Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cut the meat to curb global warming

Planet meatWhat is, by far, the biggest thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint? Stop driving your cars? Reduce your heating and cooling? Those are all generally touted as big tickets items to reducing your impact. But what about reducing or eliminating how much meat you eat? What affect does that have on the environment?

This has come up a number of times, not only in the comments of this blog, but also in the news. In a recent article in Scientific American, How Meat Contributes to Global Warming:

Pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken. For potatoes, the multiplier is 57.

Beef consumption is rising rapidly, both as population increases and as people eat more meat. Producing the annual beef diet of the average American emits as much greenhouse gas as a car driven more than 1,800 miles.

Basically, current production levels of meat contributes between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of "CO2-equivalent" greenhouse gases the world produces every year [1]. That's a veritable shitload of gas. Beef is the biggest offender, followed by pork and chicken. In other words, producing the world's beef and pork intake creates more greenhouse gases than all of the planet's cars, planes and boats combined [2].

Of course, the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) animals are going to have a much bigger impact than those raised in a more environmentally friendly way, so if you have to eat meat, choose pasture raised, pasture rotated, sustainably raised and local animals. All of the above, if possible. Just think: more chicken, less beef. Use less quantities of meat per meal and think of it as being a "seasoning" over the main part of a meal. This will save not only money, but greenhouse gases as well.

But, all this begs the question: do you have to eat meat? No, not in modern society [3]. There are a number of alternatives to eating meat where you can have a very healthy, and tasty, diet.

So, if you ate a vegetarian diet, your reduction in greenhouse gases is along the lines of 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year [4]. Switching to a hybrid vehicle won't even gain you that much of a decrease.

What do you think of the meat issue? Are you willing to reduce or eliminate meat to reduce your carbon output? If you aren't and the statistics are correct, how do you defend your meat-eating?

76 comments:

CM said...

Our family eats vegan 2 days a week. Usually our breakfasts and lunches are vegetarian on the other days. We buy our beef from a local farm, would love to do the same for our chicken. Pork, other than ham, is a rarity here. We have just started to get our grains locally too. Interesting experience learning to bake with fresh whole wheat flours!

Once you start eating vegan your desire for a big hunk of meat on your plate just seems to fade. (unless you are my teenage son that is)

There are so many really good vegan cookbooks and blogs out there to get you started.

I contribute recipes to a blog found here: http://saintaidancook.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

These are recipes my children eat willingly :o)

Allison said...

Very timely: I just finished Mark Bittman's "Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating", which argues just this point. He advocates cutting down meat consumption to 3 oz per day (that is, if you're not willing to go full veg), as that's the very upper limit of how much meat every one of us 6.75 billion folks could eat while maintaining our current (!) environmental quality. Which, as we know, isn't saying much.

In the last year or so, I have switched from meat twice a day (e.g., turkey sandwich for lunch and 8 oz steak for dinner) to about four times a week. I sub in beans and fish (not meat by Bittman's definition) when I'm feeling the need for protein. It turns out that I don't miss the meat at all. At the risk of sharing TMI, my digestion has definitely improved and I no longer get the sleepy after-dinner food coma that I thought was par for the course. My consumption of vegetables is way up - I've learned to appreciate the wonders of kale, turnips, all sorts of things I never encountered before I started cooking on my own and really caring about my food.

I would say that the biggest barrier to reducing my meat consumption is American food norms. Let's say I am meeting some friends for dinner at a restaurant. It's really difficult for me to find anything truly meat-free on the menu at the outset, and any vegetarian options tend to be heavy on the cream and starch (pasta, I'm looking at you).

Or let's say I'm cooking for my parents or a group of friends over the weekend. Omitting the customary hunk of flesh will most likely yield complaints ("are you trying to put us on a diet? where's the real food?") and/or it would be construed as a provocative political statement. Which I'd like to avoid.

Maybe I just need to make such kick-ass beans that no one will miss the meat. Bittman's book has 75 recipes and they are all quite promising (onions! garlic! olive oil!)...

Robj98168 said...

Believe it or not, Rob eats very little meat. I purposely try to have two or three meals a week vegetarian. As far as my attitude towards meat It is tasty.I am a omnivore. But I can eat vegetarian (not vegan) a few times a week. Hell I even order veggie pizzas. As far as I am concerned we have Morning star products, which are very tasty and I don't mind eating them. I love Trader Joes soy corn dogs and weiners too

mrsdirtyboots said...

Very timely - I did a footprint survey yesterday. I know they're very approximate but I was pretty hopeful - we don't drive far, hardly ever fly, grow our own, harvest rainwater and produce our own electricity. BUT we eat meat several times a week. That one fact destroyed my carbon rating completely.

