Green meat

How eating a hamburger can help save the planet.

photo Scott Munn

Is it possible to be an environmentally conscious meat-eater?

If you came up with a quick answer, it was no and you're a vegetarian.

But most of you didn't come up with an answer, did you? Most of you are still trying to figure out the question, wrap your head around its meaning.

Is it possible to be an environmentally conscious meat eater?

It had me stumped too.

So here we are. Call this an investigation. Call it a single stride on the all-things-green treadmill we're running on right now. Call it a stage in a personal evolutionary journey (or a devolutionary journey, depending on your politics). This story is part of 20 years of my warming up to, signing up for, becoming fervent about and moving away from vegetarianism. Call this story what you want. The problem is actually making a call on this question—when it comes to our food, is whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, a friend? Or a foe?

You'd likely prefer to have the short answer now. Those of you, anyway, who don't see all meat-eating as end-of-story bad and hence, regret the mere entertainment of the possibility that meat-eating might be good for the earth.

This story doesn't touch the moral question of meat. Not with a 10-foot cattle prod. No talk of Peter Singer and his quasi-Scriptural 1975 book Animal Liberation. No ethics. No wondering about the capacity of chickens to suffer. This is only about the environment.

So, back to the short answer.


It is possible to be an environmentally conscious meat eater.

The problem? It's goddamn difficult to actually do it.

Because, I hate to be rude, but, is that a Chicken McNugget in your hand? See, right there, you're totally screwed. Filet o' Fish? No better. Fries, even? Nope. You're eating beef. It's right there on the Golden Arches' ingredients list: "natural beef flavour." It's an extract. There's milk and wheat in those fries, too. Not that I'm picking on McDonald's. You won't find a fast-food chain anywhere in Nova Scotia that makes its burgers (or its fries, for that matter) with local beef.

And that's the key, here. If you put your Wendy's Baconator (uh-huh—that's six rashers of bacon atop two hamburger patties with cheese, mayo and ketchup) down beside your Frosty and grab a bite of locally raised beef, then you've taken an environmental step of epic proportions. I shit you not. You thought, all this time, that fretting over your car was good. And it is. But if you've given even passing thought to the environmental impact of getting to and fro, then don't miss an even greater global greenhouse gas emission system you participate in, one you've invited in to sit at your table—food. If you've coughed up for a bus pass, then you should spend those stultifying public transit hours considering how your food is grown, by whom and what it has to go through to get to you.

Oh yeah. Simple answer. Simple answer. OK. Here's where we're going to end up: Eating meat—despite the resources it takes to raise animals—is one of the most environmentally conscious choices you can make if you live in Nova Scotia.

But don't take it from me. Listen to Jennifer Scott.

"If we were in India or Saskatchewan, I might suggest a different kind of diet," says Scott, of the Ecology Action Centre's Food Action Committee, "but here what works well is grass-fed ruminants first, and then the grass-fed birds."

Scott, who runs Heliotrust, an organization which helps conserve farm land, knowledge and farming resources, will even give a ranking, from the best on down, for mindful meat-eating.

—beef and lamb


—goose and duck

—chicken and turkey

(Scott says she isn't familiar enough with lesser-eaten meats such as llama, rabbit and emu to slot them into the list.)

What's behind her argument for ecological carnivorism?

It's all about dirt. Like, you know, soil.

Maybe you live in downtown Halifax and the last time your feet were off asphalt was when you had to take off your shoe to shake out a piece of gravel in the Public Gardens, but soil is what this meat thing is about.

The down and dirty version goes like this: Nova Scotia is sloped and it rains here a lot. We are erosion-prone. Keeping land bare or growing annual crops on it—like potatoes or corn—makes erosion worse; growing pasture grasses or hay helps preserve it.

Andrew Grant is president of the Soil and Crop Improvement Association of Nova Scotia. Grant's perspective as a dairy farmer of 375 cows in Hardwoodlands, who also grows crops to feed his herd (300 acres of corn and about 400 acres of alfalfa or orchard grasses), is this: "Soil is prone to erosion when it's bare. If it doesn't have some crop on it or if you plow and you don't do it in a certain way, it will erode. There's no question about it."

Grant's an unassuming president of his producer-based organization. He apologizes for his simple explanations of complex farming issues, but really, he's a godsend; I don't know silage from a silo.

