On Father’s Day, my family took me out to dinner at a restaurant that serves grass-fed and finished beef and local wild seafood, only two varieties of which were in season: ling cod and sculpin. This enabled us to discuss matters of sustainability related to food without feeling guilty about what we were eating for dinner.
Perhaps they were merely humoring me, but my dinner companions seemed genuinely surprised by a couple of key statistics that I provided, courtesy of Greenpeace. First was the fact that it takes the harvesting of up to five pounds of wild-caught fish to produce a single pound of farmed fish. The logic of doing this is something that escapes me entirely. Even a pound for a pound for one would make no sense to me. So the question needs to be asked: is there a way we can produce the farmed fish without using fish for food? And if not, then where is the advantage of farmed fish?
The other odd ratio I noted was the estimated 16 pounds of grains it takes to produce one pound of meat in a feedlot situation. In fact, according to Greenpeace, approximately 70 percent of the grain we grow is for the sole purpose of feeding to livestock. This incredibly wasteful imbalance could be easily corrected if all of our beef was grass-fed instead of grain-fed.
What such statistics indicate, as I pointed out to my family (taking advantage of my “guest-of-honor” status) is that our industrialized food system is neither very efficient nor very effective on land, and even less so when extended to the artificial cultivation of seafood. By now, we should have learned that factory farms are no way to raise animals intended for use as food, rather than extending this failed experiment to the aquatic environment. But to change a system so well-entrenched will take entrepreneurs bold enough to challenge the established methods of doing business.
Which brings me back to Rilmer’s in Carlsbad, Calif., where we had dinner on Father’s Day. They’re an example of how a restaurant operation can lead the way in protecting both endangered species and the environment . Such conscientious establishments deserve our appreciation and applause for what they are doing to help save the planet. (And it makes paying the check much more palatable as well).