Thursday, November 19, 2009

Environmental Vegetarianism?

This may be the worst possible time of year to be writing about what people should or shouldn't eat.  But, it may also be the best since we are presented with many food choices at Thanksgiving, Christmas and holiday parties galore.  It is becoming mainstream knowledge (although perhaps not very popular) that what we eat affects the environment. Recently, my father-in-law passed on an article from the Washington Post that addresses just that.
 (Warning: It may not be for squeamish readers, and should probably carry a PG-13 rating due to its graphic descriptions).

As a sometimes vegetarian or "flexitarian" this article gave me pause.  If the statistics are true that livestock accounts for at least 21 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions globally and that it takes one gallon of gasoline to produce a pound of conventional beef, maybe we should all consider eating a little less meat, if not stopping altogether.  What I found to be startling is that even meat that is raised to alternative standards (grass fed, free range, hormone free, etc.),  produces four times the methane -- a greenhouse gas 21 times as powerful as carbon dioxide -- of grain-fed cows, and many grass-fed cows are raised on heavily fertilized and irrigated grass.-- more than all forms of transportation combined.

So, what to do?  In the spirit of taking "eco steps" to a better and more environmentally friendly life, perhaps the answer begins with reducing meat consumption to just a few times a week.  And then fewer and fewer as you explore alternative and tasty dishes that are much nicer to Mother Nature, the animals and to yourselves.  You might also find that vegetarian alternatives are friendlier to your budget, too!

There is all sorts of information out there on the Internet supporting this concept.  Additionally, there have been books like The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, as well as The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, that dig deeper into the implications of how and what we eat.  

So please go, enjoy your holiday dinners, but maybe think a little bit differently about them and the small changes or eco steps you can make that can add up to make a big difference.


  1. Is that why you left the ham in our fridge? What about all the methane created by Dan's garbage bowl? BTW...did you watch Food Inc. yet?

  2. As a vegetarian, I frequently get the question "What do you eat?" as if without meat there must not be any option other than salad. I would suggest to everyone who wants to reduce meat but still have meals of "substance" to try eating more foreign foods.

    Meat is not the focus in most of the dishes made around the world. Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Thai and Indian foods all have excellent options that will still leave you stuffed without a bite of Babe or Bambi.

    That's my 2 cents.

    I have 2 cents more here:

    PS: Everyone should see Food, Inc. It should be a requirement!

  3. I definitely want to see Food, Inc. If I could only stay awake long enough at night to do just that! I've heard only good things about it. Thanks for the reminder!