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Eating Meat for the Environment

7/14/2009 4:46:17 PM

Tags: Environment, green living, global warming, meat, livestock, carbon emissions, pasture, farming, CAFOs, Lisa Hamilton, Holistic Management International, Audubon

“Have a grass-fed burger—and feel good about it.”Environmentalists, especially of the veggie persuasion, are quick to point out that meat accounts for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing consumption, giving meat up even one day a week, is the easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.’s panel on climate change, said last fall.

But not all meat is created equal, Lisa Hamilton writes for Audubon. Some methane production is unavoidable (file this fact under “cow burps”), but “animals reared on organic pasture have a different climate equation from those raised in confinement on imported feed,” asserts Hamilton, author of Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness.

In large-scale farming confinement systems, manure flows into (disgusting) lagoons, where its decomposition releases millions of tons of methane and nitrous oxide into the air every year. “On pasture, that same manure is simply assimilated back into the soil with a carbon cost close to zero,” Hamilton writes.

What’s more, grass-fed livestock can be an essential player in a sustainable set-up. Manure revitalizes soil (in lieu of chemical fertilizers or shipped-in compost), and grazing encourages plant growth. Hamilton also points to Holistic Management International, an organization that proposes managed, intensive grazing as part of a climate change solution.

“In order for pasture-based livestock to become a significant part of the meat industry, we need to eat more of its meat, not less,” Hamilton writes. “So if you want to use your food choices to impact climate change, by all means follow Dr. Pachauri’s suggestion for a meatless Monday. But on Tuesday, have a grass-fed burger—and feel good about it.”

Sources: Audubon, Holistic Management International

Image by pointnshoot, licensed under Creative Commons.



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Post a comment below.

 

ansateza
9/20/2011 2:50:38 PM
Well being and health living writer.

Kevin Watkins
9/23/2009 5:15:57 PM
Although I appreciate everyone's comments and all the effort people are expending to reduce greenhouse gasses and carbon footprints, I think the easiest and most effective way to resolve this issue is to simply stop making babies!! The key to sustainablility is to have a national/global population that the earth can support, ideally with simple, local agricultural practices. I submit that if we do not achieve that goal in the near future ( zero population growth) then all of our valiant efforts to reduce our environmetal impact will be for naught. Ironic, isn't it , that having children to provide us with a legacy, will eventually result in the demise of our species and possibly our planet? Food for thought, possibly the healthiest food you can consume. Cheers.

Vic_3
9/16/2009 1:31:48 PM
"There is a cure for Diabetes" by Dr. Gabriel Cousens is full of facts with references that prove that this has been known for decades. Follow the money. You can ignore someone stating figures, whether real or not. I give you true testimony first hand that a human body is better off without meat or dairy. Every back yard or porch could grow at least part of what our bodies need for fuel. REAL FOOD that actually helps not harm our bodies! What we would do with the bovine mess we have created is another issue. There are a lot of carnivores in homes all across this nation. They are usually rather small and furry with CANINE teeth and claws. The meat could still be used in smaller proportions. Less breeding and limited use would not create the disaster some predict. And for the people that are scared to be in a business that is no longer needed, ask those who used to manufacture textiles in this country. They are finding things to do. We ship WAY TOO MUCH junk from place to place and back again. I spoke to a driver that took oranges to Chicago and brought back orange juice to Georgia. I once picked up a load of dehydrated potatoes in Wisconsin, dropped them in Idaho, picked up the EXACT load down to the pound, and delivered it to Houston, TX! I have driven a tractor-trailer for 27 years all across this country. I asked a driver that picks up used grease at all those restaurants and grocery stores where it goes.I can't believe we still use so much petroleum and ship all that FF grease to China! THAT could be fueling a LOT of trucks, we should all be using HHO (Hydrogen kits) in our vehicles, and not buying all the gas guzzlers without them getting at least 35-40 mpg - PERIOD! That is just wasting our own resources, polluting our own backyard, and tossing cash down the toilet! My VW with a HHO system runs like a race car and gets 70 mpg on used FF grease. On top of all that it doesn't pollute! Take that, oil execs and terrorist supporting countrie

Vic_3
9/16/2009 1:31:27 PM
You can ignore someone stating figures, whether real or not. I give you true testimony first hand that a human body is better off without meat or dairy. Every back yard or porch could grow at least part of what our bodies need for fuel. REAL FOOD that actually helps not harm our bodies! What we would do with the bovine mess we have created is another issue. There are a lot of carnivores in homes all across this nation. They are usually rather small and furry with CANINE teeth and claws. The meat could still be used in smaller proportions. Less breeding and limited use would not create the disaster some predict. And for the people that are scared to be in a business that is no longer needed, ask those who used to manufacture textiles in this country. They are finding things to do. We ship WAY TOO MUCH junk from place to place and back again. I spoke to a driver that took oranges to Chicago and brought back orange juice to Georgia. I once picked up a load of dehydrated potatoes in Wisconsin, dropped them in Idaho, picked up the EXACT load down to the pound, and delivered it to Houston, TX! I have driven a tractor-trailer for 27 years all across this country. I asked a driver that picks up used grease at all those restaurants and grocery stores where it goes.I can't believe we still use so much petroleum and ship all that FF grease to China! THAT could be fueling a LOT of trucks, we should all be using HHO (Hydrogen kits) in our vehicles, and not buying all the gas guzzlers without them getting at least 35-40 mpg - PERIOD! That is just wasting our own resources, polluting our own backyard, and tossing cash down the toilet! My VW with a HHO system runs like a race car and gets 70 mpg on used FF grease. On top of all that it doesn't pollute! Take that, oil execs and terrorist supporting countries! We can vote with our wallets, eat what our bodies really crave, and use a little common sense to clean up our mother earth on which we all depend!

Barry Schlimme
9/15/2009 10:37:34 PM
The first line lost me as it is not true. "Environmentalists, especially of the veggie persuasion, are quick to point out that meat accounts for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions." "meat" is not the same as "the meat industry." With a crossbow, I shoot and butcher wild whitetail deer on my own twenty one acre farm. That's meat, and no greenhouse gas is emitted in the process.

Bruno_1
9/15/2009 6:17:12 PM
I'm not saying that people should stop eating meat entirely, but the studies I've read point to much better health when people ate none to little meat. So give me a scientific source that says that's not true if you want to argue it. At any rate, I think people get hung up on the vegetarian vs meat-eater argument, instead of just thinking in terms of global warming and carbon footprints. It's important to put biases aside for a minute and just examine the facts as it relates to climate change. Seems kind of important right now!

Bruno_1
9/15/2009 6:13:38 PM
In my response, I tried to cite sources for further reading and tried to back up my statements. But in the responses, people have posted what they consider to be "facts" without any backup factual material I could read. I'm happy to debate a point with you, but you need to give me some data to back it up. No one has talked about the drought and heatwave issues that are clearly a part of the global warming to come. Places in the West that already are having water issues are in big trouble, and then there are many more places headed for trouble as well. Here's one source, and you can easily find more on the internet with a simple search: http://www.nwf.org/extremeweather/ My goats and poultry live under tree canopy. I have a rare feral breed of goat that is suited to my climate. Although I think many permaculture books are too vague to be practical, that might be part of the solution, as they utilize perennials and water-saving techniques. There's a great book about growing food plants in the desert of New Mexico. Yes, I said desert! It's called "Gaia's Garden." A lot of food animals aren't raised on the plains. Animals on the plains are not protected from heatwaves and drought. If the US wants to eat animals on the plains, you are going to have to drive a lot of meat to both coasts, and the midwest... I don't see how you are coming up with this low carbon footprint equation. I also don't think people understand that converting farmland to feed people instead of animals frees up a whole lot of farmland, because it takes so much plant matter to produce just one pound of meat! I believe I read in "Diet for a New America," many years ago, that food production for direct consumption by people only amounts to farmland the size of a state like Vermont, and the rest of the farmland is for animals to eat. Further, give me one scientific source that states that humans need to eat meat. I'm not s

