Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cattle Poot and Meat's "eco" Rating

(This post is part of Fight Back Fridays hosted by Food Renegade)

I eat meat. There, I said it. I love beef, chicken and pork, sooo tasty. Converting my diet to vegetarian or even vegan never really appealed to me from an ethical standpoint. Unfortunately (another overshare coming up here!) my stomach is extremely sensitive and I have to be very careful with my nutrition and health. On top of that I'm ridiculously picky so my diet has been (although gradually expanding) very narrow and limited. Cutting animal products completely out of my diet just isn't a safe or healthy option for myself.

However, that being said, our meat industry has completely deteriorated into an abomination of any process which is natural. As I'm sure many here have read, Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Delimma" (if you haven't it's a must!) colourfully illustrates how "urban-like" our farming industry has become. In a short span of 60 years our agricultural practices have transformed into something more synthetic and contrived. We are being increasingly separated from our food, until the connection to the original product is completely lost as in an "Ahh Caramel" (mmmmm). 

I truly realized just how disconnected I had become from the food I eat when I was washing some organic romaine lettuce in our apartment in BC. I was SO disgusted when I found earthworms hanging out in the bottom part- It's Organic!! Why the worms? It should be PURE!!! I had this weird idea that organic equaled pure and untouched... and had totally forgotten that my produce grows in dirt. Where worms live. In harmony with other insects and plants since they aren't sprayed with the chemical soup of pesticides. Worms are normal. I just have to pick them out and put them in the compost. Which is what I did. I didn't tell Andrew about the worms (he's a little squirmier than I am).

The synthesis of meat into something "other" is also our new reality. As we know the beef that we eat goes through an incredible transformation before reaching our plates and being ingested and processed by our bodies. The Genetically modified (GM) and pesticide coated corn and soy concoction to which growth hormones, cattle product (yep- they are fed portions of themselves!) and antiobiotics are added is our cattle's only food. These cattle are forced to eat this skunky mix that their stomach's were never designed to digest. As a result, many become ill forcing the industry to pump them full of more antibiotics. Which are transferred along to our human systems to be held into our lipid (fat) cells or to be forever stored by our liver; slowly accumulating with each meal.

If that wasn't enough to make me reduce the meat in my diet, the environmental detriments of eating meat certainly made me think twice. 

 1. Meat production requires 10 to 20 times more energy per edible ton than grain production... and the cattle EAT the grain. So we can consider them to go together.
 2. 1/5th of the planet's land surface is used for grazing animals- double that which is used for growing crops.
 3. An area of rainforest larger than New York state is estimated to be destroyed every year for grazing.
 4. Average land area needed to feed an omnivorous North American: 1.4 hectares. Land needed to feed a vegetarian: 0.2 hectares.
 5. Canadian cattle numbers have tripled, chickens have quadrupled and pigs have increased by 70% since the 1960's. 
 6. All these livestock create enough manure to fill Toronto's Roger's Centre TWICE a week which create toxic VOC's such as ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and the greenhouse gas: methane. Any leak or accident can (and did) cause water, soil and plant contamination. 
 7. Growth hormones given to cattle have been documented in Canadian rivers and lakes.
 8. Huge amounts of water and energy is used to clean, slaughter, process and refrigerate chicken and cattle meat. 
 9. Gassy cattle account for 18% of the world's greenhouse gases. More than cars, trains and planes!
10. For every kilo of beef produced, 100 000 litres of water is used. 
(Ecoholic, 2006). 

Wow... all of a sudden eating meat is no longer just about ethical or even health concerns. Eating meat also puts you into the category of contributing to our planet's environmental crisis. And that, (whatever this might say about myself!) was the biggest factor in our cutting down on meat and switching to organically grown beef and chicken.

Part of my intention for my yoga practice has been to cultivate a healthy body, mind and spirituality. Honouring my body's physical needs by providing it with healthy, safe foods that also benefit our planet just makes sense. The next step- figuring out my "eco" dosha diet...

Blessings and Happy Fight Back Friday!


  1. Have you considered buffalo?

    I've read Omnivore's Delimma, and more interesting - the HUSBAND read it! And it made him go, Hmmm... We've made a few changes to our diet too.

  2. mmmm Andrew LOVES buffalo. It was much easier to get in BC.. now here in Nova Scotia it's much more difficult... and the carbon footprint of coming all the way from the prairies would be weird.
    We're jealous that you get to have some! :)

    (I'm trying to convince him to read omnivore's dilemma too!)

  3. Yup, I read Pollan's book and getting ready to read the other one. I'll never look at a McNugget again. It's scary to see what goes into our meat than into our bodies. I haven't eaten beef or pork for almost two years. I'll eat organic chicken and I eat seafood (since it's right in my back yard).

