If you haven’t yet read my post on animal agriculture, please do before continuing here: Environmental Impact of Animal Agriculture.
This brings me back to a very interesting conversation I had with a great friend of mine about whether or not a vegan diet is more sustainable than a omnivorous diet. I am, as you probably know by now, Vegan, and I feel very strongly that most North Americans should drastically reduce, if not eliminate, animal products from their diet. There are many arguments that support the importance of animal products in a healthy diet, and my friend happens to believe in them. I respect the opinions and values of others, just as I hope others respect my opinions and values.
A few common reasons (beyond simple wants or habits) for eating meat and dairy are as follows:
- organic, ethically raised meat is a good source of protein, iron, vitamin B-12 and many other vital vitamins and minerals that humans require to be healthy
- organic, ethically produced dairy is a good source of calcium and, when fortified, Vitamin D and a variety of other nutrients required for healthy human life
- organic, ethically produced animal products are a healthy source of fat required for optimal human performance
These are all valid points! At this point in the post I would like to remind everyone that I am NOT a doctor or any kind. I’m not a Registered Dietician or even nutritionist. I have no formal education in any field of health whatsoever. Everything you are reading is MY OPINION based on information I have sourced and believe to be rooted in fact. Please do NOT consider anything you read on this website to be medical advice of any kind.
Moving on, please note that I specifically state “organic, ethically raised or produced” animal products. I will cover organic in another post, and ethically raised is relative to each individual conscience, but for the sake of this particular post I am taking the stance that organic, ethically raised meat and animal products are vastly superior for our health than non-organic. There are more nutrients, less hormones and drugs. Again, I’ll get into this in more detail in a future post, so I’m not sourcing this information at this moment.
According to the film Cowspiracy, organic, holistic farming techniques are actually harder on the environment, because they require more land and water to produce the same amount of meat. I would like to speculate, however, that this is under the circumstances that global consumption remains the same. And I would agree that it would be much harder for the earth to sustain organic, holistic farming production if the consumption of animal products remains the same.
However, I believe that most average people are consuming WAY TOO MUCH meat. Not to mention other animal products. It is the ever-growing level of consumption that I find horrifying. According to Vital Signs, worldwide meat production has tripled since the 1970s. It has risen 20% since 2000! And before you start thinking it is because global population as grown, a quick search on Google will tell you quickly that that is only part of the issue. Global population has approximately doubled since the 1970s, so our consumption has grown considerably more than that.
These numbers get even more drastic if we go back a little bit further, and if we consider the USA as a focus group. Please note that the USA is considered the largest consumer of meat products in the world, per capita. Based on data collected in a US Census, a report shows that in the early 1900s, total US meat consumption hovered around 10 Billion lbs. This number started growing around the 40s and peaked in 2007 at 55 billion pounds. Yes, there is 100 years of growth, but if we translate that into per capita growth to account for population changes, it looks like this: approximately 131 lbs/person in 1900 vs approximately 183 lbs/person in 2007. An increase in meat consumption by an average of 52 lbs per year. That’s insane to me!
And animal agriculture is proving to us the differences. In the 1900s our rainforests weren’t disappearing at the rate of 1-2 acres every second, that’s for sure!
My point is this, if we were able to reduce the meat consumption per capita back to levels that it was 100 years ago, organic, holistic farming practices would probably seem a whole lot less harmful to the environment. This is why my focus is on reducing animal products from our daily eating plans (among other reasons).
Getting back to the point of this particular post, however, my friend believes in the value of a diet that includes animal products. I believe that is his prerogative. He also believes that anyone who eats animal products should be eating organic, holistic animal products, and I agree 100% with that statement for health reasons.
He believes that the best way to change the practices of Animal Agriculture is to vote with your grocery bill. In other words, by buying organic, holistically raised animal products, he is telling the producers that there is a demand for higher quality product. This is a very valid argument and I agree entirely that anyone who includes animal products of any kind in their eating plan should absolutely, positively always buy organic. Vote with your dollar bills. This will encourage change for better practices. It will make a difference. It is also the healthier option for your body and your family’s bodies.
If it costs more, good! Invest in your health! There is nothing more important that you could possibly spend your money on! If it costs more, eat less! That will make an even bigger, better impact on the world and your health!
Here at Choose to Cook, I try not to judge. We are none of us perfect, least of all me! I simply want to share with you a few ideas for ways that you can eat healthy, mouthwateringly delicious, easy to prepare and budget-friendly food. If I can do that being Vegan, you can absolutely be successful too!