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May Meat Challenge
by Occupy Sonoma County
Saturday Apr 14th, 2018 4:23 AM
This article is part of our May Meat Challenge campaign aimed at reducing greenhouse gas by encouraging people to evaluate their consumption of animal products. This article is well researched with support from local farmer groups including meat farmers.
May Meat Challenge
by Occupy Sonoma County

Breeding and killing billions of animals for human consumption requires vast amounts of land, water, and fossil fuels. According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions (primarily through methane and nitrous oxide) than all modes of transportation combined . It could be as high as 51% if greenhouse gases (GHG) from transportation, refrigeration, deforestation, etc, that are typically categorized separately but are a direct consequence of animal agriculture are taken into account . Western influence on developing nations to increase their animal product consumption will only exasperate this problem. As such, to reduce our own GHG footprint and set a better example for others to follow, a shift to plant-based foods is essential to preventing a climate catastrophe.

What’s on your plate? Is it 80-100% plants?
Occupy Sonoma County has been collaborating with vegan climate activists and local farmers to create a campaign to educate the public as well as other activists about the GHG impact of animal agriculture and conventional food production. We promote healthy, environmentally friendly eating for ourselves and the planet by choosing food that is produced in ways that capture more carbon in the soil than are emitted into the atmosphere and by supporting and educating people in making 80-100% plant-based organic and biodynamic food choices.

Healthly eating is best achieved with a plant-based diet
Animals raised naturally, eating grass and roaming freely in pastures may produce more methane than livestock raised in feedlots where they are forced to eat corn and soy that they digest poorly--usually under cruel and deplorable conditions. But some conscientious meat and dairy farmers are taking important steps to reduce GHG. When animals are grazed according to the life cycles of grasses, deep rooted bunch grasses are encouraged, putting carbon deeper into the soil, stopping erosion, requiring less or no irrigation. It does require using hoved land: land where hooved animals have disturbed the soil without plowing it. Not only does this grazing pattern improve soil organic matter and water holding capacity, but when coupled with occasional grassland fires, cold growth is cycled back into the soil so it does not become thatched over and die out. Grass diets also produce healthier meat if the cattle are not fattened before slaughter with grain.

Composting is also a very important tool to reduce greenhouse emissions. A single application of ½ inch of compost on grazed ranchland will increase soil water capacity to 26,000 liters per hectare per year for 30 years. Compost decomposition provides a slow release to the soil, which, with improved soil moisture conditions, leads to increased plant growth. More plants leads to an increased transfer of carbon dioxide through the plants into the soil, yielding additional soil carbon and water holding capacity. Grains and vegetables raised using compost to fertilize instead of chemical fertilizers, add carbon to the soil and there is less GHG emitted. No till farming, not cultivating the land, results in less GHG.

Some farmers are taking action!
Some farmers are reducing GHG on their farms in a variety of creative ways. Richard Hughes of Hughes Dairy in Bodega created a closed system to gather free-ranging cattle excrement, separating the solid from the liquid waste with a ‘weeping wall’, then using the solid waste as fertilizer and the liquid to water grazing lands. The key here is to move the waste quickly and not let cesspools build up, trapping oxygen and thereby preventing decomposition while releasing GHG. Straus Family Creamery of Marin has developed a larger system for their large operation. They use anaerobic digesters to convert manure to electricity, then use the electricity to run the trucks that bring the food to the cows and collect the manure. Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales is practicing carbon farming. Niman Ranch, originally in Marin and now across the US, reduces GHG outputs by having all their farms located within fifty miles of their processing facilities. Different systems work best for different levels of operation.

What’s the answer?
The solution to this problem is simple. Eat less meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. The May Meat Challenge is aimed to reduce GHG by encouraging people to reduce their consumption of animal products. For some this might mean becoming a vegan or vegetarian, or moving in that direction. Others may come to realize that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is not sustainable for the planet, is not healthy for humans, and contributes to a vast divide between the people who can afford an expensive diet and the people who can’t. No one needs to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, ham and cheese for lunch, and a big steak for dinner. Processed foods are also energy consumptive and create poor health. We challenge everyone to consider where your food was grown (was it shipped more than 10 miles from where you bought it?) and how much energy and other resources were needed to create it.

What You Can Do
• Pledge to eat 80-100% vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains that are certified organic or biodynamic certified with minimal processing and packaging.
• Pledge to eat zero or less than 20% animal products (meat, eggs, dairy, fish).
• Pledge to eat locally grown food from small family farms.
If you consume animal products, you can pledge to:
Eat 4 ounces or less in a serving (palm-sized).
Purchase meat and dairy that is organic and raised by climate conscious farmers utilizing carbon sequestration practices. Rotational grazing is important.
Meat and dairy that is pastured, certified humane, and grass-finished (not finished in feed lots) is healthier for you and the animal but may produce higher GHG depending on the farm. Find out where your food is from, ask questions, and use the shopper’s guide on our website.
Purchase organic, sustainable, farm-raised fish raised without toxic chemicals. Leave wild fish to replenish and feed ocean wildlife. Let the oceans recover from pollution and overfishing.
Conventional farmed fish might be more toxic than the styrofoam tray!

Take the 31-Day Challenge
May Meat Challenge (check all that apply)
___I am already eating an 80% organic plant-based diet.
I will participate by going 100% organic, local, and plant-based on or before May 31.
___I am currently eating a diet of animal products along with some fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods.
I will aim for an 80% organic, local, plant-based diet by May 31 and choose organic, grass-fed/grass-finished, certified humane, pasture raised meat, eggs and dairy and organic, sustainable, farmed fish that is raised without toxic chemicals. My food will be minimally packaged and will be grown by local farmers using carbon reducing sustainable practices.
___I am currently eating a diet of animal products along with some fruits, vegetables and other plant foods.
I will aim for a 100% organic plant-based diet by May 31.
___I will bring organic plant-based foods to all events I attend in May.
One Day Challenge (or in addition to 31-Day Challenge)
___I will participate by eating an organic plant-based diet on May 28 (Memorial Day) and will spend the month of May learning good recipes for my favorite Memorial Day foods. If I attend a gathering on that day I will bring organic, local, plant-based foods and introduce them to the people at the gathering as my contribution to reducing greenhouse gases and initiate a conversation about this topic.
Long-term Challenge (in addition to 31-Day Challenge)
___I will consider long-term changes to my diet that reduce greenhouse gases by eating more whole and unprocessed foods as well as shopping locally to support small organic and biodynamic farms with sustainable practices.

Join the OSC Earth Action Campaign every 3rd Monday, 7-9 PM at the Peace & Justice Center, 467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa 95401.
For more information go to or call 707-877-6650.
Occupy Sonoma County embraces the egalitarian, deep democracy principles of the Occupy Movement with a regional strategy for effectively organizing countywide social justice campaigns that are globally relevant.