Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 14: Reduce Use of Meat

Megan: good quality meat is pasture-fed, locally-raised, humanely-killed, non-factory meat. But meat that meets all these characteristics is STILL a relatively inefficient use of resources (link).

Tony: Meat is expensive, and good quality meat is more expensive.


Americans eat a lot of meat, probably more than we need. We can easily cut back to help both pocket and planet. Do we really need meat 2 or 3 times a day? Or are we just eating it out of habit?

Cutting down on meat means that we may lose an easy source of 3 nutrients: protein, B12, and iron. So I wanted to make sure that we were replacing the meat in our diets with good alternatives. Alternative sources of protein are: beans, lentils, tofu, whole grains, eggs.

I messed around a bit with this formula:

1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.

The page says, "Use a lower number if you are in good health and are sedentary (i.e., 0.8). Use a higher number (between 1 and 1.8) if you are under stress, are pregnant, are recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training."

They then give an example, which I have tweaked for Tony below (what, you think I'm going to post MY weight on the Internet?!? Ha!):

Example: 170 lb male who is a regular exerciser and lifts weights
170 lbs/2.2 = 77.2kg
77kg x 1.5 = 116 gm protein/day

Some other sites, such as vegan web sites, list lower figures as "recommended". For instance, Vegetarian Resource Group says 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. Some of them just generalize and say "45 grams for women".

As a runner, I do think a bit about protein (running is not just about carbs!), and I've logged my protein intake before (using Daily Burn or another online calculator), always ending up with low figures. This is going to have to be a purposeful effort to get protein numbers up unless I accept one of the low vegetarian / vegan site numbers. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.

On a typical day, here are the items I might eat that have protein in them: one hardboiled egg (7g), 2 slices homemade whole wheat bread slices (8g), brown rice or some other hot whole grain (4g), 1 serving of beans or lentils (9-14 g), 2 servings of nuts (18 g). Other things I eat a lot of (vegetables and fruit) only have trace amounts of protein in them. So clearly, at about 50 grams, I have a ways to go to get these numbers up unless I'm sedentary. Which I'm most definitely not.

One 3-ounce chicken breast has nearly 30 grams of protein in it. You can't argue with these numbers. Where to find chicken breast locally that is good quality? Well, I looked in LocalHarvest for our zip code, and found one producer nearby who has chickens. After an email exchange, I learned that their chickens will not be ready until May. Organic Prairie chicken is available at our local grocery store. It is $13.99 for 2 pounds. It is frozen and minimally processed (means there's a lot of fat on it and funky looking pieces of gristle and stuff that still needs to be cut off, so there's some waste, although in general it tastes fine -- nothing like a real, fresh chicken though!!).

As for the other nutrients of concern, B12 is a vitamin only found in animal products, but can be supplemented with nutritional yeast if needed (I put this in my granola). Iron is mostly found in red meats and leafy green vegetables.

I'll cover local sources of beef and lamb and pork in a later posting. There are sources, though they're definitely not cheap or convenient. I'll also make some more specific postings later on beans, lentils, whole grains, and nutritional yeast.

so far...
Pocket: 3, Planet: 2, Win-Win: 9

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