Agribusiness, Food, Vegetarianism—-and Taxes
[cross-posted on ataxingmatter–see posting there for additional comments]
As some of you may know, I am one of the many people who eat a vegetarian diet. I don’t eat cows, pigs, fish, whales, sharks, chicken, turkey, sheep, wild game, tame game… As I sometimes say when people ask me about my diet, I eat everything you eat, except for a very short list of items–the critters that can move themselves from one place to another (or move their appendages) under their own propulsion.
(Note that we often have two words for animals that we eat–their live-form word –e.g., cow, sheep, pig– and their edible-corpse form word –e.g., beef, mutton, pork. That evolved when we borrowed the Romance language word for what we ate but kept the Germanic language word for the animals.)
It started when I was a child–I was one of those who would cut the meat into tiny pieces and then spread it all over my plate so it looked like I’d eaten it. The idea of eating a cow, with those beautiful liquid brown eyes, was repulsive. (My father came from a family with thirteen kids in the hills of Tennessee, so I’d seen cows up close.) I even took a whole piece of veal once and hid it behind the dining room cabinet (taking it out to the wastebasket after it dried)! I refused to eat the squirrel and venison that my dad brought home from hunting trips (mostly, if not always, somebody else’s kill). I even refused to let my cocker spaniel share in that dead stock.
But now that I’m an adult, why do I maintain that diet? I get asked that a lot.
Funny, nobody says (with shocked exression)–“Gee, you eat meat? Why would anyone ever want to eat a toxins-laden dead corpse of an animal that lived a horrendous life and suffered an agonizing death? ” But they do often ask–usually treating it as a good-natured tease about a wacky alternative diet–why I’d want to avoid eating corpses.
James McWilliams got me thinking about this again this morning, when I read his “Bellying up to environmentalism” in the Washington Post for Nov. 16, 2009, where he noted that we should be asking questions in the reverse, that make meateaters feel uncomfortable at defending their own meateating. After all, there’s really no good reason for eating meat other than that someone is so addicted to its taste that he or she can’t exert the willpower to do without it.
The whys for not eating meat, on the other hand, are legion. Let me just list a few here, from the mundane to the truly significant:
1. cooking is easier–throw veggies in a pot and steam them; throw veggies in a pot and make soup, throw veggies in a fry pan and fry them, throw beggies in a pot and bake them; and variants thereon
2. clean-up is a lot easier–none of that icky clinging greasy layer of animal fat on every pan
3. refrigerated leftover use is easier–throw the leftovers in a pot and steam them (etc. from one above) and there’s none of that congealed lard on top of the leftovers in the fridge
4. rotten vegetables in the fridge are less disgusting than rotten corpses in the fridge
5. a decent diet is generally considerably cheaper
6. the more people who adopt a vegetarian diet, the more people who are currently going hungry could be fed
- one of the many articles I’ve read said something that stuck with me (sorry, don’t have the cite)–that it takes the same resources to feed one meat-eater that it takes to feed about 80 vegetarians.
- That’s because of the huge waste as you use up primary foodstuffs to feed the animals that will be slaughtered, then use up primary energy stuffs to slaughter, process, ship and deliver the meat to the meat eater, compared to even transported vegetables (localvore, with vegetables, is even more saving of resources)
7. without meat-eating, there are no feedlots where animals literally eat and sleep out the remainder of their short lives in their own shit
8. you can have a small flock of hens who live out their natural lives with nice living conditions (indoor/outdoor)
- disclosure: I had one hen who lived to be 22; she was still laying eggs up until the week or so before her death from natural causes
9. Hens lay bigger and bigger eggs each year that they live past the first year w(hen most are slaughtered) and they still lay fairly regularly
- disclosure: 6 eggs every 7 days was typical in my experience
10. Even hens have personalities
- disclosure: when I lived in upstate New York, I had one named Gumption who loved to fly up to the top of a two-story house and survey her domain, and another named “kiss me” who would follow me around all day like a pet dog
11. Animals that we eat are as smart as–or smarter than–animals that we keep for pets (pigs compared to dogs, for example)
12. Animals care for their young and suffer when their young are taken from them (think dairy cattle and the young that are bred so that the mothers will give milk)
13. Some eating of animals is even more obnoxious than the norm (think “veal calves” that are taken and put in tiny sheds to they can fatten without any musculature development or “foie gras” where geese are fattened by having food stuffed down their throats with a tube)
