I was vegetarian for over 20 years. Getting enough protein in your diet without meat is possible if careful attention is paid to proper food combining. I personally found that I was not focused and disciplined enough and began to suffer from problems related to deficits of protein in my diet. I could probably do better now but have grown used to eating meat again. We are very careful in our household to purchase free range chickens, from a farm just a pleasant 2 mile walk away, and sausage, from the local butchers shop. We would prefer organic chickens but have chosen local free range instead because of the food miles and packaging involved. We have meat as an entree 2 or 3 times a week. I cook two chickens together on the weekend and we eat from it till it’s gone and make soup and stock from the bones. On weeks we don’t have chickens we have sausages. We could increase our sustainability by making reductions.
My plan is to reduce our chicken consumption down to one per week for the 3 of us thus halving the impact from our chicken consumption, aside from the energy to cook it as it will take nearly as much time to cook one as two. We also eat 1 or 2 dozen eggs/week, free range, as well as organic cheese and milk for myself and my mother in law. My wife eats very few diary products. Dairy products have less of an impact than livestock raised for meat. Free range animals live a healthier and more natural life whereas organically raised livestock are also fed a much healthier diet with no chemicals involved.
Livestock husbandry requires tremendous input of energy, water, feed, and land. Livestock contributes to soil erosion, water pollution, and are themselves emitters of greenhouse gases. Zero Carbon Britain calls for a 66% reduction in British meat consumption as part of a sweeping plan to bring Britain to a zero carbon future. ZCB recommends that meat become a special occasion food as it once was as well as a flavoring agent for other meals rather than as a main course. Those who support a vegan diet claim that seriously addressing climate change is impossible without a large scale shift to veganism.
‘A report commissioned by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank concluded that factory farming, "acts directly on land, water, air and biodiversity through the emission of animal waste, use of fossil fuels and substitution of animal genetic resources. In addition, it affects the global land base indirectly through its effect on the arable land needed to satisfy its feed concentrate requirements. Ammonia emissions from manure storage and application lead to localized acid rain and ailing forests.’” (Vegan Society)
While 25,000 people die every die from hunger related conditions the US feeds it’s livestock 60% of the grain harvest. A recent study in Canada suggests that beef raised on feedlots convert 2.5% of the gross feed energy, human edible grains, into usable food for human consumption while in the most efficient operations dairy cattle convert between 55 and 67% of their gross feed energy to human food. Meat heavy diets are especially damaging as they often rely on developing nations to devote land directly to livestock production or feed for export rather to feeding their own populations. With more and more arable land being lost to soil erosion how we use the remaining bit becomes increasingly important.
Land use per kg of food:
beef requires 20.9 m2/kg
pork requires 8.9 m2/kg
eggs require 3.5 m2/kg
milk requires 1.2 m2/kg
fruit requires 0.5 m2/kg
vegetables require 0.3 m2/kg
potatoes require 0.2 m2/kg
Additionally, growth hormones used in the meat industry are having dire consequences on the ecosystem as well as the health of consumers. Non organic livestock are typically fed with GM feed stock, with all the implications that brings, not the least of which is corporate control of food and loss of diversity in seed stock.
So can a sustainable lifestyle include consumption of meat? Surely if you produce your own meat or eggs, or even source them locally, provided they are organic and do not involve the importation of foreign grain for feed stocks then I’d say yes. But even then one has to consider the resources devoted to that production and do ones best to minimize consumption and impacts. I still have a ways to go on this one.
Thanks to the Vegan Society website http://www.vegansociety.com/html/environment/ for content.
What have you done today to lower your impact?
We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.
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