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What is the Environmental Impact of Eating Meat? – Discussion Continues


Source: “The Great Meat Debate” ~Common Ground Kansas

In February, 2012, I wrote an article about my conversion from vegetarian to omnivore: Is Eating Meat Sustainable?. Days before Easter, 2012, I was alerted of the New York Times essay contest, “Calling All Carnivores; Tell Us Why It’s Ethical to Eat Meat: A Contest”. The elite panel of judges compelled me to enter: Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Peter Singer, and Andrew Light. In June, 2012, I published my submittal through Biocadence: What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?. I have been delighted by this discussion, as it has continued amongst Biocadence followers. Much to my surprise, Google searches have yielded the Biocadence blog as the #1 result for queries such as: Is Eating meat sustainable? and What is the truth about eating meat and sustainability? 

Source: Earth Policy Institute
Credit: Angela Wong / NPR

One especially well-read follower sent me a link to the article: Visualizing A Nation of Meat Eaters : NPR. She prompted the vital question, “Even if animals are raised kindly, they still require so much resource – how does this influence the ethics debate?” I think it is important that every intellect be involved in this curriculum. Please share your thoughts. I include my response below, and ask for the discussion to continue!

 

I would love for statistics and arguments used in the meat ethics debate to involve many more variables, including but not limited to the following:

~ The soil/ruminant relationship and it’s incredible carbon sequestering capacity!!!! When these (only recently forgotten) techniques are embraced, beef/water ratios can lower from 1 lb/2500-6000 lbs to 1 lb/122 lbs (Source: The Vegetarian Myth).

~ The devastating impact that feed as “food” has on energy-use, the environment AND nutrition.

~ The ENORMOUS disparity between energy-use associated with CAFOs (consider import/export of goods to maintain operation, cesspit emissions, feed as “food”, antibiotics, etc.) vs. polyculture/beyond-organic farms (requiring a tiny sliver of resources necessary for CAFO operations). See Joel Salatin at Tara Firma Farms for a profile of the beyond-organic operation in Petaluma, CA. For more, check out my tour of Tara Firma Farms.

~ The negative impact of grain/gluten/legumes/sugar in many human beings, and resulting energy-use associated with healthcare/pharmaceuticals. There are increasingly convincing arguments that prevelant illnesses may be linked to diets consisting of these foods.

~ The depletion of soil (a carbon sequestering magician) associated with farming of annuals (ex: grains) and mono-crops, and the environmentally destructive potential of farming without ruminants, considering our current population/land ratio.

~ The energy and environmental costs of global relations and global conflict: while soy and corn are subsidized and used as ingredients in artificially inexpensive/low nutrient food-like exports, they are inextricably tied to global relations and global conflict.

~ The disparity between the amount of meat in demand and the amount of meat that is necessary, especially in a diet designed to free the body of the “hunger”-like withdrawals that can be associated with a diet heavy in grain/wheat/gluten/legumes.

In conclusion, I think that it is short-sighted to educate the masses with statistics that include energy-use data from CAFOs, without including data about the above mentioned issues. The quantity of meat, and how the meat is raised are so critical to ethical eating. I’m really excited to see how the curriculum evolves as more compassionate intellect is devoted to it!!!

A few quotes from books I recommend:

“In fact, the cow, or domestic herbivore if you will, is the most efficacious soil-building, hydrology-cycling, carbon-sequestering tool at the planet’s disposal. Yes, the cow has done a tremendous amount of damage. But don’t blame the cow. The managers of the cow have been and continue to be the problem. The same animal mismanaged to abuse the ecology is the greatest hope and salvation to heal the ecology.” ~ Joel Salatin, author of Folks, this ain’t normal

“It is my conviction that growing annual grains is an activity that cannot be redeemed. It requires wholesale extermination of ecosystems–the land has to be cleared of all life. It destroys the soil because the soil is bared–and it has to be bared to grow annuals.” Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth

Written by Annie Tichenor, Founder of Biocadence, LLC.

Sources:

Common Ground Kansas

Visualizing A Nation of Meat Eaters : NPR

The Vegetarian Myth

Joel Salatin at Tara Firma Farms

Folks, this ain’t normal

Quicklinks to Most Popular Biocadence Articles:

“The Hunger Games”… Fiction or Non-Fiction?

What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Use Biodegrable Trash Bags!

Embracing the Fulcrum: Reconciling My Belief in the Law of Attraction With My Sustainable Living Transition

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What Do You Gift a Sustainable Living Transitionist for His/Her Birthday? Tara Firma Farms & Farmstead, Here We Come!!!


