There is a lot of information and chatter about proteins these days… Which are good. Which are bad. Which are better. Which are best for the environment. And the list goes on… I hope we all can come together and say that consuming protein on a daily basis is a requirement for human beings to survive. You, as a consumer, have choices and there is nothing better than having the ability to choose which one you want. As a farmer, and an individual that feels everyone should be able to make educated decisions, I am simply here to provide you with as much knowledge as I have so that you can make those decisions for you and your family completely informed.
Too often I hear that cows/livestock are bad for the environment and that we should all go plant based. I am here to say lets’ look at the full picture of what it takes to get that protein (plant or animal) to your dinner plate and then you decide which one fits your values, your budget and your needs.
While we personally don’t grow soy or any other bean crop we do grain farm and have the knowledge of what goes into growing plants on a large scale farm. We also personally raise livestock on our farm (not cattle) but sheep and chickens and again have personal knowledge of what goes into it.
First let’s look at what goes into bringing a Beyond Meat burger to your family table. I have chosen the Beyond Meat product as the example as it is one of the highest consumed plant based protein products currently in Canada.
From start to finish here we go…
Farmer will cultivate the ground to create a seed bed Farmer seeds the crop Farmer will fertilize the crop (organic or conventional) Farmer will harvest the crop The crop will be trucked from the field to the grain bin The crop will be trucked later on from the grain bin to the retailers elevator The crop will be loaded on train cars and shipped to a coastal shipping dock The car will be loaded on to a ship and head overseas to China The crop will be unloaded from the ship and trucked or put on rail to the processing plant The manufacturer will process the crop, add in all other ingredients that are shipped in from all over the world, wrap it in plastic, put it inside a box and now you have a finished product. The finished product is loaded on to a truck and shipped back to the shipping dock. The container will come back across the ocean to one of Canada’s coastal shipping docks. Container is unloaded and put on to a train that will head to any major center in Canada. The container is then unloaded and put on to a truck headed for a central grocery warehouse. The warehouse will unload the container and await orders from specific grocery stores. Once ordered, the warehouse will load pallets with the goods and ship it by truck from warehouse to grocery store. You as the consumer will drive your car to the grocery store to purchase the goods and then drive home to either place in your freezer or cook for your family that evening. Bon Appetite!
Now the alternative to plant based protein is to consume animal proteins. Here is the breakdown of what it takes from start to finish to get ½ a lamb (approximately 40 lbs of animal proteins) into a consumers freezer if sourced locally and direct from a farmer.
Let’s do this!!
Lamb is born on the farm Lamb is fed a pasture/hay diet with supplementation of grains (note: hay, pasture and grain is often grown by the livestock farmer or purchased from a farmer locally to them) Animal is cared for, and checked on daily (if not multiple times a day) until it reaches processing weight Lamb is loaded into a trailer by the farmer and trucked to a local provincially inspected facility for processing (often within a 150 km radius from the farm). Lamb is processed and cut and wrapped with butcher paper. Once complete the consumers can pick up directly from the butcher and head straight home to their freezer. Alternatively, the farmer may pick up the meat and bring back to the farm. The consumer then can come to the farm and pick up their order of meat and take it back to their freezer. The manure produced by the sheep will then be collected and spread over grain, hay and/or pasture fields to help fertilize and regenerate a healthy growth of plants.
There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to choosing which protein to eat. They all have impacts to the environment one way or another. Choose which one fits your values and needs the most and let others do the same without judgment. As consumers we need to stay informed by asking our farmers all of our burning questions. If we want the world to be better and our food production to be better than we as consumers need to do better.