14. Life is precious: there is no reason to sacrifice animal lives to lead a decent human life, so why do it?
15. Agribusiness–the main way that animals are raised and sold for meat–is an environmental nightmare
- use of fertilizers to grow the grain that is fed to the cattle that are fed to the humans results in polluted land, water and air and uses up petroleum and other resources
- consolidation results in long transportation (inhumane to animals; wasteful of oil and gas resources)
- the subsidies (including some tax expenditures) for agriculture have gotten out of control–costly, misdirected, ill-conceived, and essentially now a form of corporate welfare for huge agribusiness enterprises
16. A meatless diet is healthier for humans than a meat-based diet, so we could cut health-care costs by simply cutting out meat
17. The process of butchering animals is a cruel leftover from the dark ages–people who work in slaughterhouses are inured to suffering, and that may well spill over into their “normal” lives outside work
18. The process of butchering animals is itself a source of harm–
- sick animals are slaughtered, making it possible that eaters of that dead flesh will be sickened as well (mad cow disease);
- animals are slaughtered in the midst of their own excrement, and some of that excrement gets into the food chain (making people sick as well);
- the leftovers from the animal slaughter have to be gotten rid of somehow, leading to even more water, land and air pollution
- workers are exposed to awful conditions–not just the process of mercilessly killing animals day in and day out, but also the risk of infection and injury on the line
19. The use of antibiotics in animal feed (given to healthy and unhealthy animals alike) ensures that resistant strains will develop even more rapidly, while leaving excess antibiotics not absorbed by the animals to pass out in their urine and excrement and into the land and water to act as toxins to others (including fish and birds and humans) leading to additional environmental nightmares…
20. Agribusiness pig farms and cattle feedlots are a blight on any humans within their vicinity (as well as a disaster for the natural world, noted above under environmental problems) from the stench of the manure (that can pollute the countryside for miles around) to the ugliness of the barren, treeless manure-laden fields.
So what to do? Maybe we should enact an excise tax on all meat products, like a”sin” tax for sodas and sweets and cigarettes. Comments, anyone?
PS Arthur C. Clarke has a great sci fi short story, taking place some time in the future, when a more advanced civilization than ours is aghast at the purported discovery that their ancestors used to–cover the young ones’ ears–eat dead corpses of animals…..Clarke’s ideas were way ahead of his time in lots of ways.
Do you own or use any leather goods?
I don’t really care what you eat, and I care even less about why you eat it. And I care even less– if that is possible– about whether you own leather goods (it’s really hard to see how people like MG do; yes, I understand they are hoping to make you out to be a hypocrite, but the argument fails for a lot of reasons; it is a stupid, vapid argument).
Of everything you said in your rather self-indulgent and preachy post, the only thing that really disturbed me was your statement that people often ask you why you are a vegetarian. Frankly, it’s none of their business, and it’s a personal matter. It would be plain rude to ask that kind of question.
On the other hand, I’ve never met a vegetarian who didn’t volunteer that they were a vegetarian and why they were a vegetarian. Some do it for love of the animals. Some do it for health reasons. Some do it for moral reasons. But all of them do what you have done here and volunteer the reasons.
Kind of like what you just did.
Saying you never met a vegetarian who didn’t volunteer that they were a vegetarian is rather tautological, as you wouldn’t notice the quiet vegetarians. It is true, as the article says, that eating meat is a choice that results in increased consumption of resources and energy, but referring to an animal carcass as a corpse repeatedly is an unneccessary rhetorical flourish.
It’s just Lib 101: First you demonize it, then you tax it.
Tao, address the argument rather than attacking the arguer.
I should point out to Linda, that it is actually IMPOSSIBLE for some people to become vegetarians, for health reasons. I’m not entirely sure how, not being a doctor, but I guess it’s kinda like some people are unable to drink milk, or som people are allergic to nuts. Some people can’t tolerate a vegetarian diet.
Actually, Ben, I am a pretty observant person. The notion that I would overlook the eating habits of the people I eat with is a non-starter (oops, did I attack the arguer? I just don’t know when I am doing what; apologies to Alex in advance).
Think about it. How would anyone come to ask Linda about her eating habits without EITHER observing them OR her volunteering that she was a vegetarian? My logic is not tautological, it is merely logical.
