A Meating of Minds

A single burger with a whopping £345,000 price tag might spark images of heavily pampered cows roaming through fields of plush organic grasslands with a solid gold, cashmere quilted temple of a cow shed in the background, but in reality these high production costs can not be attributed to extreme cattle pampering. Instead these burgers are produced in a petri-dish by men and women in white coats, without a gleaming blade of grass in sight.

Image provided by Rosamundwo on www.friendseat.com

Image provided by Rosamundwo on http://www.friendseat.com

With sustainability being such a prevalent issue, we are all being told different ways we should help to reduce our carbon footprint. Fortunately supermarkets are more frequently offering organic meats and farmers markets are popping up left, right and centre. However, to what extent would switching to artificial meats tempt you into action, particularly with the latest horse meat controversy which has forced  consumers to question what ingredients are really entering their meals.

Logistics Executive Richard Wigley  Living next to a main road for most of my life taught me to respect the great outdoors, so I always appreciated and enjoyed wild excursions, camping and learning about flora and fauna. After leaving college I went through 8 years of working in an eclectic array of jobs in the theatre, hospitality and bar industries. I then decided on a career change and spoke to a Careers Guidance Counsellor who reminded me of my love for the great outdoors. I then decided to pursue a job in conservation. I have worked at Healthy Planet since November 2011 as a logistics executive. I deal with booking the deliveries for daily requests of books for our stores, requests from other independent organisations, ordering stock, setting up fire risk assessments, ordering the necessary fire equipment for each store, organising access, liaising and catching up with our dedicated volunteers, collecting quotes, stock taking and most importantly, making tea. I love the attention to detail involved in this role, the budgeting of resources, when a delivery comes together and working with such a helpful and happy team. I am grateful for each day I come into the office and always with a smile on my face, unless someone has “borrowed” my pens. Or my chair.

Cows in a field

Most of us only want real meat in our stomach which has been grown on a farm, not in a lab. In addition due to our increased prosperity over the last 100 years and the increased availability of meat, our diet has evolved to include meat daily.

What we need to take into consideration is how many other people also want an abundance of naturally grown meat in their diets?

The realistic answer would be mostly everyone, which is a very large amount.

Some meaty facts: 

– Each individual meat-eater consumes around 60 – 100 animals every year.

– According to viva.org the total number of animals killed in British slaughterhouses in 2011 was over 958 million. This included 8.5 million pigs, nearly 15 million sheep, 931 million chickens and 2.8 million cattle. This is  equivalent to 15,000 per minute. That’s a lot of animals.

– Environmental charity Friends of the Earth, has claimed that UK Factory farmers are contributing to the destruction of an area of Brazilian rain forest and grassland twice the size of Greater London every single year.  In addition in a report named From Forest to Fork, Friends of the Earth estimates that British imports of beef and soy for animal feed resulted in an additional 1200 square miles of deforestation in Brazil in 2009.

– The 2006 the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report names Livestock’s Long Shadow´ concluded that the livestock industry is responsible for 18% of global CO2 emissions. Now take into consideration that the greenhouse gases released by all forms of transportation combined, amounts to 13% of the total emissions in comparison.

–  Environmental author John Robbins calculates it takes 60, 108, 168 and 229 pounds of water to produce one pound of potatoes, wheat, maize and rice respectively. But a pound of beef requires around more than 20,000 pounds of water (or 9000 litres) of fresh water.

Source: Livestock and Climate Change

Source: Livestock and Climate Change

What is the solution?

These  facts outline just a few of the repercussions of pastoral farming. But before we decide that this blog is the ranting of a raging vegetarian, let’s get this straight. I’m a meat eater myself and have been born and bred as such. I mean, with a Spanish mum and an English dad, I stood little chance of being a veggie between my dinners of sausages and mash and chicken paella’s! But looking at these stats does make me think and also makes me want to change my diet.