How does a recovering over-consumer celebrate her birthday? My birthday just passed and I’m thrilled to share my pictures and experience. My husband, Dan, is exceptional at gift giving, because he thinks about the gift recipient’s interests through the process. Dan researched a name I mention often (Joel Salatin), scouting out Salatin’s interactions with California farms. He gifted me a tour of  a local farm that implements many Polyface Farms strategies: Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma, CA.

Founder, farmer, mother and mentor Tara Smith guided our group. She began the tour by sharing the experience that forked her road, leading her to launch Tara Firma Farms in 2009. She and her husband were working hard and steady in the corporate life, when they were introduced to Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Tara smiled humbly as she described her son’s sentient response to her transition to sustainable living language (joyfully obsessive as it can be). “Stop talking about it, and just do it Mom!”, he said. Craig and Tara Smith sold the catamaran they used for their touring business in the Caribbean, and bought a farm in Petaluma, CA!

Enjoy these lively pictures, by my talented husband, Dan Tichenor. Join us on my Tara Firma Farms birthday tour!

What a farm! It inspires me to see what the Smith family has built since 2009!

After our farm tour we lunched at Farmstead, in St. Helena. Simple, clean, farm-to-table ingredients make a delicious meal. Impeccable service adds delight, a peacefully slow garden walk makes the soul smile, and a boy soaking his head in the restaurant fountain gives a giggle!

What an amazing birthday!!!! In addition to this fantastic experience, I received other gifts, from loved ones who have clearly noticed my sustainable living interests. My husband spoiled me with a large planter (half wine barrel) for our small shaded porch. My reading teaches me that I may have success with leafy greens on a shaded porch… maybe herbs. Edible is a must! Flowers can come later… maybe:)! This will be my first garden, porch or otherwise, and I will appreciate all comments, thoughts, and suggestions! Mr. Dan also did research on eco-friendly cookware and presented me with his findings. Any readers who’ve used ManPans, or any other eco-seasoned cookware, please message me with your thoughts! From friends and family:

  • The WonderWash portable washing machine! I promise pictures, as I will assemble this next week!
  • T-shirts by Locally Grown Clothing Company. Stylish, soft, and a perfect fit!
  • Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
  • A Microwave Baked Potato Pouch!!
  • A long time friend and soul sister went to the farmer’s market for in-season, local produce and gluten free tortillas, and cooked enchiladas for us in my kitchen. After eating we wrote song lyrics for hours!!!! What a gift! I just finished the last of the enchiladas yesterday:)!

What do you gift to your loved ones who are in sustainable living transition and/or over-consumption recovery? Biocadence has already received great feedback from followers! David Dixon of Plant And Plantcare would like an adobe brick oven! Mr. Dixon shares that he and his wife are planning to build a “pole barn in the spring… [they] are closing it in with earth bag framing… this will be [their] housing… the brick oven will go in the lean-to patio… [they] will use it for heating and cooking…”. My homesteading, permaculture, and blogging friend Joyness Sparkles shares that her husband LOVES his old-fashioned shaving kit, and will never go back to electric or disposable shavers!!! She adds that she would love a nap for her birthday. She is one of the hardest working sustainable living transitionists I know. A nap, and two, and three! Take them, dear Joyness! My favorite pencil-drawing artist, Risa Jenner, shares that she would love reusable sandwich bags! Good thinking Risa!!!! I am very excited to read more input, as the art of gift-giving evolves for our recovering over-consumer community!!!

To my readers outside of Northern California (as most of you are), I have a special message for you! When I began researching beyond organic farming, homesteading and permaculture, I had trouble finding a local farm similar to Polyface Farms. I didn’t expect that my husband would find it for my birthday, over a year later! If you are looking for a local farm with integrity and beyond organic practices, don’t stop! If it doesn’t exist in your area today, it will soon. The movement is growing, folks! In the meantime, pick up a pre-owned copy of Novella Carpenter’s Farm City and consider starting your own small operation!

I highly recommend the Tara Firma CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  Meat, dairy, and produce combos (which I have not seen before in a CSA) represent beyond organic farming models that are supported by Tara Firma Farms, as well as the farms they partner with to supplement their CSA boxes! Tara Firma makes an organized box drop in Oakland, CA, which I intend to use for now. To my Walnut Creek, CA friends who are interested in nutrition, sustainable eating, and farm animal welfare– message me if you would consider ordering consistently from the Tara Firma Farms CSA. Let’s come together, and give cause for a Walnut Creek/East Bay drop to be added to the Tara Firma CSA route!

