Friday, July 11, 2008

Meat Market

Food has played such a HUGE role in my greenification (my word, you can use it - 2% royalty, though). From joining a CSA, planting a Victory Garden, shopping at the Farmer's Market, buying organic (ummm, how did I manage not to make that a blogpost?), meal planning, eating less meat, avoiding factory-farmed meat, avoiding corn syrup. The list goes on and on....

But I promised this would be easy. One year to a greener you. So let's take it one small step at a time. We'll start with the big impact stuff first - Stop Eating Factory Farmed Meat.

You've heard the stats before, but I'll put them out there again - just to remind us all how many resources are required to raise feed-lot cows for food.

  • Ten people could be fed with the grain that you would feed a cow that would be turned into food for one person

  • Each pound of steak from feedlot-raised steers that you eat comes at the cost of 5 pounds of grain, 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about twenty-five pounds of eroded topsoil

  • Over 30% of North American land is devoted to grazing

  • Over 50% of America's cropland is dedicated to growing feed for livestock

  • The livestock industry consumes over half of the water used in the US

  • Livestock produces 130 times the amount of waste that people do

  • Every second of every day, one football field of tropical rain forest is destroyed in order to produce 257 hamburgers

  • Feedlot cattle produce almost one fifth of global methane emissions

In the past few generations, Americans have become a country of beef-eaters. This, no doubt, is due in large part to the fact that most of us don't raise our own food anymore. If we had to invest all the grain, space, time and energy required to raise a calf to maturity, we damn well wouldn't take that precious commodity, grind it up and brown it in a skillet with Cheesy Macaroni Hamburger Helper every night. It's insane to do that. What a huge, inefficient waste of resources.

Now don't get me wrong here, folks. I love to splurge on a nice, juicy porterhouse now and again. I'm a carnivore from way back. But the thing is -- and this is a hard concept for many of us to grasp -- we need to eat beef in moderation. If and when we do buy beef, it should come from a local farm that feeds the cows grass - not grain.

If you want to read more about this subject in depth, I highly recommend Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. Great read. For the attention-span challenged, just check out this NY Times Article - it says all the things I'd like to say, but without having to copy, paste and properly annotate.

Anyhow, I think if you're reading this blog, you already know that eating feedlot beef is bad for the environment. So the challenge is to reduce your current consumption of feedlot beef to ZERO. That's right, the big donut. None. Zilch. Nada. Nuttin'.

That doesn't mean you can't enjoy a good steak now and again. It just means you need to go find a source other than your grocery store. Like maybe, I dunno, a farmer. It's easier than you think - start at And if any of my non-US readers have sites that will help their fellow countrymen find local, sustainably raised meat, by all means share!

If you've already given up all factory-farmed beef, then your job is to introduce someone else to the world of sustainable agriculture. Share a burger or steak with a friend or family member to let them taste the difference. Take them to the farm where you buy your meat. Show them the nasty-ass video of sick factory farm cows. Explain to them that grass-fed beef is not only better for the environment, but better for their health. Basically, try to get them to join our side.

And don't think I've forgotten about you vegetarians. Sitting there all smug like you don't have to participate. HA! You've got the toughest job of all! Hop on the Yahoo! Group and share your favorite vegetarian recipe with the rest of us! A good, filling one. Not one that will have our hubbies saying "well that's pretty and all, but where's the food?"


Anonymous said...

I would LOVE it if someone would have a resource for finding meat like this in Australia (specifically Adelaide). I'm from America and while I've been in Australia for a few years, I have been moving around, and without a car for most of it. Now that I'm settled, with car, I can't find a good butcher! If I find it, I will share though! :)

Bobbi said...

Great tips!

Kelsie said...

Thanks to having a partner with a mountain man for a father, we have all of the free-range, naturally-raised, as-untouched-as-it-gets meat we could ask for: a freezer full of elk steaks. Mmmmmm. One of my "going green" goals, as odd as it may sound, is learning to hunt, as I think a whole deer or elk would easily provide us with enough meat for many, many months. Not to mention the fact that then I could learn to tan hides, too!

Christy B said...

I spent untold hours trying to find grass-fed beef in southern California and came up short.

However, I eventually found someone by happenstance. If you are in soCal contact me and I'll share the info I have with you.

Grass Fed Beef = YUM!

Robj98168 said...

I recently tried making my award winning world famous meatloaf with ground turkey- and Let me tell you I am a convert! THe ground turkey had a fantasick flavor that melded with the other ingredients beautifully.

Anonymous said...

If you look into the history of "Victory Gardens" during WWII they parallel our history of rascism. Japanese farmers held 40% of the farm land in California and produced nearly all of the tomatoes, strawberries and celery produced until they were put in internment camps-- some of them horse stalls at fairgrounds. (See ) In light of our shameful treatment of our Japanese citizens, the name bugs me. Why can't it just be a frickn garden?

green with a gun said...

