A few days ago Clif and I made a decision to really change our diet. Despite our natural liking for fish and meat—especially chicken—we have decided that the time has come to become “mostly vegetarian.”
We’ve been edging this way for a while, with quite a few of our meals being meatless every week. Now, we want to take it another step so that most of our meals are meatless, with fish and meat being very occasional treats saved for special occasions or for going out.
Our decision is based on simple arithmetic as well as geometry. We live on a finite planet with limited resources and an ever-growing population. We humans just seem to multiply and multiply. In a recent post, I quoted Jason Clay: “In the next 40 years we’re going to have produce as much food as was produced in [the] last 8,000.”
Then, I came across the following numbers from a beautifully written book called The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World by Carl Safina. “[W]e now take roughly 40 percent of the life that the land produces; we take a similar proportion of what the coastal seas produce. For one midsized creature that collectively weighs just half a percent of the animal mass on Earth, that is a staggering proportion…If the human population again doubles, as some project, could we commandeer 80 percent of life?”
Could we? I don’t see how it is possible and still have a liveable planet.
And now consider this: According to Mark Bittman, “About two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption…It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.”
In a world with 2 billion people, it might be possible to justify eating a lot of meat. In a world where the population will soon reach 7 billion, not so much. In fact, not at all. Being a “good eater” can and should also mean eating with a conscience, and Clif and I, in all good conscience, simply cannot justify eating meat on a regular basis.
The same applies to fish. Our oceans have been overfished, and in The View from Lazy Point, Safina writes about how the ocean has been depleted of once plentiful fish, like flounder. When Safina was young, flounder were plentiful in the waters off Long Island. Now they are not. This is true for many species of fish around the world. We are eating fish to the edge of extinction.
Dairy and eggs are more tricksy, as Gollum might say. We will do our best to eat them in moderation, choosing alternatives when it makes sense. For example, broiled bread with olive oil rather than bread and butter with our meal. However, milk, cheese, and eggs are the foundations for good cooking, and I cannot eschew them entirely.
In Maine, at least, it is possible to get eggs and dairy that come from animals that have been raised in ways that don’t wreak havoc on the environment. A lot of cows in Maine eat plenty of grass and hay, and it’s pretty easy to find eggs that come from hens who are fed scraps as well as grain.
So, in the upcoming months many of the recipes and dishes featured will be vegetarian, and I will make occasional forays into vegan cooking.
I’m going to end with a quotation from The View from Lazy Point: “To advance compassion and yet survive in a world of appetites—that is our challenge.”
Yes, it is, and a very difficult one for A Good Eater, but one I am accepting nonetheless