eric

The Meat Powered Bicycle

a guy drinking gasThe bicycle is a fantastic piece of human invention. It represents simplicity, freedom, reliability and an economical way to get from point A to point B. Worldwide it reigns supreme as the most common form of personal transportation and estimates show there to be almost 1 billion of them around. Besides walking, bicycles are the most environmentally friendly way to get around. They produce no emissions (maybe a little more CO2 from heavy breathing while going up hills), and the fuel needed to power them comes from the people riding them.

You may see where this is going….If the “fuel” powering the person riding the bike consists mostly of meat, the environmentally friendliness factor goes down quite a bit depending on how much meat the rider eats and where the meat comes from (local vs. distance).

It is actually quite astounding how much energy is wasted by the standard American diet-style. Even driving many gas-guzzling luxury cars can conserve energy over walking — that is, when the calories you burn walking come from the standard American diet! This is because the energy needed to produce the food you would burn in walking a given distance is greater than the energy needed to fuel your car to travel the same distance, assuming that the car gets 24 miles per gallon or better. (1)

So what does all this mean?

It means that the amount of gas you use isn’t just related to how you get from place to place, it’s also related to what you eat. Meatless diets require half as much fuel to produce than the standard American diet. Pimentel calculated that if the entire world ate the way the U.S. does, the planet’s entire petroleum reserves would be exhausted in 13 years. The typical American could save almost as much gas by going vegetarian as by not driving. (2)

So, fine….I’m not going to walk, what about the bike?

The same is not true of bicycling vs. driving, because bicycling is more than twice as efficient as walking (calories consumed per distance traveled) — bicycling uses less fossil energy than driving even if the cyclist were eating nothing but beef. But to focus on this misses the point. It’s no bombshell that cycling uses less fossil energy than driving. What’s important is that meat-eaters use twice as much fossil energy as pure vegetarians — whether they’re bicycling or not. (3)

While bicycling and walking may reduce tailpipe emissions, overall if your diet is “meat heavy” you are using twice as much energy just reading this post. On the most basic level, it’s actually better to be a vegetarian that drives a Chevy Tahoe, than to be a meat eater that bikes or walks everywhere. Even going vegetarian one day a week has a pretty good impact to reducing fossil fuel consumption. And while I’m not advocating that vegetarians run out and buy Hummers and meat eaters throw their bikes away, I am trying to demonstrate in real terms the impact of what a meat centered diet has on our environment.

(1,2,3) These quotes are excerpted from “Bicycling Wastes Gas?” by Michael Bluejay for more detailed information, including the research on how this was calculated, please visit his website above.

eric

Charlie Is One Sad Tuna

The next time you visit Japan you could be surprised at what’s in your sushi. You may ask, is that octopus or crab, no wait it’s catfish!? Actually, it’s horse meat…but don’t worry, it’s still raw (in the words of Homer Simpson….mmmm horse meat). That’s right, the Japanese are starting to feel the effects of over-fishing and now they’re trying to find a suitable substitute for sushi. Tuna is becoming rare and expensive, and other markets like the US and Europe are demanding more of the fish. Currently, the Japanese fishing fleet is having to compete more than ever to fill Sashimi rolls.

Make no mistake about it, Japan is not the only country responsible for the over-fishing of tuna. The two other big consumers, the US and the EU are pointing fingers, accusing each other of abuse the fish stocks…and both are correct.

“The Bluefin tuna quota shared between Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain was set at about 17,000 tons. That is the maximum amount recommended by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, an international organization with more than 40 member countries. But it is roughly twice the limit stipulated by the commission’s own scientific advisers.”

…and

“Tuna experts like Carl Safina, the president of the Blue Ocean Institute, a nonprofit conservation group based in New York, places much of the blame for the collapse in west Atlantic Bluefin tuna stocks on the United States, which, he said, continues to allow fishing in spawning areas in the Gulf of Mexico.”

It’s plain to see that as this trend continues, tuna (and most marine life) are in trouble and as supply drops further down, prices and illegal poaching will increase. Last November, the NY Times published a report predicting a global collapse of fish species by 2048…given the recent news on the declining tuna population, this prediction may be well on its way to being realized.

