Oprah and 378 Staffers Go Vegan For A Week

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If you caught the Oprah show today, you may have been surprised to see that Oprah and her staff- some 378 men and women- participated in Oprah’s Vegan Challenge. For 1 week, they left behind their usual fare of dairy, eggs, butter, meat, fish, and all other animal products and even the HARPO cafeteria started serving some vegan options. I thought I was dreaming when I saw the preview for this show because I did not expect this, but I was so proud of Oprah and her staff for bringing attention to this topic. I took some notes to share with you because I know many of you were not able to watch the episode.

Journalist and food expert Michael Pollan, vegan author Kathy Freston, and journalist Lisa Ling were invited onto the show to talk about veganism and being conscious of where our food comes from. Oprah was clear in stating that everyone needs to make the choice for themselves and the show was neither pro-vegetarian nor pro-vegan, but pro-education, much like her show with Pollan several months ago.

Oprah claims that many of us are ‘disconnected’ from the animals, meat industry, and the food we eat each day. As reported by the USDA, 10 billion animals are killed in the US each year for consumption. With such a staggering number, it is important to question how our food gets to our plates.

Michael Pollan thought the Vegan Challenge was fun because it makes people conscious of what they eat. I had to agree with this because when I became a vegan, for the first time in my life, I started reading the ingredients that were in my food. I was shocked to find out that I didn’t know what half of the ingredients were and I still find myself looking up mystery ingredients on a weekly basis.

Oprah’s staff member, Jill, emptied out every item in her fridge that had an animal product in it. By the time Jill went through her fridge, it was virtually empty. She was shocked how much food contains animal products.

Pollan admits to eating meat 1-2 times per week, but states that he doesn’t eat industrial or feed-lot meat and he supports small-scale, local farmers that do not feed the animals grain (i.e. corn or corn by products). Michael’s goal is to REFORM the meat industry, not eliminate it. While I would love to see a meat-free society some day, I do realize that Michael’s approach is probably the most realistic.

As a rare look inside a meat farm, Lisa Ling travelled to Cargill Meat Solutions- one of the largest meat companies in the US. This part of the episode was the most emotional for me to watch. They described the process that each cow goes through from the feed lot to the slaughtering to the processing. Each cow at Cargill spends 200 days at the feed lot where they are fed corn and corn by products. This is to fatten up the cattle where they gain about 3 pounds per day. Each day, 4,500 cattle are sent to the slaughterhouse where they will be guided through maze-like pathways for 2 hours to calm down prior to slaughter. I could almost feel the chill in the air as I watched this somber part of the clip.

It was extremely hard for me to watch the animals looking into the camera, just moments before death. Kathy Freston described how I was feeling when she said, ‘watching the animals in the slaughterhouse didn’t sit right with my soul.’  I could not have described my own emotions any better. It is one thing to read something from a book, but to actually see it happening is very real.

Not surprisingly, the episode did not show the 4 inch bolt that is shot through every cow’s head during slaughter. They did, however, show the pain on Lisa Ling’s face as she watched the slaughtering. The carcasses then go through the process of skin removal, sawing, and chopping/grinding the parts. This part was very graphic, but I was happy that they did show this behind the scenes look because I think it is important to connect ourselves to what we eat. The most shocking thing about this slaughterhouse was that it was supposed to be one of the ‘better ones’ and that many, unfortunately are much, much worse than was portrayed.

The show ended with vegan author, Kathy Freston who served as the vegan guide for Oprah and her staff members during the vegan challenge. Kathy took staff member Jill to Whole Foods to show her examples of vegan foods she could cook for her family. I expected Kathy to show her beans, legumes, lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts, or seeds, but sadly, Kathy showed her a plethora of packaged fake meats, fake mayonnaise, fake cheese, and fake ice cream sandwiches. I strongly believe that a vegan diet does not need to rely on processed, imitation products, so I was disappointed to see this focus. When I first went vegan, I tried all the fake meat products because that is what I thought I was supposed to eat, but my real satisfaction with veganism only came when I experimented with non-processed foods like grains, beans, lentils, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. That is when it all clicked for me and I knew that I could do it long term.

Oprah and her staff member’s reactions to The Vegan Challenge were very interesting to watch. One of Oprah’s staff members, Joe, said he felt so amazing that he was going to convert to a vegan diet. Oprah, said it was definitely ‘doable’ to eat a vegan diet, but she would be ‘veganish’ from now on, meaning that she will think more about the food she eats and try to eat more animal-free foods. Her partner, Stedman, wants to continue the vegan challenge because he enjoyed it so much. Other staff members admitted that they wouldn’t be converting any time soon, but they did admit that it made them think about what they eat each day. Out of 379 participants, they lost a total of 444 pounds and gained a total of 84 pounds. Some participants said they gained weight because they relied on ‘vegan junk food’ too much. I thought it was great that they showed both sides of the story because it is just as easy to eat unhealthy on a vegan diet as it is a non-vegan diet! I don’t like the portrayal that veganism is some kind of weight-loss diet though.

