If you’re trying to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle, I’m sure you’ve heard that meat is a no-no. In this post, we’ll go over three ways to make meat more sustainable.
A few years ago, the livestock industry came under scrutiny when a study found that the industry contributes to a large portion of greenhouse gas emissions across the globe.
This fact has caused many people to go vegan or vegetarian.
Others, however, have tried to find more sustainable ways to get their meat.
Not all meat is created equal and some methods of raising cattle actually help reduce grass house grasses – not just reduce emissions, actually sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
How Does Meat Contribute to Green House Gases?
The standard production methods of meat increases the release of green house gases several different ways:
Feed production and processing (the plowing, growing, harvesting, drying, and transportation of corn and soy and the other ingredients in animal feed) account for 45% of the greenhouse gas emissions of the livestock industry.
The biggest contribution humanity has made to the shrinking ozone is actually our “modern” agricultural practices. Plowing up soil exposes the soil carbon (C) to oxygen (O2) and creates CO2.
10,000 years of this plowing agriculture and not only are one generation away from not having farmable topsoil, but we’ve single-handedly caused global warming. (Read The Soil Will Save Us for a much longer, better explanation).
The consumption of fossil fuel all down the chain of production (weanlings transported to feeder farms, the transportation of feed, the removal of waste, transporting the animals to slaughter, then transporting the meat to grocery stores) account for another 20% of the green house gas emissions.
So knowing where the green house gases are coming from will help us make smarter, more sustainable choices about our meat.
Is Meat Bad?
My family is very pro-meat. We raise our own chickens for meat, get our beef from our neighbor, our pork from a close friend and are working on adding lamb to our homestead.
Meat also has an important role in nutrition.
My nutritionist and my nutrition bible Nourishing Traditions all promote the consumption of meat as an important source of protein, vitamins, minerals and the building blocks for important hormones.
If you’re a carnivore at heart, you can still enjoy your meat and do so in a more sustainable way.
We’ve talked before about how to grow your own food and start your own garden.
That’s one of the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways to get your produce.
So, how can you have the same positive effect with the meat you eat?
3 Ways to Make Meat More Sustainable
1. Eat Less Meat
The simplest and most effective way to make a difference is to eat less meat.
That doesn’t mean you need to cut it out of your diet completely.
But, if you can choose plant-based options whenever possible and enjoy meat on occasion, it can help you to feel satisfied, less restricted, and proud of yourself for doing something positive.
Even making a small change can make a big difference.
Many people have adopted the “meatless Monday” practice, in which you don’t eat meat for one day each week.
It’s a minor sacrifice, but if everyone gave up meat for one day each week, imagine how much of an impact that would have.
While we don’t consciously choose a specific day to go meatless, we will often have soups for dinner without meat.
The first time I tried to serve my husband a meal without meat I caught him googling divorce paperwork (I kid!). But he’s come around to soup and salad for dinners.
2. Choose Your Meats Wisely
Not all meats are created equally.
Simply put, it’s better to choose meats like chicken over beef or pork.
Cows and pigs tend to contribute more to greenhouse gas emissions than chickens or turkeys.
Switching out a beef dish for something made with chicken, turkey, or even fish is a great way to fuel your inner carnivore while making a smarter choice about how to help the environment.
Opt for wild game or unique meat like rabbit and goat. Learn how to hunt if you don’t already and eat what you harvest yourself! (Check out my post on the Equipment You Need to Get Started Hunting for ideas).
3. Know Your Suppliers
One of the best things you can do is to get to know local farmers or meat suppliers, or do your research on farms across the country that have sustainable practices in place.
Places like Superior Farms, for example, make sustainability a priority on their pastures, where they raise lamb and focus on doing so in a way that actually improves the soil and doesn’t harm the atmosphere.
Remember how I mentioned about sequestering carbon from the atmosphere? Guess what does that? Plants!
Raising meat animals on a pasture that never gets plowed, and can rest and continue to grow not only avoids releasing trapped soil carbon into the atmosphere, it’s promoting a CO2 sequestering machine!
Animals raised correctly are actually combating global warming. How cool is that!?
By getting your meat from a place you trust and a farm dedicated to sustainability, you can feel good about your choices and still enjoy eating meat while also fighting global warming…in the tastiest way possible.
So, do you have to give up meat to live a sustainable lifestyle? No. But, if you consider yourself to be an “active carnivore”, there are some changes you can make and some healthy habits to adopt that can make your meat-eating choices more sustainable for a brighter and better future.
Keep these changes in mind the next time you’re in the store or at your local farmer’s market. Just a few simple changes can make a difference and help to set an example for others to do the same.