“It depends,” he said. “If they are free range then that’s OK, but if they are battery-raised then you should really not eat them.”
I was having lunch with an old friend and we were studying the menu, a three course set lunch. I had told him that I might have the quail eggs as a starter.
“You see,” he explained, “quail are wild birds that are easily startled. When they are in cages they try to fly away and can often break a wing. Chickens are different: they have been domesticated for thousands of years and are not so easily startled. We will have to ask if the quails are free range.”
“What about the octopus?” I asked.
“Can you believe that they are now starting to farm octopus?” he asked me. “It is incredibly cruel. Octopuses are intelligent creatures; they will suffer terribly in a confined pond. But they will probably learn to escape anyway.”
“I think I will have the winter salad,” I said, taking the third choice starter. But what are you having for your main course?” I asked. The choice was beef, lamb, cod or pasta.
“It’s a problem,” he replied. “I read recently that lamb can have a higher carbon footprint than beef because there is less meat on each animal, but it depends on whether the lamb is locally produced or imported from New Zealand. Do you know that imported lamb can sometimes have a lower carbon footprint that local lamb?”
“What about the beef?” I asked, ignoring his question.
“It depends if it is grass-fed,” he replied. “I am trying to cut down on meat generally. I saw that documentary the other evening, The Game Changers, about top athletes switching to vegan diets. It seems to work for them.”
“I think I will have the pasta.”
“You’re lucky,” he told me. “I am gluten intolerant—not coeliac—but if I eat wheat I blow up like a balloon. It’s most uncomfortable!”
The waitress came to take our order. She looked nervous and I guessed it might be her first day in the job.
“Do you know if the quail eggs are free-range?” my friend asked her.
“I am afraid I don’t,” she replied nervously. “But I could ask.”
“Yes please,” I replied. I didn’t much fancy the winter salad and would have preferred the eggs. The waitress disappeared for quite a while and then came back crestfallen.
“The chef doesn’t know about the eggs,” she told us sadly.
“What about the octopus?” I asked. “Is it farmed or wild?” A look of panic crossed her face. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I will have the winter salad.” She looked relieved and noted it down on her pad. My friend told her that he would have the same.
“What about the beef?” he asked her. “Where was it raised—what is its origin? You know, you really should mark on the menu where you source your meat.”
For a moment I thought she would burst into tears.
“I will ask the chef,” she told him.”
“And please ask him for the lamb as well please.”
“Yes sir,” she replied as she fled back to the kitchen.
“Are we allowed to eat cod at the moment?” I asked my friend. “I read somewhere that the cod stocks were being depleted again. It is difficult with fish—there is always a danger of overfishing.”
My friend was about to answer but we were distracted by the sound of shouting from the kitchen. Our waitress returned, looking rather flushed.
“The meat comes from the UK,” she told us rather cautiously. “The lamb is from Wales and the beef is from Scotland.” I guessed that she was making it up, or that the chef had told her to make it up.
“I will have the beef then please,” my friend told her.
“And I will have the pasta.”
“Could you please choose your deserts as well please?” our waitress asked us.
I looked at the menu and chose the cheesecake. My friend ordered the same.
“But only if it is made with Bonsucro certified sugar,” he added.
“You’re kidding me!” I exclaimed.
“Yes,” he replied with a laugh. “I am kidding you! But I am not sure about the cheese. Dairy has a high carbon footprint, you know.”
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