Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Myth Of Sustainable Meat

James McWilliams (who took NYTs columnist Nicholas Kristof to task for implying that chickens elicited less empathy because they had small eyes) recently took a turn at what he called...

The Myth Of Sustainable Meat, New York Times (sorry, I know there's a 10-free-stories-a-month limit), 12 April 2012

He says that what some consider sustainable alternatives to factory farmed meat aren't so sustainable:
"Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows.

Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming.

If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs)."
Aren't so "natural":
"Many farmers who raise chickens on pasture use industrial breeds that have been bred to do one thing well: fatten quickly in confinement. As a result, they can suffer painful leg injuries after several weeks of living a “natural” life pecking around a large pasture.

Free-range pigs are routinely affixed with nose rings to prevent them from rooting, which is one of their most basic instincts."
Aren't so economical:
"[Small, decentralized, free-range operations] would gradually seek a larger market share, cutting corners, increasing stocking density and aiming to fatten animals faster than competitors could. ... It wouldn’t take long for production systems to scale back up to where they started."
Don't fully engage in "nutrient cycling":
"Consider Joel Salatin [of Polyface Farm, pictured], the guru of nutrient cycling, who employs chickens to enrich his cows’ grazing lands with nutrients. His plan appears to be impressively eco-correct, until we learn that he feeds his chickens with tens of thousands of pounds a year of imported corn and soy feed."


Bix said...

That one point alone - cordoning off half the US land to raise cattle - defends the myth. We'd have to scale back consumption if we wanted to be more sustainable, by his data at least.

Although, maybe meat would become so expensive not many people could afford it, the demand would die, the supply would follow.

caulfieldkid said...

You know in Ecuador (I'm sure other places too) they eat guinea pigs as primary meat source.

I'm just saying, there are other sources of meat/protein. I'm not against eating bugs (sorry, Blinky).

No matter what, though, you are right. Consumption needs to fall. For lots of reasons. I can't think of a single good reason to increase consumption. . .


Adele Hawkins said...

Once again, thanks for the link to this insightful article. I'm definitely going to keep cutting meat out of at least one meal a day, if not more.

Dr. Mel said...

The demand for meat would not die, I don't think. All that would happen is that agri-biz CAFOs would step in to fill the void, providing cheaper meat & using less space. At what cost to the animals? Non-human animals are God's creatures too, just as we human animals are.
I'm a vegetarian who would like to be vegan (for ethical reasons), but I haven't been able to make the change yet. But thankfully I don't eat meat. Not even guinea pigs or insects, which are indeed good alternative animal protein sources.

Dr. Mel said...

Cows have ideas, thoughts, feelings, memories, the ability to love and nurture: http://www.globalanimal.org/2012/04/13/cow-proves-animals-love-think-and-act/71867/

Dr. Mel said...

Oddly enough, today's Times has this article about the difficulties of becoming vegan. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/the-challenge-of-going-vegan/?nl=health&emc=edit_hh_20120417

Bix said...

Oh weird, I just posted that article. I hadn't seen your comment until just now!

Bix said...

I included a clip of Ellen DeGeneres being interviewed by Katie Couric. She talks about why she went vegan.