Thought for Food: Where The Wild Things Are

I eat meat. If your a vegan or a vegetarian, you have strong beliefs and your stronger than me. Not all meat is created equal, more important, not all animals are treated equally. With an increasing population it’s more important then ever to educate ourselves on where our food is coming from. As humans we should make conscious decisions to act sustainably and humanely.

My Story
In late 2009 I went to America on a conservation trip, where I ate a shit ton of fast food. When I came back I decided to go a year without eating meat from a cow, or other farmed red meat sources. This is where I made the switch to eating meat from wild animals, specifically Kangaroo. During the switch I learnt about not only the health benefits of eating wild meat, but more importantly the unethical practices that go on with a significant portion of farmed animals. I’ve made it to a point where over 80% of my meat intake is from wild meat.

Full hypocrite disclosure: I eat chicken and pig occasionally, and last time I visited the states I found it difficult to find wild meat sources within my budget and found myself eating grass fed beef, but also junk fast food including meat from animals that I know were not humanely treated. I fuck up when I’m unprepared, and am far from perfect. I’m not trying to preach some strict Paleo cult BS, as modern farming practices are nothing like our cave men and women ancestors. Here’s an example:

I walked into a popular upscale supermarket in the U.S and headed to their meat section. A package of ground beef caught my eye, it seemed to tick all the boxes, it was organic, grass fed, and well priced. Turning the packet over to investigate further I was amazed to read the small print, it said “Contains products (Beef) from U.S.A, Brazil and Australia”. Here I am in a supermarket 10,000 miles from my homeland, Holding in my hand animals from three different continents, including my own. In case your unaware Ground Beef of the modern day is manufactured in a way that a burger may often contain the meat of over 100 animals. Something has to change and it starts with consumers making a choice.

To Eat, We Kill
I want to be clear with this but not to a point where it’s preachy, it’s something worth stating though.

Everytime I eat, I’m personally killing an animal. My demand creates a chain of events which take an animal from it’s current environment to my own. This is going to be the same whether we eat an overweight grain fed cow, or a deer that was hunted personally. There is a major difference though in which one of these meats we choose to consume.

If we are conscious of this as meat eaters, we can make a choice to eat what’s going to be better for ourselves, better for the environment, more sustainable, and most importantly ensure quality existence for animals during their life span. There’s a lot I want to talk about on this subject, but before I confuse both of us, I feel that a good way to start is to compare farmed and wild animals and what happens before they make it to us. I’m going to compare both grain and grass fed cows, as well as a kangaroo.

Grain Fed Cow

What do they eat
Cows will start on grass, and are then switched to a diet of grain including corn and soy. This corn usually contains high levels of pesticides. Unable to properly digest the grain, Cows live with acid indigestion, bloating and liver problems which are often treated with antibiotics.

Living Conditions
Feed Lot, Cows are living in close proximity to each other, with little room to move and exercise.

Health and Well Being
Cows will receive vaccinations, are chemically treated to prevent worms and external parasites, and will receive growth hormones.

Environmental Impact
Methane: A cow on average releases 70 to 120kg’s of methane gas a year (There are apparently 1.5 Billion cows and bulls worldwide)
As well as this you take into account the production of corn, including pesticides and transportation, oil and petrol that may be leaking from machinery into local water supplies, the list goes on.

The Meat
Grain finishing or feed lotting changes the omega 6 and 3 ratio from 3:1, to the unhealthy range of 24:1. Its also likely to travel thousands of miles to make it to your plate, and may not be native to your country.

The Verdict
The most important thing here is that the quality of life for the cow is horrendous, it’s unhealthy and lives in claustrophobic conditions. As well as this the environment impact of cattle is immense. This isn’t farming, it’s a production line. It’s not sustainable, and it’s inhumane.

Grass Fed Cow

What do they eat
Grass and legumes

Living Conditions
Cows have room to roam around the pasture

Health and Well Being
Not treated with antibiotics, cows are under less stress because of better conditions

Environmental Impact
Methane Gas is still an issue, though because cows are eating grass, they no longer suffer from stomach acidity and ulcers, this will reduce environmental impact while increasing the health of the cows.

The Meat
Great Omega 3 to 6 ratio, beta carotene, CLA and Vitamin C. Likely to be raised within your state, or neighbouring states.

The Verdict
The improved quality of life of grass fed cows compared to grain fed is reason enough to make the switch. As well as this its healthier for you, and more sustainable for the environment.

Kangaroo

What do they eat?
Grass, Plants and Shrubs

Living Conditions

Almost all Kangaroos harvested in Australia live in rangeland. These areas are great for grazing, and contain water sources on average between 3 to 10kms apart, although Roo’s have adapted to survive without water for quite a while.

Health and Well Being

Outside of restricted commercial hunting, it is illegal to hunt Kangaroo. Because of these factors the majority of Kangaroo in Australia are free to live naturally in the wild with adequate resources.

Environmental Impact
Compared to cattle, the impact Kangaroo cause is extremely low. In terms of the impact of us harvesting Kangaroo for meat, there are many diverse opinions. Some environmental groups support eating kangaroo meat as a sustainable alternative to cattle, while some argue that the kangaroo population is diminishing, and that the amount of meat that the animal provides is not worth it being killed.

Sustainability
Each year every state is required to survey it’s Kangaroo population. Estimates in recent years have the Kangaroo population at over 35 Million. Overpopulation is an issue, but at the same time many are concerned about sending the Kangaroo into endangerment.

Only four species of Kangaroo may be harvested for meat, at a maximum quota of 15 to 20 percent of the population. Usually far less than this percentage are harvested as current demand does not require it. Because of this, as well as the fact that Kangaroo’s are a symbol of Australia, I believe that the industry will act with enough common sense and restriction to continue operating sustainably.

The Meat
Kangaroo meat is high protein, extremely low fat, and a very high source of CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). Possibly the best thing in a world of miss leading labels at supermarkets is that you know the kangaroo lived wild, and that it lived in Australia.

The Verdict
Kangaroos are able to live wild until harvest, have a small environmental foot print compared to cattle, are in sustainable numbers, and are one of the most nutritious meats you will find.

Thought for Food
At the end of the day, if we choose to put meat on our plates, we owe it to the animals, the environment, and ourselves, to take the time to consider the options we have. By making the switch from grain to grass fed we can take a step towards better conditions for cattle. By considering eating a wild meat native to your area such as kangaroo, deer or bison, we take a step towards sustainability in a world with an increasing population.

I learnt a lot writing this and I hope you were able to take something from it. It’s a subject I’m passionate about and I have a lot of ideas which I hope will take the form of future articles. Please feel free to leave comments with your point of view and add to the friendly discussion, Cheers.
Grain Fed Cows

Grass Fed Cows
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