/ Eco friendly eating

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Eric9Points - on 15 Jul 2013
I've been vaguely vegetarian for twenty odd years now, I don't ever cook bits of dead animal but will eat it if it's put in front of me. I'm not really sure why I stopped eating meat other than a vague notion in my head that beef production was not a good way of producing protein. However I Tim Jones' arguments on here about meat farming being an efficient method of using low quality land and using up by products of other food production sources have led me to modify my views somewhat. Certainly eating Scottish or Welsh lamb and venison seem like sensible things to do.

Further I do eat fish fairly regularly and have been giving this a bit of thought. Am I correct in thinking that from an ecological point of view this is often a dodgy thing to do? Salmon are fed on food made from sand eels (I think) hoovered out of the Atlantic in vast quantities, trawlers are travelling further and further from our ports to catch dwindling quantities of fish. I'm beginning to think that broadly speaking fish is possibly the worst food we can eat from an ecological point of view.

So my list of eco friendly foods in descending order goes something like:

Vegetables (in season and local)
Meat from upland Britain.
Vegetables (in season from elsewhere)
Meat from upland elsewhere.
Meat substitutes such as Quorn.
Sustainably caught fish/seafood.
Vegetables (out of season)
Poultry.
Grass fed UK beef.
Grass fed elsewhere beef.
Fish farmed salmon.

Can't think of anymore right now.

Am I right and does eating turkey twizzlers destroy the planet or just your palette?
Blue Straggler - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
>
>
> Am I right and does eating turkey twizzlers destroy the planet or just your palette?

Dunno but your vague vegetarianism has destroyed your ability to distinguish "palate" from "palette" :-)
Eric9Points - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I knew palette was wrong but couldn't quite think of the right spelling. Thanks for your contribution at least that's one thing I've re learned today.
purplemonkeyelephant - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

UK grown Fava beans? Low air miles and super high in calcium and protein.
andic - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

Turkey is about the most efficient (calories in to meat) meat producing animal, so turkey twizzlers are okay jose
syv_k - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

Lamb production causes far more greenhouse gas production per kilo than other meat. It is possible that importing New Zealand lamb is better than producing it locally, because the increased efficiency over there outweighs the freighting costs, but really I think it is best to avoid if climate change is your concern. Of course there are other ecological concerns facing the world, but for me climate change is the biggie.

I don't know how deer compete in the belching-out-methane stakes though.
tlm - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

What about eating roadkill?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQvt-gxbq5E
Eric9Points - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to syv_k:
> (In reply to Eric9Points)
>
> Lamb production causes far more greenhouse gas production per kilo than other meat.

Wouldn't this methane be produced anyway as uneaten vegetation decomposes?

> It is possible that importing New Zealand lamb is better than producing it locally, because the increased efficiency over there outweighs the freighting costs, but really I think it is best to avoid if climate change is your concern.

How do NZ lambs produce less methane than Scottish ones?

> Of course there are other ecological concerns facing the world, but for me climate change is the biggie.

Agreed.

>
> I don't know how deer compete in the belching-out-methane stakes though.

I'd have thought they'd be much the same if they were eating the same things but maybe someone will explain why that isn't the case.
Eric9Points - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to tlm:
> (In reply to Eric9Points)
>
> What about eating roadkill?
>

I once saw a brilliant T shirt, in Anchorage Alaska. It had a big drawing of the front of a truck on it and around the drawing was written "The Roadkill Cafe - You kill em, we grill em"

I will regret not buying that T shirt for the rest of my days.

tony on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

Presumably there's a reason why Quorn is so high on your list? On the basis of absolutely no facts, I would have thought it was relatively energy intensive, since it is a processed food.
wintertree - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

You can eat varmin - buying it helps fund those who control it, and growing all the vegetables and cereals people need requires pest control. Edible onesincludes rabbits, deer, muntjack, perhaps wood pidgeon etc. you can also get grey squirrels from a butchers in Hexham.

As bonus points your vermin meat eating actually saves waste from a process that is needed to feed the world (intensive plant agriculture) - so you can have hours of fun winding up ideologically driven vegans (or "thickos")
syv_k - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to syv_k)
> [...]
>
> Wouldn't this methane be produced anyway as uneaten vegetation decomposes?

No, methane is only produced under certain specialised conditions, when oxygen is absent. Ruminant animals produce much more methane than non-ruminants such as poultry.

> How do NZ lambs produce less methane than Scottish ones?

I don't know if they do or not, but the total greenhouse gas emissions will be composed of methane production, which will depend on diet and breed of animal, and carbon dioxide production from the animals, the transport, and the feeds and other things. Also efficiency will improve if you end up extracting more usable meat per animal.

