We all know the arguments that being vegetarian is better for the environment and for the animals — but in a carnivorous culture, it can be hard to make the change. Graham Hill has a powerful, pragmatic suggestion: Be a weekday veg.

His comments about emissions are spurious and misleading. But some of his points are valid. What do you think?

Comments

  1. #1 chezjake
    May 18, 2010

    If I lived in California or some place down south where really good fresh, local vegetables (and salad greens) are available year round, I’d consider being a weekday vegetarian — I come fairly close to that in peak summer here in upstate NY. However, come the cold weather and the progressively decreasing quality of supermarket produce as winter comes in, I’m really thankful for the heartwarming qualities of meat, especially of smoked pork in any form.

  2. #2 NewEnglandBob
    May 18, 2010

    The result might be that people are healthier and there may be less impact on the environment. There should be better information supplied though.

  3. #3 chuck13
    May 18, 2010

    This story reminds me of “flexitarianism” vegetarian of convenience where there is big reduction in meat but loose overall rules. See http://www.newsweek.com/id/161559

    I am a 3 year vegan (after several years on Atkins) and it is do-able and I concur with the health benefits. I also recommend quitting or cutting down on dairy including cheese (liquid meat).

    I miss nothing – there are tons of options for my tastebuds etc. There are vast info sources on the net.

  4. #4 peter
    May 18, 2010

    I did not watch the clip. Just the idiotic global claim that veggiism is better for the environment keeps me away from watching as would the claim by any creationist that he has evidence for the fast transit of plate tectonics.

    Veggism implies that meat production under any circumstance is inferior to either mixed agriculture or ranching, forgetting that agriculture is not just done in the areas that allow crop production.

    In marginal areas – where I happen to liven where crop production is fine about two out of five years, and greenhouses are simply infeasible – animal production is one method to produce food from such land, adding to the total world protein production.

  5. #5 Jackal
    May 18, 2010

    Peter, I’m not buying it. The Dep. of Ag. estimates that it takes ~5 lbs feed to make 1 lb chicken meat, ~6 lbs feed to make 1 lb pork, and ~15 lbs feed to make 1 lb beef. Your area would have to be able to produce between 5 and 15 times more animal feed than human food in order for meat to be more efficient. If that’s truly the case, maybe there are better uses than farming it.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    May 19, 2010

    Jackel, I think Peter’s point is that his area produces zero plant food.

  7. #7 Jackal
    May 19, 2010

    If you can’t grow any plants, then the animals don’t have anything to eat either.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    May 19, 2010

    There are environments where the growing of human-domesticated plants at any reasonable level is impossible without major modification of the landscape and irrigation. Some of those areas support animals in sufficient abundance to be commercially viable. Some of those areas, in turn, would support the usual domestic animals that have been mentioned.

    Consider this: In South Africa, a fair amount of wild game meat is eaten. If you removed the wild game farming and replaced it wherever possible with growing veggies, there would be very little change because most of the wild game is harvested from areas where you can’t grow the veggies.

  9. #9 Jackal
    May 19, 2010

    Do you think that applies to the majority of meat consumed in America? Globally? I took Pete’s comment to mean that because there are some places where you can ranch (didn’t mention hunting), then there was no advantage to eating plant matter over animal flesh. I agree that there are probably some areas where ranching/hunting makes more sense than growing produce, (although, there are other uses for land than food production), but I doubt that counts for much of the meat consumed in the USA or Europe. Maybe meat’s an exception, but I’ve always heard that we are the worlds biggest consumers, so I would think that Americans eating less meat would help things out.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    May 19, 2010

    Do you think that applies to the majority of meat consumed in America? Globally?

    No, it does not. If Americans ate about half the meat they eat now or less, they would not miss it nutritionally and there would be vast benefits.

    It is, however, not a 100% all or nothing proposition. If you utterly and instantly removed meat from the American diet today, and people just increased their consumption of the other foods they ate to make up for the calories (as necessary) there would likely be nutritional stress for many individuals that would be manifest primarily among infants, children, etc. because of the demands of growth.

