Omnivorous diet with smaller amounts of sustainable meat better for health, planet

Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp
Meatless Monday is not a new concept, but this Monday I would like to reiterate its importance when it comes to sustainability, health and feeding the planet - and share an eggplant Parmesan pizza recipe that will make you forget that you're skipping meat this Monday.

In “Diet for a Hot Climate: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It,” Anna Lappé discusses how the current, industrialized food system is having a negative effect on the planet and is helping to increase the effects of climate change. She proposes cutting back on the production and consumption of meat as a means of attempting to halt and/or reverse the effects of climate change.

Lappé discusses how livestock production causes “37 percent of methane and 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions,” which contain heat in Earth’s atmosphere 23 and 296 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide, respectively. She also writes that while the emissions from agriculture only account for 13.5 percent of released emissions, that only includes the emissions released through the first step of the food chain (i.e., production), but does not include the emissions released while processing, transporting and distributing food waste, nor does it account for emissions as a part of food waste. 

As seen in the documentary “King Corn,” fossil fuels are used in almost every step of the industrial agricultural process, including fertilization. Much of the corn that is grown each year "feeds cars and animals instead of feeding people," according to Scientific American

Lappé is not alone in believing that cutting down meat consumption is a key element in humanity’s fight against climate change. Jonathan Foley’s National Geographic piece “A Five Step Plan to Feed the World” reflects the sentiment seen in Lappé’s piece. Foley discusses how “methane released by cattle and rice farms, nitrous oxide from fertilized fields, and carbon dioxide from the cutting of rain forests to grow crops or raise livestock.”

Through their climate change efforts, the United Nations has also been looking into the potential benefits of a meatless or vegetable-heavy omnivorous diet on the environment. U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chair Dr. Rajendra Pachauri has said to "give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there” in order to help to create a more sustainable ecosystem. 

Sustainable Table goes on to say that an estimated 33 percent of global food system contributes to global climate change. As seen in “King Corn,” monocropping is the “norm” in industrialized farming in order to be able to use one form of agricultural technology to farm an entire plot of land more easily, but without sustainable methods such as companion planting or crop rotation, the soil is depleted of its nutrients more quickly and causes soil erosion. As a way to combat this issue and still grow a single crop on a piece of land, fossil fuels have been used to make fertilizers, which have lasting effects on both farmland and the environment.

Michael Pollan has said that his three rules for eating are to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants." While I am still working on limiting the times when I eat “too much” food, I do keep this quote in my thoughts often as I peruse the aisles at the supermarket and booths at the farmers markets. I am fortunate to live in San Diego, where locally-raised, sustainable meat is easily, albeit expensively, available. 

One of my favorite sources is Heart & Trotter Butchery in North Park, a shop that practices whole animal butchery, cures lunch meats and bacon, makes sausages and teaches a variety of classes. The shop encourages responsible and sustainable meat consumption by being closed for Meatless Mondays.

Below is my recipe for eggplant Parmesan flatbread pizza. In this recipe, originally published in The Mesa Press, I use multi-grain flatbread as the pizza crust, but you can use any pre-made pizza crust or pizza dough recipe that you like. 

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan Flatbread Pizza
Serves 4
4 Loaves of Multi-grain Flatbread
2 Cup Graffiti Eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes (Sage Mountain Farm)
3 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
1 Egg (Schaner Farms)
2 Egg Whites (Schaner Farms)
1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
3 Tablespoon Parmesan Cheese, finely grated (Artisan and Farmstead Cheese)
6 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1 Tablespoon Shallots, minced (Mr. and Mrs. Green’s Farm)
1 Cup Mozzarella
1/2 Cup Ricotta Cheese (Gioia Cheese Company)
1 Cup Crimini Mushrooms, sliced (Mountain Meadow Mushrooms)
1/2 Cup Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, quartered (JR Organics)
1 Tablespoon Basil
1 Teaspoon Yakima Applewood Smoked Sea Salt, divided (Salt Farm)
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper, divided
Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, let sit for two minutes then toss in flour. In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Beat egg and egg whites together, and then dip eggplant in egg mixture before coating in breadcrumb mixture.
Cover a baking sheet with four tablespoons of olive oil, put breaded eggplant on sheet and spread into a single layer. Bake for 25-35 minutes, flipping until tender and crisped on all sides.

Mix together two tablespoons of olive oil with minced shallots and brush flatbread loaves with olive oil mixture. Top with mozzarella, ricotta cheese, mushrooms and baked eggplant. Bake for 15 minutes, then garnish with fresh tomatoes and basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving.


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