I’ve been thinking a lot lately about vegetarians, vegans, carnivores, etc. I’ve come to the realization that making a radical choice about what you eat exists soley because of the incredible abundance that we have available to us in our current culture. You can only be a vegan because we have unlimited choices available to us, and we have companies who are willing to invest in making alternatives to meat based products. Additionally, if you choose to be a carnivore you can essentially only do that because of the incredible amount of meat that we are able to efficiently “grow” (not withstanding the environmental aspects of such a food production system).
We can choose to exclude certain food choices from our diet, if we wish, because there is plenty leftover to make up for that caloric shortfall. I think our future will different in this regard, and I think we’ll see a decrease in the amount of extreme diets that exist in the world.
For example, take the fats we choose to use. If you are a vegan today you are required to use vegetable based fats. I would guess that these would be mostly vegetable oils and olive oil. Prior to our industrial age only olive oil existed in mostly useable quantities. As our energy resources constrict will we lose some of these sources? Will we have to shut down the manufacturing of vegetable oils because that crop is needed as a food supply? Or is it possible that we wouldn’t even have the resouces to manufacture such oils? If that happens I would expect we would see a shift back to animal products as our source of cooking fat, and that would make being a vegan very difficult.
The same could be said for sweeteners. Hard core vegans won’t use honey, because the bees are exploited. Does that mean that you will only use sugar and maple syrup? And how available will those products be when it’s near impossible to ship products around the world as we require? Sugar is an item that will ship fairly well, but it’s supply will still be more difficult than it is now. Maple syrup? I don’t know about that one.
Additionally, if you choose to live a life mostly based on meat (ala the Atkins people) is that even feasible in a world where CAFOs won’t operate? Grazing animals takes a lot of pasture space, and if you don’t have access to the land would you be able to make this work somehow? It would seem like you will have to eat other items so that you would have sufficient calories. Meat will be more scarce in our future. There is no other way for it to be. This would have to impact what you eat.
Lately I’ve been playing around with being mostly meat free. I’ve been eating it maybe 2 or 3 times for the past couple of weeks. I am still eating cheese and butter, and also eggs. Occassionally I will use millk in something. I have noticed a marked difference in a number of things. Things like my energy level (it’s really true), my hunger level (more fiber = less hunger it would seem) and my trips to the restroom (I’ll give no more information on that one), but I think it’s an interesting perspective. I had always figured all those claims were a bunch of PR phooey. But it appears to be true. (To be fair, the Atkins people make the same claims, so believe who you want.)
I think I’ll keep eating this way. I like it and it’s easier than cooking meat. It really is. But I know I’ll keep eating meat. I don’t agree with those who say that you can get all your nutritional needs from plant products. While it sounds good in theory, if you search our evolutionary history the last one of our ancestors that existed solely on a plant diet was around 2.5 million years ago, and they died off when the meat eating animals took over power. The energy available from the meat in their diet allowed them the slight caloric edge to advance past the animals that were strictly plant eaters. Most importantly it gave them the extra energy necessary to power the huge brains they would eventually process.
This time period was before the time of agriculture, which was founded around 10,000 years ago. Is it possible that we produce enough calories now that we farm to obtain all our calories from plant sources? Absolutely. What isn’t possible is for our body to evolve in 10,000 years to something different than it was 10,000 years ago. If we needed animal products in our diet to progress 10,001 years ago (and it appears that we did) our bodies will need some animal products still today. At least to me this seems to be the case.
My understanding of all of these things drives my food decisions. I know I’ll eat meat, but when I do I’ll make sure to use as much of the animal as I can. I also know that I’m going to treat it as more of a special occasion item than something you have to have with every meal, and I’ll make sure the animal was humanely raised before it was killed.
I agree with others that eating a more plant centric life is more healthy, but I don’t think going to the extreme of only eating plants is healthy either. I believe you need a balance of nutrients, and some of these important nutrients are found in their best source in animal products.