For the first 21 years of my life, I was an unquestioning omnivore. Well, not completely unquestioning.
Me: Did you wash that spoon?
Mom: I’m still using it.
Me: But you used the same spoon to stir the ground beef when it was raw, and now it will contaminate the cooked ground beef.
Me: Did you just touch the sink after handling raw chicken?
Mom: [Rolls her eyes as I proceed to thoroughly disinfect the sink.]
Sure, I ate meat, but I also had issues with it. I handled raw meat like it was a hazardous substance. The only thing missing was a HAZMAT suit. Turns out, I was right to be worried, although at the time I didn’t understand WHY the meat was so hazardous. Sure, I knew about e. coli and salmonella, but I did not know that those things were directly connected to our agriculture and food production system, a broken system.
I started cooking for myself regularly when I moved off campus for my senior year of college. Except for an occasional chicken breast or a can of tuna, I did not prepare meat for myself. It was just too much of a chore, what with the washing my hands every 4 seconds, sterilizing the sink, and using 10 different spoons to prepare one dish (a spoon for every stage in the cooking process, from raw to fully cooked). Combine that with my growing interest in nutrition, including some convincing arguments that frequent meat consumption is NOT healthy, and you have the perfect vegetarian storm.
I did some reading about, and started experimenting with, alternate protein sources (legumes, nuts, soy). I was eating well, saving money, and not missing the hazardous material handling. Before I went home for Christmas break that year, I ate my last frozen chicken breast, and said goodbye to meat and hello to vegetarianism.