I grew up in a mostly vegetarian household and was an exceptionally healthy kid so I can see no issue with missing out meat, so long as you are sensible.

I'm considering cutting out the meat again (apart from when we rear our own) as its so difficult to get anything but mass produced, factory reared stuff here.

Mmmmm?

Chris said...

We became vegetarians more than 30 years ago as we couldn't afford meat on my husband's wages. Since then we have bought up 3 daughters to adulthood, all fit and well. My youngest,nearly 18, has never visited a doctor! I now have a vegetarian grandson and soon to have another! Our carbon footprint must be quite small now.
Oh, and we only have a 1.2litre car and my husband goes to work on the bus!
Sainthood here we come!!

Bernard Brown said...

Keep in mind you're also saving lots of other water and air pollution, and conserving water, and land (about 133 gallons and 24 sq ft per lunch) when you eat more plant-based food.

It's good to set broader goals, but one way to look at it is as a meal-by-meal opportunity to cut emissions, similar to looking at each time you have to leave the house as a choice between walking/biking vs. using gasoline by car or bus.

Also this doesn't have to involve cooking new things - lots of old standards are entirely vegan (falafel or the PB&J for example), while others are nearly so - say a beans and rice dish using chicken stock, or pea soup flavored with a bit of ham.

Bernard Brown
www.pbjcampaign.org

LimeSarah said...

We eat beef once every few months, all from a local sustainable farm. Fish is more like twice a month, though it varies. Our default to more-or-less-Asian cooking seems to help not miss meat. A chicken stir-fry can be a tofu stir-fry or even just a veggie stir-fry without really changing the dish. This is a good solution to "where can I go out to eat?" as well -- a Chinese or Indian restaurant will almost always have several veggie entrees.

Healing Green said...

This is a very big issue in my household, something my mother and I talk about all the time on the phone, because her main work for the last few years is reforming the CAFOs and slaughterhouse regulations worldwide. My husband and I were both vegetarians for the environmental reason for over 6 years, and now we eat some form of meat once a week or so.

One caveat when you recommend chicken to people: make sure they know to ONLY buy organic, unless they want to feed themself and their family regular doses of arsenic. Arsenic is a standard feed additive, and gets passed on to you in the meat and the eggs, and your groundwater where it becomes volatile and even more highly toxic. Even many organic poultry feeds contain a synthetic form of vitamin B which becomes toxic when excreted. So, organic is better, and local, corn-fed freerange poultry is best.

Chile said...

Just think: more chicken, less beef.

Just think: more potatoes, less chicken!

Although health is my primary reason for eating a strict vegetarian diet, environmental concerns are in there as well. Lots of tasty veg recipes at my regular blog as well as the new one (McDougalling with Chile & Friends). With good enough food, company won't miss the meat.

By the way, that's one of my favorite photos.

Adrienne said...

Crunchy (or anyone else), have you seen any numbers as to the emissions equivalent of local, grass fed beef? Just wondering.

I'm definitely an omnivore but I eat vegetarian several times a week, and get all the beef, lamb, and eggs I eat from local, grass-fed sources, and some of the chicken too.

Angel B said...

We do eat beef but much less often. One thing that my family has done, though is buy our beef from a dairy farmer. Since we are big dairy consumers and have no plans to change that, we opt to keep it in the family so to speak. In order to produce milk a cow has to get pregnant every so often. What do you do with the calf? Some dairy farms will go ahead and raise the steers on site and sell them for meat. My sister, parents, uncle, and I go in on steer from a friend's farm every year. Our quarter feeds my family of four for the year very well.

Rosa said...

I hit a place where I had problems balancing local vs. vegetarian, and I know I'm not alone there - which has higher emissions, fruit imported from Argentina, or pork from 100 miles south of here? Does it depend how long they're stored as well as shipped?

I've been working on continuous improvement on all food fronts - packaging, lower meat consumption, making our meat & dairy local & grass fed, local produce & fruit.

It means each one is slow going, but overall when I look back a year or 5 years I can see improvements (well, mostly - go back 10 years & i was almost entirely freegan).

The Purloined Letter said...

I'm very curious to see a comparison between local farm-raised meats and industrially farmed and industrially produced soy foods shipped in from across the country. Does anyone here have an idea?

Perhaps this question sounds like an attack on veganism, and I want to assure you it is not. I know you can eat an effective vegan diet without massive corporate influence. And yes, I also think it is important to remember that there are more complex ethical reasonings behind eating a vegan diet, and also more complex ethical reasonings behind supporting locally made products.)

Oldnovice said...

