As you have read in this blog, I advocate eating meat, I enjoy poking fun and vegans and vegetarians and I have dipped my toes into food activism and politics. This blog post outlines a very simple change we can all make in our diets which could have huge positive effects.
I first learned about Meatless Monday from Mario Batali’s twitter feed and on the surface it seemed like kind of a tepid idea. I then checked out the Canadian website (http://meatlessmonday.ca) which, to me, came off as overly simplistic and very narrow in its scope. According to the meatless monday people, the production of meat makes up 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and if everyone cut one day of meat eating out of their diet then we would cut these specific greenhouse gas emissions by just over 14%. Of course, barring a world wide food shortage, this is completely unrealistic that this would ever happen, and it did nothing to motivate me personally to their cause.
So why did I convince my family to go meatless on mondays? And why am I coming out as an advocate of this movement if I think the overarching goal as stated by the hokey website is stupidly unrealistic? I am thinking differently.
Without getting too deeply into statistics, North Americans eat way more meat than the rest of the world. We also produce more meat than the rest of the world. We produce so much meat that some estimates state that we throw out up to 30% of that food. This is between what goes bad on super market shelves and and in our refrigerators.
A big part of this is us. For years we have patronized national supermarket chains. We have given up the responsibility we should feel, to know where our food comes from. How many of us have butchered a whole chicken? Better yet, how many of us can debone a chicken breast? How many of us choose to eat the lesser cuts of meat because with some time and some knowledge they can be prepare just as well as the prime cuts? How many of us think or ask where the package of ground beef they are buying comes from? At what point do we take responsibility for the things we eat?*
We are gluttons. We as a population eat too much, we only want to use the “best” cuts and we waste and waste and waste. Have you ever made stock from your leftover bones? When we buy the super pack of ground beef or chicken breasts we mindlessly over eat. When we make meat sauce for our pasta we don’t need a pound of ground beef, but we also don’t want to use half a package of ground beef that can’t be resealed and ultimately gets tossed. So we cook too much and we eat too much. We eat mindlessly so part of this is all of our faults.
In the past 50 years the production of meat has gone from being local and artisanal to centralized and industrial. Which in its self isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Larger facilities with standardized production methods should be a safer and cheaper way to produce food. That is if there are proper government controls ensuring the safety and sustainability of the production methods.
In the past decade, the Canadian meat industry has become one of the least regulated food industries in North America. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been detoothed by the Harper government and much of the responsibility for food safety rests on the producers themselves. We as consumers must then trust Maple Leaf foods to properly clean their meat saws. We as consumers must cook the living shit out of our food to ensure that we have eradicated any possibility of the newly antibiotic resistant bacteria that is most likely living on our food.
And that raises a big question. We all know that meat which isn’t handled and prepared properly can make you sick. But what if the methods to produce the meat we eat is making, what makes us sick, stronger? A chicken that is given prophylactic doses of antibiotics** has been proven grow twice as fast and about 20% larger than a chicken raised in an antibiotic free environment. That sounds great doesn’t it? Through science we have figured out how we can produce more food faster to feed our population. But what if that science that also has a destructive side? What if those who produce our food are using the same antibiotics we as humans use? Right now at any super market in Canada there is chicken infected with antibiotic resistant strains of E Coli, Salmonella, and lots of other nasty food born pathogens. These antibiotic resistant strains in some cases are resistant to between 5-9 specific antibiotics generally prescribed to human beings. Some of these antibiotics, which these bacteria are resistant to, are the only safe antibiotics for pregnant women and young children.
For years we have been told to take all of our antibiotic that we are prescribed, and that it’s a bad idea to take antibiotics when we do not need them, for fear of creating resistant strains of bacteria. Little did we know that those who are producing our food are what we should be worrying about.***
Meatless Monday and The Rest of The Week
The campaign of Meatless Mondays on the surface is clear. Embrace a vegetarian lifestyle for one day a week to help cut back on practices that are contributing to climate change. It’s neat, it’s tidy, and it’s pretty easy to pull off. But I am going to give you a way to build on this.
Knowing that Canada over produces meat by up to 30%. While at the same time, the methods being used by the Canadian meat industry to maximize profits are contributing to a looming public health crisis. I propose that beyond cutting meat from our monday menu, we also pledge to no longer purchase our meat from the super market. We as people who care about what we eat, choose to spend our money in local butcher shops who buy from local producers who practice sustainable farming techniques. Be the people who demand better and use your dollars to send a message to the big supermarket chains that we will no longer pay for factory farmed meats.
In the next few weeks I will be publishing a few vegetarian recipes so that you have no excuse not to take part in Meatless Mondays. Thank you for reading this very long and preachy article below are footnotes that will amuse you. Enjoy.
As a consumer you have the power to change the way our country produces its food. Eat local, eat less, eat better.*****
*Addendum: Bacon is a wonderful thing, I probably eat more than I should and I eat it maybe once a week. With that said, if you wrap perfectly good food in bacon for no reason, eat something that has a punny bacon themed name, or eat huge amounts of bacon ironically, you’re a fucking dickhead. I hope every radio station DJ who eats multiple pounds of bacon on a dare, every person who wraps their thanksgiving turkey in Bacon and then instagrams it, and everyone else who have propagated this stupid fucking bacon worship fad, is dropped into central Africa with a package of bacon, a map and a gun with one bullet in it. What would happen in about an hour? The dumbass would use the map to start a fire to try and cook the quickly rotting bacon and when the bad bacon took hold of their bowels they would have no choice but to take the bullet train to natural selection land. Wow, that kinda got dark really fast.
**Along with all kinds of other hormones.
***What is even scarier at a global level is that in Asia we are seeing a trend toward much higher meat consumption as they become more affluent. These are enormous populations who don’t really have a great historic track record for high food safety standards. And we all know China is amazing at quality control and ethical business practices so maybe it’s not so scary.****
****China: We’re Putting The Lead back Into Paint(and everything else)
*****I realize that I didn’t talk about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, or the sustainability of the production vegetables over the production of meat. To be honest, these are the kind of things that make me tune out. So I decided to try and engage, and maybe scare the shit out of my readers instead of prattling on about grilled portobello mushrooms and tofu(both things I love by the way).