To end the show, Oprah and staff members at HARPO announced that they will be holding a Meatless Monday each week in honour of this challenge. I think this is a great idea and it shows that no matter what kind of diet you do chose eat, you can always make changes, big or small, to impact the system.

If you are interested, there are a bunch of video clips from today’s show on the Oprah website.

Did you see Oprah’s Vegan Challenge show? What did you think? Do you ever go meat/animal-product free or participate in Meatless Monday?

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{ 203 comments… read them below or add one }

sarah (sarah learns) February 1, 2011

i wish i could have seen the show today! i’m so interested in vegan & vegetarian diets, especially since i know so many people who are vegetarian and think it’s healthy to eat a grilled cheese sandwich multiple times a day.

i’m not surprised they talked about so many fake foods. that is the common perception of vegan cooking. to me, the fake meat just grosses me out. thanks for posting your thoughts on the show!

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Sabine @ thefruitpursuit February 2, 2011

I so wish I could have seen it too! They don’t even air Oprah over here (holland) :(. Which usually doesn’t bother me that much but DAMN, this is such great news! Much more so than Clinton going ‘vegan’ (with the exception for fish…). I have a hard time with promoting veganism as a health diet being vegan myself. I love how Oprah gets the message across: we are so detached not only from animals, but nature in general and ever ourselves!

I am secretly hoping she sticks with it after the week is up ;)

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Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) February 2, 2011

Same! I live in England so I couldn’t see it either!! I’m hoping it’s on YouTube though so I can watch it on there :)

I’m not surprised they talked so much about ‘fake’ foods though, as I guess these are much more relatable to most people than beans and lentils, great as they are! They certainly helped me a lot when I switched to a vegan diet, and now and again I still have them.

But it’s great how much more normal veganism is becoming to people! Cerainly the reactions to my veganism I’ve been getting more recently are much more understanding than just a year or so ago! :D

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Allie (Live Laugh Eat) February 1, 2011

I had to look away from the TV when they showed the slaughterhouse. Wow that was intense! While some parts of the show were iffy, I’m glad they are encouraging people to think about what they’re eating. Knowledge is power!

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Caitlin @the permanent life February 2, 2011

I totally agree! I understand that the whole world isn’t going to go vegetarian/vegan but if people just had more of an awareness some big changes could be made!

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Sara February 1, 2011

Very neat, and thanks for the quick review!

I am vegetarian but not vegan, and I try to get my dairy products from only organic and then even grass fed sources when I can, but it’s really a lot more difficult than it should be. I 100% agree that people are too detached from their food choices, even including things such as the amount of work it takes to get a banana from Ecuador (because they most definitely are not grown in North America!) to our houses, etc. The more we detach from our food, the less we are taking care of our bodies. People even as recent as 100 years ago would balk at the things we’re willing to eat no-question, these days!

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Meg February 1, 2011

I am so glad this was on. So many of my friends and family do not understand my switch to veganism and hassle me so much. I hope this helps them see that it’s not just a fad. Not a trend. All I want is to be healthy. This site has inspired me to do so much. Awesome awesome.

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Jennifer@ knackfornutrition February 1, 2011

I saw the episode as well. First of all, I love love love Michael Pollan and what he has done for the way we look at food in the US. I can honestly say, that without his books, I would probably not make the choices I do today.
That said, I really did not care for the woman Oprah interviewed. She depicted veganism as a way to lose weight. Morever, as you stated, she showed fake meat products and substitutes as if they were a staple of a vegan diet.
Overall, I was really excited to hear that Oprah was doing a show on veganism. Because of the blogs I read, I don’t find omitting dairy and meat as a bizarre thing. But her audience is different. I think she was able to reach a lot of people today who probably reconsidered what they were having for dinner. :)

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Jennifer@ knackfornutrition February 1, 2011

I saw the episode as well. First of all, I love love love Michael Pollan and what he has done for the way we look at food in the US. I can honestly say, that without his books, I would probably not make the choices I do today.
That said, I really did not care for the woman Oprah interviewed. She depicted veganism as a way to lose weight. Moreover, as you stated, she showed fake meat products and substitutes as if they were a staple of a vegan diet.
Overall, I was really excited to hear that Oprah was doing a show on veganism. Because of the blogs I read, I don’t find omitting dairy and meat as a bizarre thing. But her audience is different. I think she was able to reach a lot of people today who probably reconsidered what they were having for dinner. :)

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Clare @ Fitting It All In February 1, 2011

Great recap. I watched and was very impressed and how they showed both sides of the picture by having both Michael Pollan and Kathy Freston. I do wish they focused more on the delicious vegan meals you can make instead of just trying to recreate meaty junk food, but you have to start somewhere! I was proud that lots of her staff were so happy with the results of the challenge.

