How many times have you heard it: “meat is bad for the planet”?

On PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) website (1) is the following statement:

“When land is used to raise animals instead of crops, precious water and soil are lost, trees are cut down to make land for grazing or factory-farm sheds, and untreated animal waste pollutes rivers and streams. In fact, it has such a devastating effect on all aspects of our environment that the Union of Concerned Scientists lists meat-eating as the second-biggest environmental hazard facing the Earth.”

Understandably, if those are the only two sentences one ever read, it would be easy to see why converting to a vegan lifestyle might make sense.

Except for two things:

The statement groups all animals and methods of raising them into one category and does not differentiate between mindful, humane approaches of raising animals, which truly have the best interest of animals, humans and the planet at the top of their priority list, and those which gauge profit as the single most important thing.

A vegan diet does not automatically translate to a healthy one, not for the person or for the planet. If one makes the switch, how often are they looking not just at whether or not any particular food items consumed have animal products but what the item is packaged in, where it was produced and how far it traveled, and how inflammatory the ingredients might be?

As someone who was a hardcore vegan myself for two full years (including all clothing, personal care products, honey… even almost to the point of considering making the dogs I was fostering at the time vegan, much to my own embarrassment), I can speak to the cause from the standpoint I had then just as much as the position I have now.

I am plant-based now.

And I eat meat, fish, game and poultry. All of them. Not just boneless skinless chicken breast, but dark meat, fatty cuts, skin, guts and of course, bone broth.

So how is this plant-based?

Because upwards of 80% of my diet is still coming from local, organic, in season produce (nearly all veggies).

I choose to consume my calories in a macronutrient format which is high fat (80%, and again, many of which come from plants) for a few days per week, then moderate fat (50%) the other days of the week.

Carbohydrates shift ever so slightly, based on activity level and incorporating strategic carbs, but protein stays moderate – only 10-15% of my diet and always, always only from the most sustainable, earth-friendly sources.

And while it’s a fact that factory farming is “an atrocity to the planet. 2% of U.S. livestock facilities produce 40 percent of farm animals, and when you raise thousands of animals in one small space, you’re left with a lot of waste. This is a form of animal rearing that is very unnatural, and as such leaves a devastating environmental footprint.” (2)

However, when we consider natural farming, it’s a completely different conversation.

There are benefits to the planet, aside from allowing us humans to continue to consume the small amounts of protein which are the very reason our brains developed as they did(3).

These include but are not limited to fertilizing soil, eliminating pests and predators. Animals that can be fed off of food waste and whey, such as pigs, are incredibly easy on the environment. Likewise for cows that are fed grass, which are on balance and benign from an environmental perspective (4).

Which leaves only one fair comment about the ethics of mindfully sourced animals for human consumption: an animal still dies.

No two ways around it, this is a fact.

But even if individuals do not personally don’t resonate with eating (mindfully produced or sourced) meat, fish or wild game, a concise understanding of the impact of a gross shift to ‘anything labeled vegan’ is not necessarily the best move.

I have found in my nutrition practice that many clients who are in different stages of the very complex path of healing a leaky gut often experience a stop along the way in which they, like I did, implement a vegan diet and often, only to their own detriment.

Unless one is particularly savvy on the potential for inflammation caused by a diet not just high in grains, including those that are gluten-free, and beans, both of which contain anti nutrients, but in which highly processed foods also abound, it can be the case that GI symptoms go from bad to worse once this methodology is followed.

One way we might choose to address this issue is to simply look back at what our ancestors ate. We needn’t even attempt to go that far back; just by thinking about what our grandparents ate is a huge step in the right direction.

Of course, there would be variability based on what part of the world one lives in, but suffice it to say that 100 years ago, most people were not eating inhumanely sourced burgers anymore than they were consuming vegan nacho cheez popcorn.

Neither are healthy for anyone involved or the planet, neither are going to contribute any degree of nutrient density and both lead in the wrong direction of where we want to go with moving away from dis ease and toward health.

But looking at what our family, going back just a few generations, ate, can be the perfect template.

In some way, shape or form, they likely would have been eating veggies (and fruit ) that grew where they lived and seasonally, along with meat or fish they would have procured naturally.. and that’s it. Perhaps an occasional something special here or there on the rare occasion they’d have the chance for something unusual.

That’s it.

Much simpler once we spell it out that way!

Along with that, of course, comes bone broth.

And why, specifically is that also very good for the planet?

Because its an important component of the nose to tail approach to eating in which nothing is wasted… even down to the bones.

So, assuming your bone broth is made from properly sourced bones, drinking it regularly is going to help not only with your gut health with all the goodness of keratin, collagen and all the amino acids, but help with the health of the planet, thanks to throwing one less thing away.

(4) Fairlie, Simon. Meat: a Benign Extravagance. Permanent Publications, 2011