Grant graduated from the Agricultural College in 1995 and has been a full-time farmer ever since. Part of where his farm sits ("You're welcome to come out any time you like...Get off at Milford, exit 9, and head toward the valley, we're just a little bit off the road") is a piece of land granted to his ancestors when they emigrated from Scotland. It was a subsistence farm until his father opened the dairy. Now it's Andrew Grant's.

"You have to treat your soil right and your animals have to be happy for you to be happy," Grant says. "Even on a business side of things, even from an economic standpoint, it's not a good idea to abuse the land or the animals."

As a way of explaining soil erosion from annual crop growth, he asks, "You know what a corn plant would look like? It doesn't have a lot of roots on it and there's a lot of bare ground between those plants. So if you keep growing it, you keep losing the organic matter that, say, a sod would leave behind. And the sod has roots that keep the soil together, that avoid it from washing away."

Kind of like a net?

"Kind of like a net."

And now for an added moment of dogma-busting: In Nova Scotia, beef and dairy cattle, as an example, are not taking valuable farm land away from anything else. We're not talking deforestation. This is not the Amazon rain forest. "We have very little space that's really good for vegetable and grain production," Scott says. "It's just the nature of our province."

So. Got that, city folk? Meat-eating can help the environment.

What's that? You're questioning my logic? Why do we need cows at all, you say? Why can't we just leave the fields of grass, spare the cows and help the environment that way?

Please. I'm trying not to live in a magical pixie land here. Vegetarianism is swell. But the point is to make a case that lives up to reality. And people eat meat.

So, as I was saying...

You eat the animals, the animals eat the grass, the grass maintains the soil, the intact soil foils erosion.

Easy. Eat meat, help the environment.


You forgot for a moment there what I said before: It's goddamn difficult to actually do it.

First you have to find the right meat—not just carte blanche from Jennifer Scott's list up there, but meat that's raised the right way. These are pasture-fed animals Scott is talking about—grass in the summer, hay in the winter. Because, really, any animal can be raised in a barn, cooped up without sunlight and never eating a blade of grass in its existence. And that, my friend, doesn't help build soil. It also uses up scads of energy for ventilation, artificial lighting, that kind of thing.

Those animals—the ones raised mostly on grain—don't make the environmental cut. And that's where the ranking rationale comes from, too—geese and ducks graze grass more than chickens and turkeys. That's why they're ranked at the top of the bird list (counter, perhaps, to Scott's own animal friends—she shares her Hants County farm with 99 "chatty" free-run chickens). It's the same reason hogs aren't on there at all. They're root-diggers, not grazers.

So, the more pasture your dinner eats, the more soil-building grass is being grown to prevent erosion. But remember (quit complaining, I told you this mindful meat-eating wasn't easy), that's only if the animals are raised in Nova Scotia, where we need pasture to help counteract erosion.

"The problem is," Scott says, "the consumer goes to Sobeys and Superstore and they will not find any locally grown beef."

You used to be able to get oodles of local meats at Sobeys. Nova Scotia's homegrown grocery store celebrates its centennial this year, from its beginnings as "a single horse-drawn meat cart in 1907...", according to Until 1924, J.W. Sobey sold only meat and a few vegetables. And it was all local. That's how the world worked.

Things change.

Today, food can come from any place we want at any time we want. Kumquats from Hong Kong? No problem. Fresh strawberries on a cold January morning? Piece of cake. Devon cream for your pastry? Aisle seven.

In the meat realm, it has become the norm not only to see western beef from the other side of the continent and New Zealand lamb from the exact opposite side of the planet, but the norm for these far-travelling meats to be, at some times of the year, the only options at Halifax's two big chains, Sobeys and Superstore.

It's against all reason—as Scott says, Nova Scotia is "perfect for raising lamb." But it's the situation, Jeanne Cruikshank of the Canadian Council for Grocery Distributors says, because it's not as easy to buy local as it sounds.

"Let's take turkey as an example," she says. "At your Sobeys and Superstore, a large percentage of fresh product would be locally produced product. Plus, we would need to get product from elsewhere as well to fill out the "demand." (That demand is even greater when products are "featured" in the store's flyers, like turkey would be at, say, Thanksgiving.)

Why isn't it all local product? Why do the big chains need to fill out the demand with non-Nova Scotian, even non-Canadian, product? It's not a matter of taste and it's not a matter of quality. (See "Think globally, eat locally" on page 25 for a look at how fine-dining and local produce go together.) It's a matter of supply.