If you have a grass field or forest it will be carbon neutral. As it grows it will take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which will be returned if it is burned or broken down by bacteria in the presence of oxygen, to form carbon dioxide. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide made from the same quantity of carbon, so you want to avoid getting into the atmosphere. However you can make a composting kind of setup that is closed to the air with anaerobic bacteria that produce methane when digesting the grass, and then burn the methane as it comes out or use it as a fuel elsewhere, and then you are carbon neutral again.
Troy Tempest - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to wintertree:
> ( ideologically driven vegans (or "thickos")

Awesome. I used to work with a chef who saw vegetarians and vegans as the modern equivalent of lepers. He used to regularly go on some rant about how they should all be put in a fenced off colony.
Eric9Points - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to syv_k:
> (In reply to Eric9Points)
> [...]
>
> If you have a grass field or forest it will be carbon neutral. As it grows it will take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which will be returned if it is burned or broken down by bacteria in the presence of oxygen, to form carbon dioxide. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide made from the same quantity of carbon, so you want to avoid getting into the atmosphere. However you can make a composting kind of setup that is closed to the air with anaerobic bacteria that produce methane when digesting the grass, and then burn the methane as it comes out or use it as a fuel elsewhere, and then you are carbon neutral again.

Ok, fine for grasslands but what about peat which most upland grazing seems to consist of. Doesn't that produce methane because oxygen is excluded from the decomposition process?


Eric9Points - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to tony:
> (In reply to Eric9Points)
>
> Presumably there's a reason why Quorn is so high on your list? On the basis of absolutely no facts, I would have thought it was relatively energy intensive, since it is a processed food.

I couldn't think of a reason for putting it lower down. Now you mention it though I hadn't thought of the amount of energy required to produce it. Apparently it's made by some kind of fermentation process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorn

How this compares with the Kj/Kg required to produce a Kg of beef I don't know.
syv_k - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to syv_k)
> [...]
>
> Ok, fine for grasslands but what about peat which most upland grazing seems to consist of. Doesn't that produce methane because oxygen is excluded from the decomposition process?

It does, a little bit, but the overall effect is complicated. The biggest environmental implication for peat is that it acts as a long term carbon store which can build up until it is burned, or drained for agriculture. So you really want to leave it be. There is a Defra paper about the methane implications of restoring peatland that was damaged by agriculture (turns out restoration is still usually the right thing to do, but you might mess up the delicate balance of methane eating bacteria) http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx?Document=SP0574_8525_EXE.pdf but it seems to be more about fen drainage than upland soil.
The Norris - on 15 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

I watched a programme about eating insects - apparently its the way forward as they are one of the most efficient creators or protein from plant material on the planet.
IainRUK - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points: Depends where you get the fish from.

Norwegian fisheries are about the best there is.

Nephrops was good from some Scottish areas but I think they have since lost their MSC accreditation.

http://www.msc.org/cook-eat-enjoy/fish-to-eat
Arms Cliff - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points: Here you go, this was linked from the Wiki page on environmental impacts of farming http://www.webcitation.org/66SSHuh8W and there's a link through to the full doc. open to criticism on several of the inputs according the the wiki but interesting nontheless http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_meat_production#Energy_consumption_and_greenhou...

sorry for attempting to bring some numbers rather than gut feelings into the discussion ;)
Shani - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to syv_k:
> (In reply to Eric9Points)
> If you have a grass field or forest it will be carbon neutral. As it grows it will take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which will be returned if it is burned or broken down by bacteria in the presence of oxygen, to form carbon dioxide. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide made from the same quantity of carbon, so you want to avoid getting into the atmosphere. However you can make a composting kind of setup that is closed to the air with anaerobic bacteria that produce methane when digesting the grass, and then burn the methane as it comes out or use it as a fuel elsewhere, and then you are carbon neutral again.


Forests also appear to be a significant source of methane.
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purplemonkeyelephant - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

Are there significant energy uses in the production of quorn? I can't imagine any process being used that would not have some sort of equivalent in meat production.

Eating products based on foods such as beans, pulses, nuts, seeds etc is vastly more energy efficient than making beef. I struggle to think of any process that would bring them even close to meat
Shani - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:
> (In reply to Eric9Points)
>
> Are there significant energy uses in the production of quorn? I can't imagine any process being used that would not have some sort of equivalent in meat production.
>
> Eating products based on foods such as beans, pulses, nuts, seeds etc is vastly more energy efficient than making beef. I struggle to think of any process that would bring them even close to meat

There is no one source of meat production. Less intensive meat production systems are highly beneficial to the environment. Herbivores can be grazed on pastures that host diverse ecosystems. Their manure can be a rich source of fertiliser.

