Let Them Eat Steak!

When it comes to sacrificing in order to reduce one’s carbon footprint, the buck stops for most at a luxury with which one cannot part: the feel of security in an SUV, the ability to travel to the far corners of the world propelled by jet fuel, the ease and convenience of a disposable lifestyle. For me, the buck stops at steak. Vegetarians have a myriad of motivations for their dietary limits, and many have made the move away from a carnivorous lifestyle in an effort to reduce their footprint, in terms of the carbon and methane expelled from preparing land for and raising and shipping livestock. Nutritional benefits of cutting red meat from your diet aside, the reality that red meat is around 150% more GHG intensive than chicken or fish is enough to make any carbon conscience individual take pause. According to Associate Professor Christopher Weber of Carnegie Mellon University the switch from beef to chicken or fish for one meal a week “would reduce your total impact by about 1,000 miles in a standard car” 1.

I’ve battled this harsh reality (in a selfish attempt to satisfy my palate) with an effort to become a responsible consumer and carnivore. The key words to a guilt free filet mignon are: grassfed, local, and if at all possible, buy the whole cow. The first two of these have been explored in depth, (for those interested in further reading on the matter, please note the references below), the last of the three may seem preposterous and exorbitant, but it is easier done than said.

Most local ranchers or butchers will happily sell you meat in half cow or whole cow quantities, (at a price per pound that will literally save you hundreds). The financial advantage for producers being the same as buying a CSA share (Community Supported Agriculture): if you have the capital upfront you can budget the growing or rearing season a lot more effectively and with greater security. What this will require is a significant portion of your freezer set aside for your tasty cuts, or investing in an energy efficient freezer to house your grilling goods. When you pair local and grassfed with an in-house supply of protein, you’re accomplishing three major goals: (1) when you eat meat, you will have a constant supply of responsibly raised product without diverting to the McDonald’s down the street for an insatiable craving, (2) the transportation between restaurant/store is entirely cut out of the equation, (3) every part of the animal is used, maximizing the effort exerted to get it on your plate.

Think of it as bombshell mentality without the nuclear fallout. Instead, your squirreling away allows for a kitchen stocked with prime cuts, endless culinary possibilities, a major contribution towards your local producer and an additional subtraction from your carbon footprint -- without all that tofu-nkiness.

1. Christopher L. Weber and Scott Matthews. Environmental Science & Technology. 2009, 43 (10), 3984. (Online site: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es702969f)

Must See:
American Grassfed Association: www.americangrassfed.org
A look at a specific farm making it work: Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm- www.polyfacefarms.com

Must Read (the basics):
Pollan, Michael. Omnivore’s Dilemma. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.
McKibben, Bill. Deep Economy. New York: Times Books, 2007.

Where I buy my meat in New York:
Marlow and Daughters, 95 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211. Phone #718-388-5700
And, yes, they will sell you a side of a cow, a half cow or even a whole cow!