Vic_3
9/15/2009 11:47:03 AM
First off, I used to eat humanely raised beef, chickens, etc., drink raw milk, eat raw cheese, along with many locally grown organic cooked vegetables, and my diabetes was out of control. I took a nutrition course and changed my diet and it still wasn't enough. Even on a maximum dose of Metformin and supplements my fasting blood sugar regularly ran over 200 (SAD- Sad American Diet normal is below 100, though non-diabetic is truly below 86). I stopped eating the meat and dairy, began preparing and stopped killing (cooking) my veggies, fruits, and nuts. It is a common misconception that humans need lots of protein because if it is coming from meats and dairy that are cooked you do need more. The body cannot use what you eat, so it takes A LOT to get any to assimilate. Even consuming dairy to increase your calcium is counterproductive because it actually causes the calcium to leach out of your bones. However, if you consume all raw vegan food (it is better than most of you think if done well) your body can use almost every cell you ingest of leafy greens (your body's best most easily usable source of protein) will be assimilated into all the nutrition you require. After just one day raw vegan my acid reflux was GONE! One week later my joint pain was GONE! Just two months into raw my blood sugars went from needing insulin to correct (my doctor was setting me up for the class to use insulin) to a regular fasting blood sugar of less than 100! No meds, no supplements, and no more numb feet! I have lost 35 lbs. and have more strength and energy than ever before in my 47 years! I walk 3 miles a day and am back to doing crunches and pushups! It sounds simple, it is. After a time of detox where your body flushes out all the toxins, you will feel better than you ever imagined! And the food, pleezzzzzzzz! There are a million or so websites with new exciting GOOD recipes on the internet. Don't think you can do it? I dare you to try for 21 days, just 21 days! I d

Vic_3
9/15/2009 11:08:02 AM
First off, I used to eat humanely raised beef, chickens, etc., drink raw milk, eat raw cheese, along with many locally grown organic cooked vegetables, and my diabetes was out of control. I took a nutrition course and changed my diet and it still wasn't enough. Even on a maximum dose of Metformin and supplements my fasting blood sugar regularly ran over 200 (SAD- Sad American Diet normal is below 100, though non-diabetic is truly below 86). I stopped eating the meat and dairy, began preparing and stopped killing (cooking) my veggies, fruits, and nuts. It is a common misconception that humans need lots of protein because if it is coming from meats and dairy that are cooked you do need more. The body cannot use what you eat, so it takes A LOT to get any to assimilate. Even consuming dairy to increase your calcium is counterproductive because it actually causes the calcium to leach out of your bones. However, if you consume all raw vegan food (it is better than most of you think if done well) your body can use almost every cell you ingest of leafy greens (your body's best most easily usable source of protein) will be assimilated into all the nutrition you require. After just one day raw vegan my acid reflux was GONE! One week later my joint pain was GONE! Just two months into raw my blood sugars went from needing insulin to correct (my doctor was setting me up for the class to use insulin) to a regular fasting blood sugar of less than 100! No meds, no supplements, and no more numb feet! I have lost 35 lbs. and have more strength and energy than ever before in my 47 years! I walk 3 miles a day and am back to doing crunches and pushups! It sounds simple, it is. After a time of detox where your body flushes out all the toxins, you will feel better than you ever imagined! And the food, pleezzzzzzzz! There are a million or so websites with new exciting GOOD recipes on the internet. Don't think you can do it? I dare you to try for 21 days, just 21 days! I d

KProud
9/14/2009 9:35:03 PM
First lets dispel the idea that you can raise only cows for dairy products. Cows do not produce milk unless they are bred and produce calves. For us to use the milk, the calf can't have most of it. Not all calves will be cows, and the industry does not need that many bulls, so sustainable dairy farming will also mean a sustainable meat industry. I mean no offense to vegetarians, but killing cattle is not cruelty unless it is done slowly. The human body needs a complete protein source to be healthy. It can be done with only vegetables, but I agree with the previous posters who pointed out that converting land to vegetable farms in sufficient quantities to feed everyone in the world a balanced diet will be costly, too, in terms of ecological impact. In many of the areas of the world where meat is less available, you will find a large number of insects in the diet. Not something which would be acceptable in most of the Western civilizations, but essential for those areas to maintain a balanced diet. There is little difference in carbon footprint between veggies and meat when it has to be shipped. A better diet is one with meats in moderation. I do not see only a vegan diet for the world, as a sustainable alternative.

