Whenever I talk about Eating Green, a large portion of my audience assumes I refer to a vegetarian diet. When I start talking about eating meat, I get shocked looks, and even some people look appalled.
As I have come to realize, vegetarian diets are among the healthier and definitely most environmental. But you don’t have to be a vegan to eat consciously for you and the earth.
However, and this is a ginormous however, there are a couple caveats to eating meat which make the practice better for you, better for animal welfare in general, and better for the planet.
Rule #1- Stop eating factory farm meats. Just stop it. Absolutely nothing remotely good comes from factory farms, and that goes for eggs, dairy, and even fish (which we’ll talk about later). From abysmal living conditions for the animals to animals being treated with completely unnatural hormones and antibiotics, factory farms are little more than death camps. I can’t stand them. And I refuse to support them with my hard earned cash.
With 11 billion animals killed each year to feed America, it’s not hard to come to the realization most of these animals are treated as a commodity, not living, breathing beings. Chickens aren’t even included in federal animal protection laws. Nothing is illegal in the treatment of birds on farms, at least in the United States.
A beef cattle never fed soy, grain, or corn, and never given growth hormones will take two years to reach slaughter weight and size. On free-range ranches, or pasture-raised ranches, cows feed only on grass. They are allowed to naturally wean from their mothers and grow at a natural rate.
On the opposite side of the same coin is the CAFO, confined animal feeding operation, it takes only 10-12 months to achieve the weight needed for slaughter. Instead of grass and hay, which are natural food sources for cows, these cows are fed high calorie, unnatural foods such as corn, soy, and grain. In fact, 70% of the world’s soy is grown to feed livestock.
There is a lot of information out there on why we should avoid factory farms. I don’t want to bog you down with all this negativity (and it’s late, I don’t have that much time). Google is your friend if you have the stomach to see some of the images I am sparing you.
So, factory farms BAD. Do not eat.
Rule #2- A little goes a long way. When my husband was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, our lives were turned upside down. We had to cut his protein intake by about half. This is when we truly learned how much protein is in all our food, not just our meat. When I was planning a meat dish for dinner, I had to ask Chris how much protein he could have, and his reply was often 3 oz. Even if we hadn’t eaten any meat all day.
We had a medical reason for cutting the meat, but we began to notice something interesting. The less meat you eat, the less meat you need to eat for satisfaction. It’s so weird, but I used to put like a full pound of ground turkey meat in my chili, but cut it down to only a half-pound for Chris, and we found the flavors were just as rich as before.
This is good, because what I am advocating for Eating Green is a very expensive lifestyle for those who insist on eating meat. Nothing wrong with liking your steaks, but you are going to pay for them, and it is going to be costly. So, if you want to save a few bucks, and still enjoy your meat, cut down your intake. You’ll save money and still savor your meals.
Rule #3-Remember other principles. I am a big supporter of plastic bans. When I get my meat, I go to the butcher and request they don’t wrap it in plastic. Sometimes I bring my own container. I go for the locally raised chickens and the pork from the farm just down the road. Remember to eat local. Getting unpackaged foods means unpackaged meat too. I look for products without added flavors to them, especially sugar or preservatives. It’s just better to me.
So how do you know what you are eating is humanely, ethically, and environmentally sourced meat? Well, it’s not a perfect system, but chances are if it’s super cheap, it’s from a factory farm. There are usually meat vendors at farmers markets. Check them out and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Supporting these farmers is a fantastic way to support local businesses, eat QUALITY food, and support environmental practices.
Look at the labels, and know some of them can be very misleading. “Pasture raised” sounds nice, but is not regulated. “Grass-fed” means 100% of the diet was grasses, but it doesn’t mean for the entire life of the animal. Look for chicken and eggs with the label “Free Range” rather than “Cage Free”. Free range chickens live outside cages, and get to eat bugs, grass, and other healthy food for chickens. For your pork and beef, look for “Animal Welfare Approved” and “Beyond Organic”. These are certifications which really consider the humane treatment of our food.
It is possible to eat meat ethically. It’s not the easy road, but it is worth it, for animals and our planet’s benefit.
Paleo Egg Breakfast Casserole 6 servings- 380 calories, Carbs: 11.3 g, Fat: 20.2 g, Protein: 30.3 g
- 8 eggs/one whole pint carton of egg whites
- 1 seasonal squash, peeled (if using a winter squash with hard skin), and chopped
- ½ onion, diced
- 1 small head of broccoli, chopped
- 4 strips of bacon, pre-cooked and chopped
- 3 sausage patties or links, pre-cooked and chopped
- 1 cup almond/coconut milk
- ½ tsp ground mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- Oregano, rosemary, thyme to taste
- Spread olive oil or coconut oil over a square baking dish (preferably glass, but metal works fine) and place all veggies in bottom. Arrange meat over veggies
- Mix eggs, milk, and seasoning in bowl. Gently pour over veggies and meat
- Place in oven and set temperature for 350 F. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn off oven and let casserole passively bake for another 10 minutes.
- Cut into servings and store leftovers. Can reheat casserole in oven or microwave
Turkey Meatballs Serving size~ 3 meatballs- 200 calories, Carbs: 12g, Fat: 8g, Protein: 25g
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 2 medium carrots
- ½ green pepper
- ½ yellow onion
- 1 small seasonal squash (such as zucchini in summer, or acorn squash in the winter)
- 2 tsp garlic salt
- 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp parsley
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Combine all ingredients except turkey, in a food processor and blend until well chopped
- Transfer contents to a large bowl and add ground turkey. Mix together completely.
- Form meatballs and place on a large baking sheet. Set temperature to 350 F. Bake for 40 minutes or until completely cooked.
Bison Burgers and Roasted Veggies 2 servings- 233 calories; Carbs 5g, Fat 13.4g, Protein 34g
- 1 pound ground bison
- 1 tsp McCormick’s seasoning
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts
- Preheat grill or a large skillet over medium heat
- Place ground bison in a large bowl. Using clean hands, mold meat to soften.