“The food system is like an onion, it has layers.” - Shrek
To this day I cringe when I hear the word “vegan”, despite my diet being plant-based. Why? It has something to do with the food system and how I got to know it. How most of us probably got to know it. I heard about vegans for the first time in the 90s, when I was a young child. My mom described them as people who can’t eat most of the food out there. “Those poor souls” I empathetically said to my mommy as she nodded in approval. Her description of the herbivore movement made it seem like it was a most unfortunate disease, that only a few unlucky individuals are hit with. I held on to that belief until high school.
Chapter I. • For the animals
At age 16 I started dating a vegetarian girl, who was in it for the sake of animals. This meant I needed to update my perception - it’s not a disease, it’s a movement for animal rights. My reaction? I bought a t-shirt with a slogan “Meat is murder. Tasty, tasty murder.” What a little shit. For me food was just a thing to fill myself when my tummy said so. Flavor was the only thing I cared about. I held on to that belief until I moved away from my parents in my early twenties. I started cooking for myself and making some dough. With money came the mental space to think about food beyond just flavor, so I started reading about nutrition.
Chapter II. • For health
Reading about nutrition is like watching a wrestling match, but with a twist - the wrestlers are nutritionists and the audience is doing the fighting. The wrestlers just tell the audience something like “fat is bad” or “carbs are evil” and watch the pandemonium unfold. However, I started seeing patterns I could not ignore - plants good, meat bad. From an entirely selfish “i want to live forever and look radiant” point of view I upgraded my perception - eating plants is good for my health. I still ate meat on occasion. Surprisingly, I never had a problem accepting that meat wasn’t the only source of protein though. At this point, I already knew cows mostly ate grass or soybeans and not other cows.
Chapter III. • For the planet
Reading further, it was hard not to stumble upon the cow burps. Yes, as they chew the grass and digest with their four fucking stomachs, cows burp methane, a greenhouse gas 10x more potent than CO2. So yeah, I found out that the meat industry emits more greenhouse gasses than the entire transport sector. I then read about what will happen if we continue with our current trajectory of (not just diet) habits and quit meat on spot. I kind of like my New York above water, my fellow humans not starving and other liberal soft shit. My perception just got a new update - choosing what I put in my mouth more carefully has a bigger effect on my carbon footprint than anything else out there. But, if we ruin the biosphere, the planet won’t die, we will. So, my minds journey was not over.
Chapter IV • For humanity
A few years passed, some knowledge was gained, a couple of friends were lost. Yes, my plantastic journey was in full swing and led me to working in the industry itself. I first had a plant-based bistro. ‘Rona killed it. Now I’m rolling as a Marble. Working in the biz, I had to dive deep, become even more knowledgeable. And then I saw a statistic that brought shivers to my bones: 70%+ of the 700mio+ under the poverty line were the very people who cultivated the food. Yes, the people who make our food are the hungriest. Realising that broke me and gave me the last perception update to date - switching to a (predominantly) plant-based diet is a humanitarian issue. I saw the problems of the food system are not related solely to the future - more so, they are our present issue. A huge one. From workers in the fields to meatpackers working in truly horrific environments, they are all exploited. And of course it doesn’t end with exploitation.
Se let us look at what i have been leading this whole dumb life story to. Some wack statistics.
I chose this chart as the first one, because it perfectly portrays the “effectiveness” of getting proteins and calories from animal agriculture. It is a tremendous energy waste, where we put another creature between us and our food, prolonging the process of obtaining nutrition. Water, gas, electricity, time and food is wasted.
There are 780mio malnourished people and yet most of our food yield goes to livestock. In reality meaning, it goes to wealthy nation’s eating habits. You see, animals bred in captivity is not the main issue here. It’s food distribution. Meaning, it’s wealth distribution. Bernie Sanders, are ya with me? Making meat is the most labour and resource intensive way to get calories, and somehow we were led to believe that it should be our main food source - from breaky to din din.
Beef alone takes up 60% of that agricultural land, despite supplying 2% of our calories. And pasture raised organic free range bla bla beef is even worse at that.
This statistic shows the gravity of our current flawed system. You know all the land being chopped down for soybean fields? Well, that soy is not for humans. At least not directly. That’s predominantly livestock feed. Now, I don’t actually think a 100% decrease in animal agriculture is viable. However, we will have 3 billion more mouths to feed by 2050 and our capacity had been reached a long time ago, so we must act accordingly. If the entire world lived like Americans, we would need 5 Earth’s. Because my dad is a mathematician, I know we don’t have that many.
Look at that red zone, imagine all the cow burps. It’s effectively a huge methane chimney.
Why is meat so cheap? Because we all pay for it with taxes. Here is an industry that would still turn a profit, even if they threw most of its product in the garbage. We all know eating veggies is healthy, and yet that sector sees little taxpayer money. We are in effect financing rapid climate change. We are paying for our own demise. And for what? So we could gorge on one out of hundreds of thousands of foods out there.
Chapter V. • Meat doesn't have to end (us all)
I know the flaws of our food system stretch far beyond just animal agriculture. The entire industry is kind of based on the notion that we want to eat as if every day is a kids birthday party. Just look at supermarkets with isles and isles of food-esque products. What the fuck is all that? In schools we learn how to split atoms, but not how to prepare a decent meal. We spray food with shady chemicals. We send local food produce thousands of miles away to get the same produce from even further. It’s all weird. The industry is failing its basic task of feeding humans properly. But we have to face facts - animal agriculture is arguably the biggest problem of them all. It’s the Fox News of the food industry.
We need to demand from our elected officials to stop wasting our money on a destructive industry. Their mouths are full of climate talk and green energy, but who among them speaks out against the biggest polluter?
And one of the biggest arguments “for meat” is tradition, lions, being on the top of the chain and tits like that. Which is ludicrous, because we never had meat in such abundance until very recently. Also, there were never so many humans. We found ourselves in a new context entirely and we must live up to the moment. In each period of history we shed old ways, like a snake that outgrows its own skin. 500 years ago we had to accept the fact that the universe does not revolve around Earth, remember? 😬 With some resistance, we did. Similarly, today we must accept the fact that animal agriculture is the single biggest contributor to climate change. 🐄
Good news is that we don’t have to stop eating meat in order to avert biosphere collapse. 🎉 We just need to source it from where it originally comes - plants. 🌿 Yes, all meat is powered by plants. 😏 In our quest for nutrients & feeding a growing population, plants are up to 97% more effective. Also, as the latest science shows - plants are our gut micro-organisms favourite food. Seems like the simple choice of reducing animal food has complex positive effects - health, environmental, ethical and humanitarian. That's pretty cool.