  4. grass pastured meat may also become the more eco-conscious choice...

  5. What about wild meat? Wild meat has a much lower ecological footprint than farmed meat. I'm not sure what is 'wild' where you live. I'm in Australia - and recently decided that the only red meat i'll eat is wild meat. So far its only Kangaroo (even available at our supermarkets these days), but may get the courage to eat rabbit and goat one day.

  6. Wild meat is an excellent idea- there are a lot of deer, rabbit and duck here. I have eaten all three and actually used to go deer hunting with my father when I was younger. Unfortunately you have to 'know' someone who goes hunting (since both myself and Andrew are urbanites) and to convince my mother that- why YES we will eat deer! lol. She refuses to eat game meat.

  7. I second the suggestion to eat wild meat (or at least ecologically sound meats raised on pasture). My father used to hunt deer and duck, and that provided most of our meat for a year as a family of four. It was very cost effective and oh so yummy!

    Thanks for participating in today's Fight Back Fridays carnival.

    All the best,
    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  8. Eco Yogini, you can get wild boar here in NS as well.

    I tried being vegan, but I have colitis and just couldn't stick with (I was the gassiest kid in town!). Now that I eat a healthy, omnivore diet my bowels are much better and I don't get painful stomach cramps anymore (that's the best part). Most of my meat comes from a local farm about 20 minutes ways. You can see the animals when you drive by.

  9. Grace: I can totally relate with the stomach issues! I have to be really careful, especially with conventionally 'healthy' foods like whole or multigrains. I eat whole wheat bread, anything more 'healthy' and I end up in the hospital! I'm so glad that you reverted to an omnivore diet and are eating what makes YOU healthy :)

    I have heard of the 'wild' boar- although I heard they were actually farmed and thus not really 'wild'... but I'm not sure.

    This summer we'll be trying to find more local meat, but my goal is to cut back on the actual quantity that we eat and try to find other good protein foods (not soy or tofu). :)

  10. I would love to find a place to purchase (and consume!) boar in the Halifax area. I have eaten boar at a winery in the Annapolis Valley, but as Eco Yogini says, it was farmed. I don't really know the farming methods used though; I assumed they were free range boar

  11. Hi Eco Yogini. This is a lengthy but very thorough blog post on "eating animal products ethically", that I thought you and your readers might be interested in.

  12. The first time I opened up my box from the local CSA I was amazed at how DIRTY everything was. And then I couldn't believe what a dingbat I was to think that. Duh. Where do you think all those organic potatoes, carrots and broccoli came from, Einstein?
    I think the most responsible thing you can do, food-wise, is learn about your sources. The more local your food the safer, "greener," sustainable it probably is. And you're doing a big favor to the local economy buy choosing to support nearby producers.
    Nice discussion!

  13. This is really interesting....never knew that the animals were treated like that! Although I will not turn herbivore because of that, I will think more about where I am purchasing meat from.

  14. Hi Amber: wow- that IS a lengthy article- but I will definitely be reading it :) Thanks!

    Brenda P: lol, yay someone else thought that too! I will be exploring our farmer's market a little bit more this summer. I'm really interested in trying grass fed beef. PLUS- my mother read this blog and informed me that she had moose meat to give me! YAY.

    Samantha: I agree, this type of info I found was more helpful in my considering more ethical-eco options than strategies like PETA's... :)

  15. Our home changed to a vegetarian diet nearly 2 years ago. Our decision was based both on the environmental implications of eating meat, as well as the health effects- both to us, and the animals.

    Great post, thanks!

  16. For the wild boar, I think some free range farmers have them roaming free on the huge acreage and "hunt" them. I think the guy that sells his boar at the Halifax Farmer's Market has them on an island that he goes to to hunt. I'm not sure though.

  17. Thanks Grace! Andrew and I will definitely be checking out the market this weekend- we are due! :)

  18. We also read the Omnivore's Dilemma and drastically cut down on meat and now we only eat local grass fed organic beef, other organic meats and wild meat. Another very interesting book by the same author, In Defense of Food which makes you realize our neurosis with food that we all have in North America and we all continue to have, all thanks to big corporations who make millions with their scare tactics and lobbying! It is a MUST READ! If you want to borrow it, let me know! :)


I love hearing from you! So I don't miss a comment, I like "pre-approving" them :)
I ask only that we stay respectful.
Also, please note that this is a personal blog and not a space for advertising your company. I reserve the right to delete "advertising" comments.

**NB: The ANONYMOUS option is the BEST way to comment if you don't have a blogger or established google/gmail account.