Let’s Talk About Food
In Australia, we clear land the size of the MCG every two minutes. 90 per cent of this land is for agriculture and livestock farming.
I recently watched a documentary on ABC called Fight For Planet A: Our Climate Challenge. The series covered several topics and suggested the many ways we can all make small changes to have a big impact. Australia’s carbon footprint isn’t something to be proud of. Two of our biggest exports are coal and livestock – both heavy contributors to greenhouse gas emission.
I want to talk about food because it’s one of the things we can control from our own households. As the saying goes, we are what we eat, so let’s use our diets as a force for good.
In Australia, we clear land the size of the MCG every two minutes. 90 per cent of this land is for agriculture and livestock farming. Yes, Australia is a large country, but this is an exorbitant number of trees being cut down every day. Land clearing alone makes up 10% of our national carbon emissions by reducing our capacity to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. Across Queensland and NSW alone, an estimated 50 million animals were killed over a two-year period from land clearing – and that doesn’t take into account the death toll from bushfires and drought. All these statistics are taken from the final episode of the series – and this is just a small sample of the stats.
So how does this relate to food? The simple answer is beef. Most of this land is for cattle. According to Marieke Eyskoot, ‘[global] meat consumptions is one of the biggest causes of ever-growing CO2 emissions and climate change’ (138). This is due to land clearing, transport emissions, and deforestation for the sake of animal feed (especially in the Amazon). Cattle (and sheep to a lesser extent) also produce methane throughout their lives which is 28 times more harmful than carbon dioxide (ibid). In short, livestock farming is harmful to the planet and ultimately that’s harmful to us.
‘[Global] meat consumptions is one of the biggest causes of ever-growing CO2 emissions and climate change’ (Eyskoot, 138)
Australians eat the most meat in the world per capita; approximately 90.2kg per person (ibid, 139).
So what’s the good news?
Your meat consumption is in your own hands. I’m not about to tell anyone to become a vegan or vegetarian. Diet is an incredibly individual thing and we all need different nutrients for our lifestyles and activities. Personally, I eat seafood but not livestock. This is a personal choice to balance my values and my nutrition. You just need to find what works for you.
What can you do?
This is an initiative established by Paul McCartney and his daughter Stella – an environmentalist and pioneering sustainable fashion designer. They encourage people to opt for one meat-free day a week. If every Australian were to do this, imagine the difference that would make to our national consumption.
Farmers markets and local butchers are a great way to understand where your meat has come from and the conditions they were raised in. You can also reduce the transport costs by cutting out the middleman and buying directly from the producers.
Farmer markets are also a wonderful way to eat seasonally. Yes the veg is a bit pricier than what you’ll find in a supermarket, but the environmental cost is reduced. You’ll also undoubtedly use less plastic packaging. Farmers markets are also a great way to discover fruits and vegetables you won’t find at the supermarket and reduce food waste.
If you know the impact of beef, perhaps you swap it for a less harmful alternative? As someone who doesn’t eat meat, this isn’t my area of expertise. I understand chicken to be far less problematic in terms of its environmental impact – but watch out for factory farming. Or maybe you can swap your meat for a veggie alternative a couple of nights a week? As someone who’s hasn’t eaten beef since they were fourteen, I can assure you there’s a multitude of tasty and nutritional options out there if you’re willing to look – they’re also usually the cheaper option. Veggie burgers, veg pasta sauces, stir-fries and curries are just some of the swaps you could make.
Is your plate mostly meat with veg on the side? Maybe you can swap this ratio around? Make your meat go further with smaller portions over more days. This is a simple way to up your veggie intake and make a difference if you’re someone who loves their steak.
I hope these ideas give you some inspiration to take the climate crisis into your own hands. No one is too small to make a difference so let’s control what we can.
Eyskoot, M. This Is A Good Guide: for a sustainable lifestyle. BIS Publishers, 2019.
Fight For Planet A: Our Climate Challenge. Presented by Craig Reucassel, ABC, 11 August 2020. https://iview.abc.net.au/show/fight-for-planet-a-our-climate-challenge
Vegetarian Cookbooks for inspiration
Kate Beskow – Five Ingredient Vegan
Erin Gleeson – The Forrest Feast, The Forrest Feast Mediterranean
Anna Jones – A Modern Way To Eat, A Modern Way To Cook, The Modern Cook’s Year
Ella Mills – Deliciously Ella
Jamie Oliver – VEG
Gaz Oakly – Plants-Only Kitchen, Vegan 100
Laura Sorkin - Vegetables