Comments

  1. #1 chezjake
    April 23, 2009

    Some initially impressive statistics, but Ms. Freston fails to account for all the additional resources that would be required to produce the vegetarian foods needed to replace meat. She also seems to imply that her scheme requires us to go vegan, not just lacto-ovo-vegetarian.

    I think I’ll have some more bacon while I think about further ramifications.

  2. #2 Brad Pitcher
    April 23, 2009

    Regardless, it’s pretty clear that eating less meat is good for the environment, righT? In that light, I really don’t think bacon jokes are funny anymore

  3. #3 Lilian Nattel
    April 23, 2009

    There are a lot of rational and relatively simple things that can be done to improve the environment that provoke a huge amount of ire because of economic interests. The beef and pork industry is just one of them. There are so many health benefits from a diet lower in meat and more vegetarian as well as benefits to the environment. Why not do it?

  4. #4 khan
    April 23, 2009

    With ~7 billion or so, I wonder how much difference a change of diet would make.

  5. #5 khan
    April 23, 2009

    Well khan, with that 7 billion rising to 10, and fossil fuels needed to create nitrogen fertilizers to make food to feed, process, and distribute livestock in decline…I’d argue there is no way our current meat diet is sustainable.

    And most of those 7 billion people eat very little meat. The high meat diet is mostly Western, RICH Western, and our consumption has risen dramatically since WWII. Most of those 7 billion arguably don’t get quite enough meat, whereas Americans consume maybe 3-5 times what is needed from a dietary perspective.

    I still eat meat, but I just don’t keep it or cook it in my home. When I’m on the run and need a sandwich, or out with my friends on Friday night, I indulge and order some turkey or even a steak. But I easily eat 50% less meat. I’ve saved money, I’ve learned how to cook, and I eat healthier. The only problem I encountered was not eating enough calories for a couple months. I simply added snacks or a small, 4th meal, and that problem was fixed.

  6. #6 Stephanie Z
    April 23, 2009

    Of course, the insistence on touting veganism as the solution to meat woes (not to mention for what ails your soul) means that only people willing to go all out are likely to take steps. There’s plenty to be done short of that, like eating less meat, eating game animals and supporting the preservation of their habitat, learning to cook the less desirable pieces of meat so they aren’t wasted or shipped to a community that will eat them, eating meat that was raised locally under more environmentally friendly conditions.

    My friends who raise their chickens over the summer on dandelions, wilted and holey chard and the slugs and bugs from their garden, then braise them so the older meat is still very tasty, meanwhile supplying friends with eggs when they’re going to see them anyway? The ones well stocked with venison sausage? They’re not going to save nearly as much environmental impact by giving up meat as they would by getting a hybrid for their commute.

  7. #7 mk
    April 23, 2009

    Bacon… mmmm!

    The environmental angle for veganism is ultimately BS. In the end, to them, eating animals or anything they produce is immoral. “chezjake” and “Stephanie Z” covered all other important aspects of this specious argument.

    For lunch today, I had a homemade hummos sandwhich. Tonight I had a dish that had bacon and shrimp and tuna and beans and veggies in it. Killer. Last night, pasta… no meatballs. Tomorrow… who knows?

  8. #8 D. C. Sessions
    April 23, 2009

    All good moves, Ms. Zvan.

    I’ll point out another option for those of us in warm climates: poikilotherms. Because they spend so much less energy on maintaining body temperature, they are much more efficient meat producers.

    Sure, there are likely to be some cultural objections [1] but then again who really pays attention to what happens at KFC? Just cook them enough to get rid of the bacteria, same as with chicken.

    [1] Insert Roger Zelazny quote here.

  9. #9 sailor
    April 23, 2009

    A lot of it seems like bullshit to me. There would appear to be some very bad farming practices going on, but that does not mean one should become a vegan.
    The hidden elephant in in the ecology debate, that few are willing to talk about anymore, is population. There are too many people, we need to cut down. Now I wonder what kind of global warming statistics I could generate, if instead of having everyone go vegan we have everyone have a few less kids.

  10. #10 Name Withheld
    April 23, 2009

    Personally, I avoid commercially produced beef that is not range fed and grown locally, more or less. But I am uncomfortable blogging about it because I am afraid of the beef industry.

  11. #11 Doug Alder
    April 24, 2009

    I call BS on most of those stats (and I’m not saying that giving up meat would not be good for people and the environment). Case in point

    3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;

    if everyone quit for a day it would save zero land, that would only happen after a long term decline in the consumption of meat.

    Whoever put this together seems to be taking totals of various things related to meat consumption and dividing that by the population of meat eaters and by the days in as year.

    or how about this one

    4.5 million tons of animal excrement

    um no, those animals are not going to suddenly disappear for a day, they are still going to drink water, shit and piss. That’s assuming here the author means everyone does it on the same day and if that’s not what he/she meant then it is even more absurd because almost everyone in North America has at least one day a year for any number of reasons (illness, money, taste etc)

  12. #12 Ian
    April 24, 2009

    those animals are not going to suddenly disappear for a day, they are still going to drink water, shit and piss

    Um, Doug, you seem to be assuming that (a) everyone would give up meat on the same day, and that either (b) the people who didn’t eat meat today would eat double tomorrow, or (c) that the meat they didn’t eat would all be discarded.

