This summer I heard the fact that if you wanted to make the most impact, you would be better off becoming a vegetarian than replacing your Hummer with a Prius.
Well, I immediately began cutting down on my meat consumption. But as with most eco-friendly tips that are thrown about these days, it wasn’t that simple.
You see, cutting down on the amount of meat you consume is a great thing to do. In a world where water and food resources are being strained, it makes sense to eat your calories in corn itself. It takes 16 pounds of grains to produce one pound of beef. Yikes!
Here’s the catch: the factoids above assume you are eating corn fed beef. Mmm, corn-fed beef. Sounds great, doesn’t it? If you go to the fancy steak house, Lewnes, in Annapolis, they tell you a beautiful story about the rich marbling of their corn-fed beef from Texas. But the best meat, the meat that is delicious and – more importantly – safe when it comes to food-born illness, is grass fed beef from your local farmer.
Yep, if you can ask the name of the cow or pig or chicken or turkey that provided your dinner, then you know that farmer took extra special care of that animal. Grass fed beef is more sustainable naturally, because the cows eat grass – not corn – which keeps corn from being taken out of the food chain. If everyone ate grass fed beef instead of corn-fed beef, that would reinsert 80% of the corn grown in the US back into the mouth of Americans. Grass fed beef also doesn’t require a bunch of pesticides and hormones.
I learned all of this from Michael Pollan, and it changed my view of meat and food.
So that leads me to my new designation: Conscientious Carnivore. It’s a growing movement that is turning vegetarians back into carnivores. This article this morning from The Gothamist turned me onto the phrase, and I love it. It means that you can enjoy sizzling bacon, as long as you know that pig was free of hormones, was raised sustainably, and got to wiggle its little corkscrew tail in happiness, instead of shoved into disgusting pen with a bajillion other pigs.
It means you are still eating sustainably, and showing the meat industry that you have standards when it comes to meat. That you want safe food, delicious food, food that doesn’t take corn out of the mouths of those who need it.*
So be a conscientious carnivore! Head to the farmers market, or almost as good, Whole Foods, and grab yourself some grass fed beef, free-range chicken, or scrumptious bacon. And read this book. I will.
*The corn fed to cows is not edible by humans. But think of what the land used to grow it could be used for instead. Sweet corn! Orchards full of apples! More sustainable grown beef!