Milk without Money

Well perhaps not, but I thought that quote from Isaiah 55.1 was appropriate since that’s what it can seem like when trying to eat less meat and animal products.  It seems like there is dairy everywhere, flowing with milk and honey indeed!

Just after Tim’s most recent post about dairy and its relationship to being a repentant carnivore, I realized just how big of a deal dairy is. Over this past week I’ve been out and about a lot. I’ve been at family and church gatherings and also been caught having to eat at restaurants a number of times. When it comes to family and church gatherings I think these situations are probably most difficult for meat avoidance.  At one family gathering this past week, it was either eat meat or virtually nothing at all (my wife’s family had a crawfish boil, though I’m not sure about the ecology of eating crawfish).

In the case of eating out, I am realizing that vegetarian eating decisions are sometimes fairly easy to make while vegan ones often are not (There are no restaurants that I know of with vegan offerings anywhere within about a 45 minute drive from my home).  The reason for this is that many of the vegetarian dishes that I have seen, at least at the restaurants I have eaten at recently, contain cheese or some other dairy product as a primary ingredient.

One meal that I ate was at a microbrewery that is also a restaurant.  I mainly go there for the beer 😉 (and please no one tell me that beer is ecologicially bad, I’m not sure I could bear that this early on in trying to make a change), but my wife likes the food.  Oddly enough, there they had several vegetarian style offerings (Based on past experiences I would normally not expect a brewhouse to be so sensitive).  Yet in each case the vegetarian offerings had cheese as one of the primary ingredients.  So, I did the best I could.  I ordered the personal size vegetarian pizza.  I suppose I could have asked them to hold the cheese, but I’m not sure how appetizing that would have been.

In another case, my wife and I ate at our local Greek and Lebanese restaurant called Albasha.  I like Albasha’s fare because many of the dishes that I like are devoid of meat.  However, once again everything usually comes with some sort of yogurt sauce or dressing.  I ordered the falafel sandwich.  It had a bit of a creamy tahini sauce on it and it came with feta salad, but I did feel better about it than the vegetarian pizza.

I guess these experiences just reinforced that one’s decision about dairy can be a really important one and one that I have been thinking a great deal about…

Should dairy products count as meat?

Are beans really "worse" than cheese? (Photo by pizzodisevo, modified)

In my first post I classed eggs and diary products (in particular cheese) with meat as things Repentant Carnivores might try to cut back on. Since then Heather has emailed some interesting calculations. She was curious whether using less dairy would in fact use less land. This was an issue that came up in the discussion on the Tear Fund Facebook page too, so I’ll copy Heather’s figures here:

[u]sing my ‘food footprint’ spreadsheet I already had and plugging in data for g of protein/kg of the food I found you get the following numbers of kg of protein per Ha of land:

  • Nuts (as peanuts) 480
  • Pulses (dry, uncooked) 125
  • Milk 243
  • Yoghurt 270
  • Cheese, milk powder 274
  • Eggs, free range(12 = 636g) 42
  • Goat infinite! (as in NZ goat meat tends not to be farmed as such – it’s feral goat or goat that is brought on to increase the productivity of the land for other uses by them eating up the gorse)
  • Beef 52
  • Chicken (free range) 37
  • Pork (free range) 22
  • Sheep meat 14

Based on that, it looks like eggs should be thought of in the same light as meat, but that dairy products use no more land than pulses or nuts. And that goat should be eaten in abundance 🙂

On the other hand, to get the same g of fat butter takes 21 times the amount of land as canola oil (although if you’re consuming other dairy products obviously a bit of fat goes along with it).

There’s lots to discuss here 😉 Is the goat meat my butcher sells feral goat, or imported meat with huge cost in fuel etc? Should sheep meat be thought of as “worst”, remembering that sheep (in NZ at least) usually use land that is not good for other “crops”? But if these figures are correct (can anybody verify or challenge them?) it looks as if Milk, Cheese and Yoghurt could come off the RC list, which would be very good news for cheese-lovers 🙂