What and How You Eat Affects the Earth

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I read an article this morning about the correlation between recommended dietary guidelines and diet impact on our carbon footprint. Considering the timing, with New Year Resolutions, I was excited to see good diet linked with saving the earth in a newspaper digestible format.

Hmm, in the end I felt that the information was simplified, almost sensationalized, and contradictory to sustainability practices.  This typical type of journalism only misleads rather than educates.  A central idea plucked from extensive research by Paul Behrens with colleagues with Lieden University in the Netherlands was that most nations eat too much meat, which of course we know has a bigger impact on environment than plants.  The first few paragraphs are an excellent synopsis of the impact of food production.

But when the article author highlights a piece of data saying that "a steak from a grain fed cow in England has a smaller environmental footprint than one from a grass fed cow in Australia", well, what does that limited snippet say?  I don't know a lot about big business raising grain fed cattle, but I do know that generally unnatural environments, chemicals, and antibiotics are likely involved.  I do think the carbon footprint may be less in a highly efficient industrialized cattle raising operation.  But I would much prefer to eat more plant protein and a lot less meat that is organically raised in a free range, naturally fed environment.

The other juicy tidbit plucked from the research was regarding the discharge of animal waste and plant fertilizer.  Excellent point, but we need real conversation then about sustainable practices.  A more in-depth look at the subject of improving guidelines and this research by Science Daily expresses that "More discussion of sustainability issues, sourcing of sustainable foods, methods for reducing waste, and highlighting the importance of environmental health would improve the guidelines tremendously."  Unfortunately our typical newspaper reader does not round out the information by sourcing the science network.

But, certainly, this article at least presents yet another way to consider the way we eat and its' impact.  In that respect, its a good thing if it gets people thinking about how a healthier diet can make a difference in the environment, hopefully centered around whole, organic and sustainably grown and raised products.

Sharon DwyerComment