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Savage love

January 30, 2007|by MATT NEWTON

I was 4 years old the first time I tasted beef jerky. I had consumed the slaughtered before, in the form of steak, pork chops and so on, but never before were these sacrificed animals so satisfying.

Little did I know that this small event would lead me to understand the meaning of my life.

Biting into a stick of jerky is a savage act, stemming from one's primal nature. It isn't as elegant a procedure as eating steak, in which it is custom to hold the steak in place with a fork in one hand while making delicate incisions into the tender meat with a knife in the other.

When eating jerky, there are no customs, though I prefer, perhaps by instinct, to grasp one of the dehydrated sticks and firmly take a bite, using my canine teeth, working until I rip off a savory chunk.

Aside from the delicious explosion of sweet, salty spiciness that came from my first bite of jerky, I think that it was the savageness of eating it that attracted me to the snack. Savagery is natural to humans, so eating jerky makes me feel more human. Of course, I didn't consciously realize this when I was 4. I only knew that what I was eating tasted great.

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My relationship to jerky might have started out simply as a natural attraction, but it has become a part of my being. I could not exist as a human without jerky.

Now in adolescence, I encounter those who question my affinity for jerky. Vegetarians and animal rights activists all wonder how I can eat something that comes from a living creature that has thoughts and feelings. I explain to them that their rationale doesn't faze me, because it is in my nature to enjoy such a thing.

In turn, they label me a murderer. I explain that if, in fact, I am a murderer because I eat something due to my human nature, then all humans are murderers by nature. Thus, the vegetarians' unnatural choice to refrain from eating meat makes them the strange ones. They are nearly aliens.

I often wonder what makes killing animals for food so unethical. All humans are animals. All animals eat something to survive; many animals eat other animals. Once again, it is nature.

If it is not the savage and murderous qualities of beef jerky that causes it to make me feel more human, it might be something unapparent. I've read a great deal of information about beef jerky, in order to better understand the substance that makes me whole. I have read that it is high in protein. Humans are protein-based animals, so this also might explain why I feel so natural while eating jerky.

But there's more. Beef jerky has enhanced my humanity. It has brought a clarity to my place in the natural order. It's like this: Animals are born and eventually die, providing sustenance to other animals by becoming food. Humans are born and eventually die. They, too, become food or fertilizer to provide life to other species.

That's my destiny. I am food.

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