Moo Point

Moo Point

9 September, 2016
Beef Blues
How Bad Can A Steak Be?
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Telling people to become a vegetarian or reduce their meat consumption can be a very touchy subject. Eating meat is part of many people’s lives.
 
Yet, becoming a vegetarian is the single most productive thing most people can do to protect the environment and promote sustainability.
 
There are numerous reasons why not to eat meat: health reasons, animal cruelty or maybe farming and processing practices. But be warned, it’s dangerous to go up against the cattle industry.
 
Oprah Winfrey's most controversial episode was probably when ex-cattle rancher, Howard Lyman, came on to discuss why people should stop eating beef. Beef prices fell to a 10-year low and Oprah was sued by cattle ranchers for USD10.3 million.  Oprah was found not guilty but now does not speak up against the beef industry.
 
In recent years, many food companies have tried to improve their public image. Promoting “sustainable beef” has been one tool used by companies such as Walmart, Tyson Foods and McDonalds, but is this just greenwashing?
 
These companies have been working with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) to “improve their practices”.  It is interesting to note that the executive committee includes representatives from these companies, in addition to other cattle producers.  In fact only two environmental groups are represented. In its section titled climate change, it says that, “Emissions from beef systems, including those from land use conversion, are minimized and carbon sequestration is optimized.”  It does nothing as far as setting goals or standards. This is not surprising since Cameron Bruett, president of GRSB and chief sustainability officer for JBS USA, a beef-processing company, said that McDonald's, along with other members, helped come up with the organization's "sustainability" definition and guidelines. 
 
By the way, it would take 11.7 acres (4.7 hectares) of land per person to grow meat sustainable for one American.  That means that if every single piece of land in the lower 48 states were used for raising livestock, we would only produce 51% of the desired meat.
 
The damaging effect animal agriculture, especially cows has on the environment is the key point addressed in the documentary  “Cowspiracy”.  Here are some facts taken from the documentary:
 
1. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.
2.  One hamburger (quarter pound/113g) uses ~634 gallons of water (~2400 litres) of water
3. The meat and dairy industries combine to account for 29% of the global freshwater used.
4. Animal agriculture (18%) is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation (13%) combined. 
5. 91% of the amazon rainforest lost is due to livestock
6. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction.
7. 1,000 gallons of water is required to produce 1 gallon of milk.
8. The seven countries which eat more than 100kgs of meat/person/year are Luxembourg, USA, Australia, Spain, French Polynesia and Austria
9. Every day 7 billion people drink 5.2 billion gallons of water and eat 21 billion pounds of food. Every day 1.5 billion cows drink 45 billion gallons of water and eat 135 billion pounds of food
10. We could end world hungry and have enough food for a larger human population if we quit eating meat.
 
There is hope though for the future of our food. Bill Gates points out that vegetable based protein is the future. For most terrain, any given piece of land can produce 15X more vegetable protein than meat protein.  Not only is it better for the environment, but also the science behind fake meat is rapidly improving.  This vegetable based chicken fooled a New York Times food writer.
 
Just remember that when it comes to protecting the environment and promoting sustainability, the best thing you can do is avoid meat.
 

By: Sean Cain
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