Human beings are omnivores. That’s a simple fact. We are made to eat meat, and some of the least healthy people I’ve known have been vegans. I even had a good friend who was instructed by his doctor to start eating meat again because his bones had become too brittle (there were hairline fractures on the surface of many of his major bones).
That being said, I believe that we’ve gone off the rails when it comes to meat production. For example, I have no disagreement whatsoever with the fact that the meat “industry” is pretty hideous, both in terms of how it treats the animals and how it treats the environment. And the jury is still out on what all those antibiotics and hormones do to humans (H1N1 NE1?). I have no problems with her talking about animal carcasses as corpses. It doesn’t disturb me in the least.
Do you eat yeasts and bacteria? They get around fine. What about mites? Orthodox Jews aren’t supposed to eat asparagus tips because it is impossible to get out all of the mites, and mites aren’t Kosher. Also, do you eat carnivorous mushrooms or only vegetarian ones? (Some mushrooms, like pleurotte, eat meat.)
You’ve obviously found a diet that works for you. That’s great.
What argument? Was Linda arguing about something? And how did I attack her?
I simply told her that I don’t care why she is a vegetarian. In fact, I told her that I don’t care that she is a vegetarian. Heck, I even told her that I don’t care if she uses leather products because I think that the “you’re a hypocrite” argument against people who do things for moral reasons has no play. I actually respect and admire vegetarians who are vegetarians for the kinds of reasons that Linda identified. Far be it from me to attack them for doing what they believe is right.
If Linda wanted to make an argument, though, she should have made one. All she provided were her reasons for why she is a vegetarian. And she did so in a very preachy way. I just don’t like being preached at.
Again, it doesn’t bother me that she is a vegetarian, so I don’t really care why she is a vegetarian.
I hope you don’t think I have attacked you now . . . :-[
“(Note that we often have two words for animals that we eat–their live-form word –e.g., cow, sheep, pig– and their edible-corpse form word –e.g., beef, mutton, pork. That evolved when we borrowed the Romance language word for what we ate but kept the Germanic language word for the animals.)”
One of my favourite little linguistic stories that is. English as a language evolved after the Norman (really Vikings, but they were French speaking) invasion of England in 1066. Took a few centuries for the languages (Anglo Saxon and Norman French) to merge and it was certainly true that Norman French was the language of the aristocracy and royalty. And it was very much true that the Normans owned all the land: the previous Anglo Saxon landowners were almost entirely dispossessed. There are still places where French is the language of the law courts (Jersey for example, an English speaking island just off the French coast).
English, the merged language, didn’t really emerge until what, Chaucer? 1350 or so? And wasn’t properly codified as a written langauge until the King James Bible and Shakespeare around 1600.
But to go back to that 1066-1300 period. The very fact that we use the Norman words for the meats while the Anglo Saxon for the animals is used as proof that the Normans were the ones doing the eating and the A-S the raising…..not that this theory is overburdened with anything so common as proof of course.
A further “proof” of this is that the words for male and female of the animals, for the young and so on (things like goose and gander, jenny and stallion etc) change in English English as you move north while the names for the meats don’t. The north of England English then (and to some extent now) being heavily influenced by Norse (ie, Viking, rather than Norman) language and the south by Anglo Saxon.
So the Aussie soldiers show up for WWI, and the UK soldiers can’t believe their eyes. Aussies are on average a head taller, more heavily muscled and not pasty. Romans meet the Gauls on the field of battle, and win more often than not, but they have to win through better strategy and tactics or greater numbers, because the Gauls are taller and more heavily muscled. and tireless in battle.
What do the Aussies and the Gauls have in common? More meat in their diet than the Brits of the Romans, for one thing.
Which is to say that there are two sides to every debate (which, for those seeking tautologies, can pass as a tautology). What, exactly, is the point of a kitchen-sink advertisement for the vegetarian lifestyle? Is there something new here? Is this an example of Pope’s “oft said, but ne’er so well expressed”? (I vote “no”.) Does this essay take us anyplace we haven’t been before? Not that I can tell.
This is no way to run a blog for thoughful readers.
Just a note that humans have two kinds of teeth: one for meat and one for cellulose. Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” is a good and rather complete analysis of the different topics that you have been discussing here.
