Monday, January 28, 2008

Got Vegetables?

Mark Bittman, author of the popular How To Cook Everything, New York Times' food writer, and host of the YouTube video that accompanied my post New York Times' No Knead Bread (probably the most-visited post in my entire blog archive) has a new NYTs article out. From yesterday's paper:

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

I can see this story driving another wedge between two groups that on the outside appear dissimilar - those who espouse a plant-based diet and those who espouse a meat-based diet - yet, as one of our commenters, Bryan, said, probably have more in common than not.

In this piece, Bittman argues that growing demand for meat in developed countries harms the environment:
"Assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests."

"Livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation."

"[An estimated] 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days."

"Agriculture in the United States — much of which now serves the demand for meat — contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams."
Worsens the situation of the world's poor:
"Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption ... as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States."
And is not nutritionally necessary:
"It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources."
The rats in my previous study (Now You See It, Now You Don't: Liver Cancer), the ones whose cancerous lesions regressed, were eating a human equivalent of about 22 grams of protein a day. Another benchmark is the Institute of Medicine's Daily Reference Intake: 38g/day for women, 46g/day for men. (Americans consume, on average, between 80 and 100 g/day.) These are total protein intakes for all foods, animal and plant sources combined.

Other points he raised were possible health effects of a meat-heavy diet, and animal cruelty. I found the article disturbing.
Photo of feedlot outside of Dodge City, Kansas from Cathy Dowd's Flickr stream.

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