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Can't Justify the Cheese | Catholic Life

Can't Justify the Cheese

I really, really, really like cheese. I like fresh mozzarella on homegrown tomatoes with fresh basil. I like cheddar-jack piled liberally on top of steaming mashed potatoes. I like feta tossed in a salad with just enough arugula and fresh thyme. I do not understand the point of pasta without sufficient parmesan (not the dried stuff!).

I have never had much expensive cheese, but I am quite fond of the typical American fare (with the exception of American cheese!).

But this is not an ode to cheese. Because as much as I love cheese, I cannot justify buying dairy products.

1. Over-consumption of animal products is bad, bad, bad for the environment.

2. Dairy products are in no way helping my body. When I buy dairy, it is the cheapest, non-organic, hormone-laden sort available. And while I am not a part of the China Study fan club, I have been unable to convince myself that consuming dairy is actually good for bones.

3. Most of the animals used to produce eggs and milk are not treated well. For a vegetarian, I am not much of an animal rights activist. But the catechism is clear that “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.” And “causing animals to suffer needlessly” seems like an apt description of the source of most of the cheapest dairy products.

These concerns would not be as strong if one were thinking about milk from a pet goat. But I do not have a pet goat. I also do not have good options for local organic dairy.

Even if I had a good source for dairy and I had the money, I am not certain that I would feel justified since I am not convinced that consuming diary is a good use of resources. It is not merely an issue of my money to be spent on dairy as opposed to being given to a more worthy cause. I am also very concerned about the world’s resources in general. Dairy is not an efficient way of maintaining Earth with a large well-fed human population. My preference is for adults to drink less milk, and more babies to be born and breastfed.

Ultimately I do not need perfect reasons to stop purchasing dairy products. My faith teaches me that abstinence is good for the soul. It can be difficult to actually fast on days when energy is needed, but giving up dairy only requires self-discipline.

When Advent started I thought that I would give up dairy for the season, and return to eating it at Christmas. But the more that I think about it, the more it feels wrong. After Advent I will still eat dairy in food prepared by others, but it seems that I must, at the very least, stop purchasing it myself.

What are your thoughts on consuming dairy products? Do you have any good resources to recommend for more information?

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10 Responses to “Can't Justify the Cheese”

  1. Molly 17. Dec, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    Have you thought about making your own cheese or dairy products (yogurt, sour cream, etc.)? If you can find a good whole milk source locally you could experiment with this. Or have you looked into if there are groups or clubs of cheesemakers in your areas? Perhaps someone who makes cheese as a hobby and with access to better resources could sell you some?

    I don’t know too much about the rest. Though as an interesting nutritional read, have you read Michael Pollans “In Defense of Food” I found it very interesting.

    • Rae 17. Dec, 2009 at 3:57 pm #

      I used to make kefir etc. but for now I think that I have to skip out on dairy in general as I don’t know of a good source for milk.

      I will definitely check out that book. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  2. Sarah 17. Dec, 2009 at 4:26 pm #

    We’re lucky, being in he midwest. We have some great organic, pastured, dairy farms within an hour’s distance, so we can get good milk, eggs, cheese, and meat from our winter farmer’s market.

    But it would be hard to justify eating those things if we couldn’t get them from sustainable, humane sources.

    I would be way to lazy to make my own…but that’s just me.

  3. Tiphaine 17. Dec, 2009 at 4:34 pm #

    oh wow that sounds quite radical to me!
    I could not give up cheese. I know because well I’m more or less forced without cheese here :( and it’s hard. I don’t consider pasteurized stuff as cheese, it’s just plain and tasteless.. SOmetimes I just dream of brie and comte, and fresh goat cheese and camembert oh I miss it so much!!! It’s probably on my top 3 reasons to be excited about going home!!
    I do have a piece of parmesan in the fridge, but it was about 10$ for that piece, so I use it carefully :)
    I can’t wait to go to France and get cheese from the market. YUM
    I think you could look into local farms, and see if you can find cheese there. If you can visit the farm you can see for yourself how the animals are treated.
    My husband loves wholefood, it’s a supermarket that’s supposed to be more environment friendly (they still sell tomatoes year round) I think these are good alternatives for americans. I think there are two extremes, one is the over production, mega exploitation of all foods (cf food.inc) but the other extreme is the “skinny bitch” and vegan kind, where you can basically eat only raw veggies.. it is not a sustainable model either..
    Good luck to find what works for you, may take years!

    • Rae 18. Dec, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

      You’re right that pasteurized cheese isn’t great by itself, but I still love it mixed and melted with other food. I am glad that you get to back to good cheese soon! :-) Do French women typically limit their intake of non-pasteurized cheeses when pregnant the same way that American women do, or do you get to delve in right away?

  4. Jenelle 17. Dec, 2009 at 10:15 pm #

    Well, I don’t know if I have any super good resources, but I am reading a book about good, real food that isn’t industrialized and is created in a sustainable way. It’s called “real food for mom and baby” I think. I don’t know if you would like it because it talks a lot about why/how dairy, eggs and meat are good and essential for nutritional health and is very politically incorrect (high fat). Living in the midwest I also have a number of farms to choose from where the cows are grass fed, everything is organic and sustainable from individual family farms (we have different farmers for our chicken, beef, and produce). I don’t think I could cut dairy out of my diet, and my husband does make keifer, yogurt, whey, etc and it’s all fabulous and nutritious in my opinion.

    And to second the last comment, Whole Foods does have very high standards. I talked with the seafood guy and asked how the fish were caught, wild or farm and what the farm was like. They have pretty good standards that I believe the catechism would approve – they refuse to sell anything from farms that are overcrowded etc.

    • Molly 18. Dec, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

      I’d like to put in my two cents and say that having “fat” in your diet isn’t necessarily unhealthy, there are good fats and bad fats (coming from animal and vegetable sources both) it’s all about maintaining the right balances of these items in a proper diet, just as things like carbohydrates, starch, protein etc. can all be good or bad for you based on what and how much you eat and how active your lifestyle is, i.e. it makes more sense for someone who does a lot of physical labor to have a diet with more fats and proteins than it does for someone who has a desk job.

      • Rae 18. Dec, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

        I am not anti-fat at all. I really love flaxseeds and have been tremendously helped by adding a large amount to my diet. That said, I think that I get plenty of fat (nuts, seeds, olive and canola oil etc.), so I am not worried about missing fat from dairy.

        And I am under the impression that if one is consuming dairy products, it is especially important for women that it not be low-fat. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/14/health/14iht-snvital.4906063.html

    • Rae 18. Dec, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

      I will definitely look into that book. I am quite open to learning more, I just have to make decisions based upon the information that I have. So right now it looks like most dairy is not a good option, but I would not mind hearing that I am wrong. I also have no problem with high fat foods, I just haven’t been convinced that animal fat is the way to go.

      I love what you and Sarah say about the availability of dairy in the midwest! My sister in NH goes to a local farm to get her organic raw milk and eggs. I think that is great. I am not sure that I could support high consumption of cow products in any case, but what you all have is light years ahead of what is available to me now!

      Josh and I talked about getting dairy from Whole Foods for special occasions, but it is out of the budget for everyday (and the nearest store is over an hour away), so I guess that would keep consumption down anyway.

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