[FoRK] Vegetarian > Hybrid

J. Andrew Rogers <andrew at ceruleansystems.com> on Fri Jan 26 16:32:17 PST 2007

On Jan 24, 2007, at 10:19 PM, Adam L Beberg forwarded:
> Last year researchers at the University of Chicago took the Prius  
> down a peg when they turned their attention to another gas guzzling  
> consumer purchase. They noted that feeding animals for meat, dairy,  
> and egg production requires growing some ten times as much crops as  
> we'd need if we just ate pasta primavera, faux chicken nuggets, and  
> other plant foods.

At least in the US, this somewhat misrepresents the environmental and  
agricultural impact through selective omission.

- Somewhere around 40% of the US beef herd is raised on non-arable or  
marginally arable land on local forage. Other than grasses collected  
for winter forage in these regions (which requires little more than  
irrigation), they largely feed themselves.  The key point being that  
the idea that we are trading beef for grain is a bit of a false  
dichotomy, since for a significant portion of production we are  
trading beef for waste land and therefore few valuable natural  
resources were spent on creating that beef.  In some parts of the US,  
feed grain (which is rarely the same as what we eat) is dirt cheap  
and uses less land, making it the preferred way to feed cattle.

- In the western US, cattle are a critical part of the ecosystem and  
eliminating the range cattle would have disastrous consequences to  
the ecosystem.  Cattle replace the bison in the ecosystem, and are  
essential to it.  Well, essential if you do not want to significantly  
alter the mix of flora and fauna found in the ranges.  From that  
perspective, ranching the western US is healthy for the ecosystem there.

I can follow the argument that we should reduce beef production to  
low resource methods (like forage in non-arable lands), but that  
would only require cutting beef production in half or so (and there  
is a lot of unused capacity in those regions).  Eliminating beef  
altogether makes no sense at all from an environmental standpoint.  I  
think a good argument could be made that *reduction* of meat  
production/consumption helps the environment in various ways but, at  
least in the US, one has to willfully ignore a lot of salient facts  
about meat production and the economics of agriculture to make an  
argument that being purely vegetarian is environmentally and/or  
economically superior to a diet that includes some meat.


J. Andrew Rogers

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