Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hooking a good catch!

Did you know that we are in danger of losing ALL of our fish stocks before the end of the century?  Could you imagine your grandchildren reading a Dr.Seuss book and asking what those funny things were on the page?  Imagine a world without fishing (I can hear all the men gasp!) As a family greening up your act, choosing a good fish is equal to choosing a green fish!  Green in this sense meaning the health of the fish population is safe and not currently being overharvested.

I have been eating a lot of fish as part of my nutritional challenge for March and find myself having conversations with people who are surprised to learn about the ways our eating habits impact the world's fish stocks. 

This is one of the fundamental ways we are continuously hurting the health of the biosphere - the biggest earth system that contains everything - the earth's surface, the atmosphere and all living systems - including YOUR FAMILY, your community and our society.  We are over-fishing some stocks of fish which means we eat them faster than they can re-populate themselves.  THIS DOESN'T MEAN WE CANNOT EAT FISH  - we just have to be wary of how fast we are doing it and taking the pressure off certain species.

At the same time we are putting pressure on the oceans through our societal actions - the results are worse water quality (killing fish), toxic algal blooms, dead zones, plastic infested patch of ocean (Pacific Garbage Gyre),  invasive exotic species, beach closures and coastal floods are increasing.  These floods are linked to the continual destruction of wetlands, reefs, mangroves and the plants and animals that filter out pollutants and protect our shorelines.

I love eating fish - I'm from British Columbia - home of the pacific salmon. I couldn't imagine life without ever having tasted one of these beautiful fish.  My dad used to take us fishing when we were kids and I have many fond memories of doing that with him.

What actions can you and your family take?  Be conscious about what kinds of fish you are eating and how they are caught. Different types of fishing methods cause greater damage to the oceans than others. REMEMBER - you CAN make a difference by VOTING WITH YOUR WALLET.

Here are some resources for you:

 The End of the Line Trailer - A recent documentary about over-fishing

Here are some great books for recipes, guidance and a really cool poster.

To your green family success!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Protein Power - Is the Grass Greener?

My nutrition challenge for the month of March requires a lot of protein and since I stated in my earlier post that I know being vegetarian does not work for my body, I am now faced with finding good protein sources from two perspectives: health and environment.

My choice for beef is to purchase meat from local farmers who raise their cattle on grass, antibiotic and hormone free.  Grass fed vs. corn finished (fed) beef is significantly lower in fat.

From the Frontline website of the Public Broadcasting System in the United States:
Before the second World War, all American beef was "grass-finished," meaning that cattle ate pasture grass for the duration of their lives. Today, the vast majority of cattle spend anywhere from 60-120 days in feedlots being fattened with grain before being slaughtered. Unless the consumer deliberately chooses grass-finished or "free-range" meat, the beef bought at the grocery store will be of the corn-finished variety.
Meat from a grass-fed steer has about one-half to one-third as much fat as a comparable cut from a grain-fed animal. Lower in calories, grass-fed beef is also higher in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to help reduce the risk of cancer, lower the likelihood of high blood pressure, and make people less susceptible to depression.
 Beyond the health benefits of not ingesting extra fat, hormones and antibiotics the question of the environmental impacts of grass fed vs. corn fed (finished) beef is an interesting debate. In his book, Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan states:

"If the 16 million acres now being used to grow corn to feed cattle in the United States became well-managed pasture, that would remove fourteen billion pounds carbon from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road."

He argues the industrial vs. organic methods of raising beef in his book and clearly shows the huge global impact of industrial farming methods which include fossil fuels, artificial fertilizer, pesticides, heavy machinery, feedlots, antibiotics, and processing plants. (p.149).  

Grass farming beef (as well as chicken, turkey, eggs, rabbits and pigs - not to mention tons of different veggies) is an earth friendly method which is powered by solar power (to grow the grass) and uses synergies of other animals (and their byproducts) to "feed" other parts of the farm and create additional products. 

For example, free range chickens in the pastures  after the cows will eat grubs and larvae which cuts down on the bugs and parasites that live in cows (and often require medicine to control), their poop adds nitrogen to the soil and they produce eggs, which can be sold.  This type of maintenance of the pasture allows for a diversity of grasses, deep roots which control salinity and creates healthy, rich, fertile soil. 
(photo courtesy of dishragdiaries.com)

This is one of my favorite videos about the demise of small farms - The Meatrix

Many people argue that organic beef, grass fed protein, organic - free range eggs cost more and they are right...they do cost a little more but the benefits are clear for both your health as well as improving conditions on farms instead of degrading them.  There are strategies to help stretch your dollar though:

1. Find Community Supported Agriculture and buy in - direct from the farm to your table
2. Approach a local farm and create a buying group of friends, family or co-workers - bulk is always cheaper!

Here are some directories to help you find a local farm near you to power up on your earth friendly protein!

USA: Local Harvest http://www.localharvest.org/
Canada: Eat Wild http://www.eatwild.com/products/canadaresources.htm 
UK: Farm Shopper http://www.farmshopper.net/ 
Australia: Organic Food Directory http://www.organicfooddirectory.com.au/

To your green family success!