So what’s it going to be then? Eat meat and negatively contribute towards an increasingly unsustainable planet that’s already starting to crack? Eat meat born of a mad scientists mind and made in a lab but much more sustainable? Or change to a healthy but potentially boring diet of just fruit and veg for the rest of your life? Here are some alternatives which offer a happy medium:

1) Meatless Mondays – this challenge provides you with the opportunity to make a small change to your diet without signing away your appetite. On Mondays we move from the freedom of the weekend and set our intentions for the next six days. This makes Monday the perfect day to make a change for your health and the health of our planet. Find about more about the health benefits (including a reduced risk of contracting cancer, heart disease and diabetes), environmental benefits (including reducing your carbon footprint) and browse a range of inspiring recipes  on the Meatless Monday website.

2) Fresh food Friday’s – similar to Meatless Monday’s but encourages you to get into the kitchen and cook you food from scratch. For just one day a week you can swear off shop brought sandwiches and ready meals and get creative and healthier.

3) Buy local, buy fresh, buy organic – source your meats from local butchers to support your local communities and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your meals. By buying fresh and organic foods you are reducing the levels of preservatives and chemicals entering your body and the environment.  There are a range of website available which can help you source local farmers markets including the Guardian local shopping map, Local Foods and London’s Farmers Markets.

 

This is a guest post by Healthy Planet’s Logistics Executive Richard Wigley

Living next to a main road for most of my life taught me to respect the great outdoors, so I always appreciated and enjoyed wild excursions, camping and learning about flora and fauna.

After leaving college I went through 8 years of working in an eclectic array of jobs in the theatre, hospitality and bar industries.

I then decided on a career change and spoke to a Careers Guidance Counselor who reminded me of my love for the great outdoors. I then decided to pursue a job in conservation.

I have worked at Healthy Planet since November 2011 as a logistics executive. I deal with booking the deliveries for daily requests of books for our stores, requests from other independent organisations, ordering stock, setting up fire risk assessments, ordering the necessary fire equipment for each store, organizing access, to liaise and catch up with our dedicated volunteers, collecting quotes, stock taking and most importantly, making tea.

I love the attention to detail involved in this role, the budgeting of resources, when a delivery comes together and working with such a helpful and happy team. I am grateful for each day I come into the office and always with a smile on my face, unless someone has “borrowed” my pens. Or my chair.

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Turning food waste into a challenge!

There is nothing I enjoy more than hitting my local farmer’s market on Sunday afternoons. The variety and abundance of home-grown, fresh vegetables is a site to behold. All the market stalls and the crates of seasonal apples, potatoes, winter greens, squash and pumpkins have me dreaming up some new comfort food recipes that make me feel all warm inside – even when it is cold and dreary.

Sometimes, however, my excitement can have unintended consequences. I will bring home so much veg that my fridge is overflowing and I end up not getting through it all before it goes all wilty. Though I am sure the foxes in my neighbourhood would love to help me eat up all the surplus –  my neighbours have made it very clear I am not to leave food out for them.

What’s a girl to do? Until I can get a kitchen composter going, I sometimes find myself stuck and in the terrible position of wasting some lovely, nutritious veg.

Enter, ReCycle London’s Food Waste Challenge! Having signed up this week I pledge to find ways to use up all this great food and leave nothing for the bin! Getting creative in the kitchen, I’ll use that extra courgette to bake a cake for my co-workers and all the root veg can be blended up into a yummy sauce for pasta.

The challenge has set me on a mission and really made me think about how I can be less wasteful in this era of scarce resources and over-consumption. I feel lucky to be able to take part in this inspirational campaign and hope I can inspire others to challenge themselves as well.

For more information: http://www.recycleforlondon.com/content/love-food-hate-waste-food-waste-challenge

Facebook: www.facebook.com/recycleforlondon  Twitter: @Recycle_London

Check out this recipe and see what ideas it may inspire in you!

Courgette Bread Recipe

Serves: 2 loaves

Courgette bread

Courgette bread

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • ½ c warm water
  • 2 c turbinado sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • ½ c oil
  • ½ c applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 to 2½ c grated courgette (~3 medium-sized ones)
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c chocolate chips or raisins, optional

Instructions

  1. Grease two loaf pans.
  2. Mix together flax seeds and warm water.
  3. Add sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla; beat well.
  4. Add grated courgette; stir till combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together remaining dry ingredients.
  6. Add dry mixture to wet and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened and everything is incorporated evenly; some lumps are fine. If adding additional mix-ins, fold them in now. Divide batter between prepared pans.
  7. Bake at 175 for 50-55 minutes, or until knife inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Let cool a few minutes before slicing.