Well Kharris I suppose the real bottom line for the post on this site is that it is a metaphor for the type of economic organization we will have on a going forward basis. Personally, I eat a lot of animal products because I like the taste. I also like almost any fruit, grain and roots, but I am not that fond of vegetables. A number of the animal products are not that good for me , do consume a lot of resources and result in environmental degradation–So does the modern growing of crops although to a lesser degree. If the government is going to tax/ban various substances that people like-tobacco, alcohol, drugs, high fructose corn syrup etc- because it is bad for people and drives up health care costs, why not meat–or at least beef (cattle while living)? Similarly, if to save us all from Al Gore’s dystopian view of the future we are going to reduce carbon emissions why not start by banning animal husbandry rather than suv’s? And if the price of getting even a start of reforming the way we insure and pay for health care in this country is that no woman will be able to have insurance coverage for an abortion, even a medically necessary abortion to save the woman’s life, than why not ban the federal government from providing food aid to anyone that involves the taking of animal life? I guess at the end of the day, I yearn for a simpler time with a lot less machines, a lot less people, a more pristine environment and the ability to go out and kill something and eat it. Of course, I would probably have died in infancy in such a time, suffered from severe malnuitrion at some point in my childhood if I had not and have been set adrift on an ice floe a few years ago if I had not been killed in a hunting accident before then. More to the point, my sense of the “good life” is simply non existent and highly impractical in the current world. The question is whether the good old days of capitalism, even regulated capitalism, are being kept alive in the memories/imaginations of many at a time when it is wholly impractical to organize the economy in this fashion? Have we reached the point where the Lindas of the world can argue with a certain pragmatic justification that we must all become vegetarians? Is this any different from the sorts of political economic debates we have at Angry Bear regularly?
Another point. It takes a lot of carbon dioxide to produce meat for people. Global warming from human production of carbon dioxide may well be solved if we did not eat meat.
Disclosure: I’m not a vegetarian. I tend to eat poultry, mostly.
What are your thoughts on eating meat that is grown in a lab? This will be possible once genetics advances to the point of growing human organs.
Maybe I wasn’t blunt enough or (and this is embarassing, in cotext) clear enough.
I have no objection to this topic being discussed. I just think this effort was long, rambling, and had nothing new to offer. Not that I am an example of the point myself, but when one writes for others, one ought to exercise considerable discipline. Write short. Write well. Write to the point. Don’t wander far from the facts.
So tell me the world needs to stop eating meat, but not like this.
“But now that I’m an adult, why do I maintain that diet? I get asked that a lot”
I have to go with Tao – I’ve never seen anyone grilling vegetarians about their diet, and the general sanctimony of your post suggests you think about the subject a lot, and probably bring it up.
“15. Agribusiness–the main way that animals are raised and sold for meat–is an environmental nightmare
use of fertilizers to grow the grain that is fed to the cattle that are fed to the humans results in polluted land, water and air and uses up petroleum and other resources
consolidation results in long transportation (inhumane to animals; wasteful of oil and gas resources)
the subsidies (including some tax expenditures) for agriculture have gotten out of control–costly, misdirected, ill-conceived, and essentially now a form of corporate welfare for huge agribusiness enterprises”
I’d be the last to argue there aren’t problematic distortions in the ag markets, but agribusiness is what feeds this world, and it’s been a lot more beneficial to humanity that PETA or environmentalists. As to the pollution issue, everything we do (including breathing) creates pollution. I’m pretty comfortable saying the computer you used to enter this has a lot of plastic in it, and more than likely uses electricity. We don’t pollute the environment for spite; we do so because we derive enormous benefit from doing so, benefit that dramatically outweighs the costs.
“This will be possible once genetics advances to the point of growing human organs”
Soylent Green is people.
I guess I am one of those who “can’t exert the willpower to do without it.” I agree in general with everything you said, but I am a little worried by the easy segue in proposing that we tax meat products. You have a tendency (in other posts) to propose “solutions” to problems by forcing the people who don’t agree with you to pay to enforce your emotional/ethical preferences. Bad politics. Probably bad mental hygiene.
In the for what it’s worth department, I believe that people evolved as meat eaters… like chimpazees, it’s a preferred food when we can get it. reason has something to do with avilable protein and calorie density… Darwin in his heaven cares nothing about ethics.
But ethics is what makes us human, and while I do not dare to tell other people what they should eat, I would probably join you in vegetarianism if I could learn to prepare vegetarian meals as easily as I can go to the local Chinese takeout and buy a chicken or fish dinner.