KProud
9/14/2009 9:34:44 PM
First lets dispel the idea that you can raise only cows for dairy products. Cows do not produce milk unless they are bred and produce calves. For us to use the milk, the calf can't have most of it. Not all calves will be cows, and the industry does not need that many bulls, so sustainable dairy farming will also mean a sustainable meat industry. I mean no offense to vegetarians, but killing cattle is not cruelty unless it is done slowly. The human body needs a complete protein source to be healthy. It can be done with only vegetables, but I agree with the previous posters who pointed out that converting land to vegetable farms in sufficient quantities to feed everyone in the world a balanced diet will be costly, too, in terms of ecological impact. In many of the areas of the world where meat is less available, you will find a large number of insects in the diet. Not something which would be acceptable in most of the Western civilizations, but essential for those areas to maintain a balanced diet. There is little difference in carbon footprint between veggies and meat when it has to be shipped. A better diet is one with meats in moderation. I do not see only a vegan diet for the world, as a sustainable alternative.

Martin Aschoff
9/14/2009 8:45:34 PM
I have some interesting reading for anyone who believes we should continue our meat based diet. It's called "Diet for a new America" by John Robbins. It will open your eyes to a whole litany of ecological, health and moral dilemmas directly caused by our meat eating habits. It would surprise and amaze if anyone could still think we should be eating meat products, after reading this book.

Dawn Gifford
9/14/2009 5:17:10 PM
In parts of the country where food cannot grow (rangelands of the West, for example) or where food should not be growing (the great plains), grassland ruminants can maintain and improve soil quality, sequester carbon and provide a net positive for reversing global warming. If all the fields currently used for growing corn and soy for livestock were converted back to pasture, we could recapture all of the CO2 released by tearing up those lands for agriculture in the first place. We used to have several million bison roaming the plains and rangelands, living in symbiotic harmony with the grasslands. Humans disrupted this natural balance to our own peril: flooding, soil erosion, water pollution, massive CO2 release, overproduction of commodities driving prices down, leading to unsustainable farming practices and CAFOs, etc. Corn and soy are not natural diets for livestock, and in fact feeding them these foods makes them sick, which must then be treated with antibiotics. In fact the GMO corn and soy grown for livestock are not even fit for human consumption! Putting the animals back on restored pasture and rangeland in numbers equivalent to the former bison populations, and managing those rangelands properly, would not only help solve the climate change problem, but it would also result in little financial loss to the meat industry.

Dawn Gifford
9/14/2009 5:16:47 PM
In parts of the country where food cannot grow (rangelands of the West, for example) or where food should not be growing (the great plains), grassland ruminants can maintain and improve soil quality, sequester carbon and provide a net positive for reversing global warming. If all the fields currently used for growing corn and soy for livestock were converted back to pasture, we could recapture all of the CO2 released by tearing up those lands for agriculture in the first place. We used to have several million bison roaming the plains and rangelands, living in symbiotic harmony with the grasslands. Humans disrupted this natural balance to our own peril: flooding, soil erosion, water pollution, massive CO2 release, overproduction of commodities driving prices down, leading to unsustainable farming practices and CAFOs, etc. Corn and soy are not natural diets for livestock, and in fact feeding them these foods makes them sick, which must then be treated with antibiotics. In fact the GMO corn and soy grown for livestock are not even fit for human consumption! Putting the animals back on restored pasture and rangeland in numbers equivalent to the former bison populations, and managing those rangelands properly, would not only help solve the climate change problem, but it would also result in little financial loss to the meat industry.

Pandora Braithwaite
9/14/2009 4:52:22 PM
The vast majority of soy crops are used to make animal feed. The Brazilian rainforest is being destroyed because of humans' seemingly insatiable appetite for animal flesh.

Pandora Braithwaite
9/14/2009 4:50:01 PM
The vast majority of soy crops are used to make animal feed. The Brazilian rainforest is being destroyed because of humans' seemingly insatiable appetite for animal flesh.

