Eating lower on the food chain

A story by Avery Yale Kamila from 2023

Avery Yale Kamila reporting at "Taste for Change," July 2016. Phot by Betsy Carson.

Manure smells of climate change. This I learned years later but smelled it throughout the 1970s and ‘80s on my grandfather’s Richmond, Maine farm. There, 200 pregnant and lactating cows transformed grass and corn into milk. Doing so, they produced truckloads of manure dumped in the foul smelling pit behind the barn.

Spring Brook Farm dairy herd, Cumberland, ca. 1930

Spring Brook Farm dairy herd, Cumberland, ca. 1930

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

The smell arises from other gasses but signals the presence of odorless methane, CH4, a greenhouse gas 80 times more powerful than CO2. The United Nations estimates animal agriculture accounts for at least 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2014, I wrote a column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram about climate-minded
Mainers eating fewer animal-based foods. Among those cutting back was Dylan Voorhees, Natural Resources Council of Maine’s clean energy director. Two years later, Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine hosted Taste for Change in Portland in conjunction with Delicious TV. Dr. Daniel Oppenheim told the crowd: “We need to find ways to eat lower on the food chain.” The party’s all-vegan menu, series of vegan cooking demonstrations and vegan cake contest showed how.

In 2018, College of the Atlantic professor Doreen Stabinsky co-authored a report finding humans must cut animal consumption in half to prevent catastrophic climate change. By 2022, rising plant-based protein demand saw Aurora Mills & Farm in Linneus wholesaling soybeans to at-capacity Rockport producer Heiwa Tofu and Biddeford start-up Tootie’s Tempeh. Both Aurora and Maine Grains in Skowhegan recently began supplying Maine-grown yellow peas to food manufacturers. Today supermarkets sell high-protein plant milks made from climate-friendly yellow peas.

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