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Katie February 1, 2011

I’ll be completely honest… I’m really quite frustrated by this show!

1. It was made out that a vegan diet is some crazy radical diet where you need to sacrifice so much and spend loads of money on all the processed vegan foods that really isn’t necessary.

2. I’m really disappointed by what Michael Pollan was saying. He says that the meat industry is terrible for the environment, but that he still eats it a couple times a week from “sustainable” farmers. He then goes on to say that it really doesn’t matter how much meat you eat. Too bad 99% of meat eaters can’t afford the free-range chicken from neighbor Joe!!

3. Oprah stated at the beginning of the show that we were too disconnected from the food on our plate, but then later in the show said that the animals were being killed “humanely”. There is NO way to kill an animal humanely. It’s taking their life for your own gain. Plain and simple. You can’t get much more disconnect than that.

The lady said that the animals don’t feel pain as they bleed out for approx. 2 minutes before they bleed out and die. Unfortunately, the reality from the bolting is that it is not always effective, leaving the animal still “with it” as its throat is slit open.

You have to ask yourself *why* they wouldn’t show the bolting process if it was so humane? They showed the cows being skinned and sliced in half…what could be so graphic about a cow being bolted?

I just feel that this was a bad portrayal of the truth behind those factory walls…

4. Lastly: WHO CARES IF LISA LING STILL EATS MEAT AFTER SEEING THE MEAT FACTORY!! Oprah kept saying this as it were some justification and reason that we should all continue eating meat. Bravo, Lisa.. you have no soul! Let’s all follow in your footsteps and make this world a better place.

Urgh. Sorry.. I’ve never been a radical vegan. I tell the truth to others when they ask for it, but otherwise keep it to myself. I absolutely despise when other vegans go out of their way to make omnivores feel guilty about their food choices. That being said, I also despise when things are portrayed poorly, giving off the wrong message.

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Kelly February 1, 2011

I TOTALLY agree with you Katie!! The biggest positive is that the vegan diet was brought to mainstream awareness but it wasn’t a great description of the whole vegan lifestyle. If anything, it’s a start…

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none February 2, 2011

“not a radical vegan”
you make me laugh at how misguided you are. Lets clear the “truth” shall we?

for one thing, these animals wouldn’t even have life if it wasnt for the food indusry.
these animals have happy carefree lives until they are taken to be used for food.
majority of the time.. no they do not feel anything. is it any crueler for us to do that than for an animal in the wild to rip another animal to shreds while it is still alive? i think no…
Humans are scummy sometimes in their treatment of animals, and each other, and that is regrettable, but that is not every case.

another thing, lets use horse slaughter as an example.
overbreeding of horses has caused too many to be here that aren’t wanted.
with the closing of the slaughterhouses, what happens to these horses….?
the person(alot in this world economy) that cannot afford to care for or even the euthnasia of the animal, abandons the horse to starve to death, or succumb to illness, if they are sold at an auction… they are still bought by killer buyers to be shipped out of the country to slaughter houses. except nowww they travel for days with no food or water in the heat or freezing cold.
What do you think is going to happen to these other animals?

Humans are omnivores… take a look at our teeth and digestive system.
Plants are living too… whose to say they arent hurt?
Have a heart, eat a rock.

And let me tell you.
I have been an animal-lover since I was born. Nothing could hold my attention more as a generally hyper child. Call me crazy but I feel connected to animals, we just get along…
I can walk up to animals that supposedly don’t like “strangers” “other people” or whatever.
I eat meat. I am pro (govt regulated) horse slaughter.
Because I can see the alternative for these animals and it really isn’t pretty in comparison.

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Meg February 2, 2011

No life if it wasn’t for the meat industry!?

I’m not vegan 100% for animal rights. Its mostly cause I feel better when not eating animal. However to say they would have no life is ridiculous.

So that makes it right? An animal is bred to live in torturous conditions so we can have a burger? Free range is better but as mentioned most people cannot afford it.
Get real w your view that it’s right because they are bred to be eaten. They were bred to be tortured, mishandled, and poorly processed.

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StyckyWycket February 2, 2011

“They were bred to be tortured, mishandled, and poorly processed.”

I have to argue with the logic of this statement. If that was the case, then animals would not be eaten after being slaughtered. Their carcasses would just be dumped wherever to rot, and slaughterhouses would actually be paid to to torture animals until they are killed. Clearly, that’s not how slaughterhouses work.

Yes, some animals are raised to be eaten. But in no way does that make it ethical for slaughterhouses to mistreat the animals before they are killed and divided into consumer-manageable parts. Every animal, from your pet cat or dog, to horses that are slaughtered because of overpopulation, deserve to be ethically (humanely?) treated. I was horrified over the way pigs were tortured in a slaughterhouse in NC (source: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317947,00.html); and truly feel that this is what Nietzsche meant when he stated that “the abyss looks back at you.” There is something to be said for people who abuse animals, whether it be on the clock or off, and it’s nothing complimentary.

