Is Your Steak Harming the Planet?

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My favourite thing about traveling somewhere new is being to see and experience a new landscape. Yes, seeing beautiful architecture and experiencing different cultures is awesome and powerful. But what I really crave is escaping into the wilderness and seeing the beauty of the raw land. There are some absolutely amazing places on this Earth, and I’ve been blessed to experience a few first hand, and hope to be able to see even more. When I take a moment to really appreciate this beautiful land, I can’t help but think about the things we humans do to destroy it. I know I’m not alone in this, especially as we are constantly bombarded with reports about climate change and animal extinctions and the like. And I also know that I, like many of you, want to do my part to still these negative effects.

I’ve seen a lot of information put out there about the unsustainability of beef, trying to persuade people to give up meat in order to “save the planet”. I’ve witnessed quite a few people become vegetarians in order lessen their carbon footprint. I’ve considered it myself. On one hand, this is good. It is good to be aware that what you are eating has an impact, not only on your personal well-being, but on that of the world, because it does! But is not eating beef (or meat at all) really a solution? I don’t think so. What matters far more is not whether you eat beef, but where your beef comes from, or how it was produced.

Think back to your last meal with beef, perhaps it was beef tacos or a nice steak. Do you know how it was raised? If not, then it is most likely that beef came from a conventional livestock system, or a factory farm. These operations are where a majority of the data comes from that show the negative effects of beef production on the environment, and many are not wrong in their conclusions. Unfortunately, these systems are not natural and a far cry from how an animal, such as cow, is designed to live.

When a cow is out on pasture, there are many things taking place. They move across the land, trampling down and eating vegetation. The trampled vegetation covers the soil, protecting it. The plants that die add to the organic content of the soil. As trampled or eaten plants regrow, they are using carbon from the air and releasing oxygen as a byproduct. Both of these processes serve to trap carbon into the soil, rather than releasing into the atmosphere, and increase the organic content and biodiversity of the soils. The manure and urine from the cow also work to add nutrients back into the soil.

In conventional systems, animals are treated more as products on conveyor belt rather than living, breathing organisms apart of a complex ecosystem. The cows are often raised on grass for the first 6 months or so of life, which is great (and a lot better than conventionally raised pork or chicken). But after that they are shipped (often long distances) to feedlots and fed grain. This grain also has to be shipped in. Much of the grain produced to feed cows is grown on huge monoculture farms and harvested by machinery. Because the cows are not there to provide soil inputs, artificial inputs (such as chemical fertilizers) must added. These are also shipped in. Conventional beef production completely disrupts that natural ecological systems that work to provide balance between inputs and outputs in the environment.

There are A LOT of other things that can and should be considered, such as the health benefits and animal humane issues, when considering grass-fed vs. conventional beef. I urge you to look deeper into it and not just blindly accept the information put out to the public. There is often more to the story. It’s time to reconnect to the source of our food and gain a true understanding of how what we eat impacts not only our health, but the planet.

Resources:

Defending Beef

Sustainable Food Trust

The Savoury Institute

Sheldon Frith

Agriculture: Steps to sustainable livestock

Sound management may sequester methane in grazed rangeland ecosystems

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I made it to Kentucky! + What I Ate in a Day

Hey y’all! I can officially say “y’all” again without funny looks because I am back in my homeland: KENTUCKY!!! It was three days later than expected due to a snowstorm in Newfoundland, but I made it, along with my pup and fiance. I am so looking forward to an awesome summer.

So, what do I have on the go this summer? Well, number one, I’m GETTING MARRIED in 33 days!!! That’s a big one. That’ll be followed by a honeymoon to Hilton Head Island, NC. I’ll also be working on a horse farm teaching riding lessons and training horses. And I’m hoping to get some experience working on a sustainable farm. All in all, I think it is going to be a great summer and I am pumped to be here doing things I love!

