COP23: The Role of Livestock Reduction in Meeting Climate Targets And Other Related Animal Ag Events

At this year’s United Nations COP23 event in Bonn, Germany, there was an official side event called “Reducing Livestock’s Long Shadow.” The event was sponsored by ProVeg International and Green Course.

This event was the only official side event at COP23 about animal agriculture and climate change. This topic should be a main COP event because industrial animal agriculture impacts climate change more than the entire transportation sector according to the UN FAO.

But hey, let’s find ways to make industrial animal agriculture’s impact on climate change a bigger topic globally so that next year at COP24, this topic does get a main event.

Thankfully, the “Reducing Livestock’s Long Shadow” event was recorded and it’s on YouTube. The video includes the talks from the panel members and audience discussion. The panel was excellent and there was so much great information not only on current data but also on possible action items.

 

The panel speakers included:

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Besides this “Reducing Livestock’s Long Shadow” event, Brighter Green wrote up this great blog post of other food and climate change related events.

Less Meat Less Heat did this great re-cap post with photos of their launch of Put Climate on Pause Coalition that proposes the adoption of a two-valued reporting standard for Global Warming Potential (GWP), that includes both 20- and 100-year timescales to give a broader view of the impacts of SLCPs (short-lived climate pollutants), including methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture.

When methane and nitrous oxide are included in the short-term 20 year picture, the impact of industrial animal agriculture on climate change bumps significantly because the leading cause of both gases are from guess what? Yeah. Methane has 86 times the warming potential of CO2 over 20 years (GWP20) versus 34 times over 100 years. (GWP100).

I wrote about how Methane is worse than you think in this post, “10 Staggering Facts: How Massive The Industrial Animal Agriculture Problem Actually Is.”

And lastly, I want to give a shout out to these activists from ASEED Europe who led a protest of the Livestock Industry’s lobbying at COP23. Bravo!

Eating Kitchari Is Great For Post Indulgence Detox

 

Tis the season for over-indulgence. Partaking in feasts and treats is one of the fun things about the holidays, vacations, or celebrations which we all should absolutely enjoy! Food is pleasure and celebration as well as nourishment.

But, then, yeah, there are the days that follow that indulgence where you feel bloated, stuffed and are still wearing your stretchy pants. You are in need of some detoxing.

One great dish to help with post indulgence is Kitchari which is an Ayurvedic detox food. This creamy rich bowl of mung dal, rice, vegetables with warming spices will help you feel rebalanced. It’s also great to eat when it’s cold outside or if you are feeling under the weather because it’s gentle on the stomach.

One of the easiest recipes I’ve found online is Martha Stewart’s recipe for Kitchari.

I tweaked her recipe a bit to make the dish vegan. I omitted the ghee, and I did not make any of the chutney. The great thing with kitchari is that you can get creative with the vegetables. Choose what you like. Her recipe suggests cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato, bok choy, carrots, and green beans. Have some fun with variety.

I topped my bowl with pea shoots, cilantro, avocado, radish, and this protein crunch I found at Whole Foods from Local Greens which is germinated peas, lentil, adzuki, and mung beans.

Normally, you would not add peppers to kitchari because heat is disruptive when you are trying to calm the digestive system. I put the peppers in for the photo because the designer in me can’t help myself as the red color looks nice.  If you want to add some heat to your kitchari, go for it.

I also like to squeeze lemon in kitchari to add some zest. Enjoy!

If You Need Help Choosing a Turkey Meat Alternative

If you are doing your first plant-based Thanksgiving, let’s give you a standing round of applauds! *cheers*

Here is a good video if you decided to go with a turkey meat alternative but have no idea which brand to get because hello there are too many choices. Yay! There was a time when Tofurkey was it. Thankfully, you now have many choices and the turkey-less meats are getting better.

 

The top brands are Tofurkey, Field Roast, and Gardein. Not in the video, Trader Joe’s also has a Turkey-less roast with gravy. Enjoy!

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Canned Coconut Whipped Topping

Canned whipped cream may not seem like a big deal to many people but when you are vegan, plant-based or allergic to dairy, it’s actually a big deal because finding a can of dairy-free whipped cream to just easily spray on pie, dessert, or ice cream sundaes is hard to find.