Bruno_1
9/14/2009 4:36:59 PM
I own a farm with livestock, so yes, I'm aware of how much they drink and eat. We just had a heatwave in my area, so that's when I get a lot more customers for my eggs, as people with pastured birds lose their flocks to the heat. I don't agree with a lot of vegans, just like I don't agree with a lot of meat-eaters. But, I try to understand the different opinions and make up my own mind. It seems to me that the combination of heatwaves and lack of water/drought is going to change the way we farm significantly in the coming years. (Plus, perhaps, lack of oil.) Who knows, we might even have a pandemic. To be blind to these things seems silly, and might put a lot of people out of business if they don't plan ahead. Also, since I have animals, it's more than clear that I would have a lot more fruit, vegetables, and grain if I wasn't feeding those animals. The vast majority of our agricultural land goes toward feeding livestock right now. The animals have to eat a lot, and the animal products they produce require a lot of food and water. Whereas, if you fed the food to people directly, you'd get a lot more food and water to feed people. As far as grass fed, there probably are breeds of cattle that can withstand a lot of heat, and maybe drought, but in areas that aren't plains, raising a lot of livestock doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense. Eating fewer animals products seems to be the way we'll have to go, unless a lot of us die off from something.

Daniel _1
9/14/2009 3:54:47 PM
In response to Mr Bruno - which seems to me to be just another preocupied eco-friedly person who lives in a bubble....I think you are the one who is someone so emotionally attached to the food you like to eat, that you writed such a poorly comment...1st. these FACTS ARE insane, do you really believe they are real? Have you ever been in a real old fashined cattle ranch with grass fed animals? Can you imagine a world without meat? What would happen if all of the sudden people follow your line of thinking and start eating only vegetables...whats going to happend with the cows?, they are going to multipy in numbers you would never even begin to believe worldwide. And, yes they would be killed in a much worse fashion that now. And, how the world would react over the land that will be destroyed in order to produce more vegetables just to supply the demand that will be created, for the eco-friedly vegetarias?. To me, it will create much more biger problem. Deforestation, desertification, and missuse of natural elements, just to name a few in a world scale..Again, These FACTS you cite on you comment, are science ficcion, they were made by people too attached to a non realistic life, pretending vegetables are the solution. Let me tell you this. I come from a family that has been involved in the cattle business from early 19th century, in south america, now I live in the US, I know both worlds, both lifes. We´ve always had raised grass fed animals simply because on natural prairies it is the only way to do so, and no modern agriculture can be made because the costs are prohibitive high, so the only option is and will always be to work over natural grassland, and produce whatever nature gives you on these grasslands, without changing the nature, or at least with a minimum effect on the ecology. that is a FACT!!. We don't have much forest to cut, and soils are not suitable to raise crops. Cattle do not need that much of water as you believe. And, how are

Bruno_1
9/14/2009 12:26:23 PM
Percentage of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by U.S. that is devoted to the production of livestock: 33 Percentage of all raw materials consumed by the U.S. needed to produce a complete vegetarian diet: 2 And then you have to water the pasture, too, which is a lot of water. What happens to the animals if you have no water? As for humans needing to eat meat, the American Dietetic Association disagrees with you. A chair in that organization put out the excellent books "Becoming Vegan" and "Becoming Vegetarian," which not only outline the ins and outs of being healthy on that diet, but also lists the results of decades long research comparing the health of meat-eaters and vegetarians. The vegetarians had dramatically reduced rates of nearly every disease. Similar results are presented in the bestseller "The China Study." Civilizations in warm climates have thousands of years of vegetarians. Most people used to eat far less meat than we do today, after factory farms made it cheap. We have more people, and fewer families who grow their own food, including animal products. Our government subsidizes meat production, making its true cost not represented at the market. Our situation is completely different now. We don't have enough resources for everyone in the world to eat a lot of meat. Honestly, this article seems financially motivated, or written by someone so emotionally attached to the food they like to eat, that they'll write a poorly researched article. I have livestock, and even a simple person like myself can see through what was presented here. Please, at least the editors of this publication should have done some fact-checking.

