg's declaration of 2011 as the Year of the Kill is making headlines is because people are fascinated by the eccentricities of the rich and famous.
I'm more interested in the follow-up story: Whether Zuckerberg's year teaches him any permanent lessons about sustainable eating, and whether he then puts some of his billions where his mouth is. Like software engineer Guillermo Payet, who founded Local Harvest, there's an opportunity here for Zuckerberg to leverage much more than just his Facebook status update. The question is whether he'll take that opportunity, or whether this will be a flash in the pan where he's cooking the meat he kills.
Image credit: © Panoramic/ZUMAPRESS.com
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