Greentings Everyone! In the Guilt Free Trip post, we started to look at meat substitutes, their advantages and consequences of consuming them. In this second part, we will be looking at animal farming as to compare the effects that these industries have on our health, on animal welfare and our planet. To be able to do this in the most scientifical way, we must first distinguish between the meat substitutes and meat in general. Firstly, we have the meat substitutes that are plant based and not genetically engineered (Tofu, Seitan and Tempeh as examples). Secondly, we have the plant-based meat substitutes which have been genetically engineered to replicate desired effects such as “bleed”, consistency and taste. These two options have been briefly discussed in the Guilt Free Trip post. Thirdly, we have what I like to call the Meat Industrial Complex and finally we have sustainable cattle farming practices which I will be referring to as Holistic management. All these methods have their pro’s and con’s, whilst each also tries to market their product as the best possible solution towards guaranteeing food security. It is always interesting to see so many different approaches being utilized to achieve the same outcome, keeping our belly’s full and our minds focused. One thing is for sure though, we cannot continue on down this path, and we must change something in the way we approach what we eat to guarantee that we find the most sustainable solution with maximum yield and minimum damage.
Meat Industrial Complex
When talking about the Meat Industrial Complex or the more general term Animal Industrial Complex, it musters up horrific images of suffering cows, pigs and chickens. I am sure that many of you have watched Cowspiracy, Earthlings and Food Inc, if you haven’t, I would definitely recommend that you do so as to get the larger picture of what is going on behind our backs and how these mega complexes raise, treat and ultimately transport the product (the cow, pig, chicken etc.) to the slaughterhouse. It is clear today that nothing will change until we as consumers change our buying habits. Not only is the practice extremely detrimental to the imprisoned animals, it is also one of the largest polluters on the planet due to their intensive animal feeding operations. Large sways of land are required for cows to graze on 365 days a year, year after year. This has a massive effect on the land due to overgrazing, leading to pasture degradation, poor nutrient management and finally soil erosion (desertification), acidification and compaction. These intensive animal feeding operations have one and one thing only in mind, maximizing the output of their product (the cow, pig, chicken etc.) with the least amount of input. As usual, we as human only tend to act when things affect us directly, you are in luck then because these operations do affect us via the degradation of our water quality due to manure management issues, air quality also takes a hit with insane gas emissions of pollutants such as ammonia, methane and hydrogen sulfide. It has also been found that antibiotic resistant bacteria are more easily found in air particles in the surrounding areas. These negative externalities should be enough to change your mind the next time you are in the supermarket isle selecting your food. It is a huge eye opener when we consider our fellow animals as a product and a literal cash cow to make more dollars. All is not lost people!
“It’s not the Cow, it’s the How”
Holistic Management is simply a term for sustainable management of animal farms. It is an approach which takes the land, animal and our wellbeing into consideration. It’s approach is centered around guaranteeing that the land used by animal farming is managed to strategically mimic nature. These procedures which can be adopted by your everyday animal farmer facilitate healthy ecosystems, water cycles, mineral cycles, community dynamics and energy flow. Restoring grasslands which have been overgrazed into nutrient rich pastures has an added effect of carbon sequestration and transforming your animal farm into a negative carbon operation, whilst still maintaining economically viable and guaranteeing food security for generations to come. This innovative approach has been seeing success after success across the planet and thankfully more animal farms have reached the conclusion that degradation in their soils are affecting their livestock’s livelihood, our livelihood and our children’s livelihood. By all means go cold turkey on meat, but please also consider other options which are having a positive impact on the planet and in some cases have a negative carbon footprint. If you would like more on this great approach to animal farm management, please do check out the Savoury Institute or this fantastic Ted X talk called “It’s not the Cow is the How” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKXgVK0TQ1A