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.