Letter to the Editor: A Public Service Announcement from a Trinity Vegetarian (RE: Campus Pulse, “Mabee good, Mabee not: Foods to seek and avoid” (8/21/14, p. 13)

In a Campus Pulse report last week, “Mabee good, Mabee not: Foods to seek and avoid,” a Trinitonian reporter encouraged new students unfamiliar with campus dining to avoid “things specifically labeled “˜vegetarian'” because it “should be self-explanatory.”

As a senior student who became vegetarian while regularly eating at Mabee, I find that comment to be incredibly misguided. The author gives no helpful advice by brushing aside Mabee’s vegetarian food as automatically unworthy, with no explanation.

It does, however, articulate a view commonly accepted in Texas that food without meat is weird and that vegetarians are somehow wrong. I have more than a few times taken jibes and snide comments from fellow diners at Mabee who, ironically, never gave a second thought about the Mabee steak they were munching on, which brings me to my main point: the author of “Mabee good, Mabee not” offers no opinion about the meat at Mabee, probably because she doesn’t think she needs to.

This bothers me because that very meat is renowned on campus for being less than tasty and ““ how to put this delicately ““ hard to digest. It also played a key role in my decision to stop eating meat altogether.

So here is some alternative advice and (gasp!) a bit of explanation for new students unfamiliar with Mabee dining hall food: be wary of dishes that contain meat at Mabee. I already mentioned the poor taste and the diarrhea, but consider also that the huge food distributor Sysco, who provides most of our dining hall’s meat, should probably also worry you.

For one, most of Sysco’s cows, pigs, and chickens are raised in feedlots, which are pretty gruesome but relatively common among ranching businesses (I don’t have room to discuss them in detail here, but feel free to look them up). Most importantly for this piece, though, is that Sysco’s meat distribution practices have fallen on the wrong side of the U.S. health code several times since the year 2000.

Last year, they earned a $20 million dollar fine from the California Department of Health for storing raw meat in unrefrigerated warehouses for days, sometimes weeks, before shipping them to their customers (Journal of Commerce, August 2014).

Information like this is both easy to find and important because rotten meat, unlike sub-par Moroccan vegetable stew, is legitimately hazardous to your health. My point here is not to instill Trinity-wide paranoia about treacherous meat or evil corporations. My point is that if I had made my bold claim that you should all be wary of Mabee’s meat with the reasoning “this should be self-explanatory,” I would have been laughed out of the room.

I just explained why I only eat food labelled “vegetarian” at Mabee. Unless the author of “Mabee good, Mabee not” knows something we don’t, you shouldn’t let her deter you from joining me.