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What’s the best diet for the environment?

Wednesday March 27, 2024

"What's the best diet for the environment?" Here’s a question we often hear, but it is a very divisive topic. 

Andrew - what about the environment? How does a high protein, high vegetable diet impact the planet? Especially one centered around meat or dairy.

I’m going to answer that in 3 parts

  1. The answer is incredibly complicated. More than I can say in a short article. And it’s evolving constantly. 

  1. You should always, always, fact check what comes out of someone’s mouth in an email, or on social media, including mine. I am just one source of information. 

  1. The best thing you can do if you want to eat healthy, but also protect the planet, is support sustainable agriculture. Here’s what I mean: 

Most of us know about fish sustainability. Some fish are over-farmed or over-fished in the wild, and that depletes the overall population. This led to us seeing signs at the grocery store or on menus about sustainable fish. 

Fish that support the long-term health of our ecosystem are more expensive. We pay a little extra because we know it’s important. 

There is a similar concept for land animal products like beef, pork, and chicken. 

This is where the topic gets divisive. 

The reason many people think plant based is better than animal products is because we have over-produced animal products. 

Like most things we do in capitalist countries, many big food companies focused on the bottom line. They have turned beef, pork, milk, and egg production (to name a few) into a highly industrialized processes. 

This focus on efficiency over everything made the products cheaper for the customer and made more profit for the business. Everybody wins, right? 

Except the environment. 

Fast forward to today - we have animal products on every shelf in every store in Western countries and they’re incredibly affordable. This is a luxury we didnt always have. Meat used to be much more scarce. 

It is a good thing for our health except it’s a strain on the environment. 

But there is another way. And that way is not to abandon meat or dairy forever. Or to create “fake” meat made from plants that is less healthy than the real meat. 

The solution is called regenerative agriculture, or regenerative farming. 

This is a really important topic to educate yourself on. Because, let’s take a cow for example… What happens if nobody on the planet ever eats a cow again?

It would be just as bad as where we are today. Maybe worse. 

Cows eat grass. Can you eat grass? (you cannot). 

Cows have 4 different functions in their stomach (unlike a human, or a dog) and with it can turn grass into protein, also known as beef. 

And - and this is not debatable - beef is one of the most nutrient dense sources of food on the entire planet. 

Cows are designed to turn grass into edible nutrients. 

So if we eliminate that altogether, we lose the ability to feed humans with beef.. Which also means we switch to making 5 times as much Soy just to replace the nutrients from that one cow. 

This means overproduction of plant products, which leads to deforestation, drought, and other environmental challenges. 

So it’s not just about swearing off beef. Because even today with our reliance on meat we already overproduce lots of plant-based foods as well such as soy, almond, rice, etc. And that only gets worse if we remove animals from the equation.

Not to mention animals can be overpopulated. So everything needs to be in a balance. 

Which brings us back to regenerative agriculture. 

Regenerative agriculture supports a healthy ecosystem. And we all know this concept already. We’ve all seen the lion king. What happens when Scar overhunts? There’s no food left!

It’s the same as what happens if we use all the land just for plants. 

But, to be fair, it can happen with animal products too. So the answer is a delicate balance of all food sources. 

Regenerative agriculture is in its early days but it is definitely the future. How can you help?

The best thing you can do is pay extra for sustainable sources. You are going to start seeing these types of labels more and more. When you see this on a label, when you see a dozen eggs from this brand costs more than that brand, there is good reason. 

You also may be thinking - But Andrew wont this become the next buzzword that’s written on every label? Such as “organic” or “non gmo” even though it may not be exactly what we think it is?

And yes. And that’s just unavoidable. Sorry. Just like when you buy a pair of $150 yoga pants, sometimes they’re quality and sometimes they’re not. You don’t always get what you pay for and you may get scammed. I just don’t know what the solution is right now, other than we can’t give up just because of one or two bad actors. 

There will likely be regulation down the road as this becomes a more popular approach to sustainable food. 

As always we support your right to choose what’s best for you. You may have ethical, religious, or other reasons to eat what you eat and that’s great. We don’t believe in any one diet for all people. This is no exception. 

But know that regenerative agriculture is a concept that actually supports meat-eaters and plant-based alike. We should all be supporting each other instead of fighting with each other on who is “right.” 

So if you disagree with me that’s fine. If you have other research that says otherwise I’d love to see it. The goal is to educate people on what’s healthy for them and to support the long-term health of the planet at the same time. 

It’s a complex and delicate topic so if you want to discuss it, send me a note. Just be kind. We’re all on this planet together. 

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