Advocacy Think Tank

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What’s the beef with Beef?

I am a carnivore.

Yes, I love my vegetables, but there is something about the thought of a thick, juicy steak that warms my heart.  It’s a great source of protein, B12, zinc, and a can’t-put-my-finger-on-it glow that tofu doesn’t quite give me.

Apparently, it isn’t just me who gets that beef afterglow.  According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) study, the earth also gets an overwhelming glow from methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. Our cud-chewing friend, along with rest of the motley ruminant crue (sheep, goats, among others), produces methane naturally in copious and noxious amounts. Beef has a carbon footprint equivalent to 6.5 car miles per 4oz. consumed. Now, I’m no math genius, but an ounce of beef is around the size of a matchbox. Now, if you had tapa for breakfast, that’s probably already a little over 4oz.  Add to that your fast food burger for lunch, and whatever beefy goodness you have on your plate for dinner, you too, will have done your share in bathing the earth in a gas that largely contributes to global warming.

I’ve actually known this for a while, but I continued to eat beef with a side order of guilt. Then, I came across grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised beef in my local supermarket thanks to The Farm Organics. I was thrilled when I saw their post on FB and went out the same day to get some single-household-friendly packs. Note to self: I don’t like the styro it’s  packaged in, so I’m bringing my own reusable meat containers to the market the next time.

Now, beef is beef–your hamburger will never be exactly carbon neutral. But if you’re going to have a chunk of red, decide to eat better beef, and to eat it less often. This basically means one thing for the mindful eater: choose the lower impact option–lower impact on the earth and your health. And the slightly better option is grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic beef  for those who just can’t go vegetarian or vegan.  Plus, it’s more humane and helps out small farmers. That scores a ten in my books.

I know it’s tempting to gloss over the eat it less often part. But really, too much of a good thing isn’t good at all. Try Meatless Mondays–Mario Batali signed up (and if it’s good enough for Molto Mario…), or follow Graham Hill (such a cutie) of Treehugger fame, and become a Weekday Vegetarian and beef-out only on the weekends.

Eating less meat and skipping the corn-fed, intensively-farmed varieties are not going to turn the environmental crisis around. Being a better consumer is helpful, but at the end of the day it’s better policy that will make the biggest difference. Don’t knock it though–it’s still worthwhile, and  it’s a good start in getting into the mindset of resource stewardship. It’s time to take the time to understand that our actions and decisions have a direct effect on the world we live in. Since we only have one, we need to make most of the better options now available to consumers like ourselves.

Here are some helpful links in educating yourself about being a better meat-eater:

http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/

http://www.eatwild.com/basics.html

http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solutions/smart_pasture_operations/greener-pastures.html

http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/pasture/ (P.S. this is one of my go-to sites in my quest to eat more sustainably)

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