The Land Institute speaks out on Atkins

Warning: This diet is not for everyone

Marty Bender and Stan Cox speak out about a topic not often considered: the environmental impact of the Atkins diet. Not surprisingly, many of the arguments are the same as the environmental arguments against meat consumption in general:

Let’s start with the Worldwatch Institute’s estimate that 1 billion of Earth’s inhabitants are overweight. Assume that on average they each eat 56 grams of animal protein a day. That is the average in Western countries, and most overweight people eat Western diets.

If all those people went on an Atkins-style diet, their requirement for animal protein would rise to about 100 grams. A billion dieters each eating an extra 44 grams could not easily be satisfied by giving them a bigger share of current animal protein production. As it is, humans worldwide average only 28 grams per day. Instead, by our calculations, the meat, dairy, poultry and seafood industries would have to increase output by 25 percent.

The next paragraph, though, is especially eye-opening:

The dieters would no longer get much of their protein from plants, so less cropland would be required for that. Still, the net result of their big switch to animal protein would require almost 250 million more acres for corn, soybeans and other feed grains. That’s because feeding grain to animals and then eating the meat, milk, eggs or farm-raised fish is much less efficient than eating plant products directly. The dieters could not expect to get more from the oceans: the global catch has fallen since the mid-1980s, from overfishing.

The environmental arguments for a plant-based diet are ones that I haven’t explored very frequently on the Veg Blog, but numbers like these are hard to ignore.

If you’re interested in more information about meat production’s affect on the environment, read through the wealth of material at The Vegan Blog: The (Eco)Logical Weblog. Richard hasn’t updated it since October, but there’s still loads of information available.

An Interview with Sage Francis

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Sage Francis

One-half of the Non-Prophets, Rhode Island resident Sage Francis is a rare beast in hip-hop: he’s a vegetarian emcee/spoken word artist and he’s not timid about saying so. While he’s not the first person in hip-hop to leave the beef for a battle (like the 2000 Scribble Battle, for example, which he won), he’s one of the few that talks openly about it in his lyrics. On “Different,” from his solo album Personal Journals, Sage says:

Growing up in a microscopic town prepared me well for this petrii dish, /
Where talk is invisible to the eye and they hate the guy they’re speaking with. /
I’m a real vegetarian: No chicken…not even fish. /
I’m a real underground rapper: My tape quality sucks, my records are warped and my CD skips.

In this e-mail interview with Sage, he discusses how he became vegetarian and how some of hip-hop’s well-known vegetarians may not be walking the walk.

Ryan: Let’s start with the basic background stuff—what type of vegetarian are you? How long have you been vegetarian? What led you to choose to stop eating meat?

Sage: As my vegan friend puts it, I am a ‘half-assed vegetarian.’ I eat dairy products. I stopped eating meat in 1996 and it was basically done on a bet. My straight edge friends tried telling me that I was addicted to beef because of all the drugs that are pumped into cows. I knew the only reason I ate meat is because it was made available to me in different forms and for very cheap (which is absurd). So I stopped eating meat for a year just to prove them wrong and then when i tried to go back to eating meat again I was repulsed by the flesh.

Ryan: So that was some reverse psychology they pulled, huh? While you proved to them you weren’t addicted, their bet showed you the light. As the years went by, what types of things surprised you and disgusted you the most about food production?

Sage: Basically, they pulled the old, “Oh you couldn’t stop eating meat even if you tried.” Well, I proved them wrong. I most certainly wasn’t to meat. I ate it out of convenience. I truthfully believe that they believed I was physically addicted to eating meat and I knew that was nonsense. I had never been addicted to anything. Not to my knowledge anyway. The thing that disgusted me most about meat was that… I am composed of meat. I don’t feel like chewing flesh. It grosses me out. I know where it comes from and I know how it gets to my plate. If I can have an alternative to meat, I will always go that route. I can’t believe all people don’t do that.

Ryan: What are some of your favorite veggie dishes/recipes?

Sage: I absolutely love vegetarian makki. That’s about as classy as I get. Other than that, I am a sucker for pizza. I’m one of those people.

Ryan: How about restaurants? Are there any favorites in towns that you visit but don’t live near?

Sage: I believe that the only ALL veggie restaurant in RI is the Garden Grille [Caf�], which is unbelievable. Classy joint with scrumptious meat alternatives. My favorite place to eat in Providence is the Meeting Street Cafe which specializes in top quality food of all sorts. I have written many love letters and break up letters in that place.

Ryan: Vegetarianism is one of those topics rarely discussed in hip-hop (aside from every rapper and his mother saying, “even vegetarians have beef with me” or some such). Animal rights, specifically, seems to come up even less frequently, even among political emcees… do you think this disconnect is similar to the one that often exists between environmentalists and animal rights activists?

Sage: Ha ha, good call on the over-used vegetarian punchline. But humans have a lot of wrinkles to iron out between themselves before ‘animal’-rights becomes pertinent subject matter in hip-hop. I do wish ALL people could see the benefits of vegetarianism but there’s a lot of work to be done before that sort of awareness permeates the mindset of rich and poor.

Ryan: What do you think is the most urgent thing people need to know about food production/vegetarianism/etc., even if
they don’t go any further in exploring the topic?

Sage: A conscious diet should be a healthy one. A conscious vegetarian diet is a healthy one. You are not making a sacrifice to your body by depriving it of meat, that is a social fallacy. A true revolution begins with your daily eating practices.

Ryan: When it comes time to tour, have you faced any difficulties finding good eats on short notice?