I take issue with such a statement because I believe in the promotion of veganism. I don’t like the idea that the hamburger I like may be made of hundreds of different cows (Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/01/31/health/main326858.shtml); and I refuse to eat both veal and foie gras because I object to the way these foods come to be. But to help veganism be viewed as mainstream and as an accepted life choice, those who argue for it MUST, MUST make logical and impassioned arguments for their cause, and try to avoid hyperbolic statements such as, “They were bred to be tortured, mishandled, and poorly processed.”

Keep up the good fight, and continue educating people about veganism!

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AMBER February 7, 2011

“None”
I bet if the animals could talk and the question was posed to them, “Would you have chosen to be born had you known what your life would be?” I would bet all the money in the world the answer would be “NO!” The majority of them do not live carefree lives and certainly not happy. As far as your statement that they do not feel anything…how do you know that? How many slaughterhouses have you been too? The bolt shot into their head is to stun…Do you think the slaughterhouse workers stop to check vitals before they start chopping!? You are right they would not be here if it was not for us, but they are here for no other reason then our greed, greed of money and palate satisfaction!
Your comment about us being omnivores is correct, but you contradict yourself when you say look at our teeth and guts. First, we do not have the canines required to rip raw meat easily from a bone and last time I saw someone eating a steak they cook it, cut it with a knife, and chewed with their back teeth. Look at an obligate carnivore’s teeth they are all sharp and the jaw is longer. Speaking of longer, obligate carnivore’s colon is very short to allow for quick pass through of meat. We (humans) have a VERY long colon which means the harder to digest meat sits in there and rots before it is finally expelled. Omnivore means we are capable of eating meat and veggies, not that we have to eat meat! If you eat a meat only diet you would become ill because you CANNOT get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need with only meat, if you eat a plant only diet you would most likely thrive because you can get virtual all you need from a vegan diet! FYI: Wild animals kill what they need, we kill BILLIONS of animals for food and that does not even included animals killed for other reasons: experiments, fur, sport, abuse,ETC!!!! How much of that is wasted? How many are killed only to be wasted because it’s contaminated or there is just too much to be used?
Oh! and to the “plants..who say they aren’t hurt”, which is the most annoying and ignorant statement uttered when people argue against a vegan lifestyle, who says they don’t hurt is…well modern science! To feel pain you must have a spinal cord connected to a brain which sends messages to pain receptors to let you know you should feel pain! When/If my veggies start screaming in pain and terror and/or bleed when I cut them then I will then have to rethink my stand on this subject. People are always saying how vegans are “crazy”, “radical” , “stupid”…funny thing is I am constantly asked to justify my lifestyle! On the other hand, I have never EVER gone up to someone and said “Ewww…what is that? A chicken leg? Do you think it screamed? I could never eat that! That is just not natural, is it “real”food? I would die if I had to give up veggies to eat that! Where do you get you vitamin C, A, D? Aren’t you afraid that chicken may have been diseased and covered in sores and that they may have pumped it full of hormones and antibiotics? Don’t you think it is sad that chicken is dipped in water and electrocuted to stun it (hopefully) before they pass its throat along spinning razors that may or may not kill it instantly before it is dunked in boiling water to get its feathers off? You are a selective animal lover, which is your choice, but because I have chosen to love all animals and advocate for humane treatment for all animals I am called radical! Instead of advocating for slaughter of animals that are over-bred why not advocate for decrease breeding! Animals by the billions die every year and most secondary to one reason…human greed!

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Caitlin February 2, 2011

Katie – I completely agree with you! I was so angry I took to my blog after this came out.

It was just not a very accurate or well thought out portrayal of a vegan diet. With the exception of the Veganist author, none of the other guests were vegan!

Was kind of a failure of an episode in my mind.

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Liz February 2, 2011

Katie,
You say “I absolutely despise when other vegans go out of their way to make omnivores feel guilty about their food choices” which I applaud. However, in your previous paragraph, you describe someone who has seen a slaughterhouse and still chooses to eat meat as having “no soul”.

Just as you despise when veganism is being protrayed poorly, I despise when omnivores are described as soul-less.

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Katie February 2, 2011

Liz, you’re absolutely right. 95% of my loved ones are omnivores and they sure as hell have souls. I don’t think otherwise, nor would I say something like that to their face so I don’t know why I would post something like that online.
Thanks for calling me on it :)

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Kristen February 3, 2011

TOTALLY AGREE WITH THIS!!!! I’ve been vegan for over 7 years now…and whenever there is some sort of attention in the media or popular culture, that would be “legitimate” (i.e. too many people love Oprah to not listen to her, she maintains a powerful position) for the mainstream audience, it is NEVER and accurate portrayal. So annoying, I don’t care if it gives people some idea about veganism, NOT everyone can afford whole foods and it doesn’t have to be an expensive diet. Whole foods and all of those pricey “fake” foods (not really healthy most times) will do nothing but spread the elitest, “white culture” message that most people perceive to be veganism. Also, being vegan is NOT and NEVER has been about consuming all of these fake meats and disgusting things. The point is to stray away from the over-processed wasteful and harmful consumption patterns of the mainstream and have an open mind, one that questions and challenges. And veganism isn’t for everyone, what’s more important is spreading a message of being a conscious consumer, aware of implications etc. Michael Pollan= disappointing.

