New Leaf New York: From Pharma to Farm


Put down that hamburger
December 8, 2008, 2:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

The meat industry has some ‘splainin’ to do.  This week and next, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including environmental ministers from 187 countries, meets in Poznan, Poland, to discuss the meat (har!) of a new treaty to help ameliorate global warming.

Though the panel has plenty of ideas on fuel, factories, and the other usual suspects, the arena of agriculture still falls behind when it comes to solutions on how to effectively curb emissions.  Some proposals include methane capture — collecting pig manure, heating it, then using the methane captured from the process to add electricity to the local power grid — or engineering feed that produces less methane in the first place.

But many believe that meat production and consumption on the scale we see today is simply not sustainable, no matter how much we reverse-engineer what goes into or comes out of our livestock.  With the higher global demand for meat, especially from developing countries such as China and India, we’re losing rainforest and other land, and expending more fuel to transport and refrigerate it; some say that our best hope is simply to reduce meat consumption altogether.

I applaud any call for cutting down on the consumption of meat.  Don’t get me wrong: I love meat in all shapes, sizes, forms and flavors.  But I recognize the impact it has both on the environment and on our health.  Eating meat every day isn’t necessary, and it isn’t cheap, either — unless, of course, you consume meat that’s created on factory farms.  When I do eat meat, I take great care to understand where it came from and how the animal was raised and fed, because it’s worth it to me to hold out for higher-quality (and, yes, higher-priced) meat.  And because it’s more expensive, I eat less of it.  Lower consumption, lower expenditure, lower emissions… and lower blood pressure.

Image courtesy Justabird2

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4 Comments so far
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And, as I’m sure you know, in the US animals are primarily fed corn, which is a greedy crop that erodes soil and requires massive amounts of fuel and petroleum-based fertilizer to maintain. And it makes cows very, very sick, which leads them to, ahem, emit more methane. Even dropping beef out of one’s diet or incorporating grass-fed, local beef instead makes a big difference. Additionally, grass-fed beef is actually lower in cholesterol. There was a time when corn-fed beef was considered a delicacy because it has superior marbeling but was more expensive because feed cost a lot more than grass. I think we need to go back to that time.

Comment by truculentandunreliable

Got that right. I forgot to mention that extremely important point that can usually get me babbling for 20 minutes or more! Yes, it makes cows very sick, which is why the industry pumps them full of antibiotics. Corn screws with their digestion and makes them more susceptible to disease and illness. But even grass-fed beef won’t solve this problem entirely. I think it’s really important that we all start treating meat as a sometime food.

Comment by Meredith

Yeah, I completely agree. Meat is a really inefficient food in terms of allocation of resources, and as the human population increases, even if we wanted to eat grass-fed beef all the time, we couldn’t because there aren’t enough resources to consume that much meat. It’s not like we’re supposed to have that much meat in our diets anyway–the double-whammy of refined carbohydrates and excessive meat consumption have lead to us being really, really sick.

Comment by truculentandunreliable

As an ‘environmentalist,’ I am ashamed to admit that I’ve become one of those people who doesn’t think it’s a meal without meat. Since eliminating wheat from my diet (and thus solving 90% of my life’s problems… no joke!), I’ve upped the quantity of meat and eggs I’ve been eating (though I have also eliminated all dairy). It’s one of the only foods I can tolerate without stomach upset. I haven’t really been able to come up with any kind of solution for my newfound environmental sin. Eating meat substitutes are not an option with my tummy problems. I’ve been stressing out about it and have been considering trying to develop some sort of diet for myself that won’t have me miserable but will also drastically cut down on meat. Come the New Year, I’m going to try cutting down which means I’ll basically be subsisting on vegetables, not inclusive of the root kinds! 😦

Comment by Britta




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