Look no further! Trader Joe’s has a new canned coconut based whipped topping and it is AWESOME!

I will actually have to control myself with this whipped cream because it’s so sweet and delicious and best the cream holds it’s shape really well and doesn’t disintegrate into a watery puddle like some other dairy-free canned whipped creams. Here is a quick video of me spraying some of the topping onto a JoJo cookie.

I had to go to my local Trader Joe’s twice because the topping is so popular it kept selling out. See all gone.

LOVE to see this happen because it means that the product is popular. So run out and get yourself a can or three of this awesome Trader Joe’s whipped cream.

Welcome To The Brand New Flexi 21 Site!

Hello friends! It’s an exciting day as I launch the new home of The Flexi 21, a plant-forward food blog about culinary climate action where eating low carbon is °Cool.

Yes, I had some fun playing on the celsius symbol in the tagline because it gets straight to the point of including climate change in a delightful way.

It’s time to make food a top climate action item.

I feel it’s going to be an exciting year in 2018. High-tech goes plant-forward has already been cited as one of the top food trends of 2018. More and more people are becoming open to the idea of reducing their meat, dairy and egg consumption for health and environmental reasons.

Their is no Planet B, so we have to start including dietary behavior change in climate action items we can all do to shrink our personal carbon footprint to help stop climate change because industrial animal agriculture is impacting climate change more than the entire transportation sector.

A good place to get the lowdown on the bigger picture is to start with this post, “10 Staggering Facts: How Massive The Industrial Animal Agriculture Problem Actually Is.”

Also, here you can get started and learn more about The Flexi 21 Dietary Challenge so you can start eating plant-forward and low carbon.

Because eating low carbon is °Cool! 😎

10 Staggering Facts: How Massive The Industrial Animal Agriculture Problem Actually Is

There is so much information about industrial animal agriculture’s impact on climate change that it’s honestly overwhelming.

Where to begin?

I’ve spent almost a whole year poring over all kinds of data, articles, books, lectures, and videos to learn as much as I could. The reason there’s so much information is that the factory farm system involves a myriad of intersecting industries, social issues, political issues, global issues, and big money.

This post is by no means a summary of everything out there but it will help make it a bit easier for you to start digesting and get the bigger picture.

We’ll begin with  a comprehensive Facts page, 10 staggering facts that will give you a broad yet detailed picture of just how massive the problems factory farming is causing, and then finish with three compelling videos so you can see actual footage and more detailed information.

Climate change is real and we cannot combat its devastating effects without taking action on industrial animal agriculture’s impact on global warming and the environment.

Comprehensive Facts Page

The Cowspiracy documentary Facts page is the best resource online with an extensive collection of data with links to information on industrial animal agriculture’s impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Water, Land, Waste, Oceans, Rainforest, Wildlife, and Humanity which includes human health. It’s compelling!

 

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10 Staggering Facts

1. 99% of farm animals in the U.S are raised in factory farms. ~ASPCA

If you find that number unbelievable, for some perspective, despite significant consumer demand for organic food, only 1% of total farms in the U.S. are organic farms. ~USDA (it’s actually only .80 but let’s be generous and round up.)

2. Just how many farm animals are there in our country? Literally, billions.

In 2015, 9.2 billion animals were slaughtered for food in the U.S. This figure does not include seafood. 8,822,695,000 of the 9.2.B is chickens. Yes, we as a nation ate almost 9 billion chickens in one year. ~Humane Society

3. Corporate domination anyone? Just four corporations control the meatpacking industry. They are in order by 2016 net sales:

  • Tyson Foods
  • JBS USA
  • Cargill
  • Smithfield Foods

Tyson Foods dominates the four. From 2013 to 2016, just 3 years, Tyson doubled their Gross Profits from $2.3B to $4.7B. To give you an idea of their scale, Tyson slaughters an average of 125,000 head of cattle per week which is a little over the human population of Berkeley, CA. They have the capacity to slaughter up to 175,000 animals per week.

Here is an eye opening piece One Green Planet published about some of Tyson’s business practices globally, “From Conflict Palm Oil to Factory Farms: The True Cost of Tyson’s Cheap Food.”