And where does the supply problem begin?

With processing rules and centralized distribution. Allow me a moment of bluntness: They are a fucking quagmire.

Processing is what happens between the farm and the little white styrofoam tray. Where there is meat, there is processing. It's not like you can go into Sobeys for a loaf of bread, container of milk and a live chicken. You can't pop over to the Superstore, club a cow on the head in the parking lot and drive away with the carcass tied to your roof racks. It's elemental—the animal needs to be slaughtered and the carcass needs to be made into cuts.

Producers have a choice where they have their animals processed—they can go to a provincially inspected processing plant or a federally inspected processing plant. The nuts-and-bolts differences between these slaughter and inspection facilities are pure regulations. Here's an example: In a federal plant, a drain in a kill floor would have to measure a certain diameter; in a provincial plant, regulations would say the floor drain has to be of a sufficient size to drain all the water.

"If we were talking about the height of a ceiling," says Mike Horwich, administrator of the Nova Scotia Meat Inspection Act, "in the federal system it is 14 or 16 feet or something like that, for the kill floor. What would say is that the ceiling has to be high enough so that the carcass is not touching the floor."

But the meat that's coming out of provincial and federal plants is all inspected the same. "That's the salient point on all of this," says Horwich. "The inspection of the carcass is identical. We look at the same organs, we look at the same glands, we do the same testing, that type of thing. So in terms of safety of the product, there is no difference."

There is one other difference, and it's central to the issue at hand: Provincially slaughtered meats are inspected by the province for free; federally slaughtered meats are inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at, Horwich says, "a fairly onerous cost." What does that fee—which ranges depending on the meat's location and the volume that's inspected—buy the meat that comes out of Nova Scotia's three federally inspected plants?

A passport. It can be sold outside the province and outside the country. Animals and their parts coming out of the province's 26 provincially inspected processing plants, even though the inspection points are the same, can't be sold outside Nova Scotia.

You're thinking, "So what?"

Why can't a farmer in Middleton, Nova Scotia who raises chickens take them down the highway to the provincial processing plant and then sell her leg quarters and breasts and wings only at the Atlantic Superstore outlet in Kingston, Nova Scotia, closest to her Middleton home? Or, for that matter, only in Nova Scotia Superstores.

Centralized distribution.

Since 2003, all perishable products sold at Superstores in Atlantic Canada must pass through the company's Moncton distribution centre. Sobeys-sold perishable products pass through central distribution in Debert, Nova Scotia. From those points, the meat, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, frozen pizzas and whatever else, goes out to all four Atlantic provinces.

There's really no getting around the distribution systems. No matter in what town a dozen chickens gave their lives for your tray of frozen chicken thighs, the limbs come to your local Sobeys or Superstore on a truck out of a central distribution centre. And under that system, plainly, federal inspection is essential for meat.

So for that imaginary farmer in Middleton who wants to sell her chickens to the Kingston, Nova Scotia Superstore, it really goes more like this:

Her birds travel from Middleton to ACA Co-operative (Nova Scotia's only federal poultry processing site since April's closure of the Canard, Nova Scotia Maple Leaf Foods plant) in Kentville to be slaughtered and cut, then to Moncton, New Brunswick, for Superstore distribution processing and then back to the Superstore loading dock in Kingston, Nova Scotia.

From this imaginary Middleton farm to the Kingston Superstore meat cooler is less than 10 clicks, as the crow flies. But to get there, those chickens will travel 718 kilometres. It's seven hours' driving time. And I say driving time because that's not counting loading and unloading times, driver breaks, road blockages and traffic—all those stationary minutes and hours that the meat is still sitting on the truck and still producing greenhouse gas emissions; the refrigeration units can't be turned off, obviously, and they're run on diesel, just like the trucks.

Let's say this imaginary Middleton farmer raised hogs. Her animals would go to Larsen Packers in Berwick, Nova Scotia for federally certified processing (or to Tony's Meats in Antigonish, which processes pigs and lamb and is the only other federal pork processing plant in Nova Scotia) before heading on to Moncton and then back out to stores.

If the farmer were a cattle producer, her animals would have even farther to travel. Beef may be the number one pick on Scott's list of environmentally friendly Nova Scotia meats but there is no federal inspection whatsoever for beef in Nova Scotia.