Check out Rubies in the Rubble a great social enterprise which trades at Borough Market & others and rescues food from being wasted and transforms it into tasty chutneys and jams.  http://www.futerra.co.uk/blog/rubies-in-the-rubble

About the Author: Camen Gupta is the Operations Manager and Head Gardener at Healthy Planet, a conservation charity headquartered in Hammersmith, London.

White Xmas? No,make it a Green Xmas!

As Christmas approaches,here are a few tips to ensure that we all make it as green as possible:

Make your leftovers into compost: While leftovers at your place could be few and far between, if you do have leftover food, turn it into compost. This will a) reduce landfill and b) be good for your garden or plants.

Recycle your wrapping paper: So the presents have all been unwrapped and met with happiness/disgust/apathy (delete as appropriate). The wrapping paper itself is forgotten about or piled into the bin. Do the right thing and recycle it or, if you can, reuse it again next year!

Turn Xmas lights off when you’re out and about or asleep: The lights are dazzling to look at, but that will not even be a possibility when the electricity they take up runs out. Turn them off when possible.

Donate unwanted toys/clothes/books to charity: Charity shops are calling out for these items and throwing them away adds to the already vast amount of landfill, as well as depriving other children of the chance to enjoy them.

Don’t overeat: Although we see Christmas as a time to overindulge, cooking too much means we use more resources than we need such as gas, water and electricity.

Put into perspective, we should obviously enjoy Christmas, but we should also be aware of how the holiday is affecting the environment. Christmas is supposed to be a time of reflection, so maybe make the time and effort to think about what you can do to ensure Christmas can still be a cause for celebration.

Healthy Planet is helping to teach school children the virtues of making Christmas more environmentally friendly with free lesson plans for teachers and parents. To find out more visit Healthy Planet’s Christmas lesson plans.

By Yasmina Jackson

Off to market

Wondering what to do with your weekend, how to support local business and how to make a smaller environmental footprint? Local organic markets offer a welcome food-shopping alternative: fresh, seasonal food that tastes great, supports local producers and puts the heart and soul back into communities.

Ethical spaghetti junction

For the conscientious consumer, a simple weekly shop can become a maelstrom of choice and counter-choice. There are many, often competing, issues to consider. Organic? Local? Fairtrade? All three? It can seem impossible to reconcile the three, not to mention other considerations like budget.

Local, organic markets offer a refreshing antidote to this confusing mental ’roundabout’. Reassuringly human, they give you a chance to come face-to-face with local food producers and ask questions about the food you are buying.

Fresh ideas, better eating

Markets offer a ‘palate cleanser’: an-ever unfolding source of culinary inspiration. They remind us that food is not, and cannot be expected to be, at its best all year round. Eating seasonally has the added bonus of keeping our diets varied and interesting, by encouraging us to move with the seasons in our cooking too.

The markets are always keeping me on my culinary toes. Last week I was seduced by a pyramid of pumpkins stacked to a worryingly wobbly height. Roast pumpkin soup it is then. Shopping in this way becomes sensory: tastebuds start fizzing, recipe ideas bubbling.

Local health, local wealth

Supporting local producers harnesses the collective buying power of communities and directs it towards local farmers, growers and food producers thus enabling them to flourish. This in turn, helps to safeguard local jobs, keep communities thriving and food sources resilient.

Local food has clear environmental benefits. Fewer miles to travel from fork to fork, leads to reduced emissions and reduced energy consumption. Local food that is also organic has been produced without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilisers: resulting in a healthier planet and healthier people.

Community and conviviality

A weekly market is more than just a place to buy weekly provisions. My local farmer’s market is a place where our small part of a large city gets to transform itself into a thriving ‘village’ community once a week. A place to meet old friends and make new ones; somewhere you are as likely to learn about a new potato variety as you are a local event. Shopping in this way becomes less of a drudge or chore; it is relaxed, slower-paced, warm, convivial.

Find out about your local farmer’s market and learn more about organic food on the Soil Association website.