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“The Hunger Games”… Fiction or Non-Fiction?

What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Use Biodegrable Trash Bags!

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Our goal is to reach 1000 FaceBook page likes (click here)! “Liking” our page will include our industry related news updates and musings in your newsfeed (1-3/day). If you already “like” it, consider sharing our content with your friends, using the one click sharing buttons below. We appreciate your help in reaching our goals!

How to Handle “Too Much” Produce?! Creative Solutions for a Food Surplus “Mistake”


A few weeks ago, we brought home a huge Farmer’s Market bounty, forgetting that our CSA box was scheduled to arrive the same week! How did we handle all that produce?

Quicklinks to Most Popular Biocadence Articles:

“The Hunger Games”… Fiction or Non-Fiction?

What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?

Use Biodegrable Trash Bags!

Embracing the Fulcrum: Reconciling My Belief in the Law of Attraction With My Sustainable Living Transition


Our goal is to reach 1000 FaceBook page likes (click here)! “Liking” our page will include our industry related news updates and musings in your newsfeed (1-3/day). If you already “like” it, consider sharing our content with your friends, using the one click sharing buttons below. We appreciate your help in reaching our goals!

Sustainable Food Photography


What is sustainable eating?

There are many different answers to this question. I’ve certainly written a few articles on the subject!! While answers of all sorts resonate to me, I’m increasingly attached to the question. Why? Because the answer is evolving, and will continue to evolve. The important thing is that the question (and the resulting data that emerges) prompts a process that will enrich all of our lives. Exploration of sustainable eating is what is most important. It presents a curriculum that we must all participate in.

Following is a tiny, simplified summary of what drives my sustainable eating choices today.  For more detail, visit my article: What Is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?

…What? Where? How?…

What we eat is important, yes. For now, the data I’ve collected has led me to a diet of many vegetables, a little bit of meat, and as few grains as possible. Where: the source of ingredients is critical, and an arguably more important focus-point than the “what” (as the “where” determines the “what” in a locavore diet). How: feeding soil is essential, and the process of re-engagement with our food sources is sacred.

Achieving joy as I adjust my diet is a huge priority, because behaviorally sustainable adjustments will impact my footprint more than large adjustments made once or twice. I’ve been delighted to find that this achievement is as natural as the food I’m ingesting. I rarely use recipes because my meals are built around the following questions:

What is in season? What is local? What is fresh? What is in my kitchen today? How can I ensure that I do not waste the fresh food I have?

The answers to these questions create the recipes. I retreat from the equation and fall into an inevitable cadence. The resulting meals feed not only my husband and I, but purpose, process, intention, ambition, compassion… AND FLAVOR GALORE!

Here are some photos I’ve taken in the last week, in an effort to chronicle the experience. Please share your thoughts! If you enjoy this peek into my sustainable eating endeavors, I will be sure to make it a recurring theme!

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Our goal is to reach 1000 FaceBook page likes (click here)! “Liking” our page will include our industry related news updates and musings in your newsfeed (1-3/day). If you already “like” it, consider sharing our content with your friends, using the one click sharing buttons below. We appreciate your help in reaching our goals!

What is Ethical Eating?… Is Eating Meat Ethical?


Hello, hello… and alert: I would love your input on the controversial subject I’m covering in this article. 

I was raised to believe that eating meat is devastatingly unethical. I believed that one day we would recognize the folly of our ways, and look back on omnivorism with regret and distaste. As such, my recent transition from vegetarianism to omnivorism has been made with much research and deliberation.

On April 4, 2012 I received a message from my brother. He wondered whether I’d thought of entering the New York Times essay contest: Calling All Carnivores Tell Us Why It’s Ethical to Eat Meat: A Contest. “U don’t have much time:/”, he texted. I read the essay prompt and calculated the 4 days I had remaining before the deadline. My blood sped and my thoughts buzzed.

English: Jonathan Safran Foer at Barnes & Nobl...

Jonathan Safran Foer

Having converted to omnivorism in January 2012, this subject frequently propelled my mind and heart waves. The essay captured my intention and the panel of judges positively arrested my motivation! Peter SingerMichael PollanJonathan Safran FoerMark BittmanAndrew Light! As it was, this subject had been monopolizing my brain-space for months. Organizing my thoughts in 4 days was not only “no problem”, it was unavoidable! My biggest hurdle was squeezing my arguments into less than 600 words. In fact, if you count the words in my essay below, you will find 599;)!

American science journalist and author Michael...