My second daughter (grown woman now) read Skinny Bitch and has been a pescetarian since. She's toyed with different types of diets all her life, though, reading ingredient lists on packaged food when she was 7 years old. I've also toyed with different diets throughout my life, but I couldn't maintain my weight as a vegetarian. I probably could now, but we're quite happy and healthy eating smaller portions of pretty much everything, excluding nothing by intention.

cathy said...

I'm reading Mark Bittman's Food Matters right now, and he makes the same point - eat less meat, cut global warming - as well as many other good points. It certainly has me thinking more about my family's meat consumption. And yes, we will be cutting back on our meat consumption as a result.

Carmen said...

For just this purpose, we significantly cut our meat intake in my household. We used to plan our meals around the meat as a centerpiece. Now, the majority of our meals are meat free. We buy one whole chicken a week and use parts of it in various meals. We still eat beef and bacon - but they are more a special occasion meal, like Christmas.

jimbolini23 said...

Generally, eating down the food chain reduces our carbon footprint (chicken rather than cows, eggs rather than chickens, and so on). I don't eat much meat (this week's total: 1 pound), and could eat less. I was ovo-lacto years ago, and was healthier during that period. (My downfall was sausage!)

I observed that vegetarians have a far greater range of dining choices than animal-eaters. If you eat animals, you choice is usually limited to cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, fish and shrimp. The variety is really accomplished by the sauces which top those meats. I observed that the sauces worked just as well on vegetables. For example, a marsala sauce goes just as well on an omlette, tofu or rice. Ditto for tomato sauces, scampi, etc. Add the dizzying variety of beans and peas .... Need I say more?

jimbolini23 said...

BTW, you can get all the protein you need (or want) from legumes, eggs, and even grains. (Just look at the protein content of a serving of macaroni, if you don't believe me.) Likewise, you can get far more iron from dark, leafy green vegetables than from steak.

Kale: it's whats for dinner. ;-)

MN_homesteader said...

So what about buffalo and hunting your own game, is that bad also?

dee dee said...

Meal planning is tough when our whole family is together - one daughter doesn't eat sea food, loves meat; the other daughter won't eat meat, just sea food. Unfortunately, their visits are rare and short. But it does make meal planning easy for just the 2 of us. We've taken to using meat more as a flavoring. For example, we cooked a 4 pound brisket that served 4 at a dinner party, then went into soup that became 2 dinners for the 2 of us; sauce for pasta for 2 more dinners for 2; a stew with onions over noodles for 2;then a flavoring for a tomato sauce for pasta and finally a little bit of leftover meat with lots of its onion gravy with noodles for my dinner alone last night. The brisket, btw, was from a grass-fed local steer. The cost per pound was around $4.50 - a little more than what the grocery store might charge, but worth it for the flavor and for the knowledge that the animals are humanely raised and get no antibiotics.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I think the point that gets missed in this discussion is that the arguments are centered around the current production methods of beef and other meat animals, even organic. I holding my hand up for beef, since on our farm we raise rotationally grazed grass fed beef. From birth to death, our cattle do not receive grain. This allows us to grow their food here and to let them harvest it themselves. No fuel purchased, low infrastructure, etc.

We tried selling pastured poultry, but I hate to tell you folks poultry and pigs (even pastured and free range)are responsible for a huge carbon footprint because of the grain they need. Even if the grain is grown organically, the farmer usually is practicing monoculture, and has no livestock available to provide manure for fertilization. So they must ship in soil amendments that are mined, and they must work the soil, weed the crop, and harvest and store and ship that product. Even a local organic vegetable farm, is still adding to the carbon footprint issue because most choose not to have livestock for fertilization purposes. Biodynamic practice calls for only selling meat and milk products as they are not depleting the farm, as vegetable and grain farming do. I don't really have a good answer, but there are numbers bandied about that say Joel Salatin's Polyface pastures sequester more carbon than the forest. The same goes for other grazing areas such as New Zealand.

Our answer is to follow holistic resource management, and biodynamic practices for our farm and sell the resulting products. We treat meat as a condiment, and guard our natural resources. If I can't make a profit here, I will be forced to sell my Century Farm, and what is a beautiful piece of natural forest, with interspersed fields dotted with grazing cattle, will be come an ugly subdivision. So what should I do? Listen to Mark Bittman or my land?

If you are looking for sources of small farm, pasture raised animals use the www.eatwild.com site, there is a directory for every state and good research articles. Crunchy you would like Jo, and I think she has moved to Seattle.

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

I wonder what the impacts of egg and dairy are? I eat fish once a week, eggs (local, freerange) once a week, cheese several times a week, and meat, never. My hubby eats what he wants, but I cook, so that means he usually eats veg.

