Monday, April 14, 2014

Ask a farmer! aka "How to Locavore"

Ok, let's talk meat. Yes, I know, a little change of pace considering this is a blog usually devoted to Meatless Monday, but hear me out first. We've always encourage others to consider consuming meat in moderation. But, that doesn't mean that it isn't important to carefully consider the impact of meat consumption during the rest of the week. It's just as important to choose the right types of meat during the week, as it is to refrain from eating it on Monday.

Now, there's no denying the environmental impact that meat has on the environment.  Traditionally sourced, or what is referred to as "factory farmed meat" is the mass production of meat processing which is how the majority of consumers get their meat. The current way we produce meat is very inefficient. It takes many resources, just to grow food, to then feed to the animals that will become our future meaty meals. It takes 16 pounds of grain (to be fed to livestock) to produce one pound of meat. In addition, when analyzing the other resources needed to sustain this type of food system, the numbers are staggering. Nearly half of all the water in the United States goes towards raising animals for food. It also takes much more water to produce meat, than it does other plant-based agriculture. For example, it takes 2400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, compared to the 25 gallons of water it takes to produce one pound of wheat.

And with a steady increase in meat eating, one has to ask, is there a more efficient way to produce meat, if we should continue to keep consuming it? As we continue to become more educated consumers, more options have become available for meat-eaters who want to lessen their environmental impact. Looking for labels such as organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and free range, all communicate that these types of animals have been raised in a more ethical and sustainable manner. And while this is certainly a better option, because these terms are loosely defined and reinforced by the USDA, sometimes these labels can be misleading, or not properly executed. In addition, it still creates a disconnect between the source of the food, and the consumer, making it difficult to really know where and how your meat is processed.

So, is there truly a better solution? Is there a way to really consume meat in a sustainable way? Like most complicated questions, it also involves a complicated answer. While no answer is absolutely perfect, one of the most effective ways to ensure that your meat is being produced in the most sustainable is to do your research! The more you know about where your meats comes, and how many resources go into producing your food, the more educated and informed decision you can make. And therefore, you can more easily lessen the extent of your impact.

One of the best things you can do when choosing to eat meat is to continually ask questions. How was this animal raised, like was it raised in a cage? Does the farmer use hormones or antibiotics? What kind of food is fed to this animal? How much emissions is this specific type of animal responsible for? And most importantly, can I find supporting evidence to verify this? For example, are some meats, or other animal products more sustainable than others? The answer is yes, depending on how you measure. If you calculating sustainability according to co2 emissions, there are definitely better choices than others. Topping the list with the greatest co2 contributor is lamb and beef. So, when you go to select a type of meat, having this information might persuade you to turkey or chicken over beef.

What's tricky about trying to be mindful and conscientious about your meat choices is, its hard to answer some, or even all of the questions. Searching for transparency in a complicated system, such as food system is both time consuming on the behalf of the consumer, but also relies on the producer being forthcoming and honest as well. Fortunately, we can play an active roll in making this quest for information easier. The more we demand information, and more sustainable practices when it comes to meat production, the more producers will be encouraged to abide by these demands.

The movement around what is known as the "farm to fork" method encourages others to get to know the farmers that produces their meat. What better why to know where your meat is coming from, then to ask the source itself? The best way to do this is by supporting local farmers. Because they live and work in the same community as you, you have the ability to ask questions about the type of products they produce in a way that wouldn't be possible with "traditionally manufactured" products.

But, how do you find and support local farmers and locally sourced meat? Look for resources! Besides attending local farmer's markets there are other great resources available that makes supporting local farmers. One resource developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension is a site called Meat Suite. It is a resource site that compiles all of the local farmers and farmer's of a particular reason. The site is organized by the type of animals that are raised, and the type of raising technique they utilize. It's a great a resource  because it takes all of the hard work involved in the research process, and compiles it into one convenient location! Check it out here: http://meatsuite.com/

Want to find out more about local ranchers and the farm to fork process without leaving campus! You're luck! In honor of Earth Week, on April 22nd we will be holding an event called Meet Your Meat! Come hear Purdy and Sons, one of our local vendors, talk about their farm to fork process, and how their product gets to your local dining hall! A presentation and Q&A session followed by an opportunity to sample one of our signature dishes, the porchetta sandwich made from their local pork!

So remember next time you choose to eat meat, do your research, and if possible ask your local farmer! It's possible we can lessen your impact,. if we are conscientious about our choices.

-Kat


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Monday, April 7, 2014

Don't Subsititute Sustenance

Let's take a step back and think about the choices that we made on today's Meatless Monday. Did we get enough protein? Are we substituting meat with foods that are carb-heavy or fat-heavy, such as bread or macaroni and cheese? Choosing meatless foods that are benefiting your body, instead of harming it can be difficult.

You've heard the alliteration, "Meatless Monday" many times now. I bet if you were to "Ctrl + F" it on this blog it would come up a thousand times. We love alliterations around here, it's even in the title (On purpose? Possibly). Similar to our favorite terminology, the company that produces Tofurky products, Turtle Island Foods, Inc., coined the term "Tofurky Tuesday". The campaign is said to help reduce approximately 97.885 pounds of CO2 gas emissions. The company has been dedicated to making convenient and affordable vegetarian foods for almost 30 years.

It seems obvious to most, that products made with the environments health in mind are better for a persons body as well. Well, at least this is the way that I felt until I delved deeper into the nutritional benefits. By comparing a company, that doesn't use any preservatives, MSG or other artificial ingredients, to others that do use preservatives and factory farming methods of production, we can only assume that these things will naturally be healthier for us right? Wrong. That is why it is important to read the labels and weigh your options when opting for a meat substitute product versus raw food that aren't processed at all. By analyzing the differences in nutritional value, we can determine which products make great substitutes and poor substitutes.

