Q: I'm trying to convince my boyfriend not to eat meat. But he says soy is just as bad. Help!
A: How do you persuade someone to go veg when video footage of a chicken factory won't do it? And it's damn near impossible if the smell of bacon is wafting by. However, if that person cares at all for the health of the planet, you have a pretty good shot at conversion. If nothing else works, show him PETA's list of sexy veggie starlets and rock stars and tell him all the cool kids are doin' it.
But seriously, take him for a mental walk around the lagoons of manure stored on factory farms. When those babies break, flood or seep, we're talking serious groundwater contamination - the kind behind the Walkerton's E. coli disaster.
While Canadian chickens can't be given hormones, our cattle can. Those hormones are, sadly, turning up downstream from factory farms and have been found to alter sex-related traits of fish and turtles. Ammonia pouring into our waterways from chicken, pork and cattle feedlots are also proving toxic to fish.
Between all the methane released by flatulent cud-chewers and the carbon dioxide spewed in the transport of animals to slaughter and then to your dinner table, that lone burger patty creates as much greenhouse gases as a 9.6-kilometre car ride. What else goes into a steak? Well, 1 kilogram of beef requires 100 kg of forage, 4 kg of pesticide-laden grain and about 100,000 litres of water. Talk about a super-wasteful protein source.
Not that vegetarians should presume their own eco-righteousness. Beans aren't necessarily all that holy. Take the soybean, for instance. Brazil, the second-largest soy producer after the U.S., is tearing down rainforests not only for beef (some of our canned and precooked beef comes from here) but for soy (much of which is actually used as animal feed). Large farms there have been linked to poor working conditions, slave labour and high levels of pesticide use.
And as of last year, 85 per cent of U.S. soy (and over half the world's) was genetically modified, made by biotech arch-villain Monsanto.
To add to the sordid corporate soya plot, chemical giant DuPont owns Solae, which makes the soy protein in Yves, Smart Deli and Gimme Lean products. (For a full list of Solae products, check out www.protein.com.)
But don't freak - the planet is still better off for your being a veg-head! (In fact, the Union of Concerned Scientists says it's one of the top things you can do for the environment.)
In order to remediate any sins affiliated with the veg diet, always buy organic when you can. You can feel good knowing your protein source, be it chickpeas or tempeh, was raised on a sustainable farm without chemical inputs or genetically modified seeds. Buying from local organic companies is even better, since less fuel is needed for transport.
Health stores are loaded with organic meat alternatives. Beans are the original veg protein of choice, and ambitious boys and girls can get organic dried black beans at Big Carrot on Danforth; Noah's on Yonge, Bloor or Bathurst; Whole Foods on Avenue Road; Organics on Bloor; and Essence of Life on Kensington , starting from $1.39/lb. Those of us without the foresight to soak stuff overnight can find organic canned beans by Eden or Bombay Breeze at pretty much any health food store from $1.59.
Veggie building blocks like organic tofu and flavoured organic tempehs can be had almost everywhere. The cheapest organic tempeh we found was at Whole Foods for $1.79. Vancouver-based Green Cuisine tempeh patties are praised for their tastiness (from $2.99 at Essence of Life, Noah's, Big Carrot, Organics on Bloor and Whole Foods). Speaking of burger patties, localite Sol Cuisine makes organic soy burgers , dogs and ground "meat" (from $1.79). Big Carrot and Whole Foods even carry Sol's organic tofu BBQ ribs.
If you're one of those veg-heads who think eating anything that emulates meat is nasty, try Quebec-based La Soyarie's yummy nut burgers (from $3.99 at the Carrot, Essence, Noah's and Whole Foods).
For quick protein-rich meals, Amy's makes frozen tofu vegetable lasagnas , veggie loaves and the like with mostly organic ingredients (from $4.99 at above stores), although these come all the way from California. Pulse Foods' yummy frozen packaged meals like tofu jambalaya are made in Ontario (sold only at Noah's, $4.49). The packaging ain't as pretty, but it's greener that way.
If your boyfriend still isn't biting, take him to Chinese vegetarian resto Café 668 on Dundas West. These guys make the most convincing fake beef and pork sautées in town. Most meat eaters wouldn't know the difference.
Got a question?
Send your green consumer queries to firstname.lastname@example.org