I've been a vegetarian for awhile now, and while it's been an enlightening experience, I believe it's time to rethink my approach to food. After some consideration, I've decided to start integrating some locally grown, organic meat into my diet.
Why? Well, it goes back to why I became a vegetarian in the first place. I want to be someone who has a net positive impact on the world over the course of my life. From a sustainability standpoint, I knew that changing my diet would help reduce my carbon footprint. And while animal rights wasn't even on my mind when I first considered the vegetarian option, once I talked to Carol Tracy about the suffering endured by animals in factory farms, my mind was set. From that moment on I decided to eat vegetarian. When I started, I was also excited about the possibility of introducing a new option to those around me, allowing me to share my passion for sustainability. Now, having gained some new perspective, I've reweighed the pros and cons. The result: I believe I can have a larger positive impact by changing to a meat inclusive diet, provided it's the right kind of meat.
How? It's hard to have a positive conversation about food as a vegetarian. A meat heavy diet is deeply ingrained in our culture, and vegetarians often get jokes instead of questions. Sure, I was making an impact through my own choices, but I may have been motivating people around me to eat even more meat, leading to a net negative impact. That's no good! So now I've decided to employ that tired old cliche of "If you can't beat them, join them." And luckily, there are a lot of great reasons to eat locally grown organic meat!
1. Support Local Farmers
When you go to your grocery store, a lot of the meat you see for sale is being produced by large food conglomerates such as Cargill, Purdue, or Tyson foods. They have the market wrapped up, and can dominate the business relationships that they have with farmers who produce the meat that they then process, and sell. When you buy local meat, you are supporting local farmers. At your local farmer's market, or community food store, you can find meat that has gone straight from the farmer right to the sales display. This puts more money in their pocket, and let's them grow their business. As their business grows, they achieve economies of scale, and prices get lower. That means better prices for better meat! With a bit of research and planning, you can help ensure their long term economic sustainability, and improve your community's economic health as well. Pretty cool!
2. Help the Environment
While eating meat to help the environment may seem paradoxical, I assure you that there are some real benefits to be had. Check out this TED talk.
By grazing animals in a responsible way (free range organic), farmers can make a real impact on desertification, and climate change. Raising animals in this way leads to nutrient cycling, which in turn creates healthier soil that support organisms that capture carbon. So while cow farts may be filling the air with methane, you can help alter the cycle of desertification, and climate change by eating the right kind of meat. On a side note, buying local meat also reduces how far the meat you eat travels to get to your plate. Decreasing transportation distance reduces energy spent, and lowers overall carbon emissions. And isn't fresher food better? That's something to get excited about!
Speaking of free range cows, do you know how much happier they are when they get to roam free rather then find themselves locked in feedlot pens?
Those are some happy cows! When you compare it to the picture, you can see how living conditions make a big difference. No one wants to live in a crowded cesspool, and I imagine the same goes for our fellow living beings. You can make sure animals live good lives and are killed in a humane way by supporting ethical meat producers like Joel Salatin who raises animals organically. His operation shows the world what is possible when we connect our values to our actions. (Check out the documentary Food Inc., he's featured in it.)
4. Live Healthier
Who doesn't want to live a healthy life? Your diet plays a huge role in your long term health and lifelong success. You can do yourself a favour by eating organic meat that is healthier than it's processed cousin. How is it healthier? First, you reduce harmful chemicals entering your system. Say no to pesticides, antibiotics, and artificial hormones; they aren't good for you! Second, organically raised animals eat better food, leading to products with greater nutritional value. Just look at the benefits of eating grass-fed products!
5. Feel Good!
Let's be honest with ourselves. At the end of the day, we make choices that improve our own well being. My suggestion, let's include mental health into the conversation. Imagine waking up everyday feeling great about the food you're buying, and eating; knowing that you are helping to support the local economy, rejuvenate the environment, improve your health, and save animals from needless suffering. In a world that is always worried about what is going wrong, let's give ourselves a reason to celebrate what we're doing right.
To find out more about organically raised, local meat, and where to buy it:
- Google it!
- Visit your local farmer's market
- Talk to people at your local community garden
- Look for advertising materials at your local food store
- Watch some documentaries like Food Inc.