Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

posted in: Commentary | 14

It just occured to me that I’ve been pushing what could be seen as a mando-vegan agenda here, on twitter, and in real life. I just wanted to take a moment to clarify. I won’t bother with references, although I’d be happy to provide if anyone asks…

Cheap grain-fed meat is the single biggest problem facing agriculture, medicine, and arguably the planet. People who eat too much meat are undeniably less healthy than people who eat a varied diet. Feedlot beef and factory farmed pork are undeniably harmful to land and water all on their own. Corn and soy grown to feed all those factory farmed animals are a monocultured fertilizer and chemical intensive mess on top of the mess the animals themselves produce. Animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than all of transportation combined (according to the UN’s FAO). And, of course, there’s the animal welfare issues.

If feedlots and factory farms were the only way to produce meat, yes, I would probably advocate a vegetarian if not vegan diet for all. However, there are ways to raise animals that is good for the land, that produce meat that is more healthy for humans, that doesn’t pollute… these methods are especially well suited for land that can’t be used for farming such as grasslands in places like Montana and Texas.

Instead of advocating that each person stop eating meat, I advocate that they stop eating cheap meat that pollutes the earth and their bodies. Choose quality over quantity for all animal products. Instead of filling every meal with cheap meat, have quality meat (or eggs, cheese, fish) once a day or less. Make up the rest of your diet with whole foods (not necessarily Whole Foods).

What I’d like to know is why this is so hard for people to say. Article after article, like this week’s Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food in TIME get sooo close to saying it, but then fail. They tell us “the meat industry is bad” but then don’t take the last step in saying “don’t eat it”. They tell us the cop-out “eat organic” which doesn’t solve the cheap meat problem at all. It’s frustrating and terrifying as industrialized nations like the United States eat more and more cheap meat per capita every year, with developing countries like China anxious to catch up.

I’m also extremely frustrated by groups like HSUS and PETA that say they’re fighting for animal welfare, but are really advocating a vegan diet through what are effectively scare tactics. Eating vegan is great for your body and for the planet, but is not for everyone. If they’d scale back the rhetoric and advocate reasonable life changes that everyone can make, they might actually be able to make a difference. Instead, they’re ridiculed by meat eaters and hated by people in animal agriculture.

My food philosophy is well summed up by Michael Pollan’s now famous quote: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. What’s your food philosophy?

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Anastasia is Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. and the Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. She has a PhD in genetics with a minor in sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University. Her favorite produce is artichokes!