Normally on Monday, I would post a “Hunk of Meat Monday” recipe, to share with those that enjoy having protein in their diet and I would link up with Beyer Beware’s linky party…but not today.
Our household is a very unique situation. We farm. We ranch. And our son is a vegan. Actually, that doesn’t quite cover it, but it’s close. He is limited in the amount of protein that he can have. Right now his limit is 11-12 grams of protein. To put that into perspective, an 8 oz. glass of milk has about 8 grams of protein in it. So, in theory he could have a glass of milk, but then he could only have one slice of bread for the rest of the day.
What it means is that he doesn’t eat meat. And according to his dietician, he will probably never eat meat. And I’m perfectly fine with that.
George’s body can’t break down protein. When he consumes protein, it can cause a reaction in his body that can elevate his ammonia levels, cause his brain to swell, cause seizures, make him hyperactive, etc. In a nutshell, it can be life threatening.
Last week Monday, I had a package of beef jerky in the fridge. Now, normally I don’t keep those kind of snacks in the house. Many times I just leave them in the shop fridge, because my husband likes to snack on them during harvest. But for some reason, I brought some in the house.
Now, mind you, George has never really had meat before. Due to his medical issues and not knowing what was all going wrong, but knowing that he didn’t tolerate table food very well, George was on a special formula for much longer than you normally would have a child on a liquid-only diet. In fact, George had just started eating some table food just about a year ago. He was 18 months old. It was January when we learned that we would probably need to cut protein out of his diet, and finally had a plan.
Well, apparently George is curious. And he ate two sticks of beef jerky. I was working on folding clothes, and noticed that he was chewing on something. He showed me the tiny bite that was left in his mouth, promptly spit it out for me, and then I checked the fridge, realizing that not one, but two sticks were out of the package.
We’d never had this problem, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I called his neurologist, who was on vacation. Her back-up was paged…she was on vacation. So a third person was contacted, who told me that she was going to be no help. So another neurologist was paged. And while waiting for her to call back, I called our pediatrician, who was out of the office. His nurse was very supportive, and told me that when I heard back, to let them know what they needed to do.
Under normal circumstances, were George to have issues relating to his OTC, I know what to do. I take him to the ER and hand them my letters from the doctors that give step-by-step instructions on how to care for him. But that’s what I do AFTER he’s having an “episode.” I had never had to deal with a situation in which he MIGHT have an episode.
Well, I finally heard back, and the doctor gave me some wonderful words of wisdom…like, “Don’t give him any more protein today.” Thank you, Captain Obvious. I figured that one out on my own. And, “Watch for signs of distress.” Whew. So glad I called. That really put me at ease. (By the way, that’s dripping heavily with sarcasm.)
Needless to say, I quickly learned one of George’s reactions to too much protein. He becomes off-the-wall, crazy hyper. Similar to what I would imagine a 2-year-old would act like if they were given 3-4 Mountain Dews. Seriously. He had snuck the beef jerky at about 2 that afternoon. He finally went to sleep around 1…Tuesday morning. It was crazy. But he survived, and so did I.
The point of all this?
I get the need for some people to be vegetarians, vegans, not eat meat, however you want to word it. I completely understand. I know, because I’m living it.
Here’s what I don’t like:
- Don’t tell me that not eating meat is healthier for you. I know what the body needs. I know what children need. I’ve been researching it for months. I work with dieticians at Mayo Clinic. Trust me. I know. I also know what it takes to replace the nutrients and protein that you automatically get from meat. I know how dangerous it can be to try to live without those proteins. I know what the formula that my son will be using for the rest of his life smells like, tastes like…I’d rather eat a steak. (There are more than 25 different cuts of meat that are lean and healthier options, if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for.)
- Don’t tell me that livestock aren’t cared for properly. I know how they’re cared for, because I live it. We take care of our cattle, day-in, day-out, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Through blizzards, through hot streaks, in the spring, in the fall, you name it. If we need to be gone, we arrange for someone else to take care of them. It’s our responsibility and something we take very, very seriously.
- Talk to me about your concerns. If you have heard something about animal care that concerns you, ask. Don’t just assume that whatever you see, hear is the truth. If you need to, come to my farm and look. (In fact, I’m connecting a video that our state Farm Bureau put together, showing you our farm, and telling others about why we do what we do…check it out. And remember, this was three years and one child ago!)
- Don’t watch a movie and assume that what you see and hear is the truth. Movies are made to make money. Happy stories don’t sell as many copies as scary ones do…and don’t cause as much media hype. If you watch a movie, and it makes you think and have questions, then take those questions and ask a farmer. Don’t assume that the movie is going to give you the answers.
Sorry this became a little long-winded, but it’s a subject that hits close to my heart. As I said in the beginning, I completely understand the need for some people to limit their meat intake, or choose not to eat meat at all. I’m fine with that. Just please, please don’t tell me that I’m less of a person for enjoying my meat-eating lifestyle…and for being just a little sad that George can’t enjoy the same.