Normally, I don't miss meat. There's a great variety of non-meat food - pasta, pizza, bean dishes, stews, chilis, quesadillas and fajitas, potato dishes, etc. But on holiday occasions and at barbeques, I have to admit I do miss meat, a little bit.

Billie said...

I don't generally eat a lot of meat because it is expensive. I tend not to like steak or pork roast/chops. I prefer my meat as an companion rather than a star of my meal.

This week, I will have consumed two turkey thighs as my meat for the week. I think it was a 1.5 to 2lb package. I don't know what my honey got from his ex but our meat contribution to his diet was one chicken breast and a chunk of fish.

I don't expect to go vegetarian in my lifetime so the best I can do is limit my intake. Some weeks, I do cook a vegetarian meal so I don't eat any meat for a week.

Kristi said...

I find it hilarious that Bittman, who flys here, there, and everywhere, discusses how to reduce one's carbon footprint. That being said, his "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" is chock-full of delicious recipes.

We've cut back drastically on red meat, and partake in Meatless Monday. The only one complaining is my almost teenage son (I hear ya, CM!)

Joe said...

To those looking for local raised pork, beef, lamb or chicken check your county fair. 4-H kids usually sell their entries after the show is over and there are butchers ready to take the animals away for you.
If you have the space raise a few Cornish X Rock chickens. They grow incredibly fast and are ready to butcher in 8 weeks, just don't make them pets!
A couple hens can provide enough eggs for a family and load of entertainment.
http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/product/jumbo_cornish_x_rocks.html

SusanB said...

I recently read that grass fed beef produces 5 (? I think) times the methane of grain fed beef because of how the cattle's digestive system works in response to grass. Methane is a more reactive atomospheric gas than CO2. That said, the beef I buy occasionally is grass fed and local.

Alison Kerr said...

I read the very same thing in New Scientist a few months back. Since then my family moved to eating meat at just one meal a day. We usually only have about 3-4 oz of meat each per day. Some days we've not had any meat. Also, our meat is almost all meat raised by friends of ours. I'd tried reducing my meat intake before but was never satisfied with the diet because of lack of texture. Now I seem to have figured out that aspect and my kids and hubby have not complained about one meat-free meal I've served, well maybe one, but not more than that :-)

If you are not sure about trying meat-free, I'd recommend working down to one or less meat meals a day so that you have the chance to adjust. Previously I tried "cold-turkey", but I was not eating familiar foods and felt miserable.

Anonymous said...

Our family are meat eaters. Hubby and 3 boys love their meat. We do buy local, grass-fed beef. I just picked up our order from the farmer yesterday. We also eat locally raised pigs and lamb. I haven't found a source for local chicken as of yet! Fish is a problem, because its not readily available and a lot of fish these days are farmed. I try to avoid farmed fish and fish whose stocks I know are low. I am originally from the East Coast so I really do miss my fish living in Central Canada now.

Jo, way down south said...

15 years and counting for hubby and I, a 4 1/2 yr old and 2 yr old now as well, all veggies....the children try whatever they want to at grandparent's house etc but they haven't liked anything yet. We all LOVE dried beans and lentils and talk about easy on the food budget!

May said...

This is the reason I gave up meat.

aelfie said...

Your article should read something about reducing the CAFO'ed and grain fed animals.

Properly raised, pastured, free-range animals are actually good for the environment. They improve the land with natural fertilizers, they don't decimate the landscape, they encourage vigorous plant growth which increases the C02 to 02 conversion and helps prevent landslides and soil erosion due to deep roots. Its all around the best meat you can eat.

My family are shameless carnivores...and we eat local, free-range, pastured, grain-free animals. Best tasting meat I've ever had and totally worth every penny (it isn't the frugal choice, but its the best one for our family)

Di Hickman said...

Not eaten meat for 18 years. No meat, fowl or fish. I'm a lacto ovo vegetarian trying to make the final steps to being vegan. MY DH is veggie too and has been for about 16 years.
In general the western diet contains too much protein. We need to get back to wholesome foods and sustainable farming methods. Mono culture farming has to come to an end, as does factory farming. Get the cattle grazing again!

kimberly said...

I think it's pretty easy to cut meat, or at least beef out of the diet. I live on my own and I don't ever purchase meat. No beef, pork, chicken, turkey, nothing. For me it's just that I can't reconcile with spending that much money on something, when I could get like three times as much in vegetables and grains. Also, it takes too long to cook meat, and I'm paranoid of undercooking it, or getting salmonella. I just can't be bothered, it just doesn't make sense. I eat meat when I go out, but never in the house. And since I prepare almost all of my meals, I guess that makes me a pseudo-vegetarian. I'm also lactose intolerant, so I don't use dairy either... Not buying meat is great for the budget. I think I have purchased meat twice because my boyfriend insisted that he wanted meat in our dinner, and even then we both kind of looked at the price and made a face, haha. Neither of us want to be spending that much money. I was never big on vegetarianism before, but being broke will do wonders. So to those who feel that they can't possibly cut meat out of their diets - it is possible! I never thought I would do it.