4. Got meat gluttony ? Per capita per year, Americans eat the most meat in the world.  

Americans ate on average 214 lbs of meat per capita which breaks down into Chicken at 106 lbs, Beef/Veal at 55 lbs, Pork at 51 lbs, and Sheep at 2 lbs. ~ 2016 edition of OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook

Based on this data, Americans eat about 2 lbs of chicken per week which is the average weight for a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. If you are an average chicken eater, you eat 52 birds a year.

5. To produce one pound of beef requires a whopping:

  • 1,799 gallons of water which is the equivalent of 90 8-minute showers
  • 15 lbs of feed
  • And produces 15 lbs of CO2 which is the equivalent of driving 20.59 miles

The feed conversion ratio (FCR) of a cow, the animal’s efficiency to turn its food into body mass for meat (it’s input compared to it’s output) is the highest of all livestock at 7:1. Pork is 5:1 and chickens are 2-1/2:1. ~Dr. Robert Lawrence of Johns Hopkins University

Let’s compare the water footprint per gram of protein between beef and beans. Litres of water per gram of protein needed for beef is 112 (30 gallons) and pulses are 19 (5 gallons). Beef requires 6 times the amount of water than beans! ~Water Footprint Network

6. Where are the factory farms? Everywhere.

The terms the USDA uses for factory farming are Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO.) The difference is the number of animals and how significant by EPA standards the operation can contribute to surface water pollution via its waste management system.

There are approximately 450,000 AFOs in the United States!

Food and Water Watch created this insightful “Factory Farm Map.” The dark red areas represent the biggest of the factory farms which can have tens of thousands to millions of animals on hand.

The dark red areas on the Factory Farm map marked EXTREME mean “More than 13,200 total livestock animal units” which is more than 17,400 beef cattle on feed, more than 4,200 dairy cows, more than 48,500 hogs, more than 2.75 million broiler chickens, and more than 1.25 million egg laying hens.

To understand the map, here is the key and the methodology FWW used. The map also shows the county location of the slaughter facilities and poultry processing plants for the top four beef, pork and poultry processing companies in the United States.

7. Methane is worse than you think.

In a 2017 published study funded by NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System program, global methane emissions from cows is 11% higher than previous stats suggested.

From the IPCC Climate Change 2013 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), (chapter 8 pg. 714) methane has 86 times the warming potential of CO2 over 20 years (GWP20) and 34 times the warming potential of CO2 over 100 years. (GWP100).

The global accepted policy norm in climate change data is to use the GWP100 numbers. In this Scientific American article, “How bad of a gas is methane?” some in the scientific community are calling to end the use of GWP100 methane numbers and use GWP20 and GWP100 as a slashed pair.  The difference in the methane GWP numbers from 20 to 100 years is 2.5 times, which is significant.

Methane from the agricultural sector is largely unregulated in the U.S. despite the fact that combined CH4 and N2O emissions from livestock manure management systems grew 64% between 1990 and 2013. In 2012, factory farm raised livestock produced 369 million tons of manure, which is 13 times as much as the sewage produced by the entire U.S. population

8. Is Big Meat influencing the emissions data?

In 2015, Congress renewed a provision that prevents the EPA from requiring emission reports from livestock producers. Yeah, you read that right. How is this even possible? It smells like the influence of money in politics. Here is the bill in its entirety.

Here is a FAQ from the EPA from 2010 on the Guide for the Agriculture and Livestock Sectors on Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases. Not only are dairy or beef producers not required to report on annual enteric fermentation emissions of methane but the EPA did not implement reporting requirements for manure management systems from funds using its FY2010 appropriations due to a Congressional restriction prohibiting the expenditure of funds for this purpose.

FAQs on Mandatory Reporting was taken down when the Trump administration scrubbed the EPA web properties at the beginning of 2017. The EPA agriculture emission numbers are estimated to be 4% below actual numbers.

9. Your meat, dairy, and egg purchases are supporting Big Pharma.

70% of medically important antibiotics in the U.S. are sold for use in animals, not people. In 2015, 97% of all medically important antibiotic sales for livestock or poultry were over-the-counter, meaning they were sold without a prescription and typically without any oversight by a veterinarian. This happens because of lax government regulation. ~NRDC

All that unregulated antibiotic use is contributing to increasing the creation and spread of antibiotic resistant infections. Got superbugs? The USDA told the livestock industry to reduce antibiotic use, but instead the usage of antibiotics continues to rise as cited in this 2016 FDA report.

