Mrs. Mia Wallace: “You can get a steak here, daddio. Don’t be a [square].”
Well, not so fast, Mrs. Wallace. In accord with a few of our most recent posts regarding far-away food production and how energy intensive our palates have become, the New York Times has apparently been listening. This week’s Sunday edition features an article written by Mark Bittman – columnist and author of “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” – entitled “Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler.” Even before reading the first sentence, the title forecasts his central theme: meat and oil are very related commodities. Both are subsidized by the federal government, demand rises for both as nations become more affluent, and both are something people are encouraged to conserve.
He rattles off many of the problems associated with a heavy-meat diet, including unfavorable environmental (in both air and water), social, and health effects. He asserts over 10 percent of people on the planet suffer from hunger or malnutrition, yet the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. The problem here is inefficiency – anywhere from 2 to 5 times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, and as much as 10 times for U.S. grain-fed beef.
Some other key statistics to take from the article are as follows:
1. An estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production.
2. Livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases.
3. Americans eat close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per person per year.
And so on, and so on. It’s an interesting article with a couple of interesting graphics, some alarming stats, and a call for a decline in meat consumption. Bittman is probably preaching to the choir for most of us, but this Sunday, at least the preacher's got an enormous audience. The author, by the way, is not a vegetarian. Neither am I, yet.
Jules: “Hey, sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know, because I’d never eat the filthy ….”