Do you feel guilty eating meat? Have you been led to believe that a vegetarian or vegan diet is the most environmentally friendly? In two recent articles, Diana Rodgers dispels several myths about the sustainability of meat production, sharing why meat is magnificent and why it is necessary to eat animals. Her unique perspective as both curator of a working organic farm and registered dietitian allows her to assess the merits of meat consumption from both an environmental and nutritional perspective.
In the first article, Diana covers water, carbon, and methane, the three most common environmental arguments for avoiding meat consumption. She explains that in grass-finished beef, almost all of the water footprint is “green water,” which is primarily rainfall, and that the total water requirements to produce a pound of grass-fed beef are actually much lower than crops like rice and sugar.
In regards to carbon and methane, emission estimates do not take into account the amount of carbon sequestration or methane oxidation. A properly managed pasture supports a healthy soil ecosystem that can take these compounds out of the atmosphere, giving grass-fed beef a net neutral or even slightly negative greenhouse gas footprint. I have written a little bit about this previously.
Read this if you’re feeling guilty about eating meat.
Diana also outlines global trends in food consumption and how our diets have changed in recent years as we have seen drastic increases in chronic disease. As consumers, Americans spend less money on meat today compared to years before, but twice as much on processed foods and sweets. Meat is an important source of iron and B12, two of the most common global nutrient deficiencies, along with many other nutrients.
In her second article, Diana shares her thoughts on the ethics of meat consumption. She argues that although avoiding meat consumption might outwardly seem to be doing the least harm, many more organisms are killed from the chemical pesticides and large machinery used on mono-crop fields of soy and other plant-based protein sources—and not in the humane way done in quality slaughterhouses.
She also addresses a number of common responses that she gets from vegetarians and vegans, calls attention to human social justice issues in farming, and finishes by asking us to reevaluate our notion of the most moral diet.
This is only my quick summary, and I would strongly encourage you to check out both of these excellent articles. Meat is an integral part of the human diet, and when we source it from a farm that uses proper grazing management, we support both our own health and the health of the earth.