10. Your meat, dairy, and egg purchases are supporting Big GMO.

Your meat, dairy, and egg purchases is supporting the stock prices of GMO behemoths like Monsanto/Bayer (a mega merger pending government approval,) and the new Dow DuPont $62 billion behemoth.

Factory farm animals are fed a diet primarily of GMO soy and corn. 92% of all corn, and 94% of all soy grown in the U.S. is GMO. An astounding, 98% of U.S. soy goes to feed livestock. Monsanto controls 80% of the GM corn market, and 93% of the GM soy market. In 2016, Monsanto had net sales of $13.5 billion. $5.83 billion of those sales was corn alone.

Factory farm raised dairy cows eat plenty of GMO alfalfa. Alfalfa is the 4th largest crop grown in the U.S, and Monsanto is the industry leader in GMO alfalfa.

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I could double this list with more staggering facts. I haven’t even gotten talking about crap yet, like literal manure, and the manure lagoons. But for now, I’ll leave you with this list to process because it’s A LOT.

One of the easiest and most impactful things you can do now to take action is to simply start reducing your meat, dairy, and egg consumption which is why I’ve created the Flexi 21 challenge that can help you get started in that process in a fun, delicious way.

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Videos

  • Cowspiracy, The Sustainability Secret available on Netflix is a documentary that talks about the cow in the room avoided in most discussions about climate change.

This documentary will give you an eye opening glimpse into why the world’s leading environmental organizations like Greenpeace and 350.org barely address factory farms despite the fact that according to the U.N, industrial animal agriculture impacts climate change more than the entire transportation sector which includes cars, trains, boats, and airplanes.

I honestly didn’t believe what I was seeing in Cowspiracy so I did my own research and sure enough it was true. It’s jaw dropping. Here is the Cowspiracy trailer.

This video is a talk David gave based on his book Meatonomics about the business and political workings of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. It’s riveting information most consumers have no idea about like Ag gag laws, Cheeseburger laws, and government Check-off programs. There’s a reason you see so many bacon and cheese burger commercials on TV.

When you learn more about the economics of the meat, dairy, and egg industries you will see why factory farms exist in the first place, the levels of greed and corporate control involved, and how much we consumers are being manipulated. It’s eye opening!

  • From VICE on HBO, “Meathooked & End of Water.” This is one of the best videos I’ve seen that shows a quick but bigger picture view of what factory farms look like from the ground and air.

You will see jaw dropping air footage of manure lagoons some the size of multiple football fields. Manure lagoons are one of the largest contributors of Nitrous Oxide, which has 296 times the GWP100 (Global Warming Power over 100 years) of C02. You will also see what massive GMO corn crops surrounding a large cattle factory farm in Colorado looks like. It’s eerie.

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Product Review: Gardein Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites

One of the many reasons I love Gardein is that they make it possible to have plant-based Asian food right at home. Sweet and Sour pork used to be one of my favorite Chinese food dishes, and now I can enjoy that flavor once again.

I have to admit I was a little skeptical of these Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites at first because just from the picture on the bag they look puffy like the Gardein Home Style Beefless Tips which is not in my top faves.

As soon as I took a bite of the cooked Porkless Bites from my plate, all that skepticism disappeared. These Porkless Bites are a good way to transition from eating real pork. For a plant-based version of sweet and sour pork, these bites are pretty darn delish and they have 13g of protein per serving which is awesome!

 

 

The Porkless Bites are best when you pan fry them in some oil so you get that nice crispy outside similar to the crispy outside you get when ordering real pork sweet and sour at a Chinese restaurant. I love that crispiness!

I use avocado oil for pan frying.

And speaking of Chinese restaurants, I added some carrots, onions, and red pepper to my Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites to make it restaurant style. So good! The sauce comes in a separate packet so if you do not like the sauce that comes with the bites or you want to try another sauce like an orange sauce or Peking sauce, you can totally do that.

The recipe for the whole meal pictured here is in our app.

One Pan Tomato Mushroom Pasta Featuring Heirloom Tomatoes

 

This pasta dish will quickly become one of your favorite go-to meals because it’s easy and fast to make, plus you can do many versions of it based on what you have in the fridge and pantry. This dish is especially amazing when heirloom tomatoes are in season when you can pick some up at your local farmers market. Heirloom tomatoes come in a variety of colors so try as many as you can.

