Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Solar Powered Plate

I feel a rant coming on today - Earth Day - when as if on cue, the media is hot and heavy with the message that the best thing any one of us can do to reduce our carbon footprint is to eat less meat. In newspapers, magazines and blogs we find all sorts of reasons behind the rush to banish meat from our diets:

Toronto Star: "Eat less meat. Raising cattle, sheep and pigs uses up resources."

Sacramento Bee: "Another thing is, gosh, if you can reduce demand, get people to eat less meat, all those things would be great."

The Day: "People should eat less meat. You would be healthier and so would the planet,” because of the tremendous resources used in raising and processing meat for consumption."

The Guardian: "But there is a bigger reason for global hunger, which is attracting less attention only because it has been there for longer. While 100m tonnes of food will be diverted this year to feed cars, 760m tonnes will be snatched from the mouths of humans to feed animals - which could cover the global food deficit 14 times. If you care about hunger, eat less meat."

The Guardian: "For both environmental and humanitarian reasons, beef is out. Pigs and chickens feed more efficiently, but unless they are free range you encounter another ethical issue: the monstrous conditions in which they are kept. I would like to encourage people to start eating tilapia instead of meat. This is a freshwater fish that can be raised entirely on vegetable matter and has the best conversion efficiency - about 1.6kg of feed for 1kg of meat - of any farmed animal. Until meat can be grown in flasks, this is about as close as we are likely to come to sustainable flesh-eating."

PETA: "Mr. Gore likes to be thought of as an environmentalist steak-and-potatoes kind of guy, but there's no such thing as a meat-eating environmentalist," says PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich. "He needs to confront the 'inconvenient truth' that meat production is the main culprit in global warming."

I could continue with more quotes, but I think you get the point - we're being told, repeatedly, we need to eat less meat!

With all the urgency in this message, the question begs - is eating meat really an environmental problem?

The answer really is a "yes" and "no" - meat from livestock is an excellent source of complete protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids essential to human health.

The big problem isn't so much the meat, but the way we in the United States (and more and more countries around the world) raise livestock today - intensive feedlot operations which demand huge amounts of "inputs" to fatten cattle quickly.

The various reports on the global impact of raising livestock are based on factory farming practices which are indeed damaging to the environment. To really understand how, we need to look at how livestock in the US, and in other parts of the world, is now routinely raised for food and how the messages about the "inputs" is virtually ignored by the popular and politically correct message to eat less meat. All of these "inputs," interestingly, are also required for growing the plant-based vegetarian/vegan diet being promoted as the way for us to save the plant....but those promoting that message don't bother telling us that in their cries we must eat less meat.

Like I said, the problem isn't the meat - it's the method used to produce the meat. You see, cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens are no longer pastured - that is allowed to graze in fields all day - instead, they're raised in what has been rightly named "factory farms" [CAFO - Confined Animal Feeding Operations] where they're raised in huge numbers - apparently the largest operations in the United States have tens of thousands of cattle in one facility at a time.

The practice of CAFO is fairly new, gaining ground in the US since the 1960's and was/is seen as a way to produce food while controlling cost and a uniform standardized product output.

But to achieve the output desired requires some intense "inputs" - namely fossil fuel based fertilizers, chemical pesticides, diesel and fuel for transportation, energy for manufacturing ferilizers, pesticides and feeds, pharmaceuticals to maintain animal health (somewhat) while feeding a diet they are not designed to eat, supplements to provide vitamins, proteins and such not in the feed, energy and resources to house and maintain the animals from birth to slaughter and managