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Zuckerberg kills what he eats. Should you?
  • Chef Dan Barber says Mark Zuckerberg's decision to kill the meat he eats is not elitist
  • He says future of locavorism is in networks that connect farms, markets and consumers
  • Barber says killing the meat you eat is moral and respectful -- and it tastes better
  • Barber: Locavorism is becoming widespread -- no longer the domain of food snobs

(CNN) -- Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the 847 friends on his private Facebook page that he had "just killed a pig and a goat" -- to eat.

Horrifying? Why? asks Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of the farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. That Zuckerberg, the 27-year-old Internet billionaire, has made killing any meat he eats this year's personal goal is "an incontestably moral act," Barber says. He's slaughtered animals for meat himself. "I do think it's important for anyone who wants to be conscious of their food and where it comes from," he says.

Barber is a proponent of locavorism, the practice of seeking out locally produced food. In 2006, he received the James Beard award for best chef: NYC. In 2009 he was named James Beard's outstanding chef, and Time Magazine featured him in its "Time 100."

He talked with's Pat Wiedenkeller about Zuckerberg's personal-best quest, why locavorism isn't just for the elite, and how much better meat tastes when you've killed it yourself.

CNN: Mark Zuckerberg wants to eat only meat he's killed himself. Good for him, but how is that supposed to work for the 99.8 percent of us who aren't Internet billionaires? How is sustainable locavorism supposed to work on a large scale?

Dan Barber: Eccentric? Sure. But it's certainly not elitist. You don't have to be an Internet billionaire to kill what you eat (as many of the world's peasant cuisines illustrate). The problem isn't the expense; it's the inconvenience. I'm not suggesting that the future of locavorism will look like a world of hunter gatherers -- and it won't be all farmers' markets either.

For this movement to work, we have to establish a system of well-coordinated regional "foodsheds" (networks that encompass farms, markets and consumers), each suited to what it can best grow. That means more farmers, but also more local distribution and processing centers, reviving the regional infrastructure that's disappeared over the last 50 years. Call it regionavore -- the next step in the locavore movement.

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CNN: "Gross. I don't want to know the animal I'm eating." What would you say to a friend or customer who told you that?

Barber: If they're really looking for mystery meat, I'd send them to the diner around the corner, where they cannot know the hundreds of animals they're eating in a single hamburger.

CNN: Have you killed animals that you've eaten? If so, what was that like?

Barber: Three years ago Stone Barns built an on-site slaughterhouse for poultry, which means the farmers are able to process chickens, turkeys and rabbits on the farm. I've participated in the slaughter -- in fact, most of our cooks have as well. It's not something I enjoy, but I do think it's important for anyone who wants to be conscious of their food and where it comes from.

Would you believe me if I told you that the people who participate in the slaughter end up enjoying their meat more? It's true. We're hard-wired to be closer to where our food comes from.

CNN: Can you discuss the morality of killing your own food?

Barber: Killing your own food is an incontestably moral act. I think that's something people recognize once they see the process, if it's done respectfully. That's reinforced for me in the kitchen every day. I can tell by the way something tastes -- by the texture of the meat, for instance -- whether that animal was treated with respect in death.

You can raise the right breed, rotate onto the most delectable grass -- you can do everything perfectly to assure the best-tasting meat -- but if the slaughter is not done correctly and the animal is stressed, all of that work can be reversed in a minute.

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CNN: What meat should we be eating more of?

Barber: One hundred percent grass-fed meat.

CNN: In an article in March, an Atlantic Monthly writer said foodie-ism and food writing and TV have jumped the shark into elitist narcissism and snobby absurdity. What do you say to that?

Barber: There's a hedonistic element to the foodie movement -- a whole experience of good eating that has been lost over the last 50 years. That people are rediscovering it now means that, of course, it will be celebrated and scrutinized in equal measure.

I'm not saying it doesn't get annoying; at times, the world of "foodie-ism" seems to preen with a kind of self-importance that I can't stand (and am probably guilty of). But I still think it's a step forward, part of resurrecting a sense of food culture that we've lost.

CNN: Sustainable fish. Oxymoron?

Barber: I thought so, until I visited a fish farm in southern Spain a few years ago. Sea bass, mullet, eels, shrimp and sole -- the most delicious you've ever tasted -- all of it a feast of what the ecology naturally provides. And they provide for the ecology in return -- it's not just a fish farm, it's a bird sanctuary, the most important private estate for bird life in all of Europe. The system is so healthy, it acts like a water purification plant. Water from the Guadalquivir River is pumped into the farm's canals, and when it's pumped back out, it's cleaner than when it started.

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CNN: There is a caricature that has emerged in recent years about Americans: overweight Slurpee-loving Food Channel voyeurs and hipster goat-raising coffee snobs. True? False? Why or why not? How do we find the middle ground?

Barber: I think, increasingly, that caricature is old news. Because this movement isn't limited to hipster coffee snobs or tofu-touting hippies. In the past five years especially, we've seen new farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture and artisanal foods flourish throughout the country. And while it may look different in Williamsburg, Brooklyn than in Williamsburg, Kentucky, it's all rooted in the same ideas.