Alright, so here is my what I ate in a day for this Monday! The food is from Friday, the day before I left for Kentucky, so we were trying to just use up things in the fridge.

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I had a pretty classic breakfast of fried eggs with a side of grass-fed yogurt mixed with protein powder and topped with homemade granola.

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Mark (my fiance) and I went for a run mid-morning then came back hungry for this delicious lunch. Romaine lettuce, carrots, warm chicken, and warm roasted potatoes, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette. The roasted potatoes were totally random, but they were SO good. I roasted them a bit longer than normal, but it made them super crunchy in the salad. Almost like a crouton, but without the gluten and weird ingredients.

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Lunch was followed by a simple banana berry protein smoothie.

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Of course, I was hungry a few hours later, so I had a little afternoon snack of a gluten-free waffle topped with almond butter. I won’t share the brand here though, because even though they were delicious, I later found the ingredients to be less than stellar, so I won’t be buying them.

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Dinner was spinach and asiago sausages and roasted sweet potatoes. Simple, lacking in green veggies, but satisfying. The sausages were fairly clean, but I’m not sure I would buy them regularly because they are certainly made with conventional chicken, and I’m trying to move away from that.

Well, there you go! That’s what I ate in a day! Far from perfect, but a lot better than what I used to eat.

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Small Steps to Sustainability: Plastics!

I thought I would start my first post in a series called Small Steps to Sustainability. In this series, I will share with you small steps that I am taking to lead a more sustainable life, with the purpose to inspire you to start taking your own small steps to sustainability. These steps may be about environmental sustainability, but they will also include topics surrounding fitness, food, and overall health! Creating a healthier lifestyle (for yourself and the planet) can seem quite daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! It’s all about taking baby steps. Making small changes on a regular basis is what leads to making lifelong changes that are sustainable for you.

SO, in honour of Earth Day tomorrow, here are a few changes you can make to help create a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle by focusing on reducing the amount the plastic you throw away. Plastic takes HUNDREDS of years to decompose, so the less you toss, the better.

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  • Get a reusable water bottle and bring it everywhere with you. Everywhere! That way you are never stuck and end up having to purchase a plastic bottled water. It’s also important to find a style of water bottle you love and will enjoy using. Maybe you want a straw, or maybe you want it to be insulated. Personally, I love my big Nalgene bottle. It holds a lot of water and it is easy to clean.
  • Use glass jars. I save jars from spaghetti sauce and the like and remove the labels. They are great for storing bulk foods, or putting leftovers in (hello, mason jar salads!). You can bring your jars into your bulk grocery store and use those to collect your bulk ingredients instead of those pesky plastic bags and cups. Just be sure to get their tare weight measured (at a check-out or customer service desk) before you fill them up. I have heard the Whole Foods can be a bit cranky about this, but I don’t have any personal experience with it, so I can’t say for sure.
  • Buy reusable bags… and actually use them. I’m pretty terrible about this, but I’m trying to get better! Having a million reusable bags lying around helps, and keeping a stash in the car helps even more. One thing you can do is vow to not use the plastic grocery bags, whether you remembered to bring your reusable bags or not. Just the thought of having to transport everything to my car and then into the house without bags is enough to make me want to run back to the car and get my bags! What it really comes down to is changing a habit, and we all have different ways of doing so successfully.

What have you been doing lately to create a more sustainable lifestyle? Are you doing anything to celebrate Earth Day?

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What I Ate in a Day

I don’t know about you, but I love reading about the daily lives of other people. I love reading any “A Day in the Life” or “What I ____ in a Day” post. I think it is super fascinating! Or maybe just creepy? Either way, I thought I’d start a little “What I Ate in a Day” series on here. Probably weekly, but maybe not. It’ll be a fun way to share with you what I eat in real life, and just blab away about the random things in my head. So here is the first one! Fair warning, I eat a lot.

