Food animals, potentially repellent in their own feeding

A spin-off from the current Cafe Society thread * Poll: Sushi is…*. (Am posting this initially in Cafe Society, with its being food-related.) A few posters in the thread mentioned, express total loathing of sea-dwelling – in fact water-dwelling – creatures as food. An exchange there between two posters:

“I can’t eat any type of seafood. If it lives in the water, forget it.”

“Word to this. It disgusts me on every level – taste, texture, and smell. Factor in the scavenger / sea bug aspect and I honestly can’t see how anyone can eat anything that lives in water.”

Matters purely of taste and preference, are IMO just that – people’s reactions are what they are, and being “right” or “wrong” doesn’t come into it. I personally am at the opposite pole to the posters quoted: eat with delight pretty well every creature that “lives in water” – including ways of making freshwater fish, good eating. I particularly love “all the kinds of seafood that aren’t kosher” (am not Jewish – and for this reason, am glad of that fact). I think, however, that (while not agreeing with him) I can see where the poster is coming from, as regards the “scavenger / sea bug aspect” – such things as creatures eagerly feeding on drowned human corpses.

Would be interested in others’ thoughts / opinions / personal reactions on this issue – including, re other food animals with potentially “dubious” eating habits, such as pigs.

I’m generally OK with eating fish and seafood, but I have to say that Mike Rowe and “Dirty Jobs” put me off of tilapia forever. I forget what kind of fish farm he was working on, but he was talking about how they use tilapia to clean the tanks because they eat the other fish’s poo. I was never a big fan of tilapia to begin with and that pretty much clinched it for me.

I find the reaction amusing. Who cares what they eat? You’re not eating it; you’re eating the fish.

Yep. If a pig ate Farmer Brown, I’d have no problem consuming the meat from that pig.

That would just make it long pig. :wink:

Although there is plenty of evidence that toxins (such as pesticides or heavy metals) in the diet can accumulate in the fat deposits of animals. When you eat those animals you take in those toxins. Whether that’s a big issue with shellfish, for example, I have no clue, but considering what an animal eats is not inherently foolish.

People get strangely squeamish about basic physiology.

It makes sense to avoid oysters raised in areas where they’re exposed to human feces, as they can pick up pathogens like Hepatitis A and vibrio, which make us sick. But bottom feeders are, in general, pretty good at processing the undigested food in feces (which is a combination of that and bacteria), and turning that food into perfectly wholesome muscle and fat.

Now if said feeders are raised in overcrowded, improper conditions they are subject to diseases which will taint their flavor and diminish their nutritional value. But that’s true of any livestock.

If people knew what the animals they ate are consuming, a lot of them would have second thoughts. Chickens eat lots of bugs along with their feed*. Pigs are notorious omnivores (a trait they share with people), and, while you might dislike a lot of what they eat, your other food animals are probably eating unsavory things as well. If you eat anything that lived in the wild – venison, boar, opossum – you have no idea what it ate. Until recently (and possibly still – I don’t keep up on this) they fed cattle on ground-up animal meat, something that perpetuated Mad Cow disease.
My feelings are that, as long as I’m not eating anything from the gut, the animal product I’m eating has been thoroughly broken down into its constituent fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and it doesn’t matter where it came from. The meat from pigs is not disgusting on that account. I’m persuaded by Marvin Harris’ Cultural Materialism theories about pig-avoidance** being due to practical causes, not aesthetic or flavor-based ones.

*There’s a wonderful scene in one of C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series where one officer at a dinner on board the commander’s ship asks how they get their chickens so well-fed, since chickens kept aboard ship tend to not do so well. When he learns that the chicken has been fattened on the “weevils” that live in the ship’s biscuit supply, he stops eating.
A feature not only of the Kosher Laws and the strictures of the Koran, but also of the diets of the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians, as well.

Toxins such as pesticides / heavy metals: concur, something to consider – though I personally would likely think, “meh, general picture got, is that we’re all doomed anyway”. Creatures eating excrement, don’t personally bother me much. I like the point made by the travel writer Dervla Murphy, a big favourite of mine (even if she’s an idiot, her kind of idiocy strikes a chord with me) – big on general robust common-sensicalness, a bit of a Luddite and enemy of modern super-high-technology in all things – in her book on a journey in Laos. She states that, with all considered, she’d take eating meat from a pig which, in the backwaters of Asia, had lived largely on human excrement; against same from one from the First World, pumped full of all manner of hormones and other chemical additives. I feel that there, she’s got a point.

As opposed to Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey / Maturin novels, deliberate “polar opposite” of miseryguts Hornblower and his fellow-miseryguts characters. Captain Jack Aubrey is a jolly sort, who makes the best of things, including the prevalence of weevils on board: falls about laughing over his feeble joke about the weevil race, lost by “the lesser of two weevils”.

I’ve always wondered a bit about the chickens on tiny sailing ships of centuries past – one gathers that they had on board a rooster and hens, object a supply of baby chicks which would grow up to be eaten – with the very small space available, seems a difficult feat. Fantasies prompted, about the youngest member of the crew being appointed baby-chick-warden: getting a flogging for every chick which died under his regime. He’d be begging for spare weevils…

A friend of mine once told me if we were somehow captured, killed, and cooked by cannibals, at least they would find us inedible, being that we were (back then) smokers.

Miseryguts, indeed. I demand satisfaction for that slight! Especially considering Hornblower’s own reaction to that revelation about the diet of the shipboard chickens.

I admit to knowing little about friend Horatio – “the novel series that one happened to get into, or didn’t”. My apologies, if the boss-man duly told the twit off.

Or alternatively, they might find an interesting and subtle flavour imparted…

I would be more inclined to suspect that chickens kept on board a ship would be just hens, kept almost exclusively for their eggs (though of course if one stopped laying, it would go into the stewpot). Chickens are much more efficient at turning scraps into eggs than they are at turning scraps into chicken meat. Leave the breeding for shoreside farms.

Likely enough – got the “rooster” thing from my brother, when we were looking round the replica of Drake’s Golden Hind at Brixham, in Devon in England, marvelling at how tiny the craft was. Brother is no more of a poultry-husbandry expert, than me…

Shellfish is the canonical example of an environmental toxin concentrator, since they’re life-long filter feeders. Metal poisoning is a particularly extreme risk. 20th Century example: Minamata disease, caused by bay shellfish concentrating methyl mercury being discharged by an industrial factory and then being eaten by local residents. It’s been argued that the uncovering of this pollution-related health event was the beginning of environmental awareness and advocacy for clean water laws.

That said, the point’s already been well-made: I’m not eating shit, I’m eating (grain|fish|vegetables|pork). A huge number of the molecules in my foodstuffs were probably molecules of shit at some point in their history. “Circle of life”, my friends.

Yeah, “vegetables”. What do you think many agricultural plants world-wide are fertilized with? Even in the Western World.

Honestly it’s not water I’m duckin’
as gallons of beer I may suck in
The reason for my fear
Is perfectly clear
I don’t want to drink that which fish fuck in

You can buy it by the sack at hardware stores to fertilize your lawn…

Exactly. Who doesn’t love smoked meats.

I assume it’s Jaun’s poop from when he’s out picking vegetables.