Thursday 23 June 2011

a green cow fling

The other day I grabbed my KeepCup and moseyed to Bacino for a coffee.  While the barista was making my coffee he asked in his beautiful Italian accent,
"Do you mind if I ask you something bella?" (see why I love going to Bacino?)

"Of course not."

"Why do you get the soy?  As as coffee lover I do not understand why people go with this skim or soy milk."

"Oh, um, I try to not eat cow products," I explained.

"Ahhh, you're a vegan?!" he smiles, pleased to have figured out the reason for my soy.

"Not exactly," I continued, "it's for environmental reasons."

He paused for a moment but then quickly accepted my reasoning and continued to whinge about people who order soy or skim because it's "healthier", and similarly people who use Equal instead of sugar.  To this coffee connoisseur, only full cream milk and raw sugar were acceptable additions to coffee. (For the record, his coffee is a double ristretto with full cream milk and half a sugar.)

So, what is my beef with cow products anyway?  

I've infamously requested no beef on weekends away and meals out with friends, but I'm not a full vegetarian. I eat some form of meat (usually chicken or pork) about once a week, so what do I have against these beautiful creatures?
Helloooooooo beautiful cowwwww!
 In 2006 the UN reported the livestock industry was responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, higher than all forms of transportation combined (planes, cars, trains and freight).  (A more recent study by Worldwatch has increased this impact to 51%) Additionally, we are increasing our meat consumption, roughly doubling it since the 1950s, and it's expected to double again by 2050 - meat has quite an impact on climate change (not to mention food supply, but that's a whole other kettle of fish, as is sustainable fishing . . .)

Cattle was identified as the worst perpetrator, both because of how much beef is consumed, but also because of cows' digestion which causes them to belch methane (a very powerful greenhouse gas, 21 times stronger than carbon dioxide) - the ruminant family includes cattle, sheep and goats, and they represent 37% of the world's methane emissions.  Yikes!

When I learned about the environmental impact of livestock I made the decision to cut my emissions by cutting beef from my life - I didn't eat a lot of meat anyway, so for me to have the biggest impact meant stopping consuming the worst offender, beef.

For awhile I allowed myself beef once a month, but I have now decreased significantly to the point where I don't really like the taste of it anymore.

I also realised that milk cows have the same stomach systems as meat cows, so I should decrease my milk consumption.  I've long enjoyed soy milk in my cereal, so it was only natural I adopt soy in my coffee, swap to soy ice cream and seriously think about my cheese consumption.

(I confess, I haven't made much change to my cheese consumption.  I mean, there's just no soy substitute for a creamy bouche d'affinois or a sharp parmigiano reggiano!  What can I say, I'm still on this green journey.)

So, what can you do?  If you love your meat, giving it up or even cutting down to once a month may seem out of the question.  If you're inspired to make a change, why don't you take the suggestion of Graham Hill, founder of, and be a weekday vegetarian?  Brilliant idea and easy to keep track of how much meat you're eating - watch it on TED and see what you think!

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