USFRA believes that the panelists judging The New York Times essay contest already held preconceived notions about animal agriculture and would have a vegetarian slant. After all, with judges like Peter Singer, Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer and Andrew Light, the outcome of the contest could easily be predicted.

We were disappointed that The New York Times chose to subvert the contest by applauding their own efforts in their announcement, by selecting judges who do not support eating meat and by poking fun at submissions that included themes of religion, free will and food chain hierarchies and more.

Additionally, The New York Times made careless, inaccurate statements, including: “Several noted the widespread agreement that factory farming, which accounts for 99 percent of the meat eaten in America, is not ethical.”

Who or what was the source of this claim? What defines a “factory farm”? And, shouldn’t The New York Times have provided sources or definitions of farming and food terms to give readers context or clear understanding when reading the essays?

The winning essay outlined some surprisingly balanced arguments for why it is ethical to eat meat. Here are a few highlights from the winning essay:

  • “As a vegetarian who returned to meat-eating, I find the question “Is meat-eating ethical?” one that is in my head and heart constantly. The reasons I became a vegetarian, then a vegan and then again a conscientious meat-eater were all ethical.”
  • “The fact is that most agroecologists agree that animals are integral parts of truly sustainable agricultural systems.”
  • “While studying agroecology at Prescott College in Arizona, I was convinced that if what you are trying to achieve with an “ethical” diet is the least destructive impact on life as a whole on this planet, then in some circumstances, like living among dry, scrubby grasslands in Arizona, eating meat, is, in fact, the most ethical thing you can do other than subsist on wild game, tepary beans and pinyon nuts.”

USFRA asked farmers and ranchers who submitted an essay into the contest to share their stories with us as well. We received more than 20 essays, which may be found here: We encourage you to share your thoughts on these essays and to share them with your communities.  

It's Been Said: 

On May 3 The New York Times announced the winner of the essay contest on whether it’s ethical to eat meat. Their winner’s essay wasn’t unfavorable to animal agriculture, but was the article announcing the winner fair? 

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