Kate said...

There are two reasons I have not gone totally meatless: 1) I can get lots of wonderful, pasture-raised, local meat where I live and 2) I am gluten intolerant. This means seitan, tempeh, and many vegetarian protein sources are not available to me (lots of premade veggie burgers and other nonmeat alternatives contain gluten). That said, we do make a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes in my home: I love tofu, lentils and beans. I am toying with trying to make my own soy jerky (one of the main ways I try to lessen my impact on the environment is that I dehydrate mass quantities of local foods in season to eat all winter).

My two constraints end up being the veggie burger thing and the eating out thing. If there is a vegan gluten free burger out there that tastes decent, I will at least make the red meat switch at home! But I cannot eat Chinese take-out (soy sauce contains wheat), and need to be careful when ordering other kinds of restaurant food that is typically vegetarian (ahem, pasta). To save money I rarely eat out anyway, but it is hard to have so few options.

stella said...

I grew up with a vegetarian mom and my dad didn't eat much meat, either. So it was easy for me to not eat meat at all by choice starting when I was about 19. It really is cultural because I didn't ever develop "warm fuzzy" feelings about meat, and I never saw it as being a necessity on the dinner table. Most of my friends are also vegetarian, so it's never an issue in restaurants either.

However, I think it would be difficult for my husband and I to go fully vegan. He is French, and I don't think he'd be happy without some butter and cheese in his life. I don't think I would, either. My breakfasts and lunches are usually vegan, and sometimes dinner is. I might be able to do 75% of my meals vegan if needed.

risa said...

We're not vegan but most people who have eaten at our house or seen us bring lunch assume we're vegetarian. We do run chickens and ducks, and flock management leads to freezer and menu management -- but it's rather low key. You can go a looooong way on a good garden and orchard and eggs, with a few bags of good grain on hand.

stella said...

By the way, I don't eat at all fake meat products--I agree, they are not natural, have too much packaging, and they look unappetizing.

BoysMom said...

Just want to mention, there is quite a lot of land in the world that is suitable for grazing but really shouldn't be plowed and planted. If the people who rely on that land for their livelihood no longer can produce grazing animals on it, they will have to plow and irrigate. After all, they need the basics of life, too. There's a lot of land currently plowed for production that would be better off grazed.
So remember that when you're thinking about this issue. Convincing the world to eat only vegan will lead to more errosion in marginal areas than convincing people to be cautious and responsible omnivores.

Melinda said...

Fabulous post, CC. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years for these reasons as well as ethical and political reasons.

Purloined, great point that if you are vegetarian but eating packaged products shipped from across the world, you are certainly not doing as much as you could. For that reason, we eat locally grown whole grains, vegetables, and legumes for our protein.

Chili said...

Excellent, informative post. What you point out are the exact reasons I became vegan. My husband is now a flexitarian eating meat maybe 3-4 times a week. I think I can convince him.

nava said...

I'm vegetarian, which means our house is vegetarian :) C eats meat if he goes out (and he has his own spending account for that sort of thing, so no drama there) or if we are eating at a friend's house and they serve chicken, so he has maybe 1 meal with chicken a week. He was surprised by how quickly he adjusted to the once-a-week routine, but he is still pretty dependent on that shot of animal protein; if he misses that meal he gets very cranky/listless. Point is; it's very easy to adjust to a vegetarian/mostly vegetarian diet, even for people who NEED that protein. On that note, I have several relatives whose health goes downhill rapidly when they go vegetarian, (and they are very careful to make sure it's a healthy veg diet, to no avail) so I do not insist the entire population going veg, even though the planet itself would be a lot better off.

carsick said...

We only eat meat once maybe twice a week. Sometimes not even that much. Sadly my mom had to move in with us until she gets back on her feet and she Eats a lot of meat and buys a lot of junk food. While we try to explain we don't want the meat she buys it anyway and my food waste is at an all time high. I vowed that this weekend I will get on top of all of it.

Ceece said...

I'm definitely willing to reduce my meat consumption (and have done so) to curb global warming. The meat (beef, chicken, pork) we do eat is local/grass-fed.

I agree with the others that have said that a package-foods-intensive vegetarian diet, or a vegetarian diet comprised of exotic/non-local foods, however, is NOT anything to strive for, in my opinion.

