Musings on Coffee and Meat

A wee bit of interesting reading to start your day with: the world is running out of coffee. Apparently, a fungus, pests and weather are all contributing to making that loveable morning cuppa something you might one day be unable to afford. As they say on TV, well, dang.

Now as someone running a herbal tea business, I can’t say I would be sad to see coffee go. I don’t drink much of it myself, and we all know tea, even black tea, is healthier than coffee. But coffee’s not quite the anti-Christ. It does have health benefits if you enjoy it rarely. (By the way – 3 times a day is not rare. Talkaboutcoffee.com states that two cups a day are okay, but then again they’re in the business of getting people to drink lots of coffee. I did a little research and it turns out two 8 ounce cups is an acceptable limit according to some medical bodies, however personally I still think it’d be healthier to cut back to one or even less. It’s easy to get stimulants – legal ones – elsewhere).

Anyway, so coffee’s becoming harder to get. The article I linked to above is the short version; here is the longer, more interesting version for those who have the time to read it.

While we’re on the topic of food and ethical choices, this picture has been doing the rounds:

A lot of meat eaters like to raise points such as this one, waving things like this in our faces with glee, revelling in the fact that vegans, vegetarians, or those who aspire to be either, “don’t even know” about stuff like this. This has been a frustrating confrontation I have dealt with for a large portion of my adult life.

Look…yes, probably, in this day and age at least, it’s very hard to avoid using something that has some form of animal product in it. But we can try. And if we happen to own an emery board that is made out of a cow’s skin and we don’t know it…so what. Avoiding animal products as much as possible is still going to make a positive impact on the planet, even if animal products creep into our lives somehow. Using an emery board is not the same as chowing down on a steak meal 14 times a week. Please.

As with coffee, meat or animal products are not the epitome of evil. You can have some if you need it. As a friend of mine says, in order for us to live, something has to die (and she’s not just talking about animals there, she is talking about plants dying to nurture us too. Something has to give way so that we can flourish).

The thing is, surely there’s a better way of doing this. Surely marching thousand of animals towards the killing floor of an abbatoir each day is not the best way for us to get our protein. I’m not even going to start on the things that are wrong with killing animals in abbatoirs (Goddess, we’d be here all night) but I’m sure there is a cleaner, healthier way to get meat. And if animals can live a fairly happy life before we slaughter them as humanely as possible, great, let’s dig in. But they’re not happy in many of the situations we put them in, and there is a lot about abbatoirs that are not humane.

I won’t go into the evils of factory farming (that’s a totally different blog entry!) but I am definitely in search of alternatives, such as small local organic butchers. When I find ones I am happy with I will spread the word here so those of you in my area can buy from them if you choose to. I am toying with the idea of creating some sort of listing of brands and products that I am satisfied with so that we can share the love when it comes to things like this.

I do love how blog entries pan out. I started this intending to talk about the plans my fiancé and I made the other night to, well, basically, live forever. OK, I’m exaggerating there, but we did talk about how we don’t want to let our lifestyles shorten our lifespans. I have one grandmother in her mid 90s and another in her late 80s, so I’d hate to let the team down. But I guess I kind of did talk about this anyway.

Healthier food equals a healthier body.

Non-Crappy Alternatives To Milk

So, let’s admit it, how many of you want to find dairy alternatives but hate the taste of soy?

When I first started trying to get animal products out of my diet, on my first attempt years ago, I thought soy was the only alternative to milk that there was. So all gung ho, I bought some soy milk, and started drinking it and putting it on my cereal very enthusiastically. Well that enthusiasm lasted maybe a week or more, before I just couldn’t handle it anymore. It was slightly bearable on my cereal than straight, but in the end…yuck.

I tried many times over the years to experiment with different brands, to no avail. I then discovered that the way soy is cultivated is not necessarily brilliant for the environment either, despite soy milk’s positive image. Fortunately, it was around this time that I found other alternatives such as rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, and now oat milk.

So far, I have to say, that without a doubt, oat milk is my favourite. It tastes slightly like muesli or cereal, which therefore makes it the perfect milk to use at breakfast time, when a lot of people consume a lot of milk. You don’t have to go far to find the best tasting brands, as they will be down in your local supermarket. Also, because of its nice taste it’s pleasant to drink straight. My fiancé, who loves his meat and dairy products, even drinks it straight instead of dairy milk.