I find that it's difficult to know where your meat came from, so if you want to avoid factory-farmed meat, you have to go vegetarian.

But I expect most people won't be willing to do this, so I suggest a different course here. Basically, Aussies and Americans eat about 110kg (230lbs) of meat and fish a year. Aussies eat 21 chickens a year each. There's simply no way to get that much meat without pumping the animals full of grain and drugs or dragging mile-long nets through the oceans. It's impossible.

Whereas if you have 0-20kg (0-45lbs) of meat and fish, that can be grown or harvested sustainably. Aim at half a pound of meat or fish a week. Let it be part of the dish rather than the main of the dish, like beef and vegetable stirfry rather than a porterhouse steak, or chicken and mushroom risotto rather than a roast chicken.

If we all have an average of half a pound of meat and fish each week, then those factory farms will go out of business. Only the small-scale free-range guys will survive.

Our appetites, our demand have created the conditions for those animals cooped up like that. The farmers didn't do it out of pure nastiness. It was our appetites. So if we change our appetites, we'll change the conditions.

Half a pound a week. And guess what? When you talk to doctors, turns out they reckon that's about what we need for nutrition, and more than that gives us heart trouble and diabetes and so on.

green with a gun said...

Of course, if you simply must eat more, then they've brought out a new product which can help!

Christy B said...

Anonymous - that's quite disturbing. Here's a term that I think is a lot better considering your info plus it's an updated term: Energy Garden or E-Gardens.

Last night on NPR they had a piece on about how in the last year Burpees Seeds had DOUBLED their business as a result of the faltering economy. It's a pretty interesting piece with some gardening experts giving advice. You can hear it Here.

Totally Different Subjects but...

I heard another piece yesterday that I rather enjoyed (I only heard the tail end though). It was about how the Audubon Society was changing to reflect the diversity in LA. You can read and listen itHere.

Finally, I almost wet myself with this one! Ira Glass' "This American Life" had a piece titled A Little Bit of Knowledge. I didn't get to hear it all the way through but what I heard was hilarious!! You can listen to the "full episode", what I am referring to is the Prologue and Act One. I heard the end of Act Two and it was really sweet.

David G. said...

I know there is a segment out there that sincerely believes red meat will be the death of the human race. Thank you for pointing out the positives of grass fed beef.
Those of us that are in this growing sector of the beef world are more concered with maintaining a quality of life for both us "humans" and our animals. We even encourage folks to drop in on us here in North Carolina to make sure we are doing what we say.

Again, thanks for pointing out a compromise that is helpful for all.
Shepherds Ranch Manager

Joan said...

I found your blog through a few mutual blogs. You brought up some good points. I just bought ground beef at our farmer's market today. It is organic, humanely raised, grass fed. I look for all that before we buy meat. It's more expensive but the right thing to do. I'm not a vegetarian but I eat a lot of vegetarian dishes when I dine out (which we're trying to cut back on) b/c I don't know the source of the restaurants meats.

Chile said...

Hey Rob, you can go even further with that meatloaf. For half the meat, substitute a mix of some old-fashioned rolled oats moistened with water to the same wetness as the ground turkey, and ground vegetables. For the vegetables, chop them coarsely and then process on pulse in a food processor until "ground" but not pureed. Good choices include onion, bell pepper, carrot, and celery. Finely chopped mushrooms are a wonderful addition.

Jo said...

Green with a Gun - I think you can know the provenance of your meat, but only if you know the person who produces it, which means a trusted local butcher, or buying at the farm gate or at markets. My local butcher only stocks humanely raised, free-range meat, and makes all his own sausages, salamis, bacon etc. He is a treasure! He tells me that supermarket meat is a minimum of 4 weeks old, and all that plastic and polystyrene leach chemicals into the meat. Yeuch! Of course, his meat is also a lot more expensive than the supermarket, which means we eat a lot less of it - twice a week at the most, but with a good conscience. Good for us, good for the animals, good for small farmers. For Australian readers this site

promotes sustainable Australian companies, and lists a source of organic chicken for the reader from Adelaide. She should also try Adelaide's Central Markets as a starting point for finding sources of free range meat. Good Luck!

Melissa said...

and just in case all the environmental reasons aren't good enough reasons to convert to grass fed humanely raised beef, read Fast Food Nation. If you're like me, you'll feel too disgusted to eat any other kind ever again!

Urban (r)Evolutionary said...

jo: thanks for the greendirectory link. i'm still frustrated by the limited availability of 'good stuff' here in WA, but at least that directory is a start.

another thought on the meat front, following up from kelsie's comment is to eat native (but not endangered!) animals. here in australia, i opt for kangaroo as a replacement for beef. it's healthier, more humane and has less environmental impact.

Robj98168 said...

Greenification sounds like a Budh-ism to me like recordification