Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Moderate Meat Movement: A New Way to Be Green


It ain't easy being green. We're using less power, driving less, and cringing every time we see a plastic bottle, grocery bag, or coffee cup - all for the greener good. We've begun to purge ourselves of many of the things we're used to having around us, things that now represent a burden on our environment. We've become much more selective about the things we consume, opting for goods that are environmentally-friendly or sustainably-made.

This is especially true with food: we've gone local, sustainable, and organic - but we're not done yet. There's a new trend in sustainable eating: going meat-free. An article in the March 29 issue of MacLean's by Katie Engelhart and Nicholas Kholer describes the new enemy of the green movement.
"Less meat equals less heat." - Paul McCartney

 Food Inc. revealed the ugly side of factory farms.

 Here is the case against meat:
  • It degrades the environment: livestock accounts for 18% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (more than all forms of transportation combined), and is the leading cause of deforestation and water pollution, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • It's an inefficient way to feed ourselves: "We're going to feed 10 times as much grain to cattle to get a kilogram of meat compared to if we just ate that grain ourselves," says Nathan Pelletier, an ecological economist at Dalhousie University
What going meat-free can accomplish:
  • A 2009 study by the University of Chicago suggested that a vegan diet is a more effecting way of stopping climate change than driving a hybrid car
  • Another startling fact: according to Christopher Weber of Carnegie Mellon, passing on red meat for vegetables just one day a week is the equivalent of driving 1,860 km less per year
"If everyone in Flanders does not eat meat one day a week, we will save as much CO2 in a year as taking half a million cars off the road" - representative of the Ethical Vegetarian Alternative, Belgium
 "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." - Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food


How the "Moderate Meat Movement" is catching on:
  • Meat-free days, like Donderdag Veggiedag (Thursday Veggieday) in Ghent, Belgium, and Meatless Mondays in the school cafeterias in Boston
  • Novels like Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and documentaries like Food Inc. advocate healthier and sustainable eating habits that avoid factory-farmed food
  • Books like The Flexitarian Diet and Almost Meatless help to de-stigmatize the idea of being a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat
  • Backing from celebrities like Paul McCartney, Simon Cowell, and Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Some governments, like the Swedish parliament, are discussing the possibility of putting a tax on meat products
"Moderate meat-eating has escaped the fringes of granola activism to become a place where even gourmands can feel at home." - Maclean's, March 29, 2010
One interesting fall-out from this trend is a major change in how meat may be perceived in the future. It may move from a ubiquitous, mass-produced, essential part of a meal to an uncommon, specially-prepared, meal addition; from a symbol of wealth and prestige (think of the $50 steak) to a symbol of wastefulness and embarrassment; from a key source of protein to a source of disease, obesity, and carbon emissions.

It will be interesting to see how long it will take for this trend to catch on...

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