Friday, February 6, 2009

I always check out the people who comment on my blog, and so I recently read Kellsa's blog and learned something that I found funny, sad and frightening, all rolled into one: PETA tried to run a "veggie love" ad on Superbowl Sunday but it was rejected by the network, which found the ad too erotic (oh those veggies!). Sick puppy that I am, I thought it was pretty funny. But be warned if you watch it - it is followed on the website by a far more serious, graphic display of where our food comes from and why one might not want to eat meat.

And, controversial as PETA is, it has a point. Even if you are a confirmed meat eater, you would be disturbed by the brutal treatment of the animals that provide our food. It is the reason that some hunters prefer to hunt their own food. They know the animals they eat have at least had the chance to live like they should before they die. Which is, the argument goes, as much as any of us can ask for.

So here's my environmental rant. Besides the cruelty that is involved in factory farming, producing grain fed meat is inefficient. Animals are fed corn because it is the cheapest and fastest way to make them fat for our dinner plates. The huge quantities of grain used to feed the animals that are slaughtered for our eating enjoyment could feed us instead with far less harm to the environment. More than 40% of the world's grain production is fed to livestock - and what that boils down to is that people are starving in other countries so that I can have a steak. According to Professor David Pimentel, from Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, as reported by Cornell's Science Daily, "If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million."

Meat requires more fossil fuel to raise, too. It's estimated that it takes 284 gallons of oil, much of it in the form of chemical fertilizer, to raise a single steer. Isn't that outrageous! Professor Pimentel explains that "chicken meat production consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein output; beef cattle production requires an energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1. Lamb meat production is nearly as inefficient at 50:1, according to the ecologist's analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Other ratios range from 13:1 for turkey meat and 14:1 for milk protein to 17:1 for pork and 26:1 for eggs."

And the amount of fresh water that goes into our meat production is staggering. It takes 600,000 gallons of water to grow 200 bushels of corn - which is not enough to make much meat. In fact, a 1000 pound steer gets that way by eating 8 to 14 pounds of sileage (mostly plant fiber) or 8.4 pounds of grain for every pound it weighs, and a whole lot of that 1000 pound steer includes the parts that we don't use for food.

And it gets worse -- even if we can afford to pay the significant cost of grass fed beef, they are slaughtered in the same, unspeakable conditions as feed lot cattle. On top of that, wild animal lovers, in supporting grass fed beef, we are also supporting the federal Wildlife Service in killing 1.5 million wild animals a year so that ranchers can pasture their cattle on public land.

And oh yeah, there's also the manure . . .

I have a sign on my bulletin board at work that says, "What are you pretending not to know?" One of the things I am still pretending is that I don't know where my food comes from. The fact is - even though I ate a big, penitential plateful of kale for dinner when I started to think about this post, I had chicken fajitas tonight. -- I am the queen of denial when it comes to my appetite.

But take heart - like so much that is wrong with the world, we can make a genuine difference with small sacrifices. The Buddah said, or is said to have said, that there are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. I read on the web that if we all just gave up one meat meal a week, it would have the same effect on greenhouse gas as if we all drove hybrids That small change does not address many of the problems of meat production, but would be a start.

4 comments:

Little Black Scrap Cat said...

Very informative...enlightening. We try to follow that "rule"...at least one (if not two) meals per week without meat. Not always possible, but we try. Farmed fish is pretty much the same..... Many dishes I make, my hubby says "leave out the meat and it's still great"... so that's what I do. No complaints. Thanks for your research and insights!!

Tootie said...

You're right, I think we all have a pretty good idea of where and how we get our meat. But, we just don't want to think about it. I'll try to do better. :-) Could you perhaps send some of those good looking sweet rolls? :-)

ChrisC and JonJ said...

We could live on just veggies,but to be honest,there's nothing like a good prime rib every once in a while.

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