Thursday, October 08, 2009

sustainable living: layin' off the sauce (BBQ sauce, that is)

Ezra Klein brings up an important point that isn't often talked about in conversations about living "green": the contributions of a high meat diet to environmental devastation.

Yeah, I know. Meat is awesome. Meat is so awesome that even vegans want the flavor. The pig alone may be the source of more little moments of joy in this world than 100 years of Disneyland. There's no denying it, though: livestock (cattle in particular) contribute to climate change in a number of different ways that other food crops do not, all while significantly contributing to rates of obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure in the process because humans just weren't designed to eat a 1/3 lb. hunk of meat with every meal.

I'm not going to advocate for vegetarianism or veganism. I can understand the allure I guess, and I concede the dietary and environmental advantages of the lifestyle, sure, but I went vegan once for a Lenten fast. It was a harrowing experience involving 40 days of fairly serious legume-induced gassiness, always feeling hungry (does rice just vaporize when it hits stomach acid or something?), and experimenting with soy milk that I think led directly to my obsession with pizza.

Nevertheless, it's a virtual certainty that if you're not a vegetarian or vegan, you're eating too much meat.

An alternative is to slow down on the frequency with which we eat it. I have thus far had mixed success in this area, but I have found that it isn't as hard as one might think to have a meatless dinner at least a couple of times in a week. Usually in our house this happens when we make some big pot o' stuff that can't contain meat (since sap is vegetarian), which I'll have for dinner that night and at least one other night.

One of my most surprising discoveries during this process of finding "big pots o' stuff" is that many of my favorite meaty dishes don't actually need the meat. The vegetarian versions of jambalaya, gumbo, many soups, and chili are very good and plenty filling.

I also discovered that there's more incentive to have occasional meatless dinners when I buy higher quality meat. It doesn't take an Ag Ph.D. to recognize that Americans eat more meat than other people because meat is cheaper here compared with our salaries. Locally and humanely raised chicken quarters are great, but they cost a lot more than the stuff on the shelf at Wal-Mart, so I find myself having the urge to save them sometimes. Similarly, I'm not gonna throw that pound of grass finished ground beef in the chili when TVP will do. My local, free range pork kielbasa? That's for a special occasion.


TioChuy said...

You said free range pork kielbasa!

el ranchero said...