Here’s what I’m reading lately. I’ve been looking forward to this publication for quite some time. As you may be aware, there’s a growing drum-beat against meat in the world. Meat is increasingly being shunned and vilified at local, regional, national and even international levels (Eat Lancet Diet, anyone?). Beef is regularly portrayed as the least healthy of meats, the most indulgent option. In addition, it is almost accepted without question that cattle farming is destructive for environment and eliminating it is one of the best options for saving the planet. As a nutritionist, I constantly come across clients wanting to limit their (or their children’s) meat consumption, usually for health reasons. After explaining how much more bioavailable animal protein is as compared to plant protein, how many critical nutrients we get from meat that are very difficult or impossible to get from plants, not to mention the more robust health and healing that eating meat can support, I usually convince them to add in quality products in reasonable amounts. Nobody needs a 20-ounce porter steak for dinner, but children do need and thrive on appropriate amounts of animal proteins.
So needless to say, I was very excited that Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf did all this amazing work, putting all the science and research on all the relevant issues surrounding meat consumption and production (health, environmental, ethical), into one, easy-to-read, well-documented book. I urge you to check it out - it tackles head-on the controversial assumptions around meat consumption and production.
Despite the popular undercurrent vilifying meat, Rodgers and Wolf clearly show, that the science on meat says otherwise, both when it comes to our health and to out planet. It is the industrialization of our meat production, the wholesale decimation of soil biodiversity, the use and proliferation of concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs), and the complete disregard of the lessons of nature, that have brought us to our current situation. We can apparently no longer separate the perversion that Big-Agriculture has brought to animal farming from the millennia of wisdom we have learned about respecting our health and our planet.
It’s ignorant and flippant to assume the whole world can just transition to plant-based eating, and that those that don’t are intentionally harming the planet. “Avoiding meat is a privilege that many people simply don’t have.” Crops cannot be grown in all land spaces, and in those areas, animal-based foods thrive. They are a source of nutrient-dense food for people who don’t have the “luxury” of avoiding meat for other, highly-processed, more expensive plant-based alternatives.
Even in the US and Canada, where many families are food insecure (which means that either they are homeless, or qualify for free/reduced lunches through schools), forcing communities to implement Meatless Monday campaigns is at best unethical and at worst, negligent, especially when the school lunch is often the most nutrient-dense meal they have available to them.
The book goes through the myths and misinformation that abound about beef and cattle farming. Regenerative agriculture is actually one of our best tools for mitigating the fallout of climate change. It is essential for a healthy planet, essential for a sustainable food system, and essential for our bodies. A vegan diet, and the vast monocropping it demands, may actually destroy more life than sustainable cattle farming. A resilient, sustainable food system needs an abundance of life to succeed, including, animals, plants, bacteria and fungi.
Full of wit, compassion and hard science, Rodgers and Wolf show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that meat, when done right, deserves a place at the table. The book is full of resources, links to sustainable farms and strategies for transitioning to a more conscientious diet. “It’s not the cow, it’s the how!” Let me know in the comments if you have heard/read/plan-to-read it.