Bruno_1
9/14/2009 12:22:33 PM
I agree that if you are going to eat meat, you should eat an animal that had a relatively good life. But, what this article fails to point out is that to raise animals this way, you can place very few of them per acre. If there was forest in that area, you remove it. If there were predators in that area, or wildlife dependent on that forest, they are eradicated. Livestock still drink a huge amount of water. The deforestation causes more greenhouse gases to enter the atmosphere. A good deal of our meat is produced in rainforest areas, and due to the profitability of meat, they will plow down the rainforest to place livestock there. With global warming, which is happening now even if we were to drastically change our habits (unlikely), experts predict that fights over water will be more intense than those over petroleum. And we all know how that's gone for us: so many wars for our oil addiction, and so many lives lost. Further, will pasturing be a valid solution, considering the increased incidence of heatwaves? Everytime there's a heatwave in my area, huge numbers of livestock die, including a lot of pastured animals, who have no climate control and some no shade (even if they did, without a forest, how cool would it really be?). Some facts about livestock: User of more than half of all water used for all purposes in the U.S.: livestock production Amount of water used in production of the average cow: sufficient to float a destroyer Gallons of water needed to produce a pound of wheat: 25 Gallons of water needed to produce a pound of California beef: 5,000 Years the world's known oil reserves would last if every human ate a meat-centered diet: 13 Years they would last if human beings no longer ate meat: 260 Calories of fossil fuel expended to get 1 calorie of protein from beef: 78 To get 1 calorie of protein from soybeans: 2 Percentage of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by U.

Springwagon
9/14/2009 10:06:04 AM
Thank you for a well-written article, in defence of meat! As a long-time promoter/breeder of rare livestock breeds, I would like to point out that the effect of abstaining from eating meat is that animals are killed, and even worse, that older breeds of livestock, with tremendous genetic and historic value, are wiped out. If there is no consumer for a product, the product is "discontinued". In animal terms, it means breeds that may have historic resistance to disease or illness, breeds that flourish in extensive environments, breeds that have unique genetic contributions to offer, quickly become extinct. The irony of livestock is this: in order to save the breed, you must eat the animals. This is reality.

Annette Chynoweth
9/14/2009 9:17:04 AM
Here is something else to think about: cattle or sheep or goats grazing on public lands (BLM and Forest Service managed lands) not only have happier lives they also help the enviromant by naturally fertilizing the ground AND reducing the fire hazard by eating the grass that grows up to become that fire hazard!

julie kate hanus
7/17/2009 1:13:40 PM
Bryan has a great point, bringing up the comparative cruelty of plowing fields for, say, large-scale soybean cultivation. In addition to destroying biologically diverse grasslands, a lot of soy destined for human consumption is shipped hundreds, even thousands of miles for processing (into faux meats), before it begins its journey to the grocery stores. We get a magazine called Meatpaper in the Utne Reader library; last year it ran a really interesting Q&A about fake meats that gets into this subject a bit: http://www.meatpaper.com/articles/2008/0708_layona.html What I’m really excited to read in the Mother Earth News article is that raising animals on pasture could actually “heal” terrain harmed by intensive soy and corn production. Richard Manning is writing about Todd Churchill’s operation Thousand Hills Farm, whose grass-fed beef hot dogs put every other sausage bearing that name to shame: “Churchill’s producers are raising cattle . . . on converted corn and soybean land in Minnesota, which is a bit like building a mosque at the Vatican. They take this plowed-up landscape and plant it to permanent pasture—permaculture modeled on the tallgrass prairie that was the native cover. Many of Churchill’s producers, in fact, don’t own tractors; they don’t need them. It takes a couple of years for the land to recover sufficiently to produce high-quality beef, but it does recover.” Plus, Manning writes “on properly recovered land, [Churchill] can finish about two steers per acre. That is almost precisely the acreage it takes to grow the grain to finish those same steers in a feedlot.” To read the whole article, click on the link in Bryan’s comment below.

