Legendary vegetarian Mollie Katzen eating chicken? Celebrity vegan Mariel Hemingway noshing on steak?? In an article sure to stir up debate, Christine Lennon over at Food & Wine writes in “Why Vegetarians Are Eating Meat” that with the advent of humanely raised animals, many vegetarians are turning to the fleshy side.

For ethically minded former veggies, “eating sustainable meat purchased from small farmers is a new form of activism—a way of striking a blow against the factory farming of livestock that books like Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma describe so damningly.”

Lennon also believes that sustainable meat is more nutritious than the Frankensoy products on the market. She quotes a nutritionist who touts the benefits of all-grass-fed beef: It’s lower in fat than conventionally raised beef, and has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Soy-based fake meat products, on the other hand, are “incredibly processed, and you have to use chemicals to get the mock flavor. Any other whole-food diet is going to be a lot better for you,” says a dietitian.

Hemingway even cops to that old antivegetarian “anemic” argument: “When I was vegan, I was super-weak. I love animals, and we should not support anything but ethical ranching, but when I eat meat, I feel more grounded. I have more energy.”

As for Katzen, she says, “Somehow, it got ascribed to me that I don’t want people to eat meat. I just wanted to supply possibilities that were low on the food chain.”

Of course, people have different reasons for choosing whether or not to eat meat, and if you’re opposed to killing animals, no amount of grass-feeding is going to appease that. But could it be that when it comes to sustainability, health, and animal welfare, vegetarians no longer have the ethical upper hand?

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