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Food: the good, the bad and the ugly

August 5, 2014

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” Psalm 24.1

When you think of eating what comes to mind? We all enjoy a tasty meal shared with friends. It is so easy to buy what we want from a supermarket or to order whatever takes our fancy from a menu. But it’s not so easy to know where that food has come from, and who and what has been involved in its creation.

Our global food system leaves a lot to be desired:

I’m realising that what I choose to eat is not just a personal matter – my choices have a wide-reaching impact that I need to be more aware of. What I put in my shopping basket has an impact on the lives of millions around the world.

Let’s focus on a juicy steak for a minute – because it has a lot to answer for! Did you know that 1kg of beef requires 6.5kg of grain, 36kg of roughage, and 15,500l of water? This places severe pressure on scarce resources and has many hidden costs. Climate change, pollution, water use, ocean acidification, eutrophication, rainforest destruction – meat and poultry have a huge environmental impact. And don’t get me started on the methane that cows produce…!

Even if you don’t care about what is happening around the world (really?!) what about the impact eating meat has on you? Excessive meat consumption, especially processed meat, is proven to put people at risk from heart disease, cancers, strokes and various health risks associated with obesity, such as diabetes. If people in the UK ate meat no more than 3 times a week, it could save 45,000 lives and £1.2 billion a year for the NHS.

My husband and I are not strictly vegetarians (he is South African after all!) but are increasingly cutting down the amount of meat we eat, and when we do treat ourselves, we make sure that it is from “happy” animals / fish (i.e. organic, free-range, sustainably sourced etc) – quality over quantity. We are also loving experimenting with new ingredients, and often don’t notice the fact that a dish is meat-free. Win-win! Could you join us in becoming Part-time Carnivores?

Recently there have been a number of publications highlighting food issues:

We need to think about food and the choices we make to fulfil the command: love God and love our neighbours. We need to protect and repair God’s creation not only because it was very good, but also to show our love for our neighbours near and far, now and in the future.

What will you do differently?

  • Use your LOAF – choose food that is Locally and therefore seasonally produced, Organically grown, Animal friendly and Fairly traded.
  • Quality over quantity: eat less meat – see the Friends of the Earth Meat Atlas to understand the impact of meat – quite a long read, but even just scanning the contents page will definitely make you re-think your normal eating habits.
  • Love your leftovers and waste less – check out this recent Breathe post.
  • Plan ahead, shop with a list – taking time to plan your meals for the week will ensure that you only buy products that you know you will use, and will minimise your risk of buying more than you can eat before it goes off. Planning ahead will make it easy for you to take reusable bags shopping and check what food can be used up at home rather than being bought unnecessarily and resulting in older produce being thrown out. You might also find it easier to resist those not-so-special offers.
  • Know your labels – understand the difference between Use by and Best before.
  • Get involved with organisations which give potentially wasted food a good home and which help to build community:
    • Foodcycle – this UK charity combines volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen spaces to create tasty, nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.
    • The Casserole Club – cook double portions and give one to your neighbour.
    • Fareshare – redistributing surplus food to partner charities.
    • The Trussell Trust – the main organiser of local foodbanks.
  • Campaign for systemic changes:


Breathe’s motto is “Less stuff, more life” – this applies to our food too. If we can commit to seeking out food that has care for God’s creation at the heart of its production, even if it costs us more financially, and we value it more and therefore waste less, then our “less stuff” will ensure “more life” for us in the nutritional value of our food, “more life” for the animals and plants which are our food, and “more life” for the many people who currently struggle to get enough food.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2014 8:09 pm

    I agree we certainly should eat less meat, but there is a big difference between meat ethically and sustainably raised and that which is not. I like the fact you eat happy meat, but it would be good to know that the reason the meat is happy, is because it has been grass fed. Not all cows eat lots of grain, sometimes animals are raised on areas not suitable for crops and when they are, if they are rotated properly then they can help to build soil fertility. Improved fertile soil absorbs carbon, permanent pasture absorbs carbon and can off-set the amount of methane produced by the animal. In addition, healthy soil requires less fertiliser and again this reduces the effects of the animal on the climate.

    As for me, definitely demitarian and trying to move towards eating more meat raised by myself on a marginal piece of land in Latvia. 🙂 rather than purchasing the pork from my local butcher.

    • August 11, 2014 11:04 am

      Thank you for your comment Joanna. I love the fact that you are raising your own meat! Unfortunately for us, living in a concrete jungle (London) we are not able to do the same so have to rely on certification such as the Soil Association’s Organic logo to ensure that our meat is “happy” i.e. ethically and sustainably raised. I trust them to ensure that the animals and the land have been treated well for the long-term. It’s often more expensive, but for cheaper meat someone or something is definitely paying the price even if it’s not me, therefore I feel it is worth spending a bit more. Happy farming 🙂

  2. September 1, 2014 9:13 am

    Reblogged this on lydialivinglightly and commented:

    Today is the start of Organic September, encouraging us to make small changes to make a big difference. What changes will you make this month? This post was previously published on the Breathe Network:

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