I woudn’t worry too much about those meat eating Celts. As Thoreau pointed out, to us if not to the farmer who was claiming that meat was necessary to build strong muscles and bones, the ox pulling his plow was a vegetarian.
And then I would add, the “taste” of meat is a matter of what we are used to, associate with feeling full, and have learned how to cook.
Just remember bacon is a vegetable.
Tao Jonesing said…
“Actually, Ben, I am a pretty observant person.”
Probably the root fallacy of all human thinking.
You don’t see what you don’t see, and most of what you (generic) see is a construct of your own imagination.
“a decent diet is generally considerably cheaper”
Hardly. Fresh fruits and vegitables are much pricer then mac and cheese.
I’m not vegetarian, but I live with one, (who doesn’t try to make me feel guilty about eating meat, btw, as this poster blatantly does). I would love to exist on Morning Star fake-meat products, but have a severe allergy to soy, and most other legumes, a main source of protein for vegans. I also can’t tolerate dairy well. I’m not blind to the ills of factory farming and food-pharma industrial complex, but I believe in balance.
Nature provided us with teeth that make us omnivores. I compromise by buying only organic, humanely-raised, minimally processed meats, and using them sparingly in dishes with lots of vegetables. When I buy eggs, I only buy organic, cage-free.
For anyone who says this is too expensive, I’ll also note that I am unemployed and currently using food stamps.
Interesting that you’ve never met a vegetarian who didn’t volunteer they were a vegetarian. My guess is that you run with mostly meateating friends. Wonder if you’ve ever teased a vegetarian for what they were eating?
When a vegetarian eats with other people, one of the first things that happens is that someone will ask–why aren’t you having the shrimp (or beef, or veal or whatever) or why are you just having a salad. Non vegetarians make a big deal of what they are eating all the time. Try joining faculty colleagues at a meal where there is no meat dish–you will hear them all talking about the lack of something decent to eat. What we eat, in other words, is often a subject of conversation. When it’s meat that’s the subject, most meateaters aren’t even aware of the frequency of the conversation. If vegetarianism becomes the subject, then suddenly it’s an invasion of personal terriroty (the meateaters).
My experience as a vegetarian is that meateaters mock the vegetarian’s diet relentlessly, teasing, making fun, making “moo” sounds as they loudly smack their lips over their burgers–acting, in other words, like silly juveniles. Something about a vegetarian diet seems to threaten their very core views about life and liberty.
Interestung that you think the post is “self-indulgent and preachy”. How many other posts that list reasons for a thoughtful position have you considered “self-indulgent and preachy”? It is opinionated, for sure, and it is based on an economic rationale. So why is it “preachier” than any other. (It surely doesn’t mention god, so it can’t be that.)
By the way, one reason that you may have learned that people are vegetarians is that meateating’s predominance means that vegetarians do sometimes have to disclose to friends that they are vegetarians. If someone invites you to dinner, it’s not very polite to turn away half the dishes because they contain meat. Much better to alert beforehand. Usually when you alert, there’s some discussion of why. Just because meateaters can take for granted that they will be served meat doesn’t mean that they are any less interested in what they eat.
see reply above. There are many circumstances that require volunteering the fact of vegetarianism. Many people then demand a reason why. Some demur. Others respond with their reasons.
Your anecdotes about less healthy vegetarians don’t stack up to the statistics. Vegetarians have less heart disease, less obesity, and less of a number of other human ailments. There are plenty of anecdotes to the contrary. When I was first pregnant, my obstetrician ordered me to take a bunch of nutrients “because I was a vegetarian”. I asked him if my blood tests or other tests showed any need for such nutrients (like iron, etc.). He said “No, in fact yours are much better than typical. But because you are a vegetarian, I expect they will be bad eventually.” They never were, and I never needed the supplements he’d wanted me to take.
By the way, the statement that “we are made to eat meat” is not necessarily true. We descend from great apes, who are not meateaters. There is considerable evidence that early humans lived primarily on fruits and nuts. Surely, killing the animals around us then allowed us to grow extravagantly. Maybe good for us. Definitely not good for the animals or the planet.
