Saturday, January 30, 2010

Big Bad Beef

This is from a site that is new to me called Good.is that discusses sustainable alternatives to beef. The article is called "Seitan: The Other Green Meat."

I've had seitan many times and like it, for the most part, though I would just as soon cook with cheese (which I guess isn't always the healthiest alternative), beans and vegetables. Fake meat always has struck me as too processed and, conceptually, for me, a challenge. This article makes me rethink my preconceived ideas about it. Here's some highlights, but definitely click on the link and read the piece in it's entirety:

Beef is not what’s for dinner if you are serving 6 billion people, much less so if you are serving 9 billion (where population is expected to level off, around 2050). Current meat production puts meat on the dinner table for far fewer than 6 billion people every night, as most people can’t afford it. Meat alone is responsible for about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The land required to grow the feed and graze those animals that are allowed to graze, the water used at every stage of the process, and the complications of hormones and antibiotics all make the kind of industrial meat production required to feed billions of omnivores one of the biggest threats to the global environment. Scale that up to meet current or future demand and you have a crisis.

We really should have started eating less meat years ago, but in the 20 years until 2002 (the most recent year the data is available from the World Resources Institute) meat consumption has grown in every region of the world except in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, where it has essentially remained stable (and in Africa very low). The Americas, with the United States, Canada, and Argentina in the lead, are the biggest meat eaters. The Europeans aren’t far behind. As countries get richer, they eat more meat, because it tastes good, and because they can. And some very big countries are getting richer right now, so the trend is clearly upwards.

The author then goes on to discuss what it would take for local organic meat to "take over" the dinner table and, well, it doesn't seem likely any time soon, so this leads into a discussion of meat substitutes. The bottom line is that unless something drastic happens to change the way we make meat in factories and eat meat as if it was some sort of God given right things aren't going to change any time soon.

Would you like the prime rib or the seitan Salisbury Steak? To most people in the wealthy nations of the world that isn't even a question.

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