When I first told my 7-year old that we were going to start having Meatless Mondays, his reaction was “Ohh man, why do we have to?” My answer was this: “Firstly, we already eat very little meat, so making one day meatless on a regular basis shouldn’t even be noticeable to you kiddo. And secondly, it’s better for the planet.” He then huffed off and went to play with his Legos, promptly forgetting all about it and never complained again. Kids!
Now, I am by no means a vegetarian, and I will freely admit that I love a nice rare steak, roasted duck and mussels from time to time. But I know that eating meat has a larger carbon footprint, it really isn’t all that healthy and in fact some of it can be quite unhealthy, and it’s not exactly the cheapest option for eating. So due to a combination of these reasons, we limit our purchasing of meats. I think we’ve all probably heard jokes about methane farts from sheep on a particular southern hemisphere island. But I never really delved into the nitty gritty details of why going meatless is a good thing. So here’s a summary of what I’ve been reading this week.
Factoids on livestock and emissions
- Livestock uses the largest amount of agricultural land when you consider grazing and feedstock growing.
- 14.5% of all human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is from the livestock supply chain (this fact is just sad and shocking!)
- These GHG emissions come from methane (guess those farting jokes were real) and nitrous oxide as opposed to carbon dioxide (CO2). The problem here is that methane and nitrous oxide are 25 and 298 times worse than CO2 in terms of being greenhouse gases.
- 80% of all agricultural (including crop production and animal husbandry) GHG emissions comes from the livestock supply chain.
Wow, I’ve got to say that before looking into this, I honestly didn’t realise just how bad meat is in terms of GHG emissions. Needless to say I will not be buying any new meat products this week. Now, not all meat is created equally, but I’m not going to delve deeper into this here. That’s a more scholarly argument for folks like my friend getting a PhD in global food production supply chains and GHGs. Perhaps a few folks out there don’t care much about meat and GHGs, so here are some personal health reasons why perhaps one might want to reduce their meat intake. Since my mother had colon cancer, this is a reason that hits home personally and doubly makes me shy away from meat.
Meat and Health Factoids
- Studies have linked eating processed and red meat to bowel cancer. So the UK’s National Health Service recommends cutting red meat down to 70g per day.
- Some physicians say you should completely cut out processed meats from your diet due to risks of cancer.
- Processed red meat is also potentially linked to increased risk of heart disease.
- Some fish and shellfish can contain high mercury concentrations, which are particularly bad for development of the nervous system in foetuses, babies and young children. From a sustainability standpoint, there are very few fish that anyone in this wide world ought to be eating, as we have/are fishing the lion’s share of our fish to extinction. But that too is a whole other blog/PhD topic.
So the main thing is to try and cut out all processed meat (hot dogs, sausages, lunch meats, and bacon) and to be a bit aware of which kinds and what quantities of meat you’re eating. But surely eating an organically grown salad is easier than searching to see what kind of fish are low in mercury and more sustainably caught?
Here’s a link to a recipe for one of my favourite vegetarian dishes, from my favourite cookbook, to try tonight! It’s the forth recipe down on the link.