  11. #11 Tony Sidaway
    May 19, 2010

    As one person has remarked up-thread, vegetarianism isn’t so attractive in winter in some areas. So an alternative to weekday vegetarianism could be summer vegetarianism: rely on seasonal produce, and fill in with stored meat out of season.

  12. #12 NancyNew
    May 19, 2010

    We like Michael Pollan’s advice at our house… “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

    We’re close to weekday vegetarianism, but rather than using meat at weekends, we reduce the amount of meat in most of our meals. The bulk is wild game–venison. We live in good farm country, and take advantage of it. We get terrific produce from April through November, and I watch the chickens that provide our eggs scratching while I buy our eggs.

    We eat a lot of whole grains (I keep cooked brown rice, barley, or millet on hand–the rice cooker is one of the best kitchen purchases I’ve made), and dried beans (did you know that a rice cooker can cook dried beans better than you can on the stovetop?); I bake all our bread, and if a meal has meat in it, it’s as a flavoring, not as the meal focus.

    I estimate that of the 21 weekly meals (x 2 people), more than half are vegetarian–especially breakfasts and lunches; meat appears mostly at evening meals and about 3 a week are vegetarian. We might use 2-3 lbs of meat a week for the two of us amongst all 21 x 2 meals–hard to know as we butcher our own venison and don’t weigh it. 1 LB or so of meat will go in a stir-fry-type meal, heavy on vegetables, served over rice or pasta, that ends up providing 2 meals each. Occasionally we splurge on a meat-heavy meal–maybe once a month?

    I was raised in a meat-heavy household, and honestly, I don’t miss it at all. We eat well–the food’s plentiful, healthy, and tasty–and with the added benefit of that while what we spend on meat (hunting licenses, travel) is hard to quantify, I am certain my grocery bills are WAY lower than most folks.

  13. #13 Sal
    May 19, 2010

    He said “I knew that eating a mere hamburger a day could increase my risk of dying by a third”. Hate to break to you champ, but your chances of dying are 100%. I guarantee it. Nothing you eat, or not eat, is going to change that :)

  14. #14 Kevin
    May 19, 2010

    And one of my abiding frustrations is that the local supermarket carries asparagus from Peru, when locally grown asparagus is in season.
    No environmental impact in shipping tons and tons and tons of asparagus from freaking PERU every day. Nope. None at all.
    If you want to go veggie, do it for health reasons. The environmental issues just don’t add up when you look at it in a nuanced way.
    BTW: 5 pounds of feed for 1 pound of meat isn’t nuanced. Again, where is the feed grown? Can that soil be productive for human vegetable consumption? Can farmers make a profit? Can the land sustain that type of farming? Do they have the capacity to farm that number of acres for that use productively? Will they require “guest workers” at harvest time? Will the prices of vegetables crash if everyone converts away from chicken feed? How fragile are the vegetables – in other words, what percentage of crop damage due to storms might be expected, and how does that impact the farmer’s profit margin? How intensively do pests have to be managed? And on and on.
    You have to make it worth the farmer’s while, or he’s not going to do it. If nobody farms, nobody eats. And aside from a few hippie-commune-kumbaya types, farmers I know are farming to earn a living. And in that regard, they do not give one shit about you as the eater of food. They care about the buyer of their product and the market dynamics that either get them a profit or not.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    May 19, 2010

    If you want to go veggie, do it for health reasons. The environmental issues just don’t add up when you look at it in a nuanced way.

    Unless you also go loco. (Localivory)

  16. #16 teddy
    May 19, 2010

    “If you want to go veggie, do it for health reasons. The environmental issues just don’t add up when you look at it in a nuanced way.”

    1. Meat industry’s water consumption and water pollution alone make vegetarian diets far less damaging to the environment.

    2. There are 3 big reasons for reducing meat consumption: health, environment, and ethics (horrible treatment of animals and of meat workers)

    Oh, and let’s remember abuse of antibiotics, exposing humans to serious and resistant diseases such as MRSA. This falls under all 3 categories above.