Tofurky has a good reputation when it comes to providing similar nutritional benefits to meat without being loaded with fat. I've decided to explore how "meat substitute" products developed by this company rank up to some of our favorite brands.



 Tofurky Pepperoni Pizza
 DiGiorno Four Cheese Pizza
 Calories
 810
1920
Total Fat
21g
72g
Sodium
1200mg
5760mg
Sugar
21g
36g
Nutrition Facts provided by www.tofurky.com and www.digiorno.com



Tofurky Hot Dogs (Serving size of 43g)
Oscar Mayer Classic Wieners (Serving size of 45g)
 Calories
 100
 110
 Total Fat
 4.5
 9
 Sodium
 330
 340
 Sugar
 2
 1
Nutrition Facts provided by www.tofurky.com and www.kraftrecipes.com



Oven Roasted Tofurky Deli Slices (Serving size of 52g)
Hillahire Farm Thin Sliced Oven Roasted Turkey Breast (Serving size of 56g)
Calories
100
50
Total Fat
3g
0.5g
Sodium
300mg
490mg
Sugar
1g
0g
Nutrition Facts provided by www.tofurky.com and www.hillshirefarm.com

It is tricky finding meat substitutes that provide better nutritional and environmental benefits than the "real stuff". Turtle Island Farms, Inc. is dedicated to providing nutritious and delicious food that has minimal impact on the environment. According to the nutritional break-down above, Tofurky deli slices don't seem to be any better for you than the regular turkey slices. That is the importance of being aware of the choices that we're making, not only on Monday's, but everyday. Sometimes products that are made with an intent to leave little impact on the Earth aren't really that healthy for you. Remember to check the sources where your food is coming from and the nutrition labels! Sustainability is about more than preserving the environment, it is about maintaining a healthy and balanced life.

Have a happy and healthy Meatless Monday!

-Katelyn

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Meatless Monday TED Talk!


One of my favorite things to do over a rainy weekend, like the one that just passed, is to stay in bed all day, and watch TED Talks. For those not familiar with TED Talks, they are short, and powerful speeches used to convey stories and research to inspire, motivate and challenge ideas. Not only are the concepts that are spoken about interesting, but the speakers themselves are amazing as well. They are so engaging, and captivating to watch. It's amazing to see how videos most often under 18 minutes long, can be so compelling. It always reminds me of the power of storytelling, and how much of an impact we can make just by using our ability to convey our thoughts into a narrative.

About a month ago, there was a TED Talk in Manhattan that was entitled "Changing the Way We Eat". For this TED Talk conference, speakers from all different walks of life came together to discuss the cultural, nutritional, social, sustainable, and culinary aspects that affect our current food systems. Each speaker had their own perspective based on their own background and experience, and therefore offered their own unique suggestions as to how we can better improve the food systems we currently use. But, beyond the issues that surround food, there was another overwhelming message of versatility. Everyone that spoke at the convention was passionate about the very same thing, but through each speech, and each concept introduced, there was an interesting angle explored that brought up a completely new side to the conversation. One TED Talk that really explored this concept well was a talk done by president of the Meatless Monday, Peggy Neu.

As you might imagine, her talk did begin with the history of Meatless Monday. How in fact, it was created pretty much by mistake. Founder Sid Lerner was speaking at a health and nutrition conference at John Hopkins University about the importance of lowering saturated fats in the diet for improved heart health. In that speech he suggested cutting out meat once a week as a means of reducing saturated fat intake. He was inspired by his "boyscout days" during World War II where civilians where encouraged to help the war efforts by cutting out different foods during the week, such as Wheat-less Wednesday, and Meatless Monday. It was this simple concept, that spurred the now successful movement of Meatless Monday.

But, the bulk of her talk was devoted to explaining why Meatless Monday has turned into a success. One of the major reasons being that the movement was developed as an "open source" movement. Meaning that the movement was spread, not in a top-down hierarchical fashion, but encouraged to be integrated into already existing movements. In other words, instead of having a "Meatless Monday" how-to, the movement was made popular because it allowed organization to customize the goals of Meatless Monday to meet their own mission and objectives.

I really liked this speech because I think it really captured the idea of why Meatless Monday has been able to become such a successful campaign. Although for the purposes of this blog, we tend to focus on the sustainability aspects of Meatless Monday, there are many categories that Meatless Monday falls under. The issues surrounding food justice are as vast, as they are interconnected. Hunger, food waste, nutrition, and sustainability all work hand-in-hand to create a more efficient systems that works to feed the people of our planet with nutritious, sustaining food now, that will not comprise our ability to do so in the future. It is a complex and complicated issue and if we want to come up with solution we need to come together and consider multiple perspectives and angles. And one of the best ways we can start to accomplish this, is by starting the conversation.

Which brings me back to why I love TED Talks so much. Just like a movement can be spurred by a simple idea, people can be motivated by a simple conversation. But, you don't need a stage and a audience to start a dialogue. If these are issues that matter to you, speak up about them. Talk about them with your friends and family at the dinner table. Discuss these issues during a lecture or class. Attend presentations on campus, or talk to someone who is tabling. The reason we blog about Meatless Monday every Monday is in hopes that we can inspire a new dialogue about why we care about the issues surrounding Meatless Monday, and why we think you should, too. So, if these issues are something that matter to you, try starting a dialogue today.

(If you'd like to watch the whole Meatless Monday TED Talk by Peggy Neu, click the link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPkV1bDZDl4)

Happy Meatless Monday,
Kat

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