Personally, I find soy foods (whether "natural" or not) repulsive and will never make them a part of my diet. I can't get locally-grown legumes (black beans etc) and haven't tried my hand at growing them (as of yet), so I get my protein in the form of local/grassfed meat. I'm willing to make that trade-off.

Jennie said...

Did anyone see this over at Ideal Bite today? Man, the comments and hate mail just went on and on. I don't eat any of the 3 mentioned, but I thought it fit in with the subject here at Crunchy Chicken.
http://www.idealbite.com/tiplibrary/today

Farmer's Daughter said...

Does the data you present represent just cutting out meat, or replacing it with something else? Many vegetarians I know substitute with highly processed meat-like substances that contain conventionally grown, genetically modified soy. That doesn't necessarily sound more environmentally friendly to me.

My husband and I raise our own pigs and buys beef sustainably-raised from his cousin. 1/2 a pig and 1/8 of a cow will feed us all year. We have yet to find such a source for chicken.

I'd like to see comparable data for meat raised sustainably. I think that cutting out feedlots makes a huge difference, but I dont' have numbers.

Also, I'm not willing to take my money out of the meat industry. I prefer to vote with my dollars for humanely, sustainably raised meat.

cheflovesbeer said...

I have a large beef pot roast cooking right now, not local, probably from a cafo. Sorry, I am no saint when it comes to food. That said, I am doing better than my past gluttony.

fernwise said...

We buy beef that was pasture raised, and the pastures are hilly and rocky and unfit for crops. Pastures were fine for battles, mind you - they are near a big civil war battle field!

Fern

Jodi A-B said...

Oh, these statements just drive me crazy, to be honest. The idea that Everyone Needs to Eat the Same Thing makes no ecological sense. I live in Montana, where the growing season for fruits and vegetables is just slightly over 120 days. We get about ten inches of rain a year. The growing season for meat--real meat, raised on pasture as these animals evolved--is 365 days a year. It's cold here half the year, meaning that building foods like meat make sense.

Pasture fed meat doesn't make the same contribution to global warming. Nor does it involve the same degree of animal cruelty as CAFOs. It's more expensive, so you naturally eat small portions and stretch it. My family of three gets at least four meals out of a 5-pound chicken.

Sure, eating vegetarian or vegan makes abundant sense in places where the growing season is all year, or near to it. So, if you're in California or Florida, go right ahead. But let's stop making blanket suggestions that we should all eat the same thing, regardless of the ecological conditions where we live.

ScreamingSardine said...

We only eat maybe a pound of meat a week. I do want to get some chickens and rabbits and perhaps butcher them, if I can get over the squeamishness of it.

Sandra said...

For MN Homesteader: Yes!! Please DO hunt, especially deer. Deer overpopulation wreaks havoc on what little forests remain. Plus, the population crashes that happen periodically (up to 50% of local deer pops in a hard winter) are no laughing matter. Loving wildlife means responsibly managing their populations. And if you like meat, well, there's a good solution.

Correne said...

We eat meat just about every single day. I order about half a cow for the freezer from a local sustainable farmer, which works out to about 200 pounds of beef a year. That sure sounds like a lot, doesn't it? I'm feeding five people, but we also buy quite a lot of chicken on top of that.

I used to try to reduce the amount of meat, but it is so darned HARD. My husband absolutely refuses to eat any beans whatsoever. He makes this weird gagging face anytime he accidentally eats one. He is also allergic to nuts.

If it were just me, I would probably eat meat only a couple of times a week.

purejuice said...

what? potatoes are 57 times worse for the environment than beef? hanh?

dlb said...

I thought/think having fewer children (i.e. ideally 0-2) is the best way to curb global warming.

Anonymous said...

dear crunchy.

I really like you. I've been reading you for almost two years. somewhat religiously.

but for some reason I can't handle your current profile pic. so very cheesy late seventies. and the way you pretty much only go after the most controversial topics. comment fishing much?

it gets on my nerves. i'm just saying. I feel like I should be honest with you.

I do like you a lot.

Anonymous said...

p.s. to address today's hot topic: I'm "vegan at home," meaning that the vast majority of what I eat is vegan (at least %90), whole foods, made from scratch. But I don't impose on others, and when I'm out and about I'm not super restricted. But really I mostly eat at home. So it's still pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for raising awareness about how bad meat production is for the environment. Reducing our meat consumption is such an important step we could all be taking to help solve global warming, but I think most people are simply unaware of it. I love your blog and look up to you as an environmentalist. :)

Anonymous said...