Bryan Welch_5
7/17/2009 9:37:15 AM
Meat is a natural part of the human diet. It is no more inherently cruel to eat meat than to plow up habitat for soybean fields. Thousands of species can live in a natural pasture. A plowed field is, comparatively, a biological wasteland. Many, many individuals are cheated out of life in the plowed field. I think it's important to remember that there is only one natural way for any prey animal - any non-predator - to end its life, and that's in the jaws of a predator. Comparatively speaking we are the most "humane," least savage of all predators. I'm not criticizing the other predators, but if we eat fewer animals more of them will be captured, killed and devoured by other predators. On the methane question, don't forget that any form of plant nutrition, when digested by any animal, will yield some measure of greenhouse gas in the process. So just because cows don't live in a particular place doesn't mean the plants aren't being consumed, or that no greenhouse gases are produced in the process. Natural agriculture is very similar to nature's own processes, and therefore has very little negative effect, incrementally. See http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/Grass-Fed-Meat-Benefits.aspx

JHarris
7/16/2009 4:26:00 PM
Scientific rationality and balanced reporting are all to the good. All this rhetoric neatly sidesteps the issue of the irrelevance of meat in the human diet. If the "right" way to raise meat for food is so problematic and the "wrong" way is so horrific, why raise meat at all? Millions upon millions of human beings live their entire lives without eating meat with no dietary ill effects. No cows, chickens, ducks, horses, turtles, fish, whales or snakes are killed in order to provide them with some imagined benefit. As John Lennon said, 'imagine' a world without the cruelty that attends every morsel of meat that goes into your mouth. Imagine.

julie kate hanus
7/16/2009 4:07:55 PM
Hey, Laura-- The very same question occurred to me as well. Hamilton's answer has to do with the economic side of sustainable small-scale farming. She writes: *** In addition to completing the farm’s ecology ... livestock also complete the farm’s economy with critical revenue for the real bank account—which keeps the farm afloat in a way that lettuce cannot. But that happens only when the animals become meat. That’s the thing about livestock: If they stand around eating all day but never produce more than manure, they are a net loss. With the exception of laying hens, in order for animals to be worthwhile in a whole farm system, they must be eaten. That means for Mann’s farm to be sustainable, his neighbors must buy and eat the meat. *** Make of that what you will! I'd encourage everyone to click through to Audubon (the link "animals reared on organic pasture"), and check out her complete argument. I find it pretty compelling. No matter what side of this you come down on, I think adding more evolved nuance (as Nicolette points out) to the discussion is a good thing.

Nicolette Hahn Niman
7/16/2009 3:19:46 PM
First, thank you to Lisa Hamilton for making the point about the need to support sustainable meat production, with which I totally agree. It vastly oversimplifies the issue to characterize meat as the problem. The leading cause of Brazilian deforestation, for example, is soy cropping. Also, to the notion that dairy is less cruel than meat, are you kidding? ALL dairy cows end up slaughtered as meat after, in industrial dairies, especially, unpleasant lives. Their calves are taken away at birth and many dairy cows are never even allowed to graze. Along with Lisa's fine book, read my book Righteous Porkchop for the details of industrial dairies as well as the facts about sustainable meat production.

Nicolette Hahn Niman
7/16/2009 3:18:33 PM
First, thank you to Lisa Hamilton for making the point about the need to support sustainable meat production, with which I totally agree. It vastly oversimplifies the issue to characterize meat as the problem. The leading cause of Brazilian deforestation, for example, is soy cropping. Also, to the notion that dairy is less cruel than meat, are you kidding? ALL dairy cows end up slaughtered as meat after, in industrial dairies, especially, unpleasant lives. Their calves are taken away at birth and many dairy cows are never even allowed to graze. Along with Lisa's fine book, read my book Righteous Porkchop for the details of industrial dairies as well as the facts about sustainable meat production.

Laura Schleifer
7/15/2009 4:15:25 PM
The exact same (questionable) benefits could be obtained by eating dairy produced by grass-fed cows, and would not have to involve cruelty to animals--which, any way you slice it (yes, pun intended), meat does. Why not focus on creating cruelty-free dairy products from animals raised on grass-fed diets then on encouraging people to injest slaughtered animals??



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