It has become increasingly difficult to know how to eat without harming the environment, animals or just someone else’s sensibilities. Every week brings some piece of news of what is good for you, which wasn’t up until a minute before and it’s all very confusing. By and large, I ignore what it is I am supposed to have that is good for me and I eat most things in moderation, avoiding packaged food as much as my cravings will allow me (chocolate being an exception).
But there are things I do care about and knowing where my food comes from is one of them, embarrassing friends and family to no end when, in a restaurant, I will enquire as to the provenance of the chicken – if the server looks puzzled I order something else. I know – pretentious – but I don’t need hormones in my meat or fortified anything. There is enough in nature to fulfill the daily allowance of vitamins and nutrients we need without worrying about buying milk with extra iron or cookies with folic acid.
In the last few years there has been a lot of talk about how food impacts carbon emissions and there are some basic notions we should all be aware of and keep in mind when walking the aisles of our local market. Let’s start with cows, those benign bovines who give us beef, milk and leather shoes. Well, raising cattle in large amounts means burning fuel to provide the fertilizer that goes into growing the feed for the animals. Once slaughtered, the meat is typically transported long distances before becoming the burger you are possibly eating right now. All this translates into 9% of all carbon emissions in the world. I am not making this up – if so inclined, check out the UN report from the Food and Agriculture Organization that came out about 3 years ago; it’s close to 400 pages so you might just want to take my word for it. But what is going to make you chuckle, and maybe stare at the screen in disbelief, is that cows’ farting (and their manure) account for 1/3 of all methane emissions – methane, incidentally, warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide. This is my short explanation to persuade you to decrease your consumption of red meat and cheese – which is good news for your health anyway.
Exotic fruit and produce should also be consumed sparingly. I am lucky, I live in California and most produce and even some exotic fruits are grown locally but bananas are my pet peeves – I love bananas and I still buy them once a week knowing perfectly well they were flown thousands of miles from South America. I justify myself thinking I am helping some Peruvian farmer staying employed. Nor would I dream of giving up coffee or sugar just because it’s not locally available. Activism taken to an extreme is invariably boring – but today it’s Earth Day so let’s pause a moment to consider all that cow’s wind and let’s forget beef for the rest of the week, shall we? Much easier than foregoing stilettos…