RSS Feed


Factory farming

I imagine that out of most people contributing to or visiting this site, I’m the least motivated when it comes to actually engaging in small, day-to-day ethical activities: things like recycling, buying second-hand or Fairtrade clothes, buying local food produce etc. Since a lot of what The Night Shift is about is precisely these small acts, I’ve decided to make an effort to get stuck in. But I shall need the help and support of fellow Night Shifters (in return for which I can offer some startlingly original interpretations of Proust, plus a fine line in Frankie Boyle jokes).

Inspired by many discussions with friends over recent months, plus these two extracts (link in each word) from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, I’d like to try, if not to become an out and out vegetarian, then at least massively to reduce the quantity of meat I eat on a daily basis, and to make sure that the meat I do eat is sourced locally and produced in animal-friendly conditions. (I should point out that writing that last sentence already inspires in me a wave of antipathetic lethargy just at the thought of how much effort finding those ‘local sources’ will take – I live in Amsterdam and don’t speak Dutch).

So, how can you help me? Well, I have a few questions to which those in the know could respond:

  1. If you live in Amsterdam, where can I get my ethically righteous meat?!
  2. I stress a lot about not eating sufficient quantities of whatever it is that one is supposed to eat to stay vaguely healthy. In this case, what should I eat to replace the proteins I’d be missing from the meat?
  3. I’m not a good cook at all (I’m more your chips and beans sort of guy): do you have any very simple vegetarian recipes you could suggest?

I’ll keep you updated with my progress and inevitable lapses…

Dan Hartley


About Daniel Hartley

Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Leeds.

13 responses »

  1. Dan,

    I have a friend who was convinced by Foer. Veggie diets are proven to be a) better for the environment b) potentially better for the body c) better for animals, and I have made a significant effort myself to eat much less meat. Basically, I try only to eat chicken from the local farmer which is bio/and free range – it costs me 3 times as much as a factory chicken (which actually helps me eat less of it as you can imagine). ps. when you do eat chicken, use the remains to make stock.

    And whilst I have yet to experience it, I’m quite sure i’d be ok killing an animal for food. Veggies in uproar over this statement? Perhaps. Eat less meat, eat responsibly. I am happy with this.

    So, you can almost NEVER eat meat at a restaurant – this is the hardest I think.


    lentils – super easy. buy them, soak them 20mins (or just throw them in a soup for a while as I do). eat them. with some pepper, lemon, mint/coriander, rice. whatever.

    chickpeas – also great with lemon. Try making a salad with nuts, diced apple, grated carrot, coriander and something to fill it out.

    Eat parsley & brocoli.

    Learn to make soup – which is easy: start with a base (onions/garlic), cooked in oil and a bit of butter. Add other veggies in order of how long they take to cook – leaks are good at this point. (preboil carrots/parsnips etc – which is good cos you can use the water as the water for the soup and thus retaining the goodness from veg). Lots of salt (6g is the recommended max per meal) and pepper. Before adding too much water you can add a bit of wine and let it reduce. Add water/stock. Leave for an hour or two. Done.

    Buy a hand blender!


    Farmer’s market in Amsterdam:

  2. ps, like with all things, start with what you know and go from there. And when you learn something sweet – tell me, because I need more recipies too.

  3. So with the soup what am I putting all this in? A big saucepan thing? And is there no water in it to begin with when I’m putting all the veg in? What does preboil mean? like in another pan i boil the carrots and whatever else before putting them in the first pan? What sort of quantities of veg are we talking about here, and what’s the veg-water ratio?

    (I really have no clue how to cook. Also, should mention that my cooking facility at the moment is a two-hob crappy electric plug-in thing).

  4. Well nuts and pulses generally can substitute meat for the protein

  5. Well, a big saucepan is good (have a spare should you come to Paris anytime soon).

    Preboil = in another saucepan.

    After onion/garlic, add only the veg that needs to be par-fried – this included things like red peppers, tomatoes, onions, leaks, courgettes…most root veg (potatoes/carrots etc) and squashes won’t cook this way and will need to absord water before being soft (which is good because if you cook them in a soup/broth then they absorb the flavour as well as the water). Preboiling just helps them on their way a bit.

    Quantity wise, I like my soups to be jammed full of goodness, so I use a lot of veg for about 2/3l of water, but stock cubes are an absolute MUST for this much water. Basically, it doesn’t matter for the first go round. Just use a 2l of water and lots of veg, but the flavour will come from

    a) onions and garlic
    b) wine reduced in the pan BEFORE water is added
    c) salt/pepper/spices
    d) stock cube/s
    e) butter

    and the veg flavour adds to this. Nothing worse than a bland soup, so lots of a – e and, depending on how fattening you want it, you can lose the butter.

    oh, and it takes a few hours so make a lot so that you have a few days worth. You can freeze it too.


  6. oh, and another tip: add dried spices/herbs early and fresh ones late (ie, near the end).

  7. Big help! I’m heading back to Amsterdam tomorrow so will try this later in the week!

    Right, other Night Shifters, any more offers?

  8. @ kseverny – thank you, will bear this in mind!

  9. Don’t forget your greens! They’re really important. Try steaming green beans, broccoli, cauliflower (not green, but still), asparagus, etc. With a little salt and pepper and they can make a good side dish. They’re also really good with a hollandaise or a bearnaise sauce… asparagus especially. Salads may seem boring but they can be really interesting once you add nuts, fresh fruit (I suggest raspberries or mandarin oranges), and a nice vinaigrette. It’s also good when you add a little cheese (goat, feta, parmesan, whatever you like). Another thing is to go ahead and eat raw veggies as snacks instead of chips (er, crisps I mean 🙂
    Also, tofu is your friend! It’s the sponge of the food world and soaks up whatever you want to do with it. Yeah it’s a bit strange looking but it’s a good source of protein and can act as a meat substitute. Another good meat substitute is seitan.

    More later, I promise!

  10. This is great stuff! Keep them coming!

  11. My personal favourite ever soup is cauliflower cheese soup: oh yes.

    chop and fry an onion in some butter for 5 mins or so, then chuck in a chopped up cauliflower, a potato cut into chunks (peel it first) and vegetable stock and milk in the ratio 1 part milk to two parts stock. Grate in plenty of mature cheese and leave to cook for a half hour or so. Whizz it up in a blender when you’re done.

    To be consumed hot, with ale and good book in front of a log fire.

  12. I always find that cooking cous-cous with a mixed veg as side dish is the simplest one :). Buy a box of cous-cous, follow the instruction (really, just add hot water and leave it to cook). Then stirfry some mixed veg with a little bit of butter and put salt, herbs and spices (whatever veg u wanna put. broccoli, corn, carrot, cauliflower, mushroom, whatever). Simple and quick. 5-7mins. And healthy and tasty. 🙂

  13. I have also read Foer’s article, and was indeed convinced, and I have radically reduced my meat intake. However I read it shortly after seeing the excellent documentary currently in cinemas in the UK called ‘Food, Inc.’ which is the same story except on a wider scale and more shocking because you see inside the slaughterhouses, and it also discusses the large scale problem of GM grains. I would recommend this to anyone who is concerned with the scale, devistation, hypocracy of high capitalism, who has been affected by Foer’s article or who is considering converting to vegetarianism. Some good organisations who are trying to combat factory farming that are worth checking out are Slow Food and The Soil Association. The only thing I am perplexed about is which came first the article or the film, much like the chicken or the egg?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: