More on how industrial livestock farming and food production are destroying the environment
Two rather informative articles from Mother Jones go over the environmental benefits/drawbacks of a vegetarian diet vs. one that includes lots of meat.
Kiera Butler’s ‘Steak or Veggie Burger: Which is Greener?’ – aka ‘Get Behind Me Seitan’ – may tread some familiar ground for those well versed on the relationship between diet and the environment, but it offers up some pretty important details, especially about processed meat substitutes.
A processed ‘pea-burger’ requires as much energy as a pork chop, Butler claims. I don’t know what a pea-burger is, but I’m guessing she is referring to the bulk of industrially produced meat substitutes in the US. There is also another worrying aspect about how some fake meat is produced in the States:
Consider the process that keeps your veggie burgers low in fat: The cheapest way to remove fatty soybean oil is with hexane, an EPA-registered air pollutant and suspected neurotoxin. A 2009 study by the Cornucopia Institute, a sustainable-farming nonprofit, found that Boca, Morningstar Farms, and Gardenburger (among others) market products made with hexane.
I think I’d rather have my veggie burger higher in fat then, but I guess we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Or can we? I’ve made seitan (wheat gluten) in my own sink with nothing but flour and water. And from what I can find out hexane is used to make glue and in oil extraction procedures for seeds, not wheat gluten. At the risk of oversimplifying, just shop and eat smart.
Regardless of the above, plants are for the most part far more energy efficient than meat and produce far less greenhouse gasses. But traditional, local means of farming – whether carnivorous or vegetarian – are generally the ways to go in terms of the environment. That means cutting out meat unless it’s grass-fed and not eating over-processed food in general.
This is a simplification too, but a useful one. If you want to know the specifics of how each thing you eat affects the environment – and you should want to know that – you’ll have to do a bit of research. Start with Butler’s article and then check out ‘Bacon Lovers vs. Soy Huggers: The Smackdown’, with voices from different sides of the debate including Jonathan Safran Froer and farmer Joel Salatin. Experts from various fields give their informed opinions about the relationship between diet and the environment.
Pretty enlightening stuff, even without exploring the question of cruelty in both meat eating and especially factory farming.