Vegetarian by day, carbo-carnivore by night

4 01 2011

When I eat out , I go for cheaper, lower portioned foods that are vegetarian and when I’m at home, I eat what happens to be around, mainly leftovers and on sale/clearance meat products. At first, it’s because I was sick of the taste of meat, and wanted to balance out my diet by going vegetarian. I wasn’t too concerned about my diet at the time, since I aimed for tofu or beans as a replacement for meat, instead of a vegetable focus. So, mainly only a taste thing. As time progressed, I could justify this practice of selective consumption more and more. Here is an excerpt from the latest National Geographic Magazine feature Article January 2011: Population 7 billion.

”The World Bank has predicted that by 2030 more than a billion people in the developing world will belong to the “global middle class,” up from just 400 million in 2005. That’s a good thing. But it will be a hard thing for the planet if those people are eating meat and driving gasoline-powered cars at the same rate as Americans now do. It’s too late to keep the new middle class of 2030 from being born; it’s not too late to change how they and the rest of us will produce and consume food and energy. “Eating less meat seems more reasonable to me than saying, ‘Have fewer children!’” Le Bras says.”

Here in the West, we capitalize on freshness, well-being, health, wealth.  My parents work in the food service industry, and they bring back stuff: leftovers that are normally thrown away. Large corporate parties would order more food than what is needed, and then the excess would be thrown away. Disposed of, not shipped off to a local soup kitchen.

This brand of overstocking happens all the time, especially with perishable goods. How can it be that so much food is both produced and then either wasted or thrown away? Don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical. Albeit, admittedly non-perishable goods when past the sell-by date (sell-by, best-by, and expiration dates are all quite different) are donated to welfare.

I was having a chat conversation over skype with my friends today. I was rating /evaluating a  teriyaki place, and brought up the topic of over-portion. That’s when for the entree, the restaurant would give a multi-serving dish. This teriyaki place was easily 3-4 servings. The peeps argued that being marketed towards college-students, the meals offered a “bang for the buck” quantity appeal.

Okay, so if they give too much, people can easily pack the rest up and go. There’s a flaw here, for the theoretical probability that they’d take the leftovers is one in three. There are two other options: eating the the rest and then disposing of the rest.

However, many are ignorant of the impact and continue to feast and consume unsustainably through the eating of meats and over-portioned meals.

There’s a growing niche in the dining population that embraces this concept along with mainly the lower-calorie trend.

Diner companies like T.G.I. Friday were quick to accommodate these calorie-counters. Boosting profits along the way.

“Cutting portions is a cheap and easy way to lower calorie counts while also boosting profits, said Mintel’s Giandelone.
“If the portion size is 50 percent less, chances are the price is not half. It’s probably 30 percent less,” he said.”
(Reuters)

Unfortunately, the reverse is true. If everyone sustained themselves on smaller portions, then diners would capitalize on larger portions. Thus boosting their profits and making it the trend.

The sad truth is that there’s not much we can do as a collective besides cooking at home and increasing vegetable intake. Even in urban food deserts it’s best to try to limit eating out, and when doing so try to pick options that lack meat products.

Even if we do manage to make the choices, we would have to wait for the food industry to turn around and market themselves towards export, in which case would not be sustainable in it’s own way. (Geez, when will we get those solar powered barges). If we can’t get the export of food to become a viable option, then the capitalistic nature of developed countries will never get behind the idea, although they wouldn’t go down without a fight either (by fight, I mean more advertisements and ‘brilliant’ marketing campaigns) .

I’m endorsing a lifestyle choice here. Not for the sake of ethical treatment of animals, or so that people can become for fulfilled or lower the obesity, but for the sake of sustainability.  If we use less of our arable land for our needs, we can provide food for the world, boost our exports and end hunger. It may be far-fetched, and I certainly don’t believe this will ever be accomplished in our lifetimes, but it’s a start. Become a pioneer by making sustainable choices.

Addendum: As we’ve seen with the green revolution, along with the views presented in the Reuters article. The deciding factor is cost. Meat products are about on parity with vegetable products, and I think that’s what influences consumer choices. People will buy electric cars, change their lightbulbs to CFLs,  install solar powered water-heaters, change their single-pane aluminum frame windows to the new polyvinyl triple-pane Low-e’s if they’re convinced that they would save the money to be worth the investment, time, and effort. It’s different here, though, because if the consumer wills it, then meat will be whatever price the consumers collectively wish for, because crops can be used to feed livestock, and water can be used for both the crops and livestock. If the demand for meat goes down, and the demand for vegetables and crops go up, then the prices for those would be driven down as a consequent.

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