As much as I’d like to think I eat low on the food chain, if I have to be completely honest with myself, I could be doing a much better job. I am a pretty dedicated omnivore- I went vegetarian for about a year at one point and that didn’t work for me- but I would definitely like to eat less meat.
As a country, we eat an inordinately huge amount of meat- by some accounts more than is healthy for us, never mind unsustainable- and that number is accelerating nationally, and globally.
There are many excellent reasons to eat less meat, that run the gamut of health, morality, and environmental concerns. I am personally very concerned about the provenance of all my food, and meat in particular, because I believe we have a moral obligation to respect the lives we take to nourish us and grow it in a way that is respectful of its environment. I probably don’t have to tell you that much of the meat we grow doesn’t hold too closely to either of these principles (if you’re unfamiliar with these issues, a great, and funny, place to start is The Meatrix).
Meat products also have a variable and sometimes quite large carbon footprint. A great website from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) looks at the relative greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the life cycle of many common foods we eat. Some really interesting things I learned from reading about the results of their study include:
- Lamb produces the most GHG per pound, about 50% more than beef! But beef is a big producer as well, and Americans eat a lot more of it. Why are they such GHG offenders? Frankly, they are gassy animals- ruminants produce a lot of methane just because of how they process their food.
- Cheese is a big contributor to GHGs! Who knew? Well it does make sense, because it is made by ruminants. I’m lactose intolerant, so that’s not high on my list of inputs.
- Farmed salmon: there are a LOT of reasons you should not eat farmed salmon, but I didn’t realize high GHG was one of them.
Our family is very fortunate to have access to many local, pasture-raised products- shout out to Lopez Island Farms who delivers locally and who we love! However, while there are many other great reasons to buy local and humanely raised food, from an emissions standpoint, I don’t know whether it makes a big difference; however I do think the swath of other environmental and ethical benefits is certainly worth looking to local, humane sources for meat.
So anyway, to move myself down the carbon food chain, I started with the EWG’s website and took the one-day-meat-free pledge, and I am really going to try to stick to it. I also just got Mark Bittman’s (LOVE this man) How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (and in a second score for lowering the footprint, I got this cookbook from a Goodwill, so its reused!). I expect I’ll be circling back around to this action to see how I’m doing, and maybe even up my goals, down the road.