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Get Boned

Is it weird that we teach our kids the sounds animals make but not which animals give us meat?

That seems like a weird compartmentalization and it has been on my mind more and more as I’ve been noticing an ever-increasing number of people who tell me they don’t eat meat off the bone.

Bone-in beef rib from Texlahoma BBQ (cow)

For ease-of-use, yes, bones can be a pain. And there are times when I am opposed to bones being included in the meal. Soup is a big one for me. How do you remove bones from meat when they’re floating in a bowl of hot broth? It’s difficult to wield a knife in a situation like that.

But that’s not the argument I’ve been hearing. Instead, people have been telling me this:

“I don’t like to think about the animal when I’m eating meat.”


Cajun fried chicken from C'est Si Bon (chicken) 

Look, I’m a pretty big proponent of meat. I’m glad to eat at places like The Loaded Bowl or The Red Cup, but I’m also the guy who sometimes eats two hamburgers a day and has very firm ideas about which parts of the chicken are best for which applications.

If we’re talking about fish, I get it. Bone-in fish can be a LOT of work. I take some very hesitant bites when I’m eating fish, even if it is supposedly already de-boned. Fish bones are tiny. They’re easy to miss until you try to swallow one. Yikes.

But, if you’re avoiding bones in your meat because it makes you more aware that the food you’re eating used to be alive, maybe you shouldn’t be eating meat at all.

If someone tells me they’re a vegetarian because they don’t like the taste of meat, well, that’s a lie. Meat tastes great.

Tell me you’re a vegetarian because you have a moral issue with eating another living thing and, yeah, I get it. I don’t agree with it, necessarily, but I get it.

Live your convictions. If you have a problem with animals being used for meat, then you don’t eat meat. You don’t just ask your butcher to strip off the skin, the fat, the bone and provide you with a product that’s been sanitized for your conscience.

And, let’s be honest, a bone in your meat isn’t exactly proof of life. If that’s the only thing keeping you from being a vegetarian, by all means, become a vegetarian.

Can you imagine how many vegetarians we’d have if, in order to eat meat, you had to kill a chicken or a cow or a turkey or a pig? Not even the animal you’re about to eat. Just as entry to the club.

Oxtail pho from Pho 3Nine (cow)

“I’d love to sell you this bacon, but it says here you never got your Pig Killing badge. No steak, either. All I can sell you is chicken.”  

And, to be clear, I haven’t killed a chicken. Or a cow. Probably a deer, on accident, but I’ve never ended an animal’s life with the sole intent that it becomes food. So I’m just as big a hypocrite as anybody on that score.

(BTW, if you have an animal farm and you’d like me to come snuff the life out of an animal for food, let me know. I’ll require some instruction, but I’m willing to give it a shot.)

I honestly believe it’s important to recognize where your meat comes from. Not just as a matter of morals, but because people who care about the animals they eat will also care about what goes into those animals.

That boneless, skinless chicken breast might be chock full of antibiotics. That’s not good for you. Animals that eat crap won’t magically transform said crap into super-tasty nutritious food for your family. The transitive power of crap flows right to you.

And the same goes for the water they drink and the places they live. If you care about the animal, even if only enough to acknowledge that it was an animal, then maybe you’ll care about the planet that animal lives on and interacts with. Because all of that stuff ends up in you when you eat it.

That’s why, when I’m making breakfast for the kids, I ask them if they know where bacon comes from. If they understand which part of the chicken they’re eating.

Maybe they’ll decide to be vegetarians someday. I don’t know. I don’t particularly care. But if they’re going to eat meat with me, they need to know that a cow says, “Moo,” eats grass and this steak is so tender because it comes from a rarely used muscle group in its back.

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About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.


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