Right now in my life I have decided to not eat meat. I still very frequently cook meat for my dinner guest because two weeks after we decided to not eat meat I got the complaint "I'm eating meat again, my stomachs been bothering me I know it's because we haven't been eating meat!" I would by NO means call my self a vegetarian, I am not grossed out by meat, nor do I judge people who eat it.
My background with the vegetarian thing is very strong. My mom's family is from Alaska and one of her sisters has been a vegetarian my entire life. Growing up my sister and I went to Alaska every summer for the month of August, when I was 10 I went by myself to go to summer camp. The summer camp I went to was in Fairbanks so I stayed with my Aunt who is a vegetarian. She does eat fish, as does my entire family because we have people in our own personal family that make a living off of the fish industry in Alaska. My uncle even helps supply a co-op that sells to Whole Foods. I never even new what farm raised fished was until I went to culinary school.
I pondered this issue very seriously for a month or so after the trip and decided on a family road trip in the middle of Kansas where there are not many vegetarian options that it was the day I would be a vegetarian. I kept it up for 6 years then stopped. Bagel dogs (made with kosher all beef hot dogs of course) were my downfall. I never particularly ate a lot of meat my mom is more of a chicken and fish cook, with an occasional "steak and martini" night.
In culinary school you take a food safety class that teaches you about food born illness and all sorts of other safety and sanitation tips. The one thing that always stood out in my mind was the fact that most food born illness do not come from the product to begin with, but actually the conditions that these products were raised in. It is knowledge I have always had and known, but never really payed much attention to until I was living in Italy.
The 10 months I was there I never heard of a salmonella outbreak or somebody getting sick from salami that wasn't cooked right. The restaurant I worked at cured a raw pork loin in equal parts sugar and salt for 7 days, rinsed the salt/sugar off than pan seared the outside. They than thinly sliced the pork which was pink as pink could be and served this as an appetizer cold. Not one reported illness from this pink pork. In Italy it is small scale farms. People buy their meat fresh everyday from the butcher and shop for produce in the market each morning or afternoon. There was no imported cheese at the equivalent to a super market "Iper." Almost everything came from the local area or just Italy in general. I learned the true meaning of fresh!
After watching "Food INC." I decided that I could not bring myself to support one of the largest industries in the U.S. Not only are the animals treated horribly but the people that do these jobs are treated almost the exact same way as the animals. I cried from start to finish of the movie and decided that if I couldn't keep a dry eye watching the movie I should not be eating meat. According to the Whole Foods meat department they check out the products that they buy and visit the farms to uphold the quality standards of Whole Foods. I will prepare meat for my dinner guests and my cooking show, but only organic with pasture and friendly raised signs all over the meat . I also will not call myself a vegetarian because when I go out to eat dinner and somebody says "this is the best (enter meat item here) I have ever had" I will not hesitate to try it. Just a standpoint I have reached right now because I don't have the heart to watch animals or people being treated unfairly. No discrimination against meat just the big corporations that run the meat industry here in the U.S.