Our cattle must travel on the Confederation Bridge across the Northumberland Strait to Borden, Prince Edward Island's Atlantic Beef Products Incorporated. (This plant, too, appears doomed, if not by its deficit, then by the looming confusion about who should be propping up the plant until it matures into the black. Last week, the Nova Scotia government ended a summer-long volley of pleas from cattle producers and beef organizations to help support the plant and, in turn, beef farms in the province and region. Sorry, the government said September 13. No money. The reasoning is a muddle—the PEI government has been doing the lion's share to support the plant, which is operating at a loss of about a quarter of a million dollars a month. PEI gave its final subsidy of $1.5 million to the plant in June arguing that it's not going to put up more cash in until the other two Maritime governments kick in. Nova Scotia on Thursday said it wouldn't give over any cash until the plant was in the black. The mooing back and forth continues. If Atlantic Beef closes, the next closest similar size plant would be Better Beef in Guelph, Ontario; there are smaller federal processing plants in Quebec as well.)

So let's take the example of an imaginary Colchester County farmer whose beef ribs end up in the Yarmouth Sobeys. From mooing on a cattle farm near Truro to sizzling on a Yarmouth barbecue, that meat ends up spending over 11 hours driving on the highway. You could probably do it in under five hours.

Oh, listen. I'm not being fair here. Well, I am about the distances. They're calculated to the kilometre. But it's all theoretical. Because if you're buying beef from Sobeys or Superstore, it doesn't come from Atlantic Canada. It mostly comes from elsewhere in Canada.

Why does this matter?

A little enviro-meat 101: The longer your food spends on the road, the more energy is expended. More fuel, more greenhouse gas emissions. There are endless factors that come into play to determine the greenhouse gas emissions your food produces—how it travels, how it's produced, where it's produced, and on and on. And food miles shouldn't be thought of as a nasty thing we can expunge from the food production chain. Few people can grow their own food; those who do usually can't grow everything they want. Plus, what Nova Scotian doesn't crave the odd orange. Or pineapple. Coffee. Sugar. The list of things we cannot grow in our climate is vast.

So, look: it's not like your food doesn't have to spend any time on the road, it's whether that time can be reasonably reduced. After all, remember, we are zipping along on a journey toward environmentally conscious meat-eating, here, and we're trying to stick to reality.

So. Back to the meat counter, and, specifically, back to beef.

As a regular shopper asking for Nova Scotia beef at several peninsula Sobeys and Superstore locations, I got a range of responses from behind the sneeze guard, from "I don't know" to "they don't give a shit about supporting local beef; you should find a farmer who will sell you a side to put in your freezer." One meat counter worker gave me the answer I got from Jeanne Cruikshank of the Canadian Council for Grocery Distributors: There isn't enough produced here.

"Whether it's pork or lamb or poultry," Cruikshank says, "the folks that I represent buy all that is available. They buy elsewhere because of the supply-demand issue." Superstore and Sobeys have bought meat cuts from Northumberlamb, a 26-year-old Nova Scotia lamb marketing co-operative, but, Cruikshank says, "there is not always the supply. So when, at retail, we would feature lamb, we couldn't get enough of that local product, so the local product would be out there but you'd also find New Zealand lamb."

So here we are, after wading through the intestines of centralized distribution systems and the minutiae of processing plants, we're back at supply. Why isn't there more local meat slapped out for your big-chain shopping perusal? There's not enough. But what does that mean? Are there not enough animals? Not enough farms? Are there not enough farmers to produce what consumers are asking for? And they are asking for it. One meat counter worker said people come in looking for local meat "all the time." Still, that's the answer, when you go looking for local, let's say, beef. There's not enough.

"You know what?" asks the Ecology Action Centre's Jennifer Scott. "That sounds like an excuse to me.

"If said "we want local beef,' they could get it. It would take a few years, but they could develop it and make it happen. It just takes the will. Sobeys, way back when, wanted local lamb in their stores and they worked with the local growers and they developed it and it took a few years and it happened. And it was great. The Atlantic Tender was developed with Co-op. They decided they wanted local beef, it took a few years, they got the growers together, they built the plant, they had the will."

But living in a perfect world where Nova Scotia growers supply all the beef that's eaten in the province is not going to happen by way of Superstore or Sobeys changing their distribution systems. Not any time soon, anyway.

