Slate is straight up trolling vegetarians: Today, it published a piece by J. Bryan Lowder with the headline “Chicken Stock Doesn’t Count as Meat.” The sub-head: “Vegetarians won’t die if they sometimes eat food with poultry broth in it.” We know that you’re supposed to ignore the trolls, but we are weak (and, according to Lowder, rude, impolite, partisan, radicalized, and militant) and cannot resist.
Here is the crux of Lowder’s argument:
One version of a saying by none other than famed gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin tells us that “stock to a cook is like voice to a singer.” Can you really justify taking away my voice? When I have vegetarians over for dinner, I’m already making a sacrifice by forgoing a real entrée in favor of a meatless one. Fairness and common sense would argue that, in return, vegetarians shouldn’t make a big deal about some small amount of a near-invisible (if crucial!) liquid. I’ve compromised my culinary integrity enough already — now it’s your turn: Vegetarians and vegans, chicken stock does not count as meat.
Hm. Does it involve dead animal parts? Then, for vegetarians who object to the killing of animals, it is meat. Does it involve spending extra resources of food, land, and water to concentrate energy from sources of vegetable matter into animal protein? Then, for vegetarians who are trying to minimize their impact on the climate by eating low-energy sources of food, yes, it is meat.
If you’re a vegetarian because you find chewing on chunks of meat gross, then sure, fine, you may not even notice if you’re eating chicken incorporated into other food. The ickiness of meat was one of my main motivations for turning vegetarian as a middle schooler, and I regularly made this exception for exactly this reason. If you’re a vegetarian for any other reason, then chicken stock is just as much meat as chicken.
We are sympathetic to Lowder’s point that he is making the best use possible of a dead animal he was going to eat anyway:
If I’m going to roast an organic, free-range, hazelnut-fed chicken, the most respectful thing I can do afterward is to make the most of the remaining flesh and bone, which most people just toss out. I’m being a responsible, frugal meat eater by doing this — can’t vegetarians acknowledge my effort by letting slide the few tablespoons that might end up in their soup?
But there’s that “if” there. “If I’m going to eat meat.” Yes, that’s your choice. There are other choices involved here, too. If you want to invite people over for dinner, that’s your choice! (It’s not really clear why you’d want to invite guests you deem rude, impolite, partisan, radicalized, and militant to your table to begin with, but I guess that’s your choice, too.) If you want to cook meat, don’t invite vegetarians. If you want to bake bread, don’t invite celiacs. If you want to mix milk and meat together, don’t invite people who keep kosher. And if you want to have anyone accept your invitations, don’t write Slate articles about what jerks they are for not wanting to eat food they don’t like to eat.