Can We Solve America’s Meat Crisis?
There’s no way Americans are going to completely stop eating meat anytime soon. Tofu has been advertised to us since the sixties, and we’ve dutifully chewed through soft, firm and silken variations of tofu. We’ve also been served Mock Duck, better known as straight-up uncut wheat gluten; tempeh, the fermented bean curd; fat-headed mushrooms and every kind of bean and seed mushed together and fried to convince us it’s hamburger. Yet none of these substitutions or quasi-replacements have bamboozled our taste buds and extinguished our craving for flesh, unfortunately.
In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations did a report entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” The report unequivocally states that the livestock sector is the second largest contributor to our quickly dissolving environment, soon to be the first if things don’t change.
We’re not just talking about cows and their 150-billion-gallon methane-producing asses. This is much, much bigger. We’re talking air and water pollution, water shortages, toxic algal blooms, land degradation and a loss of biodiversity. Livestock is the single largest user of land, with 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial land on this planet inhabited by some form of livestock and 33 percent of land dedicated to feed them. That’s 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the usable land located on our majestic planet Earth. We’re even chopping down trees to make room for more cattle; in Latin America, 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is now occupied by pastures.
What if I told you there are solutions to our meat crisis? What if I told you one is an organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised, low-impact, sustainable meat source that can be raised in your own back yard? One potential solution is what the Peruvians call Cuy (Kwee), or what we call Guinea Pig. Now, before the words “But Guinea pigs are pets!” squeal out your mouth, let me remind you that Hindus believe cows are sacred, yet most Western countries chow down on beef with aplomb.
Guinea pigs require much less water, food and room than traditional livestock. They reproduce extremely quickly, are more profitable than traditional livestock and can be raised in an urban environment. They can live off grass, don’t destroy or degrade the soil, and don’t produce tons of noxious gas or toxic waste. Guinea pig meat is high in protein, as well as low in fat and cholesterol; it tastes like the dark meat of chicken, and a backyard guinea pig boar and two sows could continually feed and sustain a family of six.
However, if harvesting what was once your childhood pet is a bit much, and you know no matter how much salad, hummus and pumpkin seeds you eat, you’ll still crave flesh—just in a more traditional, pre-packaged form—well, then, try visiting your local butcher. And do it soon, as they might not be around much longer!
Angela Wilson is the owner of Avedano’s Meats in San Francisco. For the last ten years, she has acted as an old-school butcher, working with old-school farmers to bring true grass-fed, farm-raised meats to home cooks. This is true farm to table—not the chunks of ground flesh you purchase at fancy grocery stores, thinking it comes from a small farmer. Avedano’s uses truly local, small-farm, pasture-raised animals and it’s sustainable.
“We use every part of the animal. When you buy a chicken, it comes with feet,” Angela says, “Tossing them out is such a waste. Mass produced with massive waste.” Angela hopes that she can expand and set up kiosks around the city soon, however, time is running out. Avedano’s Meats is celebrating its Ten-Year Anniversary but Angela isn’t throwing a party. “We’re fighting for the future of our food systems. I’m just trying to figure out how to keep going, and if I should.”
You would think this startling information would push decision-making at all levels, from local to global, non-governmental to intergovernmental. But since that doesn’t seem to be happening and our local butchers don’t receive enough support, maybe it’s time for a new meat industry and more backyard livestock choices for families. Maybe it’s time we all go out and buy Cuy-Dogs, Future Frankfurters or Salvation Sausages. Maybe it’s time all of us meat eaters get familiar with the Cuy Cuisine and do our part to eat our way out of this mess—because if we don’t, we might just be eating Long Pork in the not too distant future. Or as the kids like to call it: Soylent Green.
Please visit Avedano’s Holly Park Market for local and sustainable meat options, located at: 235 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110 |Mon-Fri: 11AM-7PM | Sat: 9AM-7PM | Sun: 11AM-6PM