There are many ways to eat that includes; Vegetarianism, Veganism, Omnivorism, Raw foodism and others that each support their own platform of health. Recently, after watching Cowspiracy and Before the Flood, I was stunned to discover just how much a diet can affect the environment. A few examples include the true amount of resources needed to make one quarter-pound hamburger patty at your local McDonalds. Let’s look at the numbers. (Courtesy of an article ran in business insider.)
- 6 gallons of water
- 5 pounds of feed
- 5 square feet of land
- Produces .126 pounds of methane gasses
- 4 pounds of carbon
My own six person family would require six burgers meaning that every time we decided to eat out for hamburgers our total impact would number,
- 36 gallons of water
- 30 pounds of feed
- 30 square feet of land
- .756 pounds of methane
- 24 pounds of carbon
These amounts are already significant in just our one family household. It hurts to think about the actual numbers around the US as more people are cooking less, eating out more, and consuming more meat than ever before.
With this view of diet, from my perspective it makes sense and is actually admirable that people would choose to eat certain ways to reduce their meat intake by certain portions or fully eradicate it.
On the flipside of this debate are the facts regarding an all-vegetable, fruit, and yogurt diet. The numbers are as a follows. (Data from an article ran in The Washington Post) Some scientists have actually stated that dietary guidelines following a true vegetarian diet may raise energy use 38%, water use by 10%, and even greenhouse gasses by 6%. Especially in the case of fruits sold at the supermarket, the carbon foot print is huge because of the type of transportation it requires to send Florida oranges to the heart of Colorado. Water usage in general comes as no surprise given that plants need significant amounts of water to grow.
This is proof to show that a diet heavily on either side of the spectrum may not have a significant edge over one another, even as much as conventional knowledge says that eating more vegetables is better for the environment. A plant diet is undoubtable better for health, but not necessarily our world.
What’s the middle ground here?
Well, in the words of my mother after a particularly powerful bout of me refusing to eat meat and my planning to go vegetarian, Everything in Moderation. A healthy middle ground of meat AND vegetables AND fruit will not be significantly worse for the environment than a diet leaning heavily in either direction and this way one doesn’t have worry about their source of protein or beneficial vitamins and other food components that a healthy body needs.
Incorporating local eating, eating only (or trying to) foods that are actually in season in your area, and looking for sustainable and humane farmers for your meat products are a huge factor in making sure one’s omnivorous diet has the smallest environmental impact possible.
If the ethical issues of one’s diet gives you pause, there is a new “ethical omnivore” movement that is “a human diet involving the consumption of meat, eggs, dairy, and produce that can be traced back to a farm that raises grass-fed, free range, antibiotic, and hormone-free livestock, uses GMO-free feed, and grows pesticide-free produce and grains.” While this idea in itself raises many questions as well about the true purity of the lifestyle, it contains kernels of dietary knowledge that, when practiced in moderation and unity with other ideas, adds an extra level of awareness about where and how one eats.
Whatever lifestyle you lead, whatever diet you eat, remember that contrasting ideas are not meant to instigate but an individual’s right to dietary freedom. Choose the foods you may and let others exercise their own views.
I will take after my mother.
Everything in moderation.