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Breakfast! I had some organic, grass-fed yogurt (about 3/4 cup) sweetened with maple syrup, about a 1/2 cup of homemade granola, and half a banana. This was SO GOOD, but it is totally a “treat” for me. I need a breakfast with fewer carbs and more fat and protein to power me through until lunch on a normal day, but it was a lazy Saturday, so I allowed myself this bowl of goodness.

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My fiance and I went for a run after breakfast. It totally kicked my ass. I’m staying at my dad’s house for a few days, and I forgot how many freakin hills there are around here! I trained for my first half-marathon on these roads, and I seriously don’t know how I did it. Anyways, when we got back, I was ready for some more food in my belly! So I threw together a quick stir-fry. I used chicken, a frozen veggie mix, and made an orange sauce to toss it all in. I had a lot of that, along with a bit of rice (it causes me no trouble).

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Not long after lunch, I was hungry again. So I whipped up one of my favourite things ever. A slice of Canyon Gluten-Free Toast topped with some smashed avocado and a fried egg. Seriously, so good.

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I spent the day doing next to nothing and watching Teen Mom. Oh my gosh. I don’t have TV at my own house and I had forgotten how crazy reality TV is. The drama just sucks you in though! Anyways, I had no plans for dinner, so I just threw together some things I found in the fridge. I sauteed some red peppers, then cooked up chicken pieces seasoned with a magical Mexican spice mixtures I created. I figured I needed another veggie, so I roasted cauliflower. And then I added avocado and called it a meal. Talk about yum.

I snacked on some organic blue corn tortilla chips in the evening and had a glass of wine to close the day off. I’ve been going hard these last few weeks, finishing up the school semester and getting ready to move to Kentucky, so it was great to have a lazy day filled with food and trashy TV.

 

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Why cook?

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The other day my brother was sitting at the kitchen table (which is actually a patio table… #studentlife) and he was eating some sort of store brand potato salad out of a plastic tub. That stuff is why I was always afraid of potato salad. It doesn’t even look real. So anyways, of course I had to ask why he didn’t just make his own potato salad. His answer? Why make it when you can buy it. Now, I’m not here to throw my little bro under the bus, but this got me thinking. This is the culture we live in. When we need something, our first thought is to just go out and buy it. This is why the majority of what is in the grocery store is pre-packaged and processed and ready to mindlessly consume.

I will be the first to admit, I have not always cooked. I used to eat Lean Cuisines at almost every single meal. And even nowadays, I don’t make every meal or food product myself. Sometimes you just need to grab a rotisserie chicken or Chipotle and call it a night. However, I do try to make a majority of what I eat at home. But why? Why make it when you can buy it? I’ve put some thought into it, and all I can give you is why I try to make it instead of buy it.

  • I want to know what is in my food. I mean really know. Sure, anyone can read the ingredient list, but that doesn’t mean you understand what each of those things are and how they act in your body. That’s what I want to know. I don’t want to be another blind consumer. I want to know!!!
  • I want to appreciate my food. This may sound weird, but I think it is so, so important. When I spend the time and energy preparing a food, I appreciate the result so much more than if I had just handed over $5 and shoveled it in my mouth. Food is an amazing thing, the way it can either nourish our bodies or harm them, and I think it is important to slow down and truly appreciate that.
  • Making meals connects me with where my food comes from. Buying foods in their whole forms, especially from a farmer, really makes me think about what it takes to get the food to me, the consumer. The process of growing and harvesting, followed by transport. I think it is very important that we become more aware of this if we hope to create a more sustainable agricultural system, because the conventional system we’ve got going on now is far from being sustainable.
  • Making meals connects me with people. One of the things my fiancé and I love to do together, more than going out for a meal, is cooking something together. Sometimes we have competitions, like who can make the best fish taco, and other times we just create something new together. There’s just something about cooking together that brings you closer!

 

If you don’t already make food at home on a regular basis, I encourage you to give it a chance (and no, trying something once or twice is not giving it a chance). If you already do, why do you do it?

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