THROUGH THE FIRE: Trying to Raise Carnivores With a Conscience

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By TRISHA MURAKAWA
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Oct. 26, 2011.)

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If Hunter had his way, he’d eat a double cheeseburger with grilled onions every day. Bailey would do the same but without the cheese. They are both carnivores but I am trying to make them carnivores with a conscience.

While I don’t want my kids to have a heart attack or clogged arteries before they’re 12, I’m trying to make them understand that eating less meat every week is better for the environment and better for their bodies.

Over the summer, I started to try to incorporate one meatless day a week. I wanted to cut dairy out too but I figured I had to take baby steps to get things rolling with them.

The first time we did this, breakfast and lunch were easy. They normally go meatless for breakfast anyway. They had waffles with chocolate and maple syrup for breakfast and mac ‘n’ cheese with fruit for lunch.

But dinner was a different story.

I made vegetarian chili. I thickened it with cous cous so it wouldn’t be runny or soupy and I served it with cornbread. I had grated cheese, green onion, bell pepper, tomatoes and sour cream for toppings but all to no avail — they complained and didn’t finish their bowls.

Because I knew I’d get major complaints about the lack of meat, Bailey and I made cherry parfaits for dessert. Bailey made a delicious toasted almond topping with butter, sugar and cinnamon. They were wonderful, but Hunter still proclaimed he only wanted to go meatless one day a millennium.

I still torture my spoiled children (and husband) with meatless meals because I want them to understand the importance of why we should go meatless at least one day a week. My carnivorous husband has no problem with meatless meals, because he’s already a carnivore with a conscience. It’s just my kids who still need convincing.

Everyone knows, at least anecdotally, that eating too much red and processed meat is not healthy and is associated with serious health problems. Several health studies have shown that large consumptions of red and processed meat is linked to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

And our community especially knows, though we may not want to admit it, that eating too many Spam musubi can affect not only the waistline but the blood pressure too.

But the consequences of consuming too much meat is far greater than simply disease to individuals. According to the Environmental Working Group, meat can also have negative and harmful impacts on the environment.

Here is a small sampling of ways eating meat harms our environment:[1]

1. Cows and sheep (and other livestock) release substantial amounts of methane because of their complex digestive process. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas.

2. Most livestock are fed soybean meal, corn meal and other grains that require large amounts of water, fertilizer, fuel, pesticides and energy to grow. The vast amounts of fertilizer used to grow feed for livestock generates nitrous oxide and has 300 times the effect that carbon dioxide does on our environment. Pesticides and fertilizer often end up in ground water wells, in crop fields, rivers and the ocean and cause contamination among other damaging effects to our drinking water supply and ecosystems.

3. Transporting animals, supplies and meat products by ship, air, truck and train is necessary to get the products to consumers but requires energy. The vehicles carrying animals and meat products have emissions, and some vehicles have higher emission levels than others. Air freight, for instance, has higher emissions than trucks, ships and trains so it is important to know how your meat got on your plate.

The most important facts meat eaters should know:

If one four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week for a year, it would be like taking your car off the road for five weeks.

If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese one day a week for a period of one year, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

If everyone went meatless one day a week, collectively we could have healthier bodies, drink cleaner water and breathe healthier air.

The Actions We Can Take

So we, as individuals, can take some steps to help transform into carnivores with a conscience. Here is what we can do:

• Pledge to eat less meat each week;

• When shopping, look for locally raised grass fed or pasture-raised, certified organic lean cuts of meat that are nitrate-free, without antibiotics and added hormones;

• Consume “Best Choice” seafood designated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium;

• Ask our lawmakers to enact a comprehensive energy and climate policy that puts our nation on a path to green sustainable energy with strong regulatory enforcement to stop the destructive effects to our soil, air and water.

Become a carnivore with a conscience.

For more information, visit the Environmental Working Group at ewg.org/meateatersguide and montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx.

[1] Environmental Working Group — Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

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Trisha Murakawa is a strategic communications and public affairs consultant based in Redondo Beach. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

 

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