On my journey to find new and exciting information to present to you, our wonderful readers, I found this ebook that has a boatload of information about vegetarianism. The book was written by Rudy Hadisentosa at veggie123.com and I must say it’s an impressive read and it’s obvious that Rudy put in a ton of time researching and writing it (FYI, it’s 205 pages).  I particularly liked the chapter on the history of vegetarianism, the part on Dr. Kellogg was pretty weird, and the chapter on parasites was interesting.  

As an aside, there’s a special place in my heart for parasites (no, not Heartworms)… during my high school years I worked part-time for a veterinarian and part of my job was to check "samples."  My coworkers would pile them up (no pun intended) for me during the day and when I got to work, after school, I would spend the first 45 minutes or so preparing and examining these samples.  Needless to say this wasn’t my favorite part of the job (it was a close second behind cleaning cages out), but it did expose me to the world beneath the microscope, which I found interesting. 

Anyway, back to the book.  If you’re going vegetarian full time or one day a week, I think you will find the book to be a good reference tool.  At the very least it’s a fun read.  You can download the .pdf below or at veggie123.com.

How to Become a Vegetarian


image credit: corpwatch.org

Last Wednesday Tyson Foods said it would no longer sell antibiotic loaded chicken to consumers.  This move was prompted to "provide mainstream consumers with products they want."  I have written a couple of articles like this in the past and it never ceases to amaze me that little moves like this from large companies get this kind of publicity.  It’s obvious that Tyson is feeling the competition from smaller farms and is planning to leverage their economies of scale to undercut these farms with their own version of "natural" chicken.  Sure, consumers may be (and I stress may be) eating a healthier chicken, but the issues that plague our food system are perpetuated.  This switch does nothing to address animal welfare, animal waste entering waterways, worker safety and the list goes on.   This is purely profit driven move.  It’s no wonder why in 2000 they were listed as one of the top ten worst corporations.

Tyson is planning to spend $17 million to advertise it’s new "antibiotic" free chicken (In my head I picture the packaging depicting a small farm with happy animals roaming about).  That is a bunch of cash to set aside for just advertising, think about the things they could do to make their business more sustainable and responsible with that money!?  The guy that runs Tyson Foods, Richard L. Bond, says that the company’s move to antibiotic free chicken should not lose money and they hope to see an increase in chicken sales.   Personally, I would think that if they changed their business practices and made a genuine commitment to corporate stewardship, animal welfare, the environment, worker safety, etc., Tyson Foods would actually be able to sell less chickens with more profit margin.

Here’s the story (nytimes)

eric

Farmer’s Market Shopping Tips

What better way to spend part of your Saturday or Sunday (or Mon-Fri) than paying a visit to your local farmer’s market? Going to the market is a mix of culture, community and of course, free tastings. One of the huge advantages to shopping at the farmer’s market is being able to ask the farmer questions about the food that he or she is selling. Another major benefit is knowing that the food you are about to buy is fresh, humane, and locally grown (as opposed to being shipped 1,800 miles). These are important things for our environment, and they are important for our farmers and our local economy.

Listed below are some tips to help you make the most out of the food you buy and the experience you enjoy, (they are not in any particular order). If you have any more to add, please let us know.

