Why eating game meat and lamb is good for the planet
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
There is a lot of pressure on everyone these days to cut their meat consumption and to go plant-based in order to save the planet. I do not agree that cutting meat and going plant-based is going to save the planet. It may help destroy it. We can still eat meat and do a lot of good for the environment. Eating some meat - not heaps - may be what we need to be doing. Doing so in moderation such as the portions you can see on my plate.
This article is not an attack on "plant-based" eaters. Please do not take it that way. When it comes to health and nutrition there are many paths that one can take that lead to the same destination - a lifetime of good health. Actually, there are literally thousands of paths to choose from when you consider the number of ethnicities and cultures, each with their traditional foods.
What I do have a problem with is the food zealots and gurus who profess that their way is the only way and who practice the "Bush Doctrine" which is "If you are not with us, then you are against us".
I'll disclose that I am a supporter of the Weston-Price Foundation and have been for the best part of 20 years. I have met the CEO, Sally Fallon who just happens to be married to Geoffrey Morell, a retired dairy farmer from Southland. It is a small world indeed!
Going plant-based is not going to save the planet
If all 8 billion of us were to rely solely or mostly on plants for food, there goes the last of the Amazon, all arable land and all remaining flatlands. Crops like palm oil, soy and corn need flat lands to be grown on. We will need more industrial-scale production of grains which means massive monocultures that rely on GMO technologies, pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizer. The fertilizers and chemicals are petroleum-dependent for production. None of this is good for the planet.
The Veggie Burger is not real food - it is a highly processed product that is best described as being "food-like". It can not be compared to a piece of lean, organic, grass-fed beef or lamb in terms of nutritional content.
Let's face it, the real problem is that there are just far too many people.
Some sources of meat are better than others
Two nights ago we had feral venison sausages. They were delicious and actually low in fat. last night it was wild pork which was not quite so nice. It was "gamey" due to what it must have been eating but you'd be surprised at what a person will eat when they are hungry (refer to my articles about intermittent fasting to know how to prepare for a feast on wild pork). We had lamb chops earlier last week. The feral meat comes from over Wainuiomata way, so there are no carbon miles involved other than a short drive over the hill from where we live.
Eating meat from these sources, including NZ lamb, are good for the planet. They are carbon neutral since they all came from local sources.
No grains were harmed in their production.
Hunting feral pests like these is essential. If their numbers are not controlled by hunting there would be even more untold destruction of our native flora and fauna and it is already bad enough. If not hunted, then we would have to resort to more mass poisoning than is currently the case. When our native bush flourishes it sucks up carbon dioxide.
What about beef, lamb and dairy?
Pastoral NZ lamb has to be close to being the most carbon neutral and environmentally friendly of any meat production. Lamb has generally been grown away from waterways on hill country and they do not enjoy standing about in the streams like cattle seem to. When they poo it is pellets with low liquid content. They are not big consumers of water.
Next would be beef but not quite as eco-friendly as sheep because they tend to damage waterways if allowed near them.
You may be aware that I used to work on the farms in the South Waikato including milking a
dairy herd. The thing about dairy back in the '70s is the herds were very small compared to the mega-herds of today and there was no supplementary feeding with things like palm kernel and grain.
I'm all for the small, organic dairy farm, near carbon-neutral dairy farms like the one run by Farmer Cedric and his partner Susan in the Manawatu. They supplied us with raw, full-cream A2 milk for over a decade until they were raided and shut down by the authorities (they closed their milk operation last week due to harassment by the officials and the legal costs they were going to face).
"For this generation, this is our nuclear moment," she said.
These carbon-neutral, organic dairy farmers are an endangered species. They are endangered by a Government that declared global warming was this generation's "Nuclear Moment". Yeah-right! Say one thing, while destroying the livelihoods of those who are trying to do the right thing.
Chicken and Pig farming
These a little more problematic. I understand that NZ can have a carbon-neutral and environmentally-friendly pig and chook way of farming. Carbon neutral chook farming might be easier to achieve than pig farming and there are some excellent examples of free-range, pasture-based chicken farming in NZ. But there is still some dependence on grains and grain production. This is not very carbon-neutral. The key is to use pigs and chickens to recycle thousands of tons of food that is wasted each year.
The one great obstacle to carbon-neutral pig and chook farming is the restrictions on feeding these animals swill or better known as food waste. Read about it here: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/processing/pet-food-inedibles-animal-feed-and-supplements/animal-feed-and-disease-prevention/feeding-food-waste-to-pigs-and-preventing-disease/ I do not know just how much of NZ's food waste is fed to these animals but it looks to me that the regulations make it too onerous to comply so it would be easier to feed the animals cheap grains and send the food waste to the dump where it will degrade into methane. This has to change if we really are serious about the environment and global warming.
What about animal welfare, Gary?
I rationalise my decision to eat meat in these ways:
If feral animals are not shot between the eyes with a marksman's bullet, what will be the fate of these pests? Will they starve to death? Will they get old and die a slow death due to disease? Will they die in agony because we will have to poison them?
Farm animals raised on farms in NZ have, in my opinion, a better life than most human-beings. They have it pretty good. When the time comes, their life is ended in the most humane way possible, quickly and with the least stress. No NZ farmer wants to have their livestock suffer and, besides, stress and suffering of any kind affect production and quality.
What I do have a serious problem with is factory farming which is the norm overseas and which is beginning to take hold in NZ. The most obvious examples of this deplorable way of farming are the pig, chicken meat and egg industries. We won't get rid of these by boycotting them - by stopping eating pork, chicken, eggs and poultry, we play into the hands of those who favour continuing to produce the cheapest produce by whatever means. We can bring about change in next to no time by buying only ethically-raised animals and eggs. It is working. Market forces are causing cage eggs to be quickly phased out. Read about it here. If you want it to happen sooner, buy genuine free-range chicken and eggs, don't stop eating eggs and chicken.
The best farming is a mixed farming system
This is the way farming used to be. The land was rotated, with the cattle/cows and sheep grazing the flat land, each doing their job to reduce different weeds that they either ate or trampled. They fertilised the soil. Every few years that field would be converted to crop production such as maize or oats. Peas and other legumes might be in the crop rotation, fixing nitrogen into the soil. After a few years, the field would be converted back to pasture with clover in it and the sheep and cattle would graze, repeating the cycle. The need for fertilizer is reduced and chemicals like herbicides are pretty much eliminated.
I'll leave this dissertation with you now to digest. I'm far from being an expert on these matters but I feel I do not need to because so much of this is simply commonsense. Do you agree? have I got it right or wrong? Have I missed anything?
Please leave your comments at the bottom of this article thanks and all power to our farmers!
I'm off to have dinner now which is a yummy stirfry using the leftovers of last night's roasted wild pork.