Why I give a sh*t about sustainability

Editors Note: This is a guest post by Diana Rodgers talking about her new film project, Kale Vs. Cow.

Abs are sexy, but our food system is where it all starts. Please check this out and support the film.-Robb

KALE vs. COW: THE CASE FOR BETTER MEAT

Why does it matter to me that people buy better meat? Why should people care about making sure meat is not vilified in the media? Why give a shit about sustainability? Why should vegetarians and vegan join the fight? Does this even matter?

For the last eight years, I’ve helped people regain their health through eating foods that are biologically appropriate for humans. This means avoiding processed foods and sugars, and focusing on fresh produce, animal proteins and healthy fats. What I’ve noticed is that the majority of folks simply want to look good naked, want to solve their own health issues, or feed their family the best diet they can.

That’s all great but what do you do when you’ve pretty much solved that?  Why am I not satisfied just having a small nutrition practice and fixing individual people?

Because there’s some huge, systemic issues going on and I feel compelled to do something bigger.

All over the media, celebrities and health experts are blaming meat for our failing health and deteriorating climate. “Eat Less (or no) Meat” is the popular, politically correct mantra because it’s seen as a “cleaner,” healthier, more sustainable and more ethical way to eat.

This anti-meat agenda has a serious influence into nutrition policy. Dietitians are being taught that their patients should eat less meat and butter, yet “everything in moderation” when it comes to things like soda and junk food.

Our government dietary guidelines feature vegetarian and vegan options, yet eating paleo or keto is seen as unhealthy and “orthorexic”. Let’s not remove our whole grains, lowfat milk and heart healthy canola oil!

Worldwide, other countries are adopting the Western diet and seeing the consequences. More cultures are moving away from traditional foods and eating like Americans. Our perverted ideas of “healthy foods” are now ruining humans around the globe.

Schools are partnering with organizations like “The Coalition for Healthy Food” to eliminate meat from lunches. (Board members feature meat and fat-phobic T. Colin Campbell and Joel Fuhrman). And while I’m all for increasing vegetable consumption, eliminating a nutrient dense food like meat sets the stage early in kid’s lives that meat is “bad” and plants are “good”.  Here’s an example of some of the free posters you can get from the program:

Peace on Your Plate? Really? Does this belong in a public school? And kale is the MOST nutrient-dense food? Kale is great and all, but a good steak has it beat by a long shot.

MEAT IS NOT THE ENEMY

Most studies linking meat to cancer are only able to show correlations, not cause. Just because eating something is associated with an outcome, doesn’t mean that particular food is necessarily what caused the problem. Most of these studies are looking at people on a Western diet vs. vegetarians. The typical American has a very different lifestyle than a typical vegetarian. Vegetarians are much less likely to smoke, drink, and much more likely to exercise. They also tend to eat less processed foods and sugar. So, saying that meat is the only factor causing of disease is flawed logic. In fact, a study that looked at people who shopped at health food stores (so, accounting for lifestyle factors) found no difference in mortality between vegetarians and omnivores. And when adjusting for confounding factors (i.e. lifestyle) a recent, very large study found “no significant difference in all-cause mortality for vegetarians versus non-vegetarians.”

So is it the burger or steak making people sick, or the buns, sauces, large fries, 72oz sodas and deep fried apple pies the true villains? One recent study looked at the nutritional ramifications of eliminating animals and found that our overall caloric intake and carbohydrate intake would increase. In a society where diabetes is skyrocketing, this is absolutely the LAST thing we need. Furthermore, vital nutrients available through animal protein and fat would decrease, including Calcium, vitamins A, D, B12, AHA, EPA and DHA. B12 deficiency, common in vegetarians and vegans can cause permanent brain damage.

But aren’t animals horrible for the environment? The study cited above found that an entirely animal-free model only reduced total greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6 percentage units.

IT’S NOT THE COW, IT’S THE HOW

Of course factory farming is wrong, we’re all on the same page about that, but not all meat is produced indoors, under florescent lights, eating 100% grains. There are sustainable alternatives. However you’d never know this from watching mainstream media’s depiction of animal farming. In fact, when raised well, ruminants like cattle actually improve soil health and can help to sequester carbon. They may be one of our BEST changes at mitigating climate change.

Is the farming of plants really causing less harm than all methods of meat production? Is a future of lab-grown meat substitutes really the best solution? When we cut down forest or plow a field to plant a crop of soy, what happens to all of the life that once existed there? When we divert water from rivers to irrigate crops, what happens to the fish and other animals dependent on that river? When we apply chemical fertilizers instead of animal manure, where do those chemicals come from and what are the consequences of using them? Does the Earth have unlimited resources?

 ALL THINGS EAT AND ARE EATEN

All healthy ecosystems include plants AND animals. We need more biodiversity on the land, not more mono-cropping. Instead of producing meat in labs or growing lettuce indoors, we can harness the sun’s power to grow grass, allowing cattle to graze food we can’t eat on pastureland that we can’t use for crops.

I don’t think there are enough people saying something about how meat is not the enemy. This is not a popular, easy, or sexy story to tell. People like black and white stories, not nuance. Robb and I have been beating this drum for a while now, and sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones.

KALE vs. COW: THE CASE FOR BETTER MEAT

I’ve written numerous blog posts on this topic, but it’s now time to do something bigger. Something visual, cinematic, emotionally compelling and that helps people understand systems thinking, nuance and context.  It’s time for a film to show how eliminating animals from our food system could do more harm than good. You can listen to me and Robb talk about it on his podcast here. I’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign and could really use your help.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?

If you’re someone who eats meat, I urge you to help me out and increase the market for better meat. What’s in it for you?  More demand for good meat means increased production, lower prices, and better chances that your kid’s school won’t preach that eating animals is ethically wrong. Just like religion, this has absolutely no place in a public school.

EVEN IF YOU DON’T EAT MEAT, THIS IS AN IMPORTANT STORY.

If you only eat eggs and cheese, you should definitely be in the fight for well-raised cattle. And if you’re avoiding all animal products, I still think the fight for better meat is important. Let’s face it, opting out of the system isn’t going to change the system. I understand that some folks have personal reasons for avoiding meat, but forcing these values on others is not only illogical, it’s absurd. The world will not stop eating meat tomorrow, so given this, isn’t it better to help push for better meat? The truth is, when vegans and omnivores fight, processed food wins. This is an opportunity to build a bridge, join forces and attack the real cause of our failing health and deteriorating soils: industrial scale mono-cropping and hyper-palatable processed food.

Check out my crowdfunding page between today and January 6th (our big push to get this project launched) and learn more about how I intend to tell this story. Contributions are tax-deductible, I have some really awesome perks lined up, and I could really use your help to amplify the message.

Contributions are tax-deductible, I have some really awesome perks lined up, and I
could really use your help to amplify the message.

Thank you.