Sage: Most of the time we are forced to settle with gas station cuisine. Horrible, horrible eating habits on tour. And touring Europe will definitely test a vegan’s faith.

Ryan: In a recent poll, England was named the most vegetarian-friendly country, which kind of surprised me because while Asian countries do eat a lot of fish, it’s not unusual for anyone (not just vegetarians or Buddhists) to eat a dish with seitan or tofu in it. I would have expected somewhere in Southeast Asia to be easier to find veggie food since it’s so ingrained into their culture. Did you find any European countries that were more friendly to vegetarian visitors than others?

Sage: That poll sounds like complete bullshit. Granted, there are a lot of Indian restaurants in England, but there is no way that any spot in the UK is the most vegetarian-friendly in the world. Quite the contrary. From my understanding, there are Asian countries that used to be strict vegetarian until they became westernized. From personal experience, the good old northern US of A is the most vegetarian friendly, but there is one buffet-style veggie restaurant in Montreal that takes the cake. I forgot the name though.

Ryan: Dre from Outkast is vegan, Dead Prez go so far as talking about raw foodism… who else in the hip-hop community is vegetarian/vegan that you know of?

Sage: Dre and Dead Prez may talk the talk, but like most rappers I have a sneaky suspicion they ain’t walking the walk. It’s like… KRS claiming vegetarianism on one song and then I read an interview where he was eating chicken. So who knows. Recently I heard a member of Souls of Mischief say he was vegan. Sole is vegan, Odd Nosdam is vegan, Yoni (Why?) is vegan, and I am the half-assed vegetarian.

You can find out more about Sage Francis at Non-Prophets.com. Be sure to check out his solo work (Personal Journals, the Sick of… series, Makeshift Patriot), his work with Joe Beats as the Non-Prophets (the outstanding 2003 release Hope), and his material with Art Official Intelligence.

Product Review: Vegan Supreme Marshmallows

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When I became vegetarian a few years ago, I was still learning about what did and didn’t contain animal ingredients. I didn’t even think about marshmallows as a possible culprit, but indeed, they’re not just non-vegan, they’re non-vegetarian. Gelatin, used primarily as a binding agent, is made from a variety of animal parts.

A while back I pointed a recipe for vegan marshmallows, noting that the only companies that made them had since ceased production. Happily, though, this year two new brands of vegan marshmallows hit the market.

Ming from Vegan Supreme Marshmallows was nice enough to send along some marshmallows and Rice Krispy—er, Krispy Rice—Treats to try out.

I tried the Krispy Rice Treats first. The regular certainly tasted like a traditional Rice Krispy Treat, but unfortunately, had gotten a little stale in the time it took to get to me. Refrigerating it helped the problem a bit, but there was definitely still a weird texture about it. Ming confirmed that this is an issue they’re continually trying to fix. So, rest assured, they’re looking for a better solution. On the other hand, the Peanut Butter Treat’s texture was just fine and tasted excellent. Sweet, but not too sweet, and pleasantly chewy. I wouldn’t mind having one of these in my lunch bag every day.

I held off on trying the marshmallows themselves until I could get a few other people in on the testing. I put one bag in the fridge and one bag in the freezer, as suggested, to help restore the normal consistency (they can get a little too squishy in the mail). This certainly did the trick, as the next day they were ready to go in a S’mores-making test with my wife, my sister, and my 5 1/2-year-old niece. The marshmallows melted wonderfully, just like the “real thing” (if using animal products somehow makes something like this more “real”), as you can see in this picture. They stuck to our fingers as we ate the S’mores and certainly met my niece’s approval. There’s no doubt: these will cut the mustard with any audience, vegetarian or otherwise.

For me, though, the real test was how good they tasted by themselves, so we all tried a few straight from the bag. Once again, this is no half-assed vegan substitution, these are honest-to-God marshmallows that will bring memories flooding back to vegans who haven’t tasted one in years. In fact, I’d venture to say they’re even better than I remembered marshmallows tasting. They’re fluffier and definitely fresher tasting than standard store-bought ones.

The marshmallows are made from non-bone-char-refined sugar, water, light corn syrup, Emes vegan gelatin, vanilla extract, corn starch, and sea salt. They’re distributed by Vegan Essentials and a few selected stores. One 10 oz. bag runs about $6 and the Krispy Rice Treats cost $2. Expensive, but Vegan Supreme is a small company that makes the marshmallows from scratch. With time and support, I’m sure the prices will come down.

Pick up a bag online or request them at your local natural food store. Come to think of it, a cup of hot chocolate (vegan, of course) would taste awfully good with some of these right now.

An unlikely activist

A Killing Floor Chronicle

He once shot a man to death in the parking lot of a bar. He served in the American invasion of Panama and recalled killing enemy soldiers at close range. That is not the violence that drives him to his keyboard.

He is haunted, instead, by the nine years he made his way in the world by slaughtering chickens.

This Los Angeles Times article talks about Virgil Butler‘s life as an employee at a chicken slaughterhouse. The article and his blog are worthwhile reads. It’s a rare case where slaughterhouse stories are not being told by an infiltrator or someone who’s interviewed employees, but by a long-time employee himself.

Tyson’s (his former employer) stance on his stories is that he’s “a disgruntled worker who invented tales of slaughterhouse horror only after he lost his job.”

The real history of Atkins

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Tired of being at the mercy of the winds, as well as facing the discrimination that all diaphanous gases must endure in the United States, Atkins ate a baked potato stuffed with corn syrup, and quickly gained 300 pounds. He then ate an entire country ham wrapped in bacon, and lost 150 pounds.

Finally, someone explains the real history behind the Atkins Diet. (via ev)