We eat 2 oz or less per person per week. I justify it becuase I'm supporting local, organic chicken and turkey farmers. If it gets to expensive, then it's just more beans and spuds.

MEA

Anonymous said...

We eat locally raised grass-fed beef. Of course, we live in eastern Kansas and there are lots of ranches around, so that makes it easier to get. And we also eat beef only two or three times a week.

The rancher who raises the beef we buy also raises bison. Good stuff.

Jen R. (aaron-n-jen.com) said...

My family of four eats less than 10 pounds of meat a month, total. The 10 pounds we do eat comes from 100% local grass finished beef.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

My answer, as usual, will be the unpopular one here. But, I would guess, is the answer of more mainstream Americans.

My family eats lots of meat. We eat it at least 5 days a week at dinner, and probably 4 days a week at lunch too (lunchmeats, bacon, etc). Why? We LIKE meat. Also, it's protein. We eat fish, chicken, beef, and pork. We also try to eat peanuts and peanut butter and beans at least once a week so that we can have a meatless meal.

Unfortunately I think that there is still a stigma attached to meatless meals if you're not a vegetarian. I am not a veg. and when I prepare meatless meals my husband is like, "What's wrong? Can't we afford meat?"

I do not waste meat. I have really been trying hard to do the food waste reduction challenge (my first one I didn't peter out on). However, we have a tight family budget, so we have to enjoy our meat the inexpensive way: mass-produced, probably most eco-harmful way.

Also, I have to just say this one time only and I won't revisit it again: I believe in being responsible for the planet God gave us. I believe in using resources wisely and respectfully. However, I am not overly concerned about what the planet will look like 200 or 500 or 900 years from now. I will be gone, into a better place. I will be sad if the planet looks like it did on Wall-E, but I trust that God will provide the resources for people to deal with all of that (knowledge, technology, natural resources, etc.) I know this is not a popular opinion, but it may help some people understand why there are folks out there who aren't trying to sustain their livelihood off of 4 golf-cart batteries. LOL

Lesley said...

We haven't eaten beef since my oldest was born 4.5 years ago. We don't miss it. And I usually cook vegetarian a couple of times a week. I was walking through the meat section of the grocery store last week and just appalled at the amount of dead animals on display just so we could have the privilege as a society of having meat at a whim. It was really sad. And really gross.

Michael Storch said...

1800 miles/year = 36 miles/week, which means that, for most people, carpooling ONCE per week would have the same impact as eliminating all of the meat from their diet. The average car, BTW, gets driven ~5x that much during a year. Nice blog.

Young Snowbird said...

My meat intake varies wildly. Sometimes I can go weeks at a time without eating any meat, and then other times I'll eat meat 3-4 meals in one week.

Mostly I try to eliminate meat to reduce the acne breakouts I get that seem to erupt when I do eat meat, oh, and to reduce the overall expense of groceries. I've tried to drastically reduce my intake of fish due to concern over overfishing, etc. Once a year I'll go to Red Lobster and feast on seafood, just to keep an appreciation for what the oceans do provide us all.

XUP said...

I haven't eaten meat in over 25 years. My daughter has never had meat in all 16 years of her life and thinks the idea of eating animals is revolting. We all live perfectly normal, healthy lives and haven't died from lack of protein. Crazy, eh? Ha ha. I'm visiting your blog for the first time via Experiements in Efficiency. I love it! Love it!

JackieLemon said...

Two of my daughters and their SO's and children are vegan. My husband and I have cut our meat consumption to just two meals per week, fish two meals and the rest of our meals are vegetarian. There are local beef and chicken suppliers that we have tried. It really isn't difficult and it is so much more healthful for you and the environment.

Anonymous said...

Ultimately, waste, Carbon dioxide production, ozone gases, you name it are the result of people. people cause polution. ues some produce more than others and if we all cut down then, yes less polution, but think about it: unless you sit in a corner all day and vegetate, you're poluting!! the answer: kill people. yes, if each and every one of us can go out among the crowds and kill just one person, we could reduce polution to near zero levels. Start a kill thy neighbor program, or do a drive bye bye...run over someone today.

Megan said...

I do argue with myself again and again on this issue. I eat a 95% veggie diet. Once every other month or so, I eat meat--usually when I'm in the US...surprise, surprise.

I aim to make it free range and local, if possible. I do think that meat will have a place in our society if we live sustainably, but it will go back to being a once-in-a-while thing.

I think pasture-raised beef is great to improve biodiversity, encourage local business, keep my food miles short, etc (something that my lentils can't always do), but the methane does worry me.

Once my £2 a day challenge is over, I might get myself some local lamb. Ethical meat does NOT fit into this challenge--we're now eating a mostly vegan diet.