"Central distribution," Cruikshank says, "is to make sure that the quality and the food safety aspects are respected throughout the entire food chain." And meat can't cross borders—it can't be centrally distributed to the four Atlantic provinces from, say, the Sobeys perishables distribution centre in Debert, Nova Scotia—if it's not federally inspected.

Again, federal inspection isn't more stringent or safe than provincial inspection. (Mike Horwich, the province's Meat Inspection Act administrator, confirms that federal and provincial carcass inspection is "identical" and, interestingly, my bacon supplier at the Halifax Farmers' Market tells me she and her family prefer the provincially inspected slaughterhouse they use for their hogs because, to her mind, there is more concern for food safety). Cruikshank says, "You can have an exceedingly safe and very capable provincial plant that might meet requirements, but they're not asked to. They could be excelling. But they haven't gone through that monetary investment to get federal certification."

So Sobeys and Superstore can't take the meat.

Cruikshank and the stores she represents are aware of the trend toward decreasing food miles and she says her clients want to support the idea. "Our preference for the folks that I represent would be to go with an Atlantic brand," she says, adding that there are other ways to buy with geography in mind, so big chain shoppers "are supporting the community and shorter haul" products.

"While you might not be able to get local protein on your plate," she says, "you can, as the season continues, get local produce on your plate. And there's always local processed food, too, if you go to the freezer section."

But for meat, Cruikshank says, there's just no way to get around the processing rules. "Venues like farm gate butcher shops—there certainly is great demand and utilization in niche markets for provincially inspected plants to provide the product so Nova Scotia consumers can get access to it," she says. "They just can't necessarily get access to it through Sobeys and Superstore."

EAC's Scott, for her part, sings the praises of Co-op stores which, she says, "went out on a limb" to support local meat producers in developing the Atlantic Tender Beef line back in 2000 (Cruikshank was also part of the development of that marketing campaign, too). Today, there are Atlantic Tender Chicken and Atlantic Tender Pork brands, as well. In fact, Co-op buys all the federally inspected Nova Scotia beef it can.

Co-op stores are ahead of the game and always have been when it comes to what today amounts to a hipster revelation—food should come from your neighbours. While the chain does use a centralized system, it has perishable distribution centres in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. Its most recent Agrifitti newsletter explains how an Atlantic Canadian family buying one two-pound bag of conventionally grown California carrots per week for a year adds 45 pounds of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere; Berwick-grown carrots decrease those gas emissions by 90 percent. (See "The farming industrial complex," page 28, for more about the real costs of well-travelled food.)

The bad news is? There are no Co-op retail grocery stores in the downtown core, or even Halifax's suburbs.

If you're not game for driving to the closest Co-op store in Shubenacadie (and, yeah, you'd have to drive there, which is kind of defeating the point of fewer food miles), getting local meat just takes work—going to a family-run butcher shop or finding a beef or lamb producer who will direct market (so you can order a side and put it in your freezer).

Or there's the Halifax Farmers' Market, the closest thing in Halifax to the convenience of a big chain one-stop-shop. Scott says at the Farmers' Market "you can get your fresh cuts every week. You'll pay for it, but it's convenient. If you have the money it's a good way to support the farming community."

But is that your job? Supporting the farming community? One thing is for certain. It is definitely the provincial government's job.

"Mr. Speaker," announced finance minister Michael Baker in his reading of the March 23 budget, "I want to be clear: The government is committed to supporting Nova Scotia's agriculture industry as it moves toward a greater prosperity and self-sufficiency."

One part of that support was the setting-aside of $250,000 to establish a marketing program designed to encourage Nova Scotians to buy local.

They did eventually get it going.

Leo Glavine, Liberal MLA from Kings West, gave the governing Tories a reminding poke about that promise with a press release at the end of May, after Statistics Canada released figures showing Nova Scotia's net cash income from farming dropped $20 million between 2005 and 2006. And on July 5, agriculture minister Brooke Taylor announced the government's buy-local campaign, Select Nova Scotia, a marketing love song to local food which will reach its crescendo during the "the six weeks of harvest in August and September."

So where's the $250,000 been spent?

"It's mostly a public relations campaign," says Natalie Webster, with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. There's a website (, printed promotional t-shirts and aprons and an ad blitz comprising billboards, newspaper inserts, radio spots and table toppers.

