In 2019, many of us worry about the impact our lifestyle is having on our planet and the environment especially when it comes to what we eat. If you look at almost any vegan site, they will tell you that a vegan lifestyle is more “sustainable” and “better for the environment”. Well, I am here to tell you that’s not true.
Dairy Sustainability Alliance
Last year, I applied and was accepted to be a farmer representative for the Dairy Sustainability Alliance. I am so honored to be a part of this organization and I hope to do my best to represent my fellow farmers. Some of the responsibilities as a representative include attending two Alliance meetings each year and share with my local farmers what we learned and what was discussed. As luck would have it, the fall meeting was only a couple of weeks after I accepted the position.
So back in November (yes, I am that far behind on blogging. Sorry!), I attended the 2018 Dairy Sustainability Alliance fall meeting and the Sustainable Ag Summit in Denver, Co. Day 1 was the Dairy Sustainability Alliance meeting at the Kraft Family Dairy and we covered all things dairy. There were some major players from every aspect of the food chain there to present and discuss how dairy was helping them improve their sustainability goals and where there was room for improvement. Day 2 and 3 were the Sustainable Ag Summit. On those days we looked at agriculture as a whole and our role in our sustainable food system.
My Biggest Takeaway
Sustainable agriculture is about more than just the carbon footprint at the farm. It is so much more complex than that. It is about the entire sustainable food system. We need to look at environmental impacts, food security, biodiversity, culturally acceptable, accessibility, affordable, nutritional, safe, healthy and so on. I hear time and time again how a “plant-based” diet is better for the environment.
Where is the proof?! Because the truth is if every American adopted a plant-based diet we would only reduce our carbon footprint by about 2.6%. But what people forget to mention and include in this calculation is that with a plant-based diet we would have to increase the production of synthetic fertilizers because we would be almost COMPLETELY dependant on those fertilizers. No cows, no cow poop! A plant-based diet is not accessible to everyone. The quality of plant protein is lower than that of animal protein. Meaning you have to eat more to get the same nutrition. Animal protein is the most available food source with all nine essential amino acids and complete protein. See, it’s not as simple as giving up one food or another. So instead of talking about elimination diets, let’s start focusing on the bigger picture. Working together to tackle this enormous task of creating a sustainable food system.
Speaking with One Voice
To do this, we, as the entire food supply: farmers, processors, and retailers need to speak as ONE voice. We all need to be on the page and share the same message. We are all striving for the same goal of a sustainable food supply to feed the world. The only way to accomplish this is working together to reach our goals and share those goals with our consumers. I know, I know. This is easier said than done.
But by hosting events like the Sustainable Ag Summit and inviting everyone — farmers, processors, retailers, brands — we can open up the conversation. What was amazing to me about the Summit is the wide variety of businesses and people who attended and the volume of the food supply represented. There were many different types of farmers like dairy and crop farmers, co-ops like Dairy Farmers of America and Darigold, food processors like Glanbia and Leprino, fast food retailers like McDonald’s, grocery stores like Kroger and non-profits like the World Wildlife Fund. I believe that by putting all the right people, the movers and the shakers, in the same room to sit down and talk about our food system, we are working in the right direction of creating a sustainable food supply.
New Mexico Milkmaid