The meat industry is a staggeringly inefficient vehicle for producing enough food to feed a growing world population.
An astonishing 83% of all agricultural land is now devoted to livestock, yet meat produces only 18% of the world’s supply of calories. The imbalance is growing: as nations become richer – in monetary terms – they tend to increase their meat consumption, placing even more strain on finite agricultural land.
The exponential growth in livestock farming over the past fifty years has created deforestation, water pollution, soil erosion and biodiversity loss, and the meat industry is also a massive contributor to global warming.
A study published in the journal Science last year compared the environmental costs associated with meat production with those for producing plant protein and discovered that even the lowest impact beef was responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and required 36 times more land than growing the equivalent amount of plant protein.
The source of the meat industry’s impact on global warming lies in the prodigious quantities of animal waste livestock farming creates. Aside from pollutants like ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and nitrous oxide, animal waste also produces methane, in vast quantities. Methane is the deadliest of the greenhouse gases. It is more damaging than CO2, by a factor of around 80, not least because it takes up to two decades to break down.
Like so much about our current way of life, the way we eat is unsustainable and it is directly endangering the future of humankind. Of all our unhealthy, damaging, polluting activities, the highest impact change any of us humans can make is to stop eating meat.
Humans do not need to eat meat. We are perfectly capable of surviving on a plant-based diet.
If we freed ourselves from our compulsion to eat our fellow creatures the landd freed up from livestock farming could be used for reforestation and organic agriculture, both of which would help reverse climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.
It’s a no brainer.
On to the recipe.
This is a simple, rustic dish with few ingredients which really packs a punch. It is seriously delicious.
I used home-grown rhubarb chard for their lovely crimson stems, but you could substitute spinach or long-stemmed broccoli if you prefer.
Vegan Parmesan is available in health food stores and even some supermarkets. Alternatively, you can leave it out altogether.
Any left over wild garlic pesto can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days. Try it swirled through pasta, or drizzled over home made pizza.
chard and butter beans with wild garlic
400 g can organic butter beans, rinsed and drained
250 g chard, roughly chopped
150 ml vegetable stock
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
for the wild garlic pesto sauce
100 g wild garlic, washed and drained
40 g pine nuts, toasted
50 g vegetarian or vegan Parmesan
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
pinch sea salt
1. Place the wild garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil into a food processor and blend together, stopping before it becomes completely smooth in order to leave some texture.
2. Pour two tablespoons of olive oil in a wok or skillet and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chard and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes, until the leaves begin to wilt in the heat. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat a little, still maintaining a simmer and cook, stirring for a further 5 minutes, by which time the liquid will have reduced and the chard stems should be tender. Add the butter beans and the sea salt and cook for a further two minutes, stirring every so often. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, then stir add 2-3 tablespoons of the wild garlic pesto and swirl it through the bean and chard mixture.
3. Serve in bowls or on plates, accompanied by some good quality bread.