Anyway, cool that Oprah is having a meatless Monday and this topic was given attention on her show, but it would be nice if, just for once, someone would go on there and say something that’s true to what veganism has always striven to be…

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Leah @ Why Deprive? February 1, 2011

I didnt see the episode, but Im so glad Oprah did it. I mean, of all the people that could, shes the one that would get the most attention.
Im not a fan of meat in general, but Im not opposed to eating it. That said, I think the meat we eat today is nothing close to even what my parents and grandparents used to eat. My mom grew up on a farm. They raised chickens and cows. I dont think they killed the cows for meat, I think they were just dairy cows, but they milked them themselves, and took care of them. Same thing with the chickens, they had good lives. Thats the way it should be. If you’re going to eat them, they shouldnt have to suffer their whole lives first. I dont understand why people cant see that. If this happened to dogs, the world would freak out, but because its cows and pigs its ok? That makes no sense.

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crystal.cattle February 1, 2011

Good recap of the show. I’ll be honest I am on the other side of the issue, I am a farmer and my family raises cattle. I respect whatever food choices a person makes, it is a personal decision, and no one deserves to be critized. One thing I would encourage is to talk to a farmer or rancher about your food as well. We are more than willing to share our story and answer questions about your food. That is ultimate who we are raising it for so you deserve to know about it, but I caution you to remember that it was also my family that was out in a blizzard today breaking waters, helping cows calf, putting extra bedding and feed out for them. If you on Twitter #agchat is a good hashtag to learn about ag and talk with a farmer. I am @CrystalCattle. Good show today, I am glad that she has more people asking about food.

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none February 2, 2011

thank you. this is proof of how well cared for most of these animals are.:)

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Emma February 1, 2011

Thank you so much for this post because I missed this Oprah! I have wanted to for about 5 years, but I feel as though I cannot be a healthy vegan (yet!) because, as a college student: 1. I do not feel as though I have control over what I can eat. Relying on dining hall foods or what my family buys limits options. and 2. I do not feel as though I can afford to buy the types of food that can provide me with a wholesome, vegan diet If had one or the other of these, I feel as though I could do it! Do you have any suggestions?

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hippierunner February 1, 2011

Thank you for this recap. I have been hearing about it all day but couldn’t watch it. Very frustrated to hear that it concentrated on fake products. I think that can steer people away from veganism because they are left comparing this weird, foreign-to-them product with what they are familiar with. If the show had focused on a whole foods diet, people might be more willing and interested. I am glad they showed the suffering animals (though I know if I had seen it I would’ve been in tears); I really hope it pushes people to give up meat.

I am a vegetarian, leaning towards vegan food most of the time as I tend to favor grains, fruits, veggies, legumes, over other food.

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Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons February 1, 2011

I need to watch these clips. After learning about slaughter and meat processing in my food science course, I went vegan for a week, followed by vegetarian for a few years. I’ve slacked since marrying my husband and we will eat local, farm raised and pasture grazed cow maybe once a week? Dairy and gluten seem to be “triggers” for me lately and I’m certain those have no part in my personal diet, so i’m working towards figuring out what my body needs! Its tough but I feel like knowledge is power and i’m glad oprah addressed veganism and encouraged people to make some changes and educate themselves.

Thanks for the recap, this is the first i’m reading of the show! So now i’m going to do a little more digging =) xoxo

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Ashley February 1, 2011

Great review Ang!! I couldn’t agree with you more. I was going to give a quick overview of my thoughts on my post tonight as well..but maybe I’ll just refer people to yours. ;)

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Fallon February 1, 2011

I really wanted to watch this show but I had to work. Thank you for your lovely write up! Hopefully I can catch or a repeat or a video of it online.

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Joslyn @ missfitbliss February 1, 2011

thank you Angela! I don’t have cable, so I needed this update sorely! It really is amazing to me how many people eat mindlessly and don’t think of the animals. But that’s how we’re programmed and socialized to think! I stopped eating meat at 11 years old after seeing footage similar to what was aired today, and I haven’t looked back since!

I am, however, extremely happy to support meat farmers that raise and slaughter their animals in the most humane and natural way possible. I purchase and cook meats from these farmers for my boyfriend often, and I’m so excited to see more and more of these farms popping up.

I don’t think that everyone is made to be veg/vegan, but I do want everyone to consider meatless options and buy from humane farmers!!

