Vegan: Former Federal Agent with USDA Quits Eating Meat

Tom & Kim Carlson

Tom & Kim Carlson

My name is Tom Carlson, I am married to Kimberly Carlson.  My career as a federal agent is what initially sparked my family’s interest in a plant-based vegetarian diet.  It did not happen overnight but it made us start to think a little about where our food came from.

In 1995 I began my career as a Special Agent with the United States Customs Service (USCS).  I worked drug smuggling investigations on the Southwest border of the United States.  After 2-1/2  years with the USCS I switched federal agencies and began my employment as a Special Agent with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Inspector General (OIG), Investigations, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  This job required me to investigate and learn the various USDA administered programs.  Most of my investigations were into farm program fraud, however, some of the cases did involve the food supply.

In the fall of 1998 I was part of an investigation of a meat-packing plant.  The beef allegedly had been contaminated with aids and hepatitis blood.  I spent over a week at the  meat-packing plant (slaughterhouse) interviewing employees.  At some point I was given a tour of the slaughter floor.  This was the turning point in my eating habits.  The site of animals being slaughtered had never bothered me before.  I grew up in Northern Minnesota and in my youth I was an avid fur trapper and hunter.  The systematic slaughter at the meat-packing plant made me rethink what I was eating and how I had lived my life.  The vision that still sticks out in my mind was the cow heads being cut off and placed on a conveyor belt.  A machine would then scrape down the top of the heads and remove the head meat.  The meat then fell into a box that showed it was to be used for taco meat.  After I returned home from the investigation I could not even look at a hamburger the same way, let alone a taco.  At this point in my life I decided to stop eating beef.  Some of my coworkers with USDA had told me that it was good that I never visited a chicken slaughterhouse because it might have turned me off to poultry too.  My cholesterol was also high and that was another reason to alter my diet.  For the next 13 years I only consumed poultry and fish.  I ate no other type of meat.

My initial response to changing my diet was difficult.  I soon realized I had to change my focus on the menu at restaurants and what we as a family ate at home.  Instead of ordering a hamburger I began to explore other items on the menu.  I was surprised at all of the things I had never eaten before.  The shift away from beef allowed me to expand my food choices and I found a lot of incredible tasting foods.  Lately many restaurants are catering to the vegetarian/vegan diet.  I have been unable to go vegan as of yet.  I have a pizza addiction that has been hard to overcome.  Last week my wife and I ate at Pizza Luce in St. Paul, Minnesota.  We had the Lil’ Gracie pizza with half Vegan cheese and half Rinotta.  Both are Vegan and it was incredible.  If you are thinking about changing your diet it can be done and you might be amazed at the flavors you never knew existed.  I am now in the process of reducing my dairy/cheese consumption.  If you start researching diet and nutrition many health problems do come from a meat based diet.

On January 1, 2012 I joined my wife and daughter and gave up meat completely.  My wife (Kimberly Carlson) has become a master chef.  She has researched and continues to study information about eating a vegetarian and vegan diet.

Take a moment to read an article my wife wrote:

Also take a moment to read an article me daughter wrote:

My wife will be writing extensively on the subject of plant-based living.  Please consider following her blog she has a lot of information on the subject. 


  1. Good for you!!! Great article! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks you for the comment. My wife and I just ate lunch AGAIN at Pizza Luce:.). We had a pizza with Vegan cheese and Rinotta. If anyone ever visits Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN it is worth stopping in. They have a real Vegan friendly menu.

  3. Pizza was my vice and kept me from going vegan for some time, but since going 100% vegan I’ve never felt better and can’t imagine going back. Daiya is my favorite brand of vegan cheese and they have lots of options. Check ‘em out and best of luck to you and your family.

  4. I was not the lead agent on the investiagtion. The threat was that someone had contaminated the meat with human blood that contained HIV and Hepatitis.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am curious to know if the claims of HIV and Hepatitis infected beef were substantiated and if this is a valid concern for meat eaters?

  6. I’d like to echo Kacy’s remark. Well done for getting onto a healthy and cruelty-free path. The only way now is UP UP UP :-)

  7. I am very happy you had made a whole family change for the best !

  8. Congratulations on your new found cruelty-free path towards health and happiness!

  9. Thank you for the question,

    My wife and daughter began to influence me. My wife with her research. My daughter with her passion. My daughter refuses to hurt even a fly. If a fly is in our house she catches it and brings it outside.

    I did watch the movie Food, Inc. It provided me with more insight into the factory farming of animals. I recommend that everyone watch it. I also watched videos like It takes a good look at the meat industry.

    Another factor is that most of the poultry is injected with growth hormones to fatten them up as quick as possible. If they are eating hormones so are you when you eat them.

    We also have had many pets in our home. My daughter currently has a ferret named Noodles. My son has a bird named Lucky. Each animal has its own unique personality and I realized that all animals are unique and different. I now believe people are eating a personality, not just a piece of meat.

    I hope this answers your question.

    Please ask any questions on our posts we are happy to respond.

    • Congrats to your decisions and your open heart. I am sure that if you understand that each animal has a personality, this will help you to quit milk and milk products. Because for their production a cow has to be artificially inseminated, made pregnant every year which is unnatural and her calf is taken away from her on the first day most of the times. If you ever hear them cry for each other you will never touch the baby’s food again. A gentle version of this can be seen here:

  10. lmstransky says:

    What prompted you to go from excluding just beef to being a vegetarian? I’m curious about what happened in those 13 years between poultry and fish and vegetarianism. Did you see anything else that made you change your mind? Can you cite any other experiences that helped sway your stance on meat?


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