Those of you who’ve read my blog for a long time know that I prefer to eat with a conscience. That is, I like eating food that is good for me and also good for the environment. Plus I love animals so I don’t want to eat something that is needlessly cruel to raise and produce. In fact, this is the reason I originally became a vegetarian, because I wanted to lessen my impact on the world around me. However, as the years went by, I found myself modifying my stance somewhat, which brings us to today’s story.
When I started my experiment with the 4 Hour Body it was obvious to me that I was no longer going to be a vegetarian. Yes, it’s possible to be one while eating Tim’s meal plan, but it’s too difficult to really sustain for long. Since I’m not interested in eating styles that are not sustainable long term, I decided to start adding meat back into my diet. However, I was a bit conflicted. How was I going to do this while still eating with a conscience? how could I be both good to myself and good to the environment around me?
I’ll deal with this issue first since it was much easier to resolve. First, let me say that I love animals. I’m the kind of guy who takes the injured squirrel to the vet when he finds one in the street and I’ve also raised my fair share of strays, street cats and shelter mutts. At the same time, I understand nature and believe that killing for the sake of obtaining food is not morally wrong. That is, I have no problem with predators killing prey and I have no moral issues with human beings killing animals to eat them. What bothers me is needless cruelty. And that’s the key word right there, NEEDLESS.
An animal dying so I can eat, that I’m fine with. An animal being tortured; that I am not ok with. So when I started eating more meat, I made it a point to eat only organically grown meat and to try and favor sources such as the farmers market, where I knew the animals weren’t being tortured or mutilated for my benefit. I avoid all manner of factory farmed meat which I consider both unhealthy for me, unhealthy for the environment and bad for animals.
So yes, animals are in fact dying in order for me to eat, but I’m satisfied with my solution and have no problem enjoying the occasional bit of meat.
But Better For The Environment?
Now comes the big questions. Can eating meat be good (or at least not harmful) for the environment? The question again, depends on source. First of all, let’s get one things straight, being vegetarian does not mean you’re eating environmentally conscious food. Most vegetarian food is produced with monoculture farming and a massive use of fertilizer and pesticide. For example, all those soy products you’re eating as a vegetarian are produced on giant fields with loads of petroleum based fertilizer plus the usual high levels of Round Up pesticide (brought to you by the wonderful people at Monsanto). Of course, this is even worse when you take all this crap and feed it to cows on factory feed lots but it’s bad enough on its own.
One of my favorite books is still Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma in which he details the life of a piece of corn, the crop usually grown on the same fields as soy beans. Trust me on this one, it’s not a very environmentally friendly life. By way of comparison, an organic farmer can raise a cow in a manner which is not just non-harmful to the environment but actually helpful. We forget sometimes that grasslands evolved with large ungulates grazing on them. Here in North America, giant herds of buffalo once roamed the plains. In fact, without large herbivores grazing on and fertilizing them, grasslands tend to be unhealthy.
I look around me and I see wild turkeys still roaming the hills above my house. I encounter deer on a regular basis on my street in the urban San Francisco bay area. I see fish in the ocean. These are normal parts of a healthy environment and, as long as our cultivation of animals bears some semblance to this natural environment, it can be quiet good for the world around us.
Anyway, I’ll spare you the rest of my “buy organic” commercial, but the bottom line for was, I can eat meat and feel good about it as long as I get it from the right sources. I buy organic and try to buy only from the farmers market (this goes for vegetables as well as meat).
The Cost Factor
The only remaining issue was cost. Buying meat at the farmers market is not cheap and can be 100% to 200% more expensive. The same package of sausages that costs you $4 at Safeway ends up being $10 at the farmers market. However, the solution to this ended up being relatively simple; we started cooking and eating more at home. For example, a dinner with non organic ingredients at our favorite Mexican restaurant is $40 for the two of us. A nice dinner at home with organic ingredients is around $15. Could I make that even cheaper if I choose to eat non farmers market produce? Sure, but I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of money in order to feel better about my food.
Bottom line, as long as you’re careful about where your food comes from, it’s very easy to feel good about your food on the 4 Hour Body Diet.