    If you skip eating meat today, the meat in your freezer is still edible tomorrow. Eating less meat drives down demand, which will drive down production. And that drives down the number of animals raised. Which would reduce resource consumption associated with raising them.

  13. #13 Ian
    April 24, 2009

    Ms. Freston fails to account for all the additional resources that would be required to produce the vegetarian foods needed to replace meat

    Most of the meat in the US is grain-fed. Grain that isn’t fed to cattle (or pigs, or chickens) it would be available for human food.

  14. #14 Ian
    April 24, 2009

    The hidden elephant in in the ecology debate, that few are willing to talk about anymore, is population. There are too many people, we need to cut down. Now I wonder what kind of global warming statistics I could generate, if instead of having everyone go vegan we have everyone have a few less kids.

    Probably not a whole lot, actually.

    Resource consumption has a far bigger effect than simple population size. India and China had the same per capita energy consumption as the US, we’d be in far bigger trouble. If they wanted to eat corn-fed meat the way Americans do, we’d run out of land to grown grain rather quickly. Similarly, if Americans cut their resource intake by 10% it would have a far larger impact than if 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa cut back on their resource consumption by 10%.

    People are having fewer children, and have been for a long time. But we’re a long-lived species and there’s a long lag time on reproduction. And the countries with high per capita rates of resource consumption have low birth rates.

    Now add to that the issue of energy loss along food chains. The basic rule of thumb in ecology is that 10% of energy consumed by members of a given trophic level is available to the next trophic level. That’s lower in warm-blooded animals (since they have to spend more energy maintaining their body temperature). To make matters worse, there are all sorts of “cow bits” that we don’t use. Using that rule of thumb, and >90% of that energy is unavailable to the people who eat these animals. But grain-fed cattle is a luxury that’s mostly consumed by people in wealthy countries…which already have very low birth dates.

  15. #15 humorix
    April 24, 2009

    Kathy F. should change the piles of his leek ! Zero animals ? Zero leather nor of feather or wool. Zero milk, cheeses, yoghurt.
    However, we are all animals.
    The biggest eaters of fish are… fish !

  16. #16 Matty Smith
    April 24, 2009

    “Some initially impressive statistics, but Ms. Freston fails to account for all the additional resources that would be required to produce the vegetarian foods needed to replace meat.”

    Speaking as a vegetarian convert who grew up on an industrial pork and dairy farm, I have to say, we already MAKE a lot of this additional food. We just feed it to livestock in abundance for very, very small returns in meat form.

  17. #17 DuWayne
    April 24, 2009

    MMMM! Bacon.

    I am all for cutting back/out the factory farmed meats. After a trek through Nebraska, factory chicken, for example, is impossible for me. After managing to smell one farm, almost sixteen miles out – ick!

    But you won’t find me cutting out meat any time soon, thank you very much.

    I don’t actually eat a lot of meat though. Love good vegetarian cooking and do quite a lot of it – having a lot of vegetable friends, I learned to cook a lot of it.

    Perversely though, I have been known to season TVP with beef broth…

  18. #18 Russ Finley
    April 24, 2009

    Me, I’m a commonsenseavore. I agree that eating fewer animal products is a good idea, for all kinds of reasons–cost, health, environmental–and my family eats meat sparingly for those reasons but a year ago I fired up my spreadsheet to check on these claims. Most of them simply are not true, or are at best gross exaggerations.

    Some are now being passed along as internet urban legends and like all legends get bigger with each telling. As I recall, that one about the Prius and chickens started out as beef in Japan and cars in general.

    First I checked to see if the energy used to make animal products like eggs and dairy were similar to meat and they were. So you can’t limit just meat. This knocks vegetarianism off the pillar because a commonsenseavore who includes some meat in her diet may have the same impact as a vegetarian who includes cheese, eggs or milk. No, to reach the top of the food purity pyramid you have to go vegan. This chart sums up how the impact of livestock is distributed:

    http://home.comcast.net/~russ676/Graphics/img0.gif

    According to that chart, if all 350 million Americans kicked the eating of animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) cold turkey (no pun intended) we would in theory reduce global contribution to greenhouse gas from livestock less than one percent and total greenhouse gas emissions five times less than that. The classic vegan/vegetarian/commonsenseavore holier than thou pissing match is hardly worth the vitriol it usually generates.

    http://www.biodiversivist.com

  19. #19 Doug Alder
    April 24, 2009

    um Ian – perhaps you should have read the end of my comment rather than cherry picking?

  20. #20 Al West
    April 25, 2009

    Where I live, in the Yorkshire dales, vegetables can barely be grown. You can find crops in some of the flatter areas and valleys, but rearing sheep is the only viable way to make use of the land. They taste good, as well. I suspect this is the same with a lot of land around the world, so a direct conversion to growing vegetables is not actually possible. If land were only able to be used for veg, and meat became uneconomical, we’d end up with less food and here, at least, farmers would go bankrupt.

    I care about the environment. I just think that real world practicalities are more important than the feel good appeal of only eating veg to save the planet.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    April 25, 2009

    Al: Good point. But, you’d probably be better off ‘farming’ the wild animals that live in your area.

    Lemmings and caribou taste good, too! You can use the lemmings like you might use diced carrots or capers (pickled lemming). So you could have Caribou Stew with Lemmings. Or Caribou Loin Garnished with Lichen and Lemming. Or Caribou Flank Steak suffed with Heath Berries and Lemming.

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