I used Trader Joe’s brand organic whole wheat penne pasta but you can use 12 oz of your favorite pasta like linguine, spaghetti, or fun farfelle aka bow tie pasta. Normally for one pan dishes you’d use a 3-qt. sauté pan, but I used a wok because I found it easier to mix and stir the pasta while it was cooking.

 

 

I LOVE heirloom tomatoes because of their sweet, rich flavor, and the varieties of color and shape. For my dish, I used a combination of these two organic varieties.

 

Organic Red Zebra Stripes Heirloom Tomatoes

 

Organic Chocolate Stripes Heirloom Tomato

 

I cannot get enough of the rich color of the Chocolate Striped heirlooms. They are stunning to use in chopped salads or sliced in Caprese salad.

Get creative and have fun with this recipe. I used mushrooms but another fun add in replacement would be chopped Padron or Jimmy Nardello peppers.




Ingredients:

  • 12 oz organic penne pasta
  • 12 oz chopped organic heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 organic basil leaves
  • 4 small sprigs of otganic oregano leaves
  • 6 chopped organic cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 small organic red onion sliced
  • 4 coves organic sliced garlic – Add more to up the garlic excitement
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-1/2 tsps of salt. I added 1/2 tsp more salt to the recipe because whole wheat pasta tends to be a bit blander (to me) compared to regular wheat.
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes optional if you want spicy
  • 4-cups of water

Cooking the dish:

  • In your pan, pour in the pasta first then add in the tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, garlic, onion, basil, and oregano like you see in the photo above.
  • Add in the olive oil, salt, and a few shakes of black pepper. Add the red pepper flakes if you want spicy.
  • Pour in the water and mix everything together.
  • Turn the heat to high and wait for the water to start boiling. Keep stirring while the water gets hotter.
  • When the water boils, turn the heat down to medium high, and continue stirring until the pasta gets soft about 10-15 minutes.

The pasta water becomes the sauce of the dish. In the last few minutes, if you notice the water drying up faster than the cook time of the pasta, add a little more water. For example, Penne can use more water than Angel Hair pasta.

If you make this dish, take a photo, tag it #theflexi21 and share with the community on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @theflexi21.

 

I’m Not Vegan (Yet), But Here Are 5 Things That Motivated Me To Stop Eating Meat

Becoming more plant-based happened gradually and intuitively as I worked on becoming a more conscious human being, and became more concerned about maintaining good health entering my 40’s.

I saw too many older loved ones taking a myriad of pills for various chronic health issues like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Many died from stroke, cancer, and heart attack.

I decided to be preventative versus reactive with my health.

Going vegan was too much of a drastic change for me, so I went Flexitarian aiming for an 80/20 split of animals/plants in my diet which works out to 4 meals with meat out of your 21 meals for the week. That was a doable goal.

After 5 years, I got to eating meat about as much as I ate cheesecake, rarely. In September 2016, I started a 100 day meat-free challenge that I ended up doing for 365 days straight. This was my first year meat-free, and I decided to keep going into year 2 mainly because I feel better physically, emotionally, and spiritually eating plant-based.

I’m all about progress versus perfection. Start where you can. Do your best. Be patient with yourself.

The Filipino in me isn’t quite ready to give up my mom’s home cooking. Although she no longer uses meat in some of my favorite dishes like Mungo beans and Pinakbet, she still uses patis, fish sauce.

I am enjoying discovering new foods, and new ways of cooking favorite foods 100% plant-based. In the photo at the top of this post is a vegan Filipino meal I cooked using jackfruit to make a shredded pork-like adobo with pancit Bihon, veggie lumpia, and garlic rice. Masarap!

Admittedly, I was a consumer who consciously didn’t want to know any details of my meat’s life or death.

I was comfortable in the illusion I held of happy cows, pigs, and chickens grazing in open green fields on old McDonald’s farm like these piglets here. I had no idea how factory farms worked and how they impacted people, animal, and planet.

I decided it was time to take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Stepping into the realities of factory farms was honestly like watching a real life horror film.

I was most shocked to learn that 99% of farm animals raised in the U.S. are raised in factory farms. I had no idea it was that high.