Michael Pollan speaking at Yale

Now, regardless of my current knowledge of the outcome of the contest, I find myself (once again) animated by the challenge! I must interrupt my excitement to share that I was not victorious. I write today to usher my readers to participate in the critical discourse on ethical eating. Our food choices have considerable influence on our future. With immediate ties to health, happiness, and vibrance and effect on our soil, environment, and global relationships, food must be principal curriculum for citizens of all ages and nations.

What is ethical eating? Is eating meat ethical? What does food mean to you? Please share your thoughts! Reading them will make me very happy! Below is the essay I submitted to the contest (with a few visual aids added). If you’ve visited my blog before, you may notice that I pulled many arguments from one of the first articles I wrote for Biocadence: “Is Eating Meat Sustainable?“. I recommend reading the winner’s, as well as the finalists‘ essays as well!

I Remember

By Annie Tichenor

I am eating meat after 30 years as a strict vegetarian. For decades I nurtured a sincere faith that evolution gives us the opportunity to rise above our barbaric ancestors and preserve the lives of animals. When health concerns ushered me to consider diet changes, I began to study. In hopes of evading a lifestyle change, I sought confirmation that eating meat is devastatingly unethical. The diagrams in Jim Merkel’s Radical Simplicity and compelling statistics in Anna Lappé’s Diet for a Hot Planet gave me comfort that I could hold in my hands, read on my flashcards, and roll on my tongue. But my fatigued blood whispered, “Keep reading.”

Joel Salatin holds a hen during a tour of Poly...

Joel Salatin holds a hen during a tour of Polyface Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine for a moment how many living organisms are in a handful of healthy soil. This life-source has been squandered since the invention of synthetic fertilizer and mono-crop farming. In his book, Folks, this ain’t normal, farming revolutionary Joel Salatin writes, “[…] in recent decades we’ve used more energy, destroyed more soil, […] mutated more bacteria, and dumped more toxicity on the planet than all the cultures before us – combined.” Modern farming techniques that were once praised as the vehicle for record production yields are now convicted for the mass murder of ecosystems. While I thought I was preserving lives through my vegetarian food choices, how many ecosystems were destroyed in vain? Are the lives of micro- organisms less important than the lives of larger animals? If so, then why? In the coming decades, I estimate that we will be forced to learn just how important live soil is. The magic that our species has only recently forgotten must be remembered.

Ethical eating involves organic, local, in-season food, prepared at home. I reach further to find that it also requires feeding our food-source more than we are taking from it. Animals are a mandatory component of this equation. Life in the soil is re-established and maintained through its interaction with animals. Rotation of pasture, harvest, and cover crop allows us to use relatively few acres, nourish the soil, and yield an abundant edible output. Fogline Farm, in Santa Cruz, CA shares, “We graze our animals through our orchards and vineyards, constantly moving them to fresh pasture.” Followed by cover or harvest crop, the benefit of a happy-animal parade is captured. Each ingredient of the cycle is respected in an ethical farming strategy. Animals are incorporated in order to feed the soil while feeding the community.

Is eating meat ethical? Far too often not! Soft leather gloves of big business grip an industry that produces nutrient-light/toxin-heavy “food”. Feeding us from the prison cells of concentrated animal feeding operations is not only unethical, it is despicable. Can eating meat be ethical? “Yes!” resounds. Absorbing life with gratitude, kindness and grace is a lyric to an ancient song that still echoes through our land and is so often unheard. The delusional attempt to extricate myself from a life-cycle that involves death is a delirious vacuum. The suction allures me, inviting me to a familiar circus where lights glow as they deceive and music spins as it distracts. With piercing clarity and flashes of anger, Lierre Keith, author of Vegetarian Myth, writes about her arduous path, “Eventually we see our only choices: the death that’s destroying life or the death that’s a part of life”. Finding peace in surrender wafts a divine essence through the room. As we kindle this understanding, we will reconnect with the natural cadence of our life cycle. Connectedness will cleanse our systems and we may be overwhelmed by the thought, “Oh, thank heavens, I remember.”

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Over 235 shares! Check out our most popular article about sustainability in relation to “The Hunger Games”: “The Hunger Games”… Fiction or Non-Fiction?.

Is Eating Meat Sustainable?


I am eating and enjoying meat after 30 years as a strict vegetarian. For decades I nurtured a sincere faith that eating meat is morally wrong. I believed that evolution had given us the opportunity to rise above our barbaric ancestors and preserve the lives of animals! My mind and heart have changed. Amongst the interesting subjects on the table with long time friends, incredulity about this change emerges again and again. One especially hilarious friend finds it entertaining to watch me eat meat and requests an announcement so that he doesn’t miss the performance!