The government is making an effort to whip itself into shape, too. It has asked correctional institutions, hospitals and other large buyers like schools to consider choosing local and has "tried to eliminate some of the barriers to buying local product," Webster says. Each department is going about the task in its own way.

Scott Hosking with the Department of Agriculture says the tendering process has been changed so that products—for example, a range of meat cuts—can be bid on individually, "so companies that can only supply one or two products can bid. We've had good success with some fresh beef products, cubed and diced beef products, for example."

Barry Boutilier, manager of supplier development at the Office of Economic Development, says that his government branch has, among other things, worked with local suppliers to change packaging. "Rather than having just an apple or a carrot," he says, "you're going to have apple slices that can be broken up and packaged and put into, even, vending machines."

In correctional institutions, Fred Honsberger, executive director of Correctional Services, says strides have been made in educating staff on purchasing locally produced products.

"The frustration," Honsberger says, "is you go to Sobeys and you buy carrots and you don't know where they come from. They could be from Ontario, so our next step is to link our purchasing with farmers' markets. Wouldn't it be kind of neat if at the farmers' market in the valley, they were taking their things to market for local purchase but if they were also able to serve, for example, hospitals in the area?"

This isn't going to happen overnight, but Honsberger is confident this paradigm shift will work once there's co-ordination between producers and institutions. He says other barriers can be overcome, like the common practice of buying only federally inspected meats, which Webster says is not policy, just a habit of sorts. As tenders come up for renewal, institutions are being encouraged to go local.

Honsberger says, "If we're going to say that staff can't purchase provincially-certified meats, well, is there something wrong with the provincial certification? Then why are we certifying it?"

Before the launch of the province's Select Nova Scotia campaign, Honsberger says, "We never really thought of it too much. But we're telling our staff to feel comfortable buying provincially certified meats. We have provincial abattoirs, let's develop them to serve our meat needs. This is all part of a package. Someone told me a story recently about a guy in Stewiacke who was having his meat sent out to Alberta to be packaged and certified only to come back to Nova Scotia!"

Barry Boutilier from Economic Development says, "All this seems pretty straightforward, but there's a lot of work and a lot of development to go through."

While the individual branches of government—or at least the people I talked to who represent the departments—are enthusiastic about local food, the Tories have stopped short of requiring local products—or even a percentage of local products—be purchased.

Honsberger at Correctional Services says, "We operate directly. It's a common sense thing, just, "Please do this. When you're doing your purchasing, do it this way.' And all our staff would believe in that anyway." Webster says the government can't mandate local purchases because "It's a business. The government has to be able to make the best purchases it can."

Honsberger's response is more tempered. "Our purchasing has always been based on tender and best price. But is making us ask questions we haven't been asking. There's more to it than price. We can't spend exorbitant amounts of money, but all things being equal, we want to purchase locally."

Boutilier goes further: "I think more and more people are willing to pay a few cents more to keep a product local, rather than buying a product from away."

If you're reading between the lines here, maybe you're getting the same sense I am: that the province is actually moving from the mindset of bare-bones cost-effective food delivery for the institutions under its control, to a concern for the holistic support of the province, its farmers, its economy and, oh my god, by accident, the environment. I mean, really, had you forgotten about the environment? About our journey? About the question? Is it possible to be an environmentally conscious meat eater? And the answer? That after all the politics and the bullshit and the boring facts about soil, yes. It's possible. It's advisable, even, to be a (locally raised, grain-fed) meat-eater in Nova Scotia.

I just have one more bone to clog up the grinder here. And it's a revelation that comes care of Economic Development's Barry Boutilier: "The government," he reminds me, "is buying huge amounts . But the largest amount, the biggest percentage that would be bought in the province, would be bought by the large chains and sold to the public."

Oh, back to us again. And back to a most harsh reality: This is on our shoulders as consumers. I know you hate to hear that. As if dinner wasn't difficult enough to figure out every night, now the weight of the world—or, at least, part in saving it from environmental degradation—is resting on our dinner plates.

"If we want to eat meat that is responsibly raised and is local—that is raised outdoors and uses forages instead of grain—then we have to be prepared to support that production system with our pocketbooks," Jennifer Scott says. "And if we want a lower price, we need to get it directly from producers. Cut out the middleman. That's the way."

So. Where are you doing your grocery shopping this week?

Lezlie Lowe is a freelance writer and reformed vegetarian. She's working up the gumption to barbecue a steak this weekend—for the first time ever.

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