This weekend I had the rewarding (and exhausting!) experience of networking with a large group of young progressive leaders in NYC through the New Leaders Council. And, as it inevitably will happen, someone was ordering lunch. “Any vegetarians or vegan?” “Yes, vegan,” two of us raise our hands. While my colleague was a straight-up vegan (no animal by-products of any kind), I didn’t raise my hand because of my ironclad ethical resolve to never eat animal products. I did it out of simplicity.
Wait, what? I said I was a vegan for simplicity’s sake? If I didn’t want to eat meat, wouldn’t a vegetarian option have been okay? Not really considering most vegetarian alternatives use cheese or other dairy as the meat replacement. And for those of you like me with allergies to lactose and dairy, that would have been a disaster of Pepto proportions. The alternative, “I’ll take a dairy free and meat free option” seemed even more awkward and wordy. So, vegan I claimed.
A few folks asked us about our choices. While my colleague seemed to be most invested in animal rights (which is totally badass and I salute her), I explained that I did eat meal on occasions but that I did so rarely and coupled with a dairy allergy, vegan was the safest and healthiest identity. And that for me, a diet with less meat was fueled by the desire to reduce my carbon food print, effect change about our food production cycle and also address the maddening resources used to get a hamburger to your mouth.
There have been many books and articles written on the vast waste in growing feed for animals only to slaughter those animals for consumption. Consider this, “more than 50% of the corn grown in the US is fed to animals” [pg 23]. Instead, if we allocated only a half of the land used to produce feed to producing safe and edible produce, we could DRAMATICALLY reduce not only hunger in the US but our scary dependance on foreign agriculture. Foreign dependance on oil is a part of nearly every political speech of the past 20+ years, yet rarely (ever??) do we hear elected officials discussing the flaws of getting 90% our bananas from Latin America. It is only when outbreaks of food borne illnesses are traced back to other countries, do we even pause for a second to access the cycle of the lettuce in our salads. One more reason to eat local and have a connection to the source of your food.
And if nothing else, take 5 minutes to check out this great piece on the carbon footprint of a cheeseburger – the American classic.
And this week, look out for a few new dishes from Food Matters.