Leon said...

I find the meat free topic very interesting.
I don't eat meat/animal products for breakfast or lunch, but do at dinner.
Both my husband and my daughter gladly eat meat (I buy local and organic).

I refuse to eat soy "products"...it makes no sense to eat "food products" instead of food imo.
If you're going to eat soy products grown in Brazil, flown to NA to be processed and packaged and then shipped to wherever you live...you might as well have a local chicken..just my 2 cents though.

I like to think that the fact that I don't drive at all, and eat a local/organic diet offsets the animal products...
I tried for a VERY short period doing a vegetarian diet w/o soy and all local...it sucked.
I found local beans...but there are no rice growers that I could find in Vancouver...
if anyone from BC or WA has any recommendations I'd love them though!!

Lilith said...

Since the beginning of the year, our family of two has tried to convert his diet to a simpler, more organic one. We've had several successes, like having taken the habit to go to the organic part of the supermarket first, or ordering regularly organic vegetables. I must say all of this was from my impulse, and my hon obliged quite easily. This, until I started to speak about reducing our meat intake. No reason has been heard by this meateater, and I've had the "big eyes" (aka the "we'll go to the organic store until your heart content, but don't touch to my beef !" look).
Well.
I'm trying to reduce anyway, and it worked a little, but I don't think we'll become vegans before the next decade... :o)

Lynnet said...

Actually, I do not believe those statistics. I believe they apply to CAFO beef, fed and sickened for 6 months on intensively farmed corn and soybeans.

And there is more to saving the planet than a narrow focus on methane. How do pescetarians justify their choices? Every major fish stock in the ocean is endangered, some critically so. If everyone in the country stopped eating beef (not endangered) and started eating fish, how long would those fish stocks last? A year? Pescetarians are contributing to massive marine extinctions by their food choices.

I still believe eating a modest amount of grass-fed and grass-finished beef is an ethical and healthy choice.

Shandy said...

Having tried to go vegetarian several times and feeling pretty miserable every single time, I don't think it's for me physically speaking. Let's face it, my ancestors were hardcore mammoth hunters and foragers rather than Mediterranean farmer folk.

Still, I have cut way back on the meat and red meat is pretty much out except for special occasions. I've been studying Walter Willett's food pyramid, which seems well-backed by research, so that's what we're trying to follow in our home. We have two chickens, so healthy eggs are readily available from animals we know are well-treated (spoiled rotten, really!). We live in Florida, so fish is local and responsibly caught by people we know. Beyond that, we do our best to keep the meat to a dull roar in our meals. That's good enough for us.

Sweetproserpina said...

I agree with Jodi A-B. The idea that everybody should eat the same way is silly. There are a lot of countries that do not have the available land in order to support an entirely vegetarian population. In marginal lands, lands with extreme climates etc., meat (responsibly grown/hunted meat) makes sense and, I bet, has a heck less of an environmental impact then something shipped in from who knows where.

Eating locally and vegetarian when there is three feet of snow on the ground for months takes a lot of preparation and I don't think that most folks have the skills, time or are up to it. It's a lot of work. We ate peach pie last night because I had the foresight last August to make peach pie filling when the peaches were ripe. In our culture today, very few people think that way. So what do they do in the winter when it's a choice between california veg, asian soy, or local chicken?

We eat a lot of local veg and fruits in the summer and fall, in winter our veg and fruit intake is less- limited to what I have canned/frozen or what I can still get around here (apples, pears, potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage.) We eat more meat in winter, it just makes sense to us.

That being said, we don't eat beef or seafood, we eat pork and chicken a few times a week (always local, and when we can afford it- organic), eggs come from the girls at the bottom of the garden and milk is from regional dairies.

eva said...

I stopped eating meat (and drastically reduced fish) almost two years ago. I didn't do it because I think eating meat is wrong. I did it because of the reasons you outlined as well as the environmentally irresponsible commercial farming. My husband still eats meat (less than before) and I make sure I buy organic and buffalo meat whenever I do buy it. On a personal level, I feel SO much better not eating meat. It has made me reevaluate my diet and eat even more fruits and veggies. I hope we can all do our part and if not eliminate, at least reduce our meat intake. By the way, I also drive a hybrid, it's pretty funny/sad to how minimal its positive impact is comparated to diet choices. Thanks for the post!

eva said...
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Sharlene said...

But I love bacon.... and sausage... I know its bad buts its sooooooo good...

PriceofMeat said...

I think that if government is taking global warming seriously, they should take seriously the impact of meat! But unfortunately this is not the case. More people need to be comfortable with the idea of eating less meat before more of our politicians feel comfortable with it too.

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