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gina (fitnessista) February 1, 2011

i’m really bummed that i missed the episode. it sounds like an amazing one and i totally agree that it’s important for us to be educated on all aspects of our food and make an informed decision on what’s right for us
the first time i truly went vegetarian, i relied on all of the packaged processed stuff and didn’t last. i was so burnt out. the second time, when i experimented with *real* food, it lasted much longer. while i’m not a vegetarian anymore, i think it is important to vote with our grocery purchases and choose organic and humane food as much as possible
thanks for the re-cap, friend :) hope all is well <3

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Marie@feedingfive February 1, 2011

I have that episode DVR’d so I am looking forward to watching it. I just think bringing awareness to how animals are treated and in turn what we are actually putting into our bodies is great. The masses definitely need a very broad and general overview or it does seem radical.

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Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter February 1, 2011

That is all SO interesting. I really loved reading your review. I’m so sad that I missed the show, but I would love to watch the whole thing.

I’ve thought about becoming vegetarian, and maybe after a look into the slaughterhouse I will consider it more seriously.

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Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn February 1, 2011

Thank you for the awesome summary, ang! Unforch, I was napping and missed it:( Oprah really outdid herself, it makes me happy beyond words to see a large, televised movement towards Veganism on a show like Oprah’s! I applaud her, truly. I can’t wait to see where this takes Veganism!:)

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Lauren Guerrieri February 2, 2011

I was jealous of all the free goods too! Oprah’s staff have the hookup!

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Gina February 1, 2011

Yes, I did! I was cringing when I saw the poor cattle being round up to be shot in the head with a bolt. Such a horrible, horrible thing. I’ve never been so happy to be a vegetarian after seeing that.

P.S- How awesome would that be to get two large sacks full of vegan groceries from Kashi and Whole Foods like Oprah’s staffers? :)

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Andrea Bloomfield February 1, 2011

I saw the show and thought it was a great start to get people thinking about where their food really comes from. I think Michael Pollan made some good points for people who still eat meat — conscious consumers would be a great start to turning around North America’s eating “catastrophe”. I also found the slaughterhouse video very disturbing although I do think that it was not as bad as some places that we read/hear about….I have seen the trailer from the documentary Earthlings and those images haunt me. It’s so wonderful to see vegetarianism/veganism becoming more widely respected and accepted. The only things I wish that they had spent a bit more time discussing were the environmental impact that raising billions of animals for food causes and that so much food goes to feeding this livestock when there are so many people in this world starving. When I stopped eating meat, I did so because I did not want to be responsible for inflicting fear/pain or death on another living thing….it wasn’t until later that I discovered all of the other problems raising animals for food created. I think people need to be made more aware of these reasons, as well as the animal suffering…..I guess an hour just isn’t enough…..this topic could go on & on for hours!!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) February 1, 2011

Wow I had no idea that Oprah episode was on. Why do i always hear of these things AFTER the fact. Darn!

I am vegan 99% of the time. If there is trace dairy in something, I am not going to freak out. I don’t seek it out, I don’t eat animal flesh, or fish, but trace dairy IN packaged items, well, it happens.

I think that any awareness that can be brought to the vegan issue is good. However, some people will always eat animals or animal products and that is their choice, for whatever the reasons. I can only hope they are choosing to eat that way b/c they have truly THOUGHT about it and for them, it works and is best. And not just mindlessly doing it.

Such a touchy issue on both sides of the fence. All I can do is do what I do and be as compassionate as possible, and hope others feel/act the same :)

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jenn @ jennliveswell February 1, 2011

I completely agree with your review. I also felt like they were so spotty – jumping between staff interviews and with the guests and the show didn’t have a clear flow. I feel like they lacked a lot of “bulk” that would have helped people become really informed. Information about why a vegan diet is so healthy and can reverse or prevent diseases and not that it’s just expensive or you need to shop at Whole Foods. I also wish they’d highlighted a lot of the super athletes or amazing people who thrive on this diet. I do like that Kathy managed to get in a few lines about getting plenty of protein from vegan foods since this is such a common misconception.

I was also disappointed that she focused so much on the fake meats, cheese and mayo. She also called earth balance butter “so healthy for you” which is SO UNTRUE. 100% of the calories in Earth Balance come from fat and it’s mostly all oil. Is it a suitable vegan substitute for regular butter? Absolutely. But is Earth Balance “so healthy for you”? Absolutely not. No more healthy than gnawing on a stick of overly processed butter.

I wish more “real” vegans had been interviewed as well. Oprah really showed the disconnect between her and the real people when she talked about the fact that she has expensive organic produce available to her, but understands that a lot of people can’t afford this. I found that disheartening rather than inspiring.

Overall – if nothing else – it brought more awareness to the cause and I enjoyed that portion of it. I was also pleased to hear so many people saying it gave them energy and made them feel better.