  • When was this picked?- Usually farmers pick their produce the day before or the morning of the farmer’s market. Knowing when it was picked will give you an idea of how ripe it is. Generally speaking, farmers want to harvest produce when it’s perfectly ripe, so you shouldn’t have to wait very long before you can eat it. It’s not a bad idea to ask. Also here is a guide on how to choose perfectly ripe fruits and veggies.
  • Where’s the farm?- This is another important question to ask. Our assumption is that all the food at the farmers market was grown locally. This is not always the case. If the food was trucked in from hundreds of miles away, then shopping at the farmers market will be no better than shopping at the supermarket.
  • Organic- Not all the foods at the farmers market are organic. The best practice is to ask. Many times, local farm representatives will tell you that their food is “organic,” despite the fact that they do not carry a “certified organic” label. The reason behind this is that for some small farms these certifications cost a lot of money that can prove financially prohibitive. In general I trust the farmers at the market, and in most cases, I think their hearts and practices are in the right place. If they say their produce is organic, I believe them. However, even if the food is not organic and was grown conventionally (using pesticides and fertilizers) and locally, this is still a good thing and definitely the next best choice in environmentally friendly agriculture. You may just want to subtly ask your farmer if they have plans to go organic in the future.
  • Sustainable- If you’re interested, you can ask your farmer if they perform crop rotations and employ bio-diversity on their farm. These practices usually help the farm become a closed loop where the plants, animals and soil all benefit from each other.
  • Are those free range eggs- There is a stand at our farmers market that sells eggs. If yours has one also, it may not be a bad idea to ask all of the above plus whether the chickens are allowed to roam about freely. I noticed the last time we were at the market the egg stand put up a sign that listed all of these answers, so they must get these questions frequently.
  • Is it in season- Because most food at the farmers market is grown locally, generally it’s in season. Just in case you are curious, here is a link to check what’s in season in your area.
  • Recipes and Storage- Who better to ask how to prepare and store the food than the person that grew it? Farmers usually enjoy the produce they grow and have some good tips and tricks on cooking it and making it keep for awhile. Who knows, you may even walk away with an old family recipe.
  • Create a list, and get those items first- Sometimes the excitement of the farmers market can send us into a buying frenzy…I think cheap, fresh food has that effect. However, stick to the list. If you’ve got your meals planned out for the week, get those necessary ingredients first. After that, you can check out some other treats. The key is not to buy so much food that it spoils before you can eat it. Since most of the produce is ripe when you buy it, it’s shelf life is probably only a few days.
  • Give the kids a couple bucks- Let them choose and purchase some fruits and veggies on their own. You never know, they may be more inclined to actually eat the healthy items that they picked it out and paid for.
  • Bring your own bags- Globally, we use 1 million plastic bags per minute. They fill up our landfills, open spaces and oceans. If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this, please use reusable bags to help reduce this number.

Overall, these tips should help you make an educated decision on the food you are about to buy. You’ll probably only need to ask them once, as you’ll purchase from the same farmers from week-to-week. After awhile, you will get to know them and they will usually take special care of you in pointing out the best produce and give you more tips and suggestions.

Happy shopping!

The EU has been slacking as a global purchaser of genetically modified foods.  For some strange reason, they think they can survive as a civilization without eating Frankenfood?  Absurd. The United Corporations of America United States and other countries like Canada and Argentina are complaining that the EU has setup unfair market barriers to keep GM food from entering the continent.  A six year moritorium on importing GM foods ended in 2004 and last year the World Trade Organization ruled that banning this gene-altered food was illegal.

“If we fail to implement our own rules, or implement them inconsistently, we can — and probably will — be challenged,” Mandelson said in a speech today in Brussels. He also said the EU may undermine European industries such as livestock by falling behind in endorsing products in the $6 billion global biotech crop market.

The European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s regulatory arm, faces resistance to gene-modified foods from member states including Austria and Greece. Surveys show opposition to such foods by more than half of European consumers, who worry about risks such as human resistance to antibiotics and the development of “superweeds” impervious to herbicides."

I bet you’d never guess who’s behind all this commotion?  Did you guess Monsanto?  Ding, ding, You are correct!  Our friends at Monsanto (and BASF) want to force their infamous wears on a group of countries that don’t want them.  That’s like if a telemarketer called you up to sell you insurance,  when you tell them you’re not interested…they sue you. 

Hopefully, the EU can get some rules and guidelines in place quickly to avoid potential repercussions.

read the news story here. (bloomberg)

I don’t have any children, so I’m not sure how this whole process works.  But, processed food marketers seem to influence children as much cigarette manufactures influence teenagers.  The only difference between the two products is a legal one, it is unlawful to sell cigarettes to minors under 18 years old.  Meanwhile highly processed, fatty, sugary foods like cereal can be sold indiscriminately to unsuspecting parents to feed to their children.  Both products are similar in that they have immediate and long term health risks such as obesity and lung cancer.