You don’t have to be vegan to get how messed up and appalling the factory farm system is. Factory farms are a result of Americans meat gluttony, and the meat industry’s drive to continuously grow economically.

Per capita per year, Americans eat the most meat in the world.  

In 2016, Americans ate on average 214 lbs of meat per capita which breaks down into Chicken at 106 lbs, Beef/Veal at 55 lbs, Pork at 51 lbs, and Sheep at 2 lbs. ~ 2016 edition of OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook  For perspective, in India, the average meat consumption per person is 10 lbs for the whole year.

It was excruciating watching videos inside factory farms, and astounding to learn that what I was seeing was actually legal like this list of, “10 Things That Happen to Farmed Animals Every Day That You Won’t Believe are Legal.” On the positive, the National Dairy FARM Animal Care Program of which 98% of the U.S. milk supply is enrolled, implemented the stopping of routine tail docking of dairy animals as of January 1, 2017.

I said I wanted the truth. I took as much as I could, and then, I had enough.

Enough to convince me that the true price I was paying to eat meat was not worth it. More so, I was horrified to learn the truth of what my meat purchases were contributing to.

But it didn’t stop there.

I also felt compelled to do something to help shine light on factory farming, this massive global systematic problem that is negatively impacting people, animal, and planet. The Flexi 21 was born.

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People stop eating meat for various reasons. Here are the top 5 things that motivated me to stop eating meat.

Industrial animal agriculture is the single most destructive industry on the planet

Read this eye opening piece from the Georgetown University Environmental Law Review, “A Leading Cause of Everything: One Industry That Is Destroying Our Planet and Our Ability to Thrive on,” because it will give you a good 1,000 foot view and it’s truly harrowing.

Climate change. Ocean dead zones. Fisheries depletion. Species extinction. Deforestation. World hunger. Food safety. Heart disease. Obesity. Diabetes. The list goes on.

I want off this trainwreck.

This is a hog factory farm in North Carolina flooded by hurricane Floyd. And yes, that is hog crap literally floating to surrounding communities where people live. The manure lagoons sometimes the size of football fields are filled with animal waste, chemical pollutants, bacteria, and parasites.

Imagine the smell. Yikes!

image from Union of Concerned Scientists, “Impacts After the Flood: As Midwest Waters Recede, Health Threats Remain.

North Carolina has about 9 million hogs on nearly 2,300 hog farm operations. The human population of the whole state of North Carolina is 10 million. That is nearly one hog per person.

Here are more aerial shots of factory farms so you can see a bigger picture of how manure is collected in these lagoons. It’s astonishing. According to Food and Water Watch’s, “Factory Farm Nation – 2015 Edition,” report:

“Factory-farmed livestock produced 369 million tons of manure in 2012, about 13 times as much as the sewage produced by the entire U.S. population. This 13.8 billion cubic feet of manure is enough to fill the Dallas Cowboys stadium 133 times. Unlike sewage produced in cities, manure on factory farms does not undergo any wastewater treatment.”

This is straight up disgusting and has gotten health hazard written all over it. I enjoy bacon but it’s not worth that.

Can you be a meat eating progressive?

In a Rich Roll podcast, musician and vegan activist Moby brought up this question and it got me thinking.

It would make sense to be vegan if you are a progressive because progressives are against oppression, exploitation, and corporate greed which are all represented in the factory farm system.

Historically, progressives are the ones who are the first to enlighten society about the wrongness of what is happening socially like the abolitionists, suffragists, feminists, and civil rights activists who were seen as extreme at the time but whose efforts led to the end of slavery, the end of women not being able to vote, and the end of interracial and same-sex couples not being able to marry.

Animal activists may very well lead us to see the end of slaughtering animals for food.

Other social issues tied to factory farms include environmental racism and injustice, and worker labor abuse. I never even thought about the people who worked in slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants and how doing that job impacts them emotionally, psychologically and physically. Abroad in Asia where we import plenty of seafood there is widespread slavery, forced labor of migrant workers, child labor, trafficking and violence on fishing boats and in onshore food processing units.

In the movie, “What the Health,” the most heartbreaking part of the movie was the interviews of people living near a hog factory farm in North Carolina. A young black grandmother spoke of the heartbreaking loss of loved ones who got cancer and died too soon.

