by Fireweed, for the July/August Island Word, 2012
The locavore movement is doing a great job of encouraging support for regional food production, but what about eating low on the food chain? At a recent Sustainability Festival on Denman Island, plans to serve up beef burgers raised more than a few eyebrows!
Earlier in June, a new study by the UN Environment Programme made clear that worldwide meat consumption has passed the point of sustainability. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said: "A substantial reduction of [climate/environmental] impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
The writing has been on the wall for some time. According to the Worldwatch Institute, global meat production has tripled over the last forty years, growing 20 percent in the last ten years alone. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization has determined that animal agriculture is responsible for more global warming than all forms of transportation in the world combined! What we eat can be far more significant than how many miles our food has traveled from farm to plate.
10 million cows in Canada release the methane equivalent of a half ton of C02 for every man, woman, and child in the country. There are now more than 55 billion animals killed for food every year around the world, and meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050.
Researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK estimate that to thwart potential disaster for our planet, we need to bring down the average global meat consumption from 16.6 percent to 15 percent of average daily calorie intake. This is about half of the average western diet.
For those who can afford it, choosing grass-fed, or pasture-raised animal products over those from factory farms can seem like a step in the right direction. But as long as meat is upheld as a desirable commodity, factory farming will flourish as the most cost effective means of supplying growing international demand, and we'll still be fast-tracking to hell in a hand basket.
Some of us who are privileged to make and model very different choices feel obligated to do so. Denman's Sustainability Festival barbecue stewards did include a vegetarian option on their meaty menu. But other islanders opted to celebrate agricultural sustainability with a completely cow-free event. Here's the recipe for the hearty organic veggie burgers we enjoyed at “Food for Thought!”, with thanks to Isa Chandra.
All organic ingredients are available at the Edible island Organic food store in Courtenay, on Vancouver Island.
Beet Burger Beauties
Combine in a food processor:
1 and 1/4 cups cooked, cooled short grain brown rice 1 cup cooked brown, red, or green lentils, cooled
1 cup of shredded beets
1 crushed clove of garlic 1/2 tsp of salt fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground fennel 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dry mustard
3 T finely chopped onion
2 T smooth almond butter, OR 1/4 cup fine ground walnuts
Pulse the processor about 15 or 20 times, until the mixture comes together but retains texture.
With a spatula, remove to a bowl and mix in 1/2 cup of very fine bread crumbs.
Chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Form each patty will approximately 1/2 cup of mixture, shaping with your hands. Each batch makes four or five burgers.
Fry in a a lightly oiled cast iron pan, or bake on an oiled cookie sheet at 425F until brown, and flip gently with a spatula.