Yo, Hipsters: Bacon had a Mom

From grist.org:

All of which has led some vegetarians to give up their plant-based ways. But food fads aside, vegetarianism still has its place and deserves its due respect.

Let me state, for the record, that I wholeheartedly support the shift from factory farming to more sustainable meat production. Treating animals humanely, letting them eat what they’re naturally inclined to eat, raising them without antibiotics and hormones, incorporating them into holistic farms Joel Salatin-style, and, once they’re slaughtered, eating every last bit of them, nose to tail — that’s all good stuff.

But let’s get real. Only a teeny-tiny fraction of meat in the U.S. is actually produced in any way that could conceivably be described as “sustainable” — less than 1 percent, according to the group Farm Forward — and only a teeny-tiny fraction of that is raised in the super-duper-über-conscientious Salatin style. Most of the meat raised even by those trying to do it right comes with serious environmental impacts, from high water consumption to large land footprints to excessive methane emissions.

When vegetarians do aim higher, it’s hard to beat them on the sustainability front — a non-soy-based, non-heavily-processed, local-focused veg diet is the definition of low impact.

In the end, vegetarianism — eating lower on the food chain, gobbling up fewer resources and less water — is still an ethical, environmentally friendly choice, just like it was in the ’90s. Maybe even more so now, if you consider how our environmental, energy, and food challenges have compounded in the last two decades.

So, meat hipsters, drop that smug sanctimony. Sometime soon, bacon-spiked dessert will look just as outmoded as lentil loaf and baby-doll dresses — and vegetarianism will still be a good choice for my health, society at large, and our global environment.

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