It’s been a busy week, so I’m a little behind on writing about my sustainable habits. The week started with Meatless Monday. I’m not a really big meat eater, but to save time planning and preparing balanced meals I’ve been using a lot of ground beef and other meat lately. Well no more laziness. It’s time to get back to eating and feeling healthier. Sustainable habit number 23 – eat less meat. I would cut it out entirely, but that conversation made my husband very sad 😦
I started thinking about cutting out meat after listening to a string of experts discussing food insecurity when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their Fifth Assessment Report. One of the figures that came up a few times was that it takes about ten times as much water to produce 1 kg of beef as it does to produce 1 kg of wheat. It’s a convenient figure to throw out, but it certainly helps to paint a more complete picture of how increasing fresh water scarcity and unsustainable production methods are directly related to simple choices we take for granted. According to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, approximately 70% of worldwide freshwater usage is for agriculture. That means that the choices consumers make about the food that they buy (if you are lucky enough to afford to have a choice) is directly linked to how a majority of the world’s fresh water is used.
Obviously there are a lot of other factors that go into making sustainable food buying decisions (like my recent decision to grow some of my food in a kitchen garden). Water use is just one decision-making criterion that can be used to make good decisions. This Guardian article from last year provides an overview of the amount of water required to produce 1 kg of some of the common foods in a western diet. The production of commercial beef, pork and sheep requires a large amount of water. My goal is to cut out all of those meats except very occasionally. When I do purchase meat, it will be raised locally in a sustainable-minded manner. I’m not concerned about any extra cost of buying locally grown meat, since I’ll be saving a lot by not buying meat on a regular basis.
I’m looking forward to the challenge of cooking more vegetarian meals again. I started out slowly by making a shepherd’s pie with TVP for my first Meatless Monday…come to think of it, I’m not sure we’ve had any meat yet this week.
There was one unfortunate side effect of looking into the water-cost associated with beef. Looking at that table in the Guardian article, I can’t ignore how much water is required to produce chocolate. I’m grudgingly also going to cut down on my chocolate consumption. I’ll save it for special occasions too!