In contrast a mono-cropped field is usually low in biodiversity as it is effectively competing with wildlife at the base of the food heirarchy - herbicides and pesticides are used to manage competition.
Eric9Points - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Arms Cliff:
> (In reply to Eric9Points) Here you go, this was linked from the Wiki page on environmental impacts of farming http://www.webcitation.org/66SSHuh8W and there's a link through to the full doc. open to criticism on several of the inputs according the the wiki but interesting nontheless http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_meat_production#Energy_consumption_and_greenhou...
>
> sorry for attempting to bring some numbers rather than gut feelings into the discussion ;)

On the contrary, thanks very much for linking to an interesting article. Flicking on a couple of pages I found this:

"Here’s how eating less meat measures up against other climate-saving actions:

Over a year:

If you eat one less burger a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for 320 miles or line-drying your clothes half the time. 10

If your four-person family skips meat and cheese one day a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks – or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes. 11

If your four-person family skips steak once a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for nearly three months. 12

If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road."

Impressive if even only half true.

Shani - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:

Another way of reducing waste is to eat the whole animal, not just the prime cuts. You can pick liver up incredibly cheaply and it is highly nutritious. You want fresh liver from a quality butcher - not the vacuum packed stuff from a supermarket which can be intolerably strong.

A local butcher will usually give away bones which can be roasted and then boiled for a nutrient rich stock.

A good book on the wider subject of food production and sustainability is 'Meat; A Benign Extravagence' by Simon Fairlie.
Hardonicus - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points: You've missed canabalism from the top of your list?
purplemonkeyelephant - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Shani:

I'm curious to know examples of livestock reared purely on what's in their pasture? And how would you acertain this? I'm sure there are some but my understanding is that the vast majority of livestock are fed on large quantities of grain.
Shani - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:
> (In reply to Shani)
>
> I'm curious to know examples of livestock reared purely on what's in their pasture? And how would you acertain this? I'm sure there are some but my understanding is that the vast majority of livestock are fed on large quantities of grain.

Travelling around China and India you'll see lots of examples of this. In the UK, Google grass fed beef. There is certification of this standard.
thin bob on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points:
i thought mackerel were pretty good because they are scavengers. Simiklarly tilapia (but farm methods vary..including feeding them just human sewage)

http://www.msc.org/cook-eat-enjoy/fish-to-eat

Farmed meat (& fish) animals use a lot of energy & resources as antibiotics, transport, pollution etc.
malk - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points: how far down your list does a reduced leg of new zealand lamb from the co-op come? (as a rare treat)
wintertree - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to purplemonkeyelephant:
> (In reply to Shani)
>
> I'm curious to know examples of livestock reared purely on what's in their pasture? And how would you acertain this? I'm sure there are some but my understanding is that the vast majority of livestock are fed on large quantities of grain.

The deer and wood pidgeon I favour won't see an awful lot of grain... They reckon 1,000,000 deer need to be culled to stem an Eco-tastrophy caused by overpopulation of wild deer in Britain.
Eric9Points - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to malk:
> (In reply to Eric9Points) how far down your list does a reduced leg of new zealand lamb from the co-op come? (as a rare treat)

Well I was thinking of starting to eat Scottish lamb but I'm not sure now I've read that they fart like pit ponies. I'm still thinking though that lamb from upland areas who graze off peaty ground are probably fairly eco neutral as what they eat would probably end up decomposing into methane the same as in their guts.

As for NZ lamb,it's reared on green fields and so will produce lots of CO2 and then it gets shipped round to the other side of the world in a diesel powered refrigerated ship so I'm thinking it's not very eco friendly.

I'm definitely giving up salmon though.
purplemonkeyelephant - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to wintertree:

I'd be much more concerned about the over-population of wild humans
purplemonkeyelephant - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Shani:

Why do more farmers not feed their cows with grass?
girlymonkey - on 16 Jul 2013
In reply to Eric9Points: I only really eat meat once a week, and then it's whatever is in the reduced section. I would be unlikely to buy meat if it wasn't reduced to clear unless it was a really special occasion. I convince myself that this means I am not creating a demand so therefore being good to the environment (I may be decieving myself with this as maybe they do factor in the reduced sales when ordering - I presume they still make some money from it?). I can't afford to be fussy with veg though and only buy local. I do buy the cheapest tesco can offer me, so not sure whether I'm being particularly bad with this. I won't buy strawberries and raspberries unless they are Scottish though - but this is a taste thing more than anything!

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