Lots of people like their meat. Although some warn that consuming too much meat could lead to negative health consequences, it is a good source of protein and fat, which stabilizes blood sugar and conveys flavor. But what really draws most humans to meat is the umami flavor, and the aroma when cooked. Umami, a Japanese word meaning a pleasant savory taste, comes from glutamate and inosinate, both found in meat and released with cooking. Human attraction to the umami taste may have developed to direct us to good sources of cooked (and so safer) protein. However, protein deficiency is rare in the United States and most Americans consume more than they need to stay healthy.
But regardless of whether meat is good or bad for our health, the meat industry is bad for the environment for several reasons. The livestock industry accounts for a significant amount of the greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. That is in part because the digestive systems of the animals we consume developed to consume grasses and plants, but on factory farms, they are instead fed corn and grains, which ferment in their digestive systems and are released as methane gas. Methane is also emitted from manure, as is nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas. Furthermore, nitrous oxide is found in chemical fertilizers used on the crops that animals consume.
Deforestation is another problem. Meat production, especially beef production, requires more and more land as the number of consumers grows, and that pastureland is often created by cutting down trees, which releases the carbon dioxide that is stored in forests. Countless species are also going extinct as a result of the destruction of habitat. Cattle ranching accounts for approximately 80% of the deforestation of the critical Amazon rainforest, and much of this land is cleared by setting fires that pollute the air and kill animals, birds, and insects living in the forests. Fallen trees left to rot also add to carbon emissions. The destruction of forests also brings wildlife in closer contact with humans, enabling infectious diseases to pass between them and increasing the likelihood of future pandemics.
This is why SEAC (Solebury Environmental Action Club) is urging the Solebury community to reduce their meat consumption. We have instituted minimal meat Fridays and have shared recipes for tasty vegetarian meals (which can be found here). The umami flavor can also be found in non-meat foods like parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and soy sauce. Our bodies respond in a similar way to freshly baked bread and roasted vegetables. Tasty fats are available in avocados, cheese, olive oil, and nuts, and we can get high-quality protein from rice and beans, tofu, seitan, tempeh, brussels sprouts, eggs, almonds, peanuts, oats, broccoli, lentils, quinoa, and dairy products. Delicious vegetarian recipes are easily available online. Give them a try.
If you do eat meat, consider purchasing your meat from local farms that raise their livestock on grass in an environmentally sustainable manner. Their animals are healthier, release less methane gas into the atmosphere when pasture-raised, and require less gas and oil for packing and shipping. And by doing so, you are supporting local businesses and farmers. You can even visit many of these farms to see what the animals are fed and how they are raised. The meat might be a little more expensive, but the long term savings make it worth the extra money because poor health and an ailing planet are expensive as well. During the pandemic, these farm markets, some of which have contactless pick up, might be safer to shop than large supermarkets. Some will even mail meat to your door. Locally, humanely, and sustainably raised meat is better for your health, better for the environment, better for animals, and better for your community.
Below is a list of purveyors of locally raised, grass-fed meat:
ShadyFox Farm - Solebury, PA - CSA - cows, pigs, poultry pastured raised without antibiotics, steroids, or hormones.
Nonesuch Farms - Buckingham, PA - Black Angus steer raised on pasture, hay, and rationed, non-GMO feed grown on the farm
Birchwood Farm and Dairy - Newtown, PA - pasture-raised beef, pork, and poultry, and eggs
Hershberger Heritage Farm - Sellersville, PA - home delivery or store pick up
Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville, NJ - diversified, sustainable, organic dairy farm and creamery selling cheeses, dairy products, and some meats
Goat Hill Farm, Lambertville, NJ
Lima Family Farms - Hillsborough, NJ - pasture-raised beef, pork, and poultry
Tussock Sedge Farm - Blooming Glen, PA - pasture-raised beef, pork, and chicken
Skillman Farm Market and Butcher - Skillman, NJ
Griggstown Farm - Somerset, NJ
The Family Cow - Chambersburg, PA with over 50 pickup locations including Yardley and New Hope - woodland pork, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised turkey