I think we’re ready for the next step in our family’s food evolution

Arkansas Made, Arkansas Grown: raising locavores and Farm2Home

I’m currently co-teaching a class based on Shane Claibourne and Tony Campolo’s Red Letter Revolution at my church. It’s a great book about taking the things Jesus actually said seriously, and I’m enjoying our group discussions every week. On Sunday, one of the chapters I taught was about environmentalism, and how important it is for followers of Jesus not just to take caring for creation seriously, but to become partners and co-workers in God’s restoration of all of creation, a project that ultimately ends in the Revelations-vision of a garden-city in the New Jerusalem when heaven and earth finally become one. The book also makes a great connection between the fact that the price of environmental degradation is almost always paid heaviest by the poorest among us, and notes that creation care is inextricably tied to ideas of justice for the poor.

One way the book suggests we can minimize our environmental impact is through our diets, and this reminded me of the journey my family has been on food-wise since 2009. In 2009, I read an article in National Geographic magazine that started me thinking that my diet was incompatible with some of my deepest concerns for the poor and the environment. As I wrote then, “According to Bourne, 35% of the world’s grain is used to feed livestock instead of people.  Think about that.  I’ve read that it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat, and more and more, that bothers me.  It gets to me to see photographs of starving babies and know that the tasty meat I eat is contributing to the food scarcity that is killing children all over the world.”

Of course, at the time, I was very much a beginning cook, and I didn’t really know how to cook a meal that wasn’t based around a chicken breast, which I bought frozen in giant bags. Knowing that a little change was better than nothing at all, at the time, we committed to one meat-free meal per week. That may seem small (or, depending on how much meat you usually eat, huge), but it actually makes a difference– I had read that if every American committed to one meat-free meal per week, it would be like taking 5 million cars off the road, and if every American committed to one meat-free *day* per week, it would be like taking 8 million cars off the road.

Newsflash: Instagram is Filtered | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

Since that first commitment in 2009, we’ve slowly changed our diet from Meatless Monday to Mostly Meat-Free. In fact, after revisiting that 2009 blog post, I suggested to my husband that we might be ready to commit to eat meat ONLY one day per week. He agreed wholeheartedly. After slowly inching in that direction over all this time, it doesn’t feel like a huge leap. We’ve gotten used to eating “mostly plants” as Michael Pollan says, while still rounding out our diets with eggs, dairy, and seafood. (If you want to see some of the meatless meals we love, I’ve got a pinboard for that.)

I’ll say now like I said then: I don’t envision an entirely vegetarian life for us. We like meat, even if we can largely do without it. Once in a while, we like to split a ribeye at Maddie’s Place or roast a chicken for dinner, and I think we will always want to have the freedom to indulge in something we like once in a while, especially when traveling and getting to know other food cultures. I don’t come at this from the angle that eating animals is wrong, though I respect friends’ choices if that’s what they believe.

I guess I’m writing this now to say: little steps make a difference. You don’t have to try to change the world or even your diet all at once. If you currently eat meat at most meals, you might be where we were in 2009. If you want to try just starting with Meatless Mondays (or any other day that works for you), it will make a big difference in the impact you have on the environment and the global food economy, I really believe it.

And if you’re ever interested in what we’re eating around here, I like to Instagram our dinners with the hashtag #bigdinnerlittledinner

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5 thoughts on “I think we’re ready for the next step in our family’s food evolution

  1. Good for you! I love seeing what y’all are eating because it looks tasty–and where you come from with it is from such a good heart-place. You’ve inspired me to see how I can be a little bit more conscious of what I’m putting into my body re: its effects on the environment. It should be pretty darn easy to remove meat from my life for one meal a day–or even three meals a day!

    My only concern is that I worry that in my search to remove meat from things, I may be wasteful in other ways–for instance, grabbing a prepackaged salad from the store or something rather than making it myself (#gradschool). Have I reduced my waste that way?

    It’s hard to know!

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  2. I love this. We haven’t made any commitments, but we have agreed to dabble. Some of our meals are completely without meat, but the other thing I have been doing is a blend, say stir fry with half chicken and half tofu. Being considerate about what we buy and how we eat is gratifying to me, because I think part of the issue, at least in the US, is the mindlessness of consumption and waste. Looking forward to to hearing/seeing more from you on this!

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    • You might really like Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook– it’s all about using meat sparingly for flavor in otherwise plant-based meals. We’ve really loved everything we’ve made out of it.

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  3. We started eating mostly not meat when we were poor newly weds and quickly realised that we loved it! We do still eat meat probably 1-2 main meals per week but largely eat a veggie diet although I never think of it that way- it’s just our normal. It is good to know that it’s helping support our ideals along the way, too 😉

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  4. I love how by taking one small step you’ve made such a significant change – how motivating!! As a farmer’s wife I find myself a bit wary of your figures -“According to Bourne, 35% of the world’s grain is used to feed livestock instead of people…” I guess we do sow seed for sheep feed to supplement their natural feed from the paddocks along with providing them with hay. So perhaps it is true. But I don’t feel that if we didn’t do that more grain would be provided to starving families?? I’m not sure how individuals not eating meet helps? (*edit by reducing demand?) I think it would be better to be sending resources to countries in need so they can grow their own grain, both to eat themselves and to feed livestock (edit* Bourne gave an example of this).
    Reading your post from 2009 it says the world is not producing enough food for the population to eat – I takeaway from that, that farmers need more support so we can grow enough food.
    I was also dubious about your cars claim but found this website explained it well http://www.earthday.org/takeaction/meatlessmonday_info.html
    Thanks for the thought provoking read.

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