Are People Wise to Eat Meat, Eggs, Fish, and Dairy Products? Or is it “better” – healthier? more environmentally friendly? more moral? – to avoid animal products altogether? Each of us has to evaluate many complex factors in order to answer these questions. Certainly the inhuman and unsustainable factory operating systems that now dominate our food supplies do not deserve our support, no matter how much meat we eat.
A key factor that all conscientious, healthy eaters should consider is the role of omega fatty acids. New research shows that omega-3 fats, which are found in high concentrations in fish and pasture meat, are essential for optimal brain function. Omega-3 deficiency has been linked to an amazing list of mental illnesses, including low IQ, violent behavior, memory loss, and depression. The current industrial food system, mainly feeding soy and corn to livestock, results in a human diet with a severe imbalance in omega fats.
Wild fish, game and food from farm animals that are kept on perennial pastures, on the other hand, contain a high proportion of omega-3 fats. Until recently, health authors were typically unaware of this new information about essential omega fats. This means that much of the last five decades of research on the pros and cons of eating grain-fed meat is largely irrelevant to the question of eating grass-fed products.
If you only eat industrial meats or even exclude grass-fed meat and dairy products from your diet, you run the risk of an imbalance in omega fats. We need to find ways to make essential nutrients available to everyone. Eating more fish rich in omega-3s would be a good option, except that our current world population of more than 7 billion is already overharvesting and destroying marine fisheries. To keep ocean ecosystems healthy, we need to harvest less fish, no more. We believe a smarter choice is to support your health, improve farm animal treatment, and protect the environment by consuming animal products from manufacturers who use humane, sustainable, grass-based systems.
However, if enough of us understand that a higher intake of omega-3 fats is essential, then we can move forward with grass-based livestock production. Such a shift also means less erosion, less energy use, fewer harmful agricultural chemicals used to grow feed rations, and a lower carbon footprint for meat eaters. It would also encourage managed intensive grazing that can restore the fertility of damaged grasslands and sequester some of the carbon that is causing climate change.
It is clear that the quality of the food the planet can produce is limited. Is it wise to continue to assume that the human population will increase even if we allow the quality of our diet to decrease? Or is it smarter to find out what kind of diets support optimal human health and determine the level of human population that the planet can sustainably support while still having high quality nutrition available to all?