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Jaina February 2, 2011

I agree! I would have loved to see the “real” people eating vegan. The joke in our house is that Whole Foods=whole paycheck! I love the store-don’t get me wrong, but it can be expensive and it is important to help people understand that you don’t need to be a million like Oprah to eat this way.

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Danielle February 1, 2011

I saw the preview for this show but did not get to watch it. I love Michael Pollan so I was happy to see he was going to be on the show. His views are so realistic and are probably revolutionary to the average American. I am also disappointed to hear that they put a lot of stress on processed vegan “junk” food. These prepackaged fake foods are just as bad for our planet and our bodies (if not more so) than animal products themselves. I have never gone “meat-free” or vegan for an extended period of time. I have probably unintentionally gone meat-free for a few weeks as I do not eat much meat. I rely on eggs and dairy on a daily basis however. I believe in making conscious daily choices that are right for your body and not classifying the diet to any particular “type” (vegetarian, etc.). I am glad Oprah covered the topic however becuase it is important for people to realize the impact of each and every food choice they make.

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Wei-Wei February 1, 2011

I wish I could have caught this! Maybe I’ll look for it online. I don’t know about the animals I harm when I eat animal products, and I definitely do feel detached from the source. I’ve never been fully vegetarian except as an excuse not to eat during my eating disorder, but now I hope that I can be fully vegetarian and aware of what I eat.

However, while I know that while Oprah’s show meant well and intended to get the point across, I don’t believe that it’s necessary to use shock tactics such as showing a slaughterhouse on public television. It’s the hard truth, and I don’t know how else you would show it, but veganism is a serious issue/concept that can easily be exploited by marketers of vegan processed products, by using these shocking images and following it up by introducing vegan processed food products. I agree with you that vegans should (like the rest of the world) eat as unprocessed foods as possible, but it would be pointless on television to say “eat more nuts, lentils, fruits and veg, just avoid the animal products!” because that’s generally good advice for eaters of all omnivorities, no?

Sorry for the novel! I just like to keep aware of the commercialist aspect of things, and thought it would be an interesting thing to discuss. Your summary was very well written – you go, Angela! :]

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Nicole February 1, 2011

Thanks for reviewing this, I wasn’t able to watch it. I watched the videos on Oprah’s site, the slaughterhouse in particular was really eye opening. It’s a great reminder of why I choose to eat the way I do.

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SB February 1, 2011

I totally agree with your disagreement over all the “meatless meat” and other “vegan” products at the grocery store. There are SO many better alternatives, all of which you pointed out.

This is a touchy subject, and I am not a vegan, but I agree that the show could have done a better job describing the vegan lifestyle and what it can mean.

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olivia February 1, 2011

Although Oprah’s episode was very graphic and eye opening, I still believe that everyone should have their own right to choose how/what they eat. I have been called “ignorant” “un-ethical” and “morally unsound” by vegans and vegetarians for being a meat eater. I really don’t think that morals has to do with anything. If I want to eat a steak or chicken because I think its delicious and I feel great after eating it, versus when I eat beans or lentils and I feel sick and have no energy, then I will choose to do so. In my experience, vegans criticize meat eaters just as much as meat eaters criticize vegans. If you look at some of the comments on Angela’s post so far, they are in plain site. Why don’t both parties live and let live?

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Lauren February 1, 2011

I didn’t see it, but this is a very good summary. I’ve read two of Michael Pollan’s books, and they were so informative and helped change some of my misconceptions. I am mostly vegetarian, and I love that he offered alternatives and wants to change the meat industry. I think it’s realistic for people to eat less meat instead of the HUGE amounts people eat now, but nutrition & food education is such a big problem in this country. The majority of people do not know where there food comes from, what it is made of, or how to eat any type of diet (vegetarian, vegan, or not). I think it’s great Oprah did this show to bring awareness to the tons of people who watch her show.

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Alissa February 1, 2011

I was very excited when I heard about this Oprah show and watched it as soon as I got home. Last time Michael Pollan was one Oprah with Alicia Sliverstone it really changed the way I looked at food/ went shopping for food. I really enjoy Michael’s books, but I did not care for the vegan woman. I wanted to learn about more ways that I could have fruits/vegetables in my diet, maybe even some recipes. Like some of the people above me I was disappointed to see how it was all processed food she showed the family. What about some roasted veggies with a veggie burger; or an amazing crockpot/homemade veggie/bean soup?

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stacey-healthylife February 2, 2011

Great post and sounds like it was a really good show.

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Lauren Guerrieri February 2, 2011

I did see this episode and I am very happy that Oprah used her enormous clout to present this issue to her large audience. I feel that other aspects of industrial livestock and animals farming should have been brought up – maybe she’ll do another show!

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Lisa February 2, 2011

Angela, I completely agree with everything that you said and I also agree with what Katie said as well! I heard about this show and got so excited that I ran home and rushed through my laundry so I could sit and watch it undisturbed.

