What Are You Eating?

May 5, 2008

As many of you know, I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 16 years old. That’s 17 years meat-free. Although in the last few years I’ve been eating a little salmon. I was lured into it by a friend at Cooper Park who is a fishing guide in Alaska during the summer. He gave me my first sample of smoked salmon for free. I’ve been paying for it ever since.

Everyone always wants to know why I became a vegetarian. Why I choose to stop eating meat isn’t as important as why I don’t eat it now. To misquote Bill Clinton’s adviser, “It’s the environment stupid.”

Last week I spent two nights enjoying films at the Rural Route Film Festival here in Livingston. The first night, I met up with my good friend Seonaid (that’s “Shona” if you don’t read Gaelic), and the second night Henry and I went–and met up with Seonaid again.

A short tangent–Henry’s parents came to watch Anders while we went to the film festival. You would have thought we were doing them a favor! They drove 1.5 hours each way to hang out with the little guy, bathe him and put him to bed. We did buy them pizza, but we did not allow them to talk on the phone. They thanked us repeatedly and even called the next day to thank us again!

Back to the movies. The feature film was called King Corn (you can get it on Netflix) and followed an acre of corn from seed to cattle feed lot and high fructose corn syrup production.

Here’s the trailer for the movie:

[video:youtube:UiCRwMMh9k8]

I know I am rambling here, but eating meat is just plain bad for the environment. Whether it is the millions of acres given over to growing feed corn (and the chemical fertilizers, water, transportation etc. that goes with it), or the methane and nitrous oxide used in production, when you eat meat your carbon footprint grows with each bite.

A lot of people, including myself, blame transportation for the carbon influx attributed to meat production, but a recent article in Science News–titled “It’s the Meat Not the Miles” debunks that myth.

That’s not to say that eating local isn’t important, it is. (If you haven’t read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen, run out and start devouring it now), it’s just that what you eat is just as important as where it is from.

Now, if you are growing your own food and eating wild game you shot yourself–that’s great. If not, it might be worth doing a little research into food production in this country–both meat and non-meat.

I know that was a bit of a rant, but I’ve really been thinking about what I’m eating and how it affects the bigger picture. If I was a sentimental person I’d bring up wanting to leave a better planet for Anders and the fetus, but I’m not going to do that.

I will mention that it isn’t an all or nothing situation. According to the article,
“For the average U.S. consumer, getting the equivalent of one-seventh of a week’s calories from chicken, fish or vegetables instead of red meat or dairy will do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than buying all local, all the time, the researchers say. ”

Now go pick something from your garden and enjoy a yummy snack.

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