If you missed it, there was an interesting article in the food section of the Washington Post last week called, Meat of the Problem. Now I have been back on the meat bandwagon a couple years now. I am not a complete carnivore, there are still many days during the week when I don't consume any meat. But I have to say, I have enjoyed allowing myself spare ribs, burgers, sausage, steak, etc. Not really doing chicken yet, but maybe soon given the information I just found.
I felt OK about the meat consumption since I try to be a very conscientious eater of animals - where did it come from, how was it raised, is the farm a sustainable operation? At least asking these questions make me (and perhaps unfortunately everyone who eats with me) really think about my food choices. I mean there is no way I will eat factory farmed broccoli, please!
But the Post article and the academic piece on which the article is based (Food Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States) bring to light important information that should be taken into account if you have an interest in lowering your carbon footprint at the dinner table.
The authors of the Food Miles, Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews, argue that changing our diet will go much further to lowering our carbon footprint when it comes to food as will just eating a local diet. This is unfortunate news for yours truly. I was feeling really good about buying my local pork, bison and beef, but now, I need to rethink these choices. I know I'm still OK when it comes to my 3 questions, but I guess I should be thinking about things a little more broadly.
Weber and Matthews argue that continuing to eat read meat - even if it was locally and humanely-raised - still contribute a lot of green house gas (GHG) emissions. Their analysis shows that for the average American household, “buying local” could achieve, at maximum, around a 4-5% reduction in GHG emissions. But if that household shifted less than 1 day per week’s consumption of red meat to other protein sources or a vegetable-based diet could have the same climate impact as buying all household food from local providers (which we know is not realistic).
This is a very similar argument that Mark Bittman makes in Food Matters - available from our Montgomery County Public Library system (and they'll happily transfer it to the SS branch for you). Bittman talks about being a sane eater. By this he mean not going on some kind of fad diet, but by increasing the amount of plants we eat and decreasing our consumption of meat. Easy for him to say, he didn't go almost 20 years without eating beef, chicken or pork. I have to a lot of making up to do.
But now I need to think twice about it. I do want to do my part, and I know following this advice will make me healthier in the long run, help improve the planet, and save me money at the market too. It's unfortunate that one of the choices we're given to help lower our GHG emissions is fish. But because of the problems with sustainability with so many different varieties of fish (FYI, a couple good choices are Arctic Char and Mackerel), this option seems pretty limited. So I guess it's less meat, more veggies and maybe now some chicken.
KFC, here I come. Oops, can someone direct me to a local and humanly-raised chicken-frying outfit?