12.29.2009

Feeding Livestock, Hungry People and Fossil Fuel Calories


Hola hermanas y hermanos! For today's topic I wanted to share some very important information about world hunger, fast food and the calories of fossil fuel needed to produce grains vs. beef.

One reason for the increase in meat consumption is the rise of fast-food restaurants as an American dietary staple. As Eric Schlosser noted in his best-selling book Fast Food Nation, “Americans now spend more money on fast food—$110 billion a year—than they do on higher education. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos and recorded music—combined.”

Strong growth in meat production and consumption continues despite mounting evidence that meat-based diets are unhealthy, and that just about every aspect of meat production—from grazing-related loss of cropland and open space, to the inefficiencies of feeding vast quantities of water and grain to cattle in a hungry world, to pollution from “factory farms”—is an environmental disaster with wide and sometimes catastrophic consequences. Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke calls factory farming “a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems.”

The 4.8 pounds of grain fed to cattle to produce one pound of beef for human beings represents a colossal waste of resources in a world still teeming with people who suffer from profound hunger and malnutrition.

According to the British group Vegfam, a 10-acre farm can support 60 people growing soybeans, 24 people growing wheat, 10 people growing corn and only two producing cattle. Britain—with 56 million people—could support a population of 250 million on an all-vegetable diet. Because 90 percent of U.S. and European meat eaters’ grain consumption is indirect (first being fed to animals), westerners each consume 2,000 pounds of grain a year. Most grain in underdeveloped countries is consumed directly.

While it is true that many animals graze on land that would be unsuitable for cultivation, the demand for meat has taken millions of productive acres away from farm inventories. The cost of that is incalculable. As Diet For a Small Planet author Frances Moore LappĂ© writes, imagine sitting down to an eight-ounce steak. “Then imagine the room filled with 45 to 50 people with empty bowls in front of them. For the ‘feed cost’ of your steak, each of their bowls could be filled with a full cup of cooked cereal grains.”

Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer estimates that reducing meat production by just 10 percent in the U.S. would free enough grain to feed 60 million people. Authors Paul and Anne Ehrlich note that a pound of wheat can be grown with 60 pounds of water, whereas a pound of meat requires 2,500 to 6,000 pounds. (Info retrieved from: http://www.emagazine.com/view/?142)

The following information was taken from the book "The Food Revolution" pg. 292, these estimates might be a bit outdated but still important to think about:

U.S. corn eaten by people: 2%

U.S. corn eaten by livestock: 77%

U.S. farmland producing vegetables: 4 million acres

U.S. farmland producing hay for livestock: 56 million acres

U.S Grain and cereals fed to livestock: 70%

Human beings who could be fed by the grains and soybeans eaten by U.S. livestock: 1,400,000,000

World's population living in the United States: 4%

World's beef eaten in the United States: 23%

The following information was taken from the book "The Food Revolution" pg. 266, these estimates might be a bit outdated but again, still important to think about:

Calories of fossil fuel expended to produce 1 calorie of protein from soybeans: 2

Calories of fossil fuel expended to produce 1 calorie of protein from corn or wheat: 3

Calories of fossil fuel expended to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef: 54

Amount of greenhouse-warming carbon gas released by driving a typical American car, in one day: 3 kilograms

Amount released by clearing and burning enough Costa Rican rainforest to produce beef for one hamburger: 75 kilograms

I will now leave with one suggestion in mind....if you are one who cares about the environment, before you consider getting a hybrid or electric car, think about consuming less beef or maybe even none at all....wouldn't it be nice to keep the rainforest alive and well? I think we need them in order to survive!!!

Be healthy in mind, body and soul and live in harmony with the earth!

Crafty Vegan



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