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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Meat and the Environment

I am not advocating either way for meat eating or vegetarian lifestyles.
The debate is about looking at our food eating habits as a whole.
I'm suggesting to take an approach that looks at the cause not the symptoms.
Balance not knee jerks.

I met an ambitious young man this week who is up and coming in his political party. He is vegetarian as he believes that the production of meat for consumption places huge environmental strains on the planet and has a negative impact.
This same young man also admits that he is not a good vegetarian and his diet consists of lots of processed and packaged foods and leans heavily towards grain based food. Doing the math here is difficult certainly to get a quantitative figure but I'm pretty sure it's an environmental impact trade off for yet another.
Not only is his diet heavily weighted with processed food, but he also has no idea about his local seasonal produce. So when he goes shopping he decides "I need fruit I'll have; watermelon, oranges and strawberries" (but it's the middle of winter)
So back up the truck here....the oranges are Californian and have been shipped from the other side of the world, the watermelon is totally out of season and so are the strawberries that have been artificially grown in heated sheds. The final horror is that the watermelon has been GM for a seedless variety so consumers don't have to worry about pesky seeds.
I've been vegetarian a couple of times in my life and I know how the body craves "fuel" and is not so easily appeased when there is no complex animal proteins to break down. You have to eat smart and you have to eat well.
The suggestion I put to you is that it is possible that while trying to negate an environmental impact on the planet with the abolition of one practice, you actually place a greater strain on it through other practices.
It seems to me his abstinence from meat was knee jerk.
We would be far better off educating about a more balanced and conscious consumption of food. Thinking about the real costs associated with what we eat.
We need to improve farming practices. Feeding our livestock properly would be a start....did you know that vast numbers of livestock in intensive farming situations are fed cheap corn? This was never meant to be their staple diet and they are not healthy on it.
The livestock industry is massive and growing but so is our population. Is it exponential? I don't know but it sure isn't rocket science to figure out that you can't keep producing more people and not have more food demands. Maybe globally we are going to have to look at population control. The world is like a petrie dish of ever expanding microbes. One day it's going to get ugly!
Here is one last little piece to add to this argument. The same people who argue that meat livestocks are taking up and ruining vast amounts of land are also the same people who happily purchase cashmere that has been produced in China because it is so cheap. To corner that market though, and to produce so cheaply, China's precious land is fast being turned to desert.
Don't despair! All of us have an impact and our very existence makes it inevitable. What I am saying is let's think about our actions on a broader level, weighing cause and effect, cure rather symptomatic relief.
I mean you wouldn't drive 100km away to fill up with fuel at petrol station X because they are always 4c/l cheaper....would you???
By all means eat less or no meat but be just as mindful of the environmental cost our other habits are responsible for.


  1. We try so hard to eat local and seasonal... and we find if we do it tends to be cheaper.
    At our place we've been changing the way we do our shopping - rather than menu planning first and then getting the ingredients we've been buying what is in season and cheap and then coming home and googling recipes to fit what we've bought. We're taking the pressure off our budget... and a couple of weeks back were eating a lot of cabbage, cauliflower and carrots!

  2. Tanya - you are amazing - well said, well done !

    If only we could all start simply and move to this apparent paradigm.

    I'm not advocating keeping cows and an acre of vege patch - but if we all just even grew our herbs and a few greens its amazing what we could start to achieve.

  3. This is a good post. The whole eating more local and seasonal is so much more economical. Our little garden patch and our local u-pick farm have supplied us with enough fresh, canned, and frozen produce to last into next summer. I've gotten to the point of not using very many recipes and opt for making something good to eat with whatever we have available for the day. Starting with fresh perishables and holding off using the home canned/frozen foods when fresh is not available. Last resort is store bought. This strategy has freed up a huge chunk of money for purchasing better quality flours, oils, and local dairy.

  4. such a great post Tanya you put it all so well!!! it's very true indeed something I think about a lot

  5. This is so beautifully worded. We do need to look at how we consume and do so ethically. I am learning more about this every day.

  6. I am a vegetarian but I gave up meat 30 years ago when organic meat wasn't available, I might not make the same choice now. I agree that it should be about the quality of the meat and how the animals have been treated which determines whether or not you eat it. If this choice was made and less was eaten the world would be a lot better off. And of course the meat also needs to be local.

  7. Well said Tanya. I eat meat happily because I know I've raised it myself (beef, rabbit, chicken and muttton) with very low impact.

  8. I am so happy that there are conscious eaters out there. Ms Lotti I am especially jealous that you are growing your own favourite. I love it when Craig goes to the sale yards for me and gets a whether.

  9. Good post! I personally stopped eating meat last year because it never really sat well with me, eating animals, but it is hard to feel satisfied and takes extra effort to get a balance. But as an animal lover, I can't imagine I will ever go back to the dark side lol. There is so much to learn about our food, and we have to be constantly vigilant. I agree that we have to think about population control, and I've always wondered why it isn't discussed more, because logic says that more people means a greater strain on our natural resources, and like you say, it could get ugly.


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