What I found was a very frustrating hour filled with misinformation or half information- I feel the show only skimmed the surface of what a vegan lifestyle is and can provide! Oprah frustrates me a little bit when she interviews individuals she doesn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with. It was very clear with how much Michael Pollan vs. Kathy Freston got to talk. Oprah kept cutting off Kathy but Michael was able to speak freely. I understand you may not love the vegan lifestyle or be able to ‘give up’ those foods, but she seemed to be so anti-vegan when talking about it, almost dismissing it as a serious life choice for many people.

I was disappointed with all of the processed foods Kathy talked about- they were in a Whole Foods (the heaven of whole, fresh, organic and amazing superfoods) and not one of them was mentioned, giving the spotlight instead to meat substitutes and dairy substitutes- we should be teaching that these things do not NEED substitutes. I think it’s sending a confused message to America that being vegan somehow creates a void that you need to fill, rather than opening you up to a whole new world of foods and healthy options.

I could go on and on but I’ll end with this- Oprah is an extremely powerful woman with a wide range of resources and knowledgeable individuals at her fingertips- the fact that her show felt as though they did not want to offend anyone seriously offended me as a vegan who was really hoping for an informative show with substance.

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Mandy@One Hungry Mess February 2, 2011

Due to a massive blizzard in my area Oprah was “postponed” until 12:30am. I can’t wait to watch it, so it looks like its going to be a late night. So worth it. The funny part, was that my Grandma was the one to call and tell me what it was about, since I’m not a regular Oprah watcher. She seemed so pumped to watch it and then called to tell me how disappointed she was that it was being interrupted. So cute.

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Ashley February 2, 2011

Thanks for the post, and summary of the show. As a journalism major in college, we watched all the documentaries for assignments– Super Size Me, Fast Food Nation, and Food Inc. As a meat eater, I felt so disgusted and sad. But the worst part is– after a day or two of “I can’t do this, I can’t eat meat anymore!” I began to crave it. And then I would find myself chowing down on a hamburger two weeks later, without little to no thought.
Now, I’ve been with my boyfriend for 7 years– who is vegetarian. When I went to college, it was rare to have meat around, simply because he didn’t eat it and it was too expensive. But we did rely on fake meats– and while they were good, there wasn’t really any difference in our diets. I could very well have eaten more veggies than he did!
We’re just now, after seven years, changing our diets once again– I am feeling a very strong conviction to not eat meat anymore, because I can’t stand the thought of how they are treated. I could never do that with my own.
But what I’m so thankful for is this blog, and my friends who also eat a vegan diet– you have opened my eyes to a wonderful “diet”– one that I think is clouded by stereotype. I’m also glad Oprah did the show too, but disappointed that the focus was turned to fake products, which only adds to the stereotype.
I love all your recipes– and thank you for sharing your thoughts with this community!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) February 2, 2011

Thanks Ashley :)

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kimberley February 2, 2011

Angela,
What an Oprah Show! I’m vegetarain (*leaning into* Veganism everyday), and let me tell you, the part about the cows just reconfirmed my feelings about why it is so important. I felt emotional watching it, and actually had to walk away, I was getting so upset. I hope that this show makes an impact, and brings veganism and it’s importance to the front lines.

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table February 2, 2011

Oprah said she’s “veganish.” LOL!

Actually… I’d say that’s what I am… somewhat accidentally. After doing a basically vegan cleanse, I realized I felt SO much better eating cleanly and now I roll with almond milk and flax. I will occasionally eat chicken… but I have to say, I’ve developed a love of tempeh and pressed tofu.

Thank you, thank you for keeping me in ample supply of delicious, clean recipes!

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ashley @ ashley's adventures in alaska February 2, 2011

I missed this episode, but I bet I would have loved it! I’m not a vegetarian or vegan but do try to eat meat less than 5 times a week in total. The meats we do eat are wild salmon and halibut that we personally caught, as I feel much better about wild meats and humane harvesting.

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Errin February 2, 2011

This is the first time I’ve commented, though I’ve been reading for awhile. I guess it was about time I de-lurked ;)

I watched today, and got a little bit frustrated, but realized *why* I was frustrated, which I think was really good for me. I didn’t realize how foreign this concept is for so many people, and was getting upset at how basic they were being, how unwilling to try some people were, the constant iterations of “do what is best for you”. I know they were trying to not force the issue, but I felt like Pollan did not do a very good job of pressing the fact that if you’re eating meat you should really only be eating humanely/ethically. Basically it just irked me. But I also realized that most of the people I associate with probably know multiple people who are vegan, and so they are educated on what it means.

Ultimately, I was really glad they did the program (though I wish they would have shown the full slaughter. Meet your meat, people) and hope that it encourages people who would have otherwise not entertained the idea of veganism or even eating vegetarian once a week (or even thinking about where their food comes from).

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