This is the sixth post in a week-long web series that documents Kevin Rey’s experiences living off of $5 worth of food a day. Go to the-peak.ca/category/features/ to read earlier posts!
One of the things I’ve had to get used to this week was not eating any meat.
It was more of a decision based on practicality, since meat is a lot more expensive than other sources of protein. I might have been able to afford it if I bought my supplies from a chain grocery store, but buying local was the most important thing to me.
But really, this week was another step in my long process of cutting down how much meat I eat. Specifically, beef.
Before I get into it, I know that there are plenty of different opinions on how we should make these kinds of decisions. You don’t have to look very far on the Internet before you find a meme making fun of vegans, or a news post shaming the meat or dairy industry for treating animals badly. There are literally dozens of documentaries on Netflix that all advocate for being vegan, and at least one on cooking the perfect steak.
For me, the most important reason to eat less meat is that it takes a lot of feed to raise, and cows fart.
We’ve known for a long time that cows produce methane from their digestion, but in the past three years, the world has become significantly more vocal about the effects of climate change.
It has huge implications for our industry and society, since a lot of what we use and eat produces greenhouse gases and has global effects. Dozens of papers in top scientific journals have linked human activity with the global increase in temperatures, which will lead to ocean-level rise and more extreme weather patterns unless there is a coordinated effort to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we emit.
World governments have taken this very seriously, drafting the Paris Climate Agreement last year, where 197 countries committed themselves to limiting global warming to 2 C above pre-industrial levels.
I’ve been following climate change news pretty closely, especially since I started reporting on the oil pipeline that is proposed to be built through Burnaby Mountain. To summarize incredibly briefly, there’s a lot of solid evidence that shows this pipeline is a terrible idea.
Someone showed me a graphic online a while ago that broke down how much food (and thereby carbon) it takes to raise animals for meat. Beef was by far the most environmentally harmful; some experts say that if we gave it up, it would be better than giving up cars. Pork and lamb are also fairly carbon intensive. Wasting food altogether is even worse, which is what makes Embark’s Food Rescue program so exciting for me.
After humming and hawing about the chart, I thought, “I could probably not eat beef for a while.” So that’s exactly what I did.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Every now and then I’ll have a burger, or pulled pork, or roast lamb, but it’s pretty simple for me to not buy any of that at home.
For a long time, I didn’t think about how my food got to me. I had bigger things to worry about, like getting through my courses, managing my personal relationship, and playing way too many video games. But thinking of how much beef I eat was a gateway for me to think about all of my food and how it affects the environment. I started to think of all of the ways I could buy locally so less fuel was burned to ship it here, and how I could reduce the amount of garbage I make.
I’m happy to pay more and eat less meat if it means helping the environment.
Except for that butternut squash, though — $5 is highway robbery.