I love a good steak. For me, tucking into a medium rare fillet steak is one of the great pleasures in life. It’s not that I don’t like cows and think they ought to be slaughtered and end up on my plate, it’s just that when they're chopped up and pieces of them are fried, they taste so damned good. Especially with dauphinoise potatoes, or rice and béarnaise sauce. Oh cripes, I’m starting to salivate just thinking about it and it's only 8 am!
BUT… and here comes the voice of the little guy who sits on my shoulder and reminds me of the bad things I’m doing… aside from the question of whether or not it’s cruel to keep animals that a bred purely for slaughter and whether or not they’re transported and slaughtered in a humane way, there’s the fact that meat production is one of the main contributors to our present environmental problems.
On average, one meat based meal is equal to chopping down 55 square feet of rain forest. Now I for one sure as heck wouldn’t go to ANY forest and chop down even one tree unless I knew for sure it was going to be replaced but even though I know how important the rain forest is to life on this planet, I’ll still happily devour a good steak. Talk about conflicting values! And if the tree issue still doesn’t grab you and make you think, let’s put it another way: producing 1kg of meat - just one measly kilo - generates the same amount of carbon as a three hour drive in a petrol fuelled car.
Then there’s the issue regarding land usage. A massive 80% of available agricultural land is used to grow food for livestock. Just think how much food could otherwise be grown! There are people starving in this world, people who could be fed by grains and pulses grown on some of that land but instead I’m stuffing my face with fillet steaks and other meat products. I should be ashamed of myself.
And did you know that in the US alone, farmed animals produce 130 times more excrement
than the whole of the human population? That’s a lot of dung and the run off from it often ends up polluting the waterways. Yuk!! I doubt it’s any better here, although I haven’t been able to find any facts relating to it.
Cattle are the worse offenders; they omit methane every time they belch and apparently that’s something they do a lot! All ruminants do the same - that includes sheep and goats - but cattle are the worse offenders because a) they are larger and therefore produce more gas in their ruman (one of their four stomaches) and b) there are far more of them. Also, being extremely thick they're not clued up on social etiquette so never hold their hooves to their mouths before having a good burp.
According to a Swedish study carried out five years ago, raising cattle on grass instead of the feed that's used now would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% but our government has done nothing to try to change the way cattle’s raised here. Surprise, surprise! Not that a 40% reduction would mean no more cause for concern but at least the situation would be better than it is now.
There’s absolutely no doubt that eating beef is a HUGE contributor to my carbon footprint so I’ve decided I need to do something about it. I’m not going to give up steak entirely but I’m going to severely limit how much meat we eat in this house. A few sausages maybe, but no bacon, no more chops (well... maybe the odd one chucked on the barbie... they're so darned tasty), no more joints, and I’ll try quorn mince instead of beef mince. As for the steak, just one a fortnight at the most. It’s not perfect but it’s better than nothing at all.Finally, just to give you something extra to think about, did you know that when we eat meat alongside food containing starch (i.e. potatoes, rice, pasta) the meat ferments and putrefies in the bowel?
Sharon J xx