This article "Hey Kids, We’ve Got Sugar and Toys" sheds some light on this subject. (u.s. news)

eric

Veg BBQ Tips

grilled veggies

With Summer upon us, the season for the traditional backyard BBQ is in full swing. If you’re a vegetarian (or on your veg day), never fear…here are some tips to make your BBQ experience deliciously enjoyable.

  • A clean grill is a happy grill- If sharing a BBQ with meat eaters, some vegetarians are not too keen on having their veggie burger or dog tossed on a piece of old meat. It doesn’t need to be spotless, but it’s the thought that counts. A separate “veg section” will help to keep things in order and apart. Also, this will help with the next step.
  • Use a little oil or cooking spray- Besides the fact that mock meats and vegetables are meatless, they also have very little fat and oils in them. This is good for your belly…but the grill doesn’t like it. To prevent sticking, start with a cool grill, use a paper towel and some oil to wipe the grill, or you can use a bit of cooking spray (just make sure the grill is turned off or you’ll create a miniature volcano on the patio).
  • Keep your utensils clean- To helps spread contamination between raw and cooked foods….especially meats.
  • Make sure your mock meat is grill-able- Some are…some aren’t.
  • Don’t forget about the sides- potato salad, pasta salad, grilled veggies, cole slaw, etc. These are what make a BBQ.

Here are some quick and easy no-recipe, recipes that both vegheads and carni’s will enjoy.

pineapple rings
(sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar)
portobello mushrooms
(brush with oil or marinated in vinegar and garlic and serve like a veggie burger with all the condiments)
sweet potatoes or yams
(wrap in foil, or, slice in half, pre-bake, brush with maple syrup for extra sweetness and grill)
asparagus
(soak in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling)
corn on the cob
(pull the husk back, but don’t remove it (use it as a handle), wrap the opened end with a little aluminum foil and turn frequently)
apples
(slice in half and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar or drizzle with maple syrup)

For more elaborate, delicious sounding vegetarian and vegan BBQ recipes go here.

eric

Poo Flavored Meat

(Got E.coli?)

Does the estimated 5.7 million pounds of E.coli infested meat have you a little worried?  Last week this outbreak was reported as a small problem with only a few thousand pounds of meat being affected.  Today it’s 5.7 million pounds.  Could there be more?  Sure, of course there’s more, but this is all the food inspectors know about right now.  Tomorrow it could be 10 million for all we know.  The main concern is the fact that this meat has already been eaten by consumers.  It’s not like we are getting a warning stating "whatever you do, don’t eat meat from this store" ….it’s more like "oh, by the way, that meat you ate last month….um, yeah, E.coli."  This is bad news in general and it demonstrates our dependence on some organization to tell us our food is safe (or not).

It’s not as grim as it may seem.  There is a simple solution to avoiding this.  Why not cut back or cut out meat consumption?  Also, if/when you do eat meat, take the time to find out where it came from.  Being able to talk to the farmer that produces our food is the real answer to food safety.  Asking him or her how they grow their produce or raise their animals is key to avoiding risky food. 

I recently came across a website that is yet another resource to help us locate local places that produce fresh and safe foods.  The site is localharvest.org.  Here is their mission.

LocalHarvest is America’s #1 organic and local food website. We maintain a definitive and reliable "living" public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, and other local food sources. Our search engine helps people find products from family farms, local sources of sustainably grown food, and encourages them to establish direct contact with small farms in their local area. Our online store helps small farms develop markets for some of their products beyond their local area.

eric

Mars reverses direction

Not the planet…the company! This is a story of a company that made a decision to include calf rennet in its candy bars, then recieved a bunch of negative attention, changed back to the original recipe and now is amazingly seeking the vegetarian seal of approval. That’s right, Masterfoods, the company that produces Mars candy bar products in the UK, is now seeking the Vegetarian Society’s “Green V” of approval on its candy bars. If the Vegetarian Society approves it, Mars will be the first candy bar to carry this distinction. While this is good news for vegetarians and Masterfoods, it still doesn’t mean they are good for you! ;)

read the article here. (dailymail.uk)

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