I'm a fan of sustainable food. If the Mapawatt Blog was a University, my undergrad would be in Sustainable Living, my Masters in Energy (conservation, efficienty, renewable, etc.) and my Minor would be in sustainable food/farming. While Mapawatt's focus is reducing fossil-fuel energy in residential settings, I occasionally sprinkle in a few topics that relate to general sustainable living because I believe in a "systems" (looking at the big picture) approach to sustainable living. In March of '09 I wrote about Polyface Farms, who takes a complete systems approach to their farming practices.
I'm passionate about sustainable food for several reasons:
- It's better for humans (less pestecides, less hormones, less nasty stuff)
- It's better for the environment (less pesticides, less monoculture, less agricultural run-off, etc.)
- It makes me happier to know I'm eating something in the way nature intended me to eat it
At its simplest, sustainable food/farming can be divided into two main topics: plants and animals.
Now, there are many vegetarians who wish sustainable food only meant eating plants, but I'm not one of them. Humans evolved to eat meat, and I enjoy eating meat. While my wife and I are trying to eat less of it for health reasons, we still enjoy a nice steak or pork chop every now and then. But I don't like eating meat from factory farms. It bothers me to know that we're willing to sacrifice quality, animal welfare, and our health for the sake of cheaper ground beef. There's another option to eating meet that are fattened up on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) : Grass-Fed Beef.
Last week's issue of Time Magazine had an excellent article on Grass-Fed Beef titled, "How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet". Global Warming alarmists cry about the amount of methane cattle produce, but the Time article had a great description of why we may not need to worry about grass-fed cattle's methane's production:
It works like this: grass is a perennial. Rotate cattle and other ruminants across pastures full of it, and the animals' grazing will cut the blades — which spurs new growth — while their trampling helps work manure and other decaying organic matter into the soil, turning it into rich humus. The plant's roots also help maintain soil health by retaining water and microbes. And healthy soil keeps carbon dioxide underground and out of the atmosphere.
...grass feeding obviates the antibiotics that feedlots are forced to administer in order to prevent the acidosis that occurs when cows are fed grain.