“In a way that dramaticly outweighs the costs”
A bold comment that is proving to be not 100%…ever been to where the plastic, lead, and mercury is dumped. To criticize in such a manner also reveals strong emotion and inaccuracies…
We only need about 4 0z. of meat a day to suffice. Even double that and we still eat way more on average in the US.
I remember the vehemence of smokers claiming no cost as well.
There is always a cost in the way humans change the environment…or other animals etc.
I asked for comments on whether thinking about this as an appropriate use for a “sin” tax is reasonable or not. Nothing more. People seem to find it easier to attack my posting style rather than deal with the question asked. Compared to other sin taxes, is this a reasonable one or not? We almost all drink sodas. Many smoke. Many eat meat. What’s different about meat compared to other sin taxes that should treat it as a sacrosanct topic? The harm is probably greater, though I haven’t seen an economic study. There is a clear benefit–meat eating delivered high-protein food to power the human body and mind. What should be the tradeoffs between the benefits and the burden? Is agribusiness meat a given that can’t be changed and shouldn’t even be considered? A least some commentators seem to think so, without really explaining why.
I said “decent diet.”
Yes, I understand that there are apparently some metabolism types that can only process food in a context of considerable animal-derived fats, so that butter, lard, and fatty meat are a necessity. That is something that has to be taken into account. Maybe what that means is that we need to find a way to target the environmental degradations and health impacts separately.
Sorry, but I agree with those saying this is a long, preachy post attempting to coerce others by guilt, and I don’t understand why it’s on this site. By the time I got to the question on sin taxes, I figured it was rhetorical. This post sounds like a repetition of propaganda without any thought of logic or fact-checking.
There are a number of studies discussing how a low-carb, high fat (almost always meat) diet is actually healthier than a high carb diet. These studies show lab work improving on these diets fairly quickly, along with weight loss (see appendix in “Protein Power” for more info, and the Eades low-carb blog for discussion of current studies). In addition, the environmental excuse doesn’t wash so clean; creating farmland by destoying natural habitats and growing chemically intensive crops is very damaging as well. Injuries to farm workers occur just as often on vegetable crops as with livestock; huge machinery is used, and the carbon footprint for the fuel and fertilizer alone is tremendous. And then there’s the water cost.
As for sin tax – I don’t like any tax that’s used for social engineering.
wwyoud, what do you think the animals eat? True, some animals graze – but these days, I’d give odds that a majority of grazing meat animals are living somewhere that was a forest/jungle less than 50 years ago, in many cases much less. Any industrial agriculture has a bad side, but there’s just no contest environmentally between meat and veggies. It’s a law of thermodynamics, and the trophic pyramid is probably the first law of ecology.
I agree the post is preachy. Nothing wrong with talking about your ideals. I blame the evangelicals and their lying marketing for giving evangelism a bad name.
homunq, of course I know what animals eat. My point is that the reasons listed here are weak. The connotation is that only agribusiness associated with meat is so damaging – crops grown for human consumption are grown the same way, by the same agribusinesses, and their pollution makes waterways just as polluted as stockyards do the ground. Separate the problems with huge agribusiness and farm subsidies out – they aren’t specific to meat. A meatless diet is not conclusively proven to be healthier; it’s just a common belief. If life is so precious, then why are plants not considered life? If animals suffer when their young are taken away, then how does that hen feel, endlessly producing “young” only to have them stolen away and devoured – do you feed her the shells later? I consider a decent diet to include a lot of organic produce and grains; this isn’t cheaper, and if subsidies were dropped, they probably would be even more expensive. Cooking isn’t easier or quicker if you know what you’re doing.
I can’t help the harassment that Linda recieves from meat-eaters; most people I know, even here in the south, have accepted that vegetarians are just people, too. We ask when preparing a party, just as we ask who has other dietary needs. However, that cuts both ways – if a vegetarian is talking to me about corpses and planetary consciousness and how I’m part of the problem, then I’d get a little upset as well.
the point is that meat production is an agribusiness double whammy since most meat animals are fed agribusiness-produced grains. It takes a lot of grain to produce all that meat, so a considerable portion of the harm caused by agribusiness could be removed by removing meat production.
We have to eat to live, but we don’t have to eat sentient animal life to live.
Hens usually lay an (unfertilized) egg a day and walk away.
The main meat substitutes are beans, corn, and whole grains–along with a variety of other things like mushrooms, etc. Beans, corn and whole grains are generally cheaper than meats.