My husband, a 6’7” former college basketball player, likes his meat. He typically indulges my tree hugger tendencies: he composts with the best of them, reuses everything, and even broke his back in our clay-filled backyard a few weeks ago to double the size of our organic garden. But he drew the line several months ago when I started reading about the environmental impact of animal products; there was no way our family was going vegetarian or even “flexitarian,” as I suggested. I used my best debating skills and threw all kinds of statistics at him:
- According to a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions worldwide than all forms of transportation combined. In addition, factory farming also contributes to depletion of water resources and environmental degradation.
- According to Environmental Defense, if every American replaced one meat meal with a vegetarian meal every week, it would be the equivalent of taking half a million cars off the roads.
- Recent studies show that vegetarians have fewer cancers and generally live-longer than meat-eaters.
- It’s a justice issue! We could use some of that grain currently being produced to feed livestock to the more than one billion people living in abject poverty.
- It’s a creation care issue! The conditions that animals raised in factory farms in the United States endure are certainly not how God intended His creatures to live.
Still, he was not convinced, so I just started researching some vegetarian recipes and making them for dinner. Sneaky, I know, but a little experimenting never hurt anyone. Grant was happily surprised at the new additions to our dinner repertoire and noticed that he had more energy and felt less sluggish when we ate all veggie meals.
I felt better too, both physically and emotionally, knowing that reducing the amount of meat in our diets helps reduce our carbon footprint and keeps our resources from supporting factory farms.
While we enjoyed our meatless meals, we also still wanted to incorporate some meat products in our diets, so I started researching local livestock producers. The advantages of eating meat (and produce, dairy and other products) from local sources are numerous:
- Knowing where your meat comes creates a more sustainable food economy – farmers are more likely to know their customers and customers are more likely to have a relationship with their farmers, which creates a far more accountable food system than we currently have.
- It’s just more fun and more responsible knowing where your food comes from. We get our pork from a local farmer who we affectionately call “Grandpa Jay.” He knows the name of our dog and remembers that I like his pork burgers best. You just can’t get that from a plastic encased package at the grocery store.
- Non-factory farmed meat that is raised in a sustainable way is better for the environment and healthier for us.
We eat less meat now and love experimenting with vegetarian dishes. When we do eat meat, we don’t use as much of it and feel better knowing where it came from before it arrived on our plates. If you ask me, Michael Pollan says it best and most succinctly in his most recent bestseller (and must-read), In Defense of Food, “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”