Friday, June 20, 2008

The Other White Meat

I don't really do celebrities on my blog much - I leave that for Perez Hilton. But, I had to include this picture of Jessica Simpson. Honestly, I think her t-shirt is talking about the other "eating meat" . . . if you know what mean (wink. wink. elbow. elbow.) **

Anyway, I am going to use this opportunity to talk about eating meat (um, actual eating meat, not the "R"- rated version.) But, not about the humanitarian issues (you can read PETA's treatise: "top five reasons that only stupid girls brag about eating meat" here), but about how the world's heavy meat diet is affecting the environment. Yes, in order to save the world (if you're interested in such things, that is), you will have to drive less AND you will have to eat less meat.

Here is the story (via No Impact Man):

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s November, 2006 report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow–Environmental Issues and Options”:

  • 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock (more than from transportation).
  • 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon was cleared to pasture cattle.
  • Two-thirds (64 percent) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems, come from cattle.
  • The livestock sector accounts for over 8 percent of global human water use, while 64 percent of the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas by 2025.
  • The world’s largest source of water pollution is believed to be the livestock sector.
  • In the United States, livestock are responsible for a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources.
  • Livestock account for about 20 percent of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the 30 percent of the earth’s land surface that they now pre-empt was once habitat for wildlife, in an era of unprecedented threats to biodiversity.
  • These problems will only get worse as meat production is expected to double by 2050.
In addition, from an efficiency standpoint (I am an MBA after all!), raising and eating meat as a main staple of people's diets is incredibly inefficient. It takes significantly more energy and water to produce a calorie of meat protein as it does an equivalent amount of vegetable protein (the amounts vary, but trust me, it is considerable). Meat prices also don't reflect the true social costs of meat production like greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, loss of carbon sinks (forests) for meat production, etc. Plus, there are many governmental subsidies that are aimed at helping the meat and dairy industry that could be used for other things. I am sure that if there was a true accounting of the costs of meat, that was reflected in its price, people would eat a lot less of it, for sure.

So, eating less meat will soon become as important as driving your car less. But, if you are a committed omnivore, there are definitely sustainable aways to get your steak on. Buy meat from organic, local farms. In the DC area, many local farms are represented at the neighborhood farmers' markets. And choose restaurants that commit to buying their meat from local farms (like one of my faves, Cafe St. Ex.)


**Actually, after some "research" on the issue, it seems that it might be even more juvenile than that. According to OK! Magazine, the slogan is a subtle dig at boyfriend Tony Romo's ex-girlfriend, country superstar Carrie Underwood - who has twice been named World's Sexiest Vegetarian by PETA. Geez.


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