Rice milk is alright as well, and almond and cashew milks I enjoy as additives. (My favourite chocolate shop uses cashew milk instead of dairy milk in their hot chocolates as part of an old Egyptian family recipe – yum). Rice milk would be second place in terms of my favourite milk alternatives, but it’s really up to you in terms of what you prefer.

There is also the nutritional aspect to keep in mind as well. So here are a few pointers to help you make your mind up:

Oat milk:

–          Higher in fibre than most milks

–          Good serving of protein

–          Cholesterol free

–          Contains folic acid

–          Many brands say gluten free but some do contain gluten so beware

–          Higher in sugar and calories than most milks

Rice milk:

–          Higher in sugars and calories

–          No cholesterol

–          Gluten free

–          Low in fat

–          Non-allergenic

–          Low amounts of calcium and protein

–          Some contain added sugars, so look for the kind with no added sugar.

Almond milk:

–          Lower in sugar and calories than most milks

–          Contains the same healthy fats found in olive oil

–          Low in protein

–          Good source of magnesium

Cashew milk:

–          Low in fat

–          Contains magnesium

–          Good serving of copper

In my research I also heard about hemp milk, which is something I’d never encountered before. Apparently it contains very high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids but is not very high in protein. As I’ve never tasted this before, if anybody has tried it please let me know what it’s like.

There is also coconut milk, which is far more than just a curry ingredient, and non-cow animal milks, such as goat, sheep and buffalo. All non-cow milks are far better for the environment as the production of these milks has a smaller carbon footprint, but I do not personally have a lot of experience with these. I’ve heard goat milk tastes awful but again, if anybody is well acquainted with these milks feel free to comment.

So there are my recommendations. My hope is one day to be able to make my own almond and cashew milk so I’ll let you know how that goes when the day comes, too.

Reducing Fish Consumption

So the latest thing I’ve been trying to focus on is my consumption of fish.

You probably don’t know many people who cut out fish but not other meat for moral reasons – a lot of vegetarians cut out beef, pork, chicken and other meats but continue to eat fish for nutrition. (Not only is it a good source of protein, but deep sea varieties contain essential fatty acids).

However lately I’ve been feeling prompted to cut out fish rather than other meats. Of course, it would be great to be able to cut out all meats completely (the goal is to be vegan again!) but if I must make a start, fish is what I want to stop eating first. My main reason for this is I discovered the most recent stats on what overfishing has done to our oceans.

Firstly, the oceans cover 70% of the planet and contain 80 per cent of all life on Earth. Not only large and small fish, planktons, and mammals such as cetaceans and seals, but an array of plant life and a whole host of creatures that are completely undiscovered. Knowing that the oceans have the overwhelming majority of life on our isolated little planet should encourage anybody to care about it’s health.

What’s very alarming though, is the fact that 80% of the world’s fisheries (fisheries referring to any area where fish live) are overexploited and depleted. (See overfishing.org). On top of that 90% of large predatory fish are gone. A lot of people are unaware what large predatory fish actually are, but a few examples are tuna, perch, shark, sea bass and salmon.  

90% are gone! 9 out of every 10 large fish are taken away – just taken. Why are we not freaking out about this? 

With modern fishing methods – trawl nets that literally sweep the sea clean, trapping cetaceans, turtles, even sea birds who get caught in the nets when they try to fish – how much longer do we realistically have before these species are gone forever? The answer is, not very long. Experts’ predictions range from 25 years to less than 10.  I’m personally even less optimistic than that.

Is it any wonder that we have wound up in this situation? There are apparently enough fishing fleets in existence to cover 4 Earths. I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think the situation is going to change on it’s own, without the average person taking some sort of action.

So first and foremost, we can make better choices with what we eat. I have personally cut out all tuna – which was admittedly painful, I love sushi! – and am trying to drastically reduce my servings of salmon. I also highly recommend doing a bit of research on what other seafood is ok to consume. The Australian Marine Conservation Society has created a smartphone application that I am loving so much right now; it lists what seafood is ok, what you should avoid, and what you should think twice about.

So although I do eventually want to stop eating all animal products, I feel like this is the best start I can make, as we have no shortage of cows, pigs or chickens, but we do have a shortage of fish. I personally would like my children to be able to enjoy a tuna sandwich, or some sushi, on rare occasion. I’m also trying to get a little more involved in some other projects in the hopes commercial fishing vessels will change their methods, but that’s probably a topic for another blog.

I’d love to hear what you all think on the topic and if you have any tips regarding better seafood choices, do share.