Although I’ve changed my eating choices for health reasons, I’ve been startled at my findings about the relationship between consuming meat and living sustainability. I was certain that someone would convince me that eating meat is devastatingly unsustainable. I hoped to find cause to postpone my lifestyle change for another month… and another.

In Radical Simplicity, a brilliantly level headed Jim Merkel uses tables, charts and sound arguments to illustrate the disparity between high footprint meat consumption and low footprint vegetarian diets. He shares his courageously disciplined strategies and inspires immediate action. The statistic-packed Diet for a Hot Planet, by Anna Lappé soothed me, giving me compelling numbers and percentages to hold in my hands, read on my flashcards, and roll on my tongue. But the fatigued blood and bones of a long time vegetarian whispered inside of me. Breathing through gritted teeth, I continued to absorb information.

Soil has taken a beating since the invent of synthetic fertilizer and monocrop farming.  Many of the grains and vegetables I consumed during my bleeding heart vegetarian days were products of these soil degrading monocrops. Knoll Farms in Brentwood, CA teaches that the plant/soil interaction: “[…] is so complex that, though we may know the complete DNA of many animals, no one has unraveled the miracle of soil–a miracle so complete that the plant and soil interaction becomes a continuum.” (Source : http://www.knollorganics.com/intro.htm)

Imagine for a moment, how many living organisms are in a handful of soil! While I thought I was preserving lives through my vegetarian food choices, how many lives and ecosystems were destroyed in vain? Are these lives any less important than the lives of larger animals? If so, why? Because we can’t see them? Because the average adult may not know what they mean to us? I estimate that we will have to learn just how important the lives of microorganisms are, in the coming decades. As both life in the soil and oil used to make synthetic fertilizer become more rare, we will feel the squeeze. The magic that our species has only recently forgotten will have to be remembered.

Eating sustainably involves eating organic, local, in-season food prepared at home. When I reach further, I find that it also means ensuring that we are feeding our food-source as much as, and ideally more than we are taking from it. It is possible to use relatively few acres, nourish the soil, and yield a large output through rotating pasture, harvest and cover crop. Fogline Farm, in Santa Cruz, CA shares their pasture cycling technique: “We graze our animals through our orchards and vineyards, constantly moving them to fresh pasture.”  (Source : http://foglinefarm.com/?page_id=97)  They capture the benefit of this pasture parade by following it with cover crop or harvest crop. Fogline Farm respects each ingredient of the cycle, feeding the soil while feeding the community.

Am I left with the ever ferocious dilemma of how to extricate myself from the piece of the life-cycle that involves death? The hope that I may be exempt from this intricate web is a delirious vacuum. The suction is tempting until I notice that it drags me into a familiar circus. The lights glow as they deceive and the music spins as it distracts. I’ve come to understand that death is part of all life, including the life I gift myself every time I eat. Finding peace in this elusive dichotomy wafts an essence of the divine through the room, bringing me images of light and dark in one body, and letting go of something in order to understand it.

Is eating meat sustainable? Far too often not! The soft leather gloves of big business have gripped an industry that produces nutrient-light/toxin-heavy “food”. Feeding us from the prison cells of CAFOs is not only unsustainable. It is despicable. Can eating meat be sustainable? Yes resounds! It can be sustainable and more; we need animals to feed our soil. Absorbing life with gratitude, kindness and grace is a lyric to an ancient song that still echoes through our land and is so often unheard.

In his book, Folks, this ain’t normal, farming revolutionary Joel Salatin writes: ” […]  in recent decades we’ve used more energy, destroyed more soil, […] mutated more bacteria, and dumped more toxicity on the planet than all the cultures before us – combined.” Modern farming techniques that were once praised as the vehicle for record production yields are now convicted for the mass murder of ecosystems. As we kindle this understanding, I think that we will reconnect with our land. Our communities will want to hunt, gather and grow their own food. We will hear an ancient rhythm; as connectedness flushes our systems, we may be overwhelmed by the thought: Oh, thank heavens, I remember.

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Sources cited or mentioned (I strongly recommend all of them!):

http://www.knollorganics.com/intro.htm

http://foglinefarm.com/?page_id=97 

Joel Salatin, “Folks, this ain’t normal”. Center Street, 2011.

Jim Merkel, “Radical Simplicity.” New Society Publishers, 2003.

Anna Lappé, “Diet for a Hot Planet.” Bloomsbury USA, 2010.

Not cited but highly recommended:

Lierre Keith, “The Vegetarian Myth.” Flashpoint Press, 2009.

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