Here is a really good interview that TYT did with Moby, Nathan Runkle, the Founder of Mercy for Animals, and NBA championship player John Salley about vegan activism which includes quite a bit discussion about climate change and the environment. Moby expands more about progressive values and animal rights and justice.

I consider myself an Independent progressive. I was a California delegate for Bernie Sanders in his 2016 bid for POTUS. I left the Democratic party after the convention in Philly. So obviously, social issues are a big deal to me..

When I started to see the disconnects between my politics and food choices, what became glaring was that my meat purchases were economically supporting systems ruled by corporatist greed and monopolistic behavior that I am opposed to – factory farms, Big GMO, and Big Pharma. Now add meatpacking to my list. Did you know that only four corporations control the meatpacking industry? They are Tyson, Cargill, JBS (a Brazil based conglomerate), and Smithfield Foods.

When the progressive in me thinks about any of my money going to help raise the stock prices of these greedy industries who think nothing of making profits at the expense of people, animal, and planet, I quickly stop me in my tracks. NO more.

Big GMO profits substantially from our meat and dairy purchases

Graphic from WWF Global Soy Facts and Data

Every consumer has a corporation they despise. For me, it’s Monsanto. In fact, my loathing of Monsanto is how I got involved in food activism in the first place. I helped campaign for GMO Labeling laws and marched against Monsanto.

I never made the connection before that my meat purchases were contributing to Big GMO’s billions in profits because of factory farms. In this episode of VICE on HBO, “Meathooked & End of Water” skip to minute 11:54 and you will see an aerial view from a small airplane of large corn crop circles adjacent to one of the largest cattle factory farms in Colorado. It’s eerie to see from the air.

On a side note related to my previous discussion above on North Carolina hog factory farms, go to minute 8:00 of Meathooked and you will see video both on land and in the air of the hog factory farms and their manure lagoons. This too is eerie.

 

 

Corn and soy are the two largest crops produced in the U.S. 92% of all corn, and 94% of all soy grown in the U.S. is GMO. Monsanto controls 80% of the GM corn market, and 93% of the GM soy market. In 2016, Monsanto had net sales of $13.5 billion.

In 2011, the USDA approved under controversy GMO alfalfa which is used primarily as food for dairy cows, and is the 4th largest crop grown in the U.S. Monsanto is the industry leader in GMO alfalfa. In 2016, USDA research found that because of cross contamination 25% of wild alfalfa is now GMO.

If I can help it, not one penny of mine is going to Big GMO.

 

The white cow

Let me introduce you to Ella, my white cow friend who I find enchanting among a herd of brown cows that roam our suburban hills for 2 months every year. I would see Ella every week during my runs and soon became emotionally attached.

I came upon this YouTube video called, “The White Cow” about a medical doctor who visited a local slaughterhouse. The doctor captured what a humane slaughter looks like.

The white cow clip is only 4 minutes long and mostly depicts the brief ill-fated relationship between the doctor and the sweet white cow she befriends. The last 45 seconds is a quick edit of the slaughter process, and it’s straight forward.

I saw my sweet, playful Ella in that slaughterhouse. You see the last look in this sweet cow’s face before they bring her onto the kill stage, and I imagined Ella and I lost it. Crying hard.

I thought to myself, “If you cannot bear to watch the humane slaughter of a cow, why are you eating their meat?”

I finally understood my vegan friends who would say that there is no such thing as a “humane slaughter.” I totally get it now.

The word humane means “showing compassion or benevolence, an act of kindness.” The actual kind thing to do is spare the life of a perfectly healthy cow who doesn’t want to die in the first place.

The term ‘humane meat’ is similar to saying clean coal or responsible fracking. It’s a marketing term to make us feel better about the real truth. Yes, the animal did live a better life than their factory farm counterparts but in the end, they still die an unwilling death.

These animals trusted us to take care of them, and in the end we betray that trust. I realized that uncomfortableness I was feeling was my soul and head in disagreement with each other, which was easily fixed by stopping my participation in the death cycle of all the other Ellas and her kin.

The plant-based foods are definitely delicious and feel better in my body

I’m a visual person so I like bright colors and fun textures in my food. To transition to eating more plant-based, I focused on eating the colors of the rainbow in the form of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Many nutritionists recommend eating the rainbow as a way to get in your daily needs of nutrients and fiber.

When I was younger, I ate mostly rice, meats, breads, cheese, potatoes, and pasta. I ate vegetables only as condiments like lettuce and tomato on a turkey sandwich. If I did a collage of the foods I ate back then, the colors would be mostly brown, beige, and white with orange for cheese and red for tomato pasta sauce.

Today, I eat like this.

The more I ate colorful foods like this, the more my palate changed on its own and started craving this food. Here is a sample of what I eat currently.

  • Bok choy with bulgur, shiitake mushrooms and cherry tomatoes cooked in vegan chicken broth
  • Roasted acorn squash with Harissa sauce, red quinoa salad, marinated mushrooms and green salad
  • Forager Project cherry yogurt blended with organic banana topped with figs, granola and cherries
  • Red Domingo heirloom beans with ginger, turmeric brown Jasmine rice, grilled Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers and chopped Early Girl tomatoes.
  • Butternut squash risotto with English peas and cremini mushrooms

Looks delicious right?! I do not miss meat at all.

 

 

Seeing this photo of a cow and her horse bestie at a sanctuary farm knowing they will live long lives lovingly cared for brings me joy.

There was a time when eating turkey on Thanksgiving, lechon at the family gathering, and noshing on the famous Carnegie Deli pastrami sandwich brought me joy. Now, no more.

I came to realize that eating animals is no longer in energetic alignment with who I am. I no longer feel good physically, emotionally, and mentally eating animals. I feel better and stronger eating plant-based.

This synopsis about Jonathan Foer’s book, “Eating Animals” sums it up for me.

“When one supports factory farming, one is relinquishing the importance of certain moral behavior to animals, and in turn, to humans as well. For example, if one denies the importance of the suffering of an animal, one denies the importance of the ability to suffer in and of itself, so it follows that one denies the importance of suffering for humans. In a similar chain of logic, Foer connects our treatment of animals to our treatment of humans―we dichotomize between those who matter and those who do not. Consequently, each food choice an individual makes is an ethical one that profoundly impacts both human and non-human animals.”

 

 

 

 

Vegan Grilled Cheese: Havarti, Roasted Tomato, Garlic, and Basil

 

Oh yes, this sandwich dripping with cheese is vegan!

The quality of plant-based cheese has thankfully improved dramatically since the turn of the century. We are getting to the point where the difference between a plant-based cheese and a dairy made cheese are getting pretty close.

The vegan cheese featured in this sandwich is the Jalapeno Garlic Havarti Daiya Wedge. This Daiya Havarti melts pretty well. It wouldn’t fool a dairy eater, but oh, it comes in pretty close. The Jalapeno is very mild and adds more flavor than heat.

I made this grilled Havarti with roasted vine tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Other brands of plant-based cheese I would recommend trying include Field Roast Chao Creamy Original and Follow Your Heart Pepperjack or Smoked Gouda.

 

 

For the bread, I found at the market a Pumpkin Seed Sage Boulet that was vegan. Sage and seeds sounded so good to me, and the pumpkin seeds just add more protein to the sandwich.

 

 

To make the roasted tomatoes:

  • Cut the tomatoes into slices. Dice some fresh basil leaves. Chop some garlic chunks.
  • Place on a baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with some olive oil. Massage the oil into the ingredients. Add a couple pinches of sea salt.
  • Roast the tomatoes in the oven for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.




The butter I used was Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread. This flavor is my favorite of all the Earth Balance Buttery Spreads because it has a great buttery taste. Also, this spread is trans fat-free, vegan, and has no GMOs. I made toast for my folks using this spread and they didn’t know the difference.

A little secret to get the cheese to look gooey melted is to cook your grilled cheese sandwich in a pan on the stove top like you would a regular grilled cheese sandwich until the bread is a nice golden brown. Then put your sandwich on a plate and microwave it on high for like 10 seconds. If you microwave too long, the bread will start to get soggy and lose it’s crispy grilled texture.

Of course, I had to complete the sandwich experience with tomato soup. For ease, the soup is Whole Foods 365 brand organic Vegan Tomato soup in a can.

If you make this sandwich, take a photo, tag it #theflexi21 and share with the community on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram @theflexi21.

 

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