Food Choices Matter

Click on an image below to learn about the environmental impact of your food choices.

Cows
Pigs
Birds
Fish
Dairy
Eggs
Fruit
Vegetables

Fossil Fuels

If you had two acres of land to grow food ... would you grow a cow?

Perhaps you like to eat cow. If you started with a calf, you could let your cow graze freely on your two acres for two years. At the end of two years, you could slaughter the cow and end up with up to 500 pounds of edible meat.

Of course, depending on where you live, you might have to purchase grain and feed over the winter and/or you might have to borrow some grazing land from a neighbor. You would definitely have to give your cow 30-40 gallons of water per day. Plus, there is the issue of all that cow waste.

Dr. Richard Oppenlander writes about this thought experiment in his book, "Comfortably Unaware."

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Vegetables and Water

If you had two acres of land to grow food ... would you grow vegetables and grains?

You could grow kale and quinoa (one acre for each plant), two of the most healthful plants on the planet. Each year, you would end up with 10,000 pounds of kale with no extra water or feed and no water pollution. You would end up with 5,000 pounds of quinoa, a gluten-free source of protein, fiber, and all kinds of micro-nutrients.

You would not have to slaughter an animal (that many farmers say they grow quite fond of after taking care of the animal for two years). In the two years it took for you to grow that cow and it's 500 pounds of edible meat, you could have produced 30,000 pounds of vegetables and grain.

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Vegs

If you had two acres of land to grow food ... would you have enough? Could you feed your neighbors?

You could use your two acres to free-range graze a cow (and import water) or you could use your land to grow vegetables, grains, and legumes. In choosing the cow, you would have to supplement your diet to feed your family. In choosing the plants, you would have plenty left to share with your neighbors.

With plants, you would not be depleting precious fresh water, your carbon footprint would drop, and your fossil fuel usage would be minimal. You would be contributing to the health of the earth and the health of your family.

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Veg Vegs and greenhouse gases

If you had two acres of land to grow food ... would you grow a cow?

Dr. Richard Oppenlander describes this decision in his book, "Comfortably Unaware" on pages 128-131. It is a thought experiment:

[Someone gives] each of you a parcel of land that consists of two acres. You can do whatever you would like with it but in the context that it must be used to grow food. Many of you would want to plant pasture grass and then use your two acres to raise livestock, because after all, it's supposed to be very sustainable -- and you may still feel the need to eat meat. You could raise one pasture-fed cow on those two acres, and even throw in a few chickens. Your two acres might be enough land in some areas of the country, but in other, you might need to borrow another few acres from your neighbor, just to support that one cow. You will need to supplement the cow with feed and hay over the winter months -- where does that come from? Also, remember this cow will need to drink twenty to thirty gallons of water each and every day, and then you'll need to slaughter it, using hundreds of gallons of water in the process. At the end of the two years required for growth, you will be left with about 480 pounds of what some people would call edible muscle tissue -- essentially whatever is lever over for you that was cut off of the cow's body to consume as food.




Veg Vegs and water pollution

If you had two acres of land to grow food ... would you grow vegetables and grains?

Dr. Richard Oppenlander describes this decision in his book, "Comfortably Unaware" on pages 128-131. It is a thought experiment:

Or, alternatively, you could forgo the cow/livestock method and use your two acres to grow varieties of plant-based food; there are many. Take kale, for example. Stated as one of the primary "power foods" on our planet by a number of food and nutrition experts, this plant delivers more nutrients per calorie than any other food. Kale has antioxidants, and among its many micro- and macronutrients, it has a large amount of vitamins K and C and potassium. This plant food has more than sixty times the amount of beta-carotene than grass-fed beef ... Kale also hs a perfect ratio of omega-3 fatty acids, and it has fiber, something no grass-fed livestock can provide.

Looking at land use efficiencies and sustainability of resources, one acre will produce, on average, 10,000 pounds of kale in one year, with no (or minimal) water needed during growth and no water during the "slaughtering" (harvesting) process. Kale will actually continue to grow through extremes of temperatures from minus-5 degrees through 105 degrees F., and after you pick the leaves, it grows new ones. Also, no pathogens, such as H1N1, E. coli, salmonella, Campylobacter, etc., will ever grow on these plants -- as long as there are no livestock farms nearby.

Remember, you have one acre left over, so my suggestion is to plant a grain, such as quinoa, which is another powerful food that can be grown quite sustainably, yielding 5,000 pounds per acre and providing a gluten-free source of 18 percent protein with a balanced amino acid profile and 14 percent fiber -- quite healthy.




Veg Veg

If you had two acres of land to grow food ... would you have enough? Could you feed your neighbors?

Dr. Richard Oppenlander describes this decision in his book, "Comfortably Unaware" on pages 128-131. It is a thought experiment:

To conclude this exercise, I have a novel idea. Grow only plant-based foods, such as kale and quinoa (although there are many other plants) on your two acres, instead of using the land to support one grass-fed cow. Then feed yourself and your family -- you could even feed your neighbors' families. But then look at all the leftover kale and quinoa, and just take a moment to box up some of the remaining thousands of pounds of surplus food that you grew, and ship it to all the starving children in Ethiopia. That is my definition of sustainable.

What can you do as an individual, as a consumer? First, you must take yourself, your health, and the health of the planet more seriously. It is not enough to think only about the type of car you need to drive to use less gas, or to change to energy-efficient light bulbs. These are important, but you must look way beyond global warming toward global depletion. Understand and have it clearly imprinted that the choices you make for food to eat today -- every meal, every day -- had to come from somewhere other than just your grocery store. As yourself what resources it took; what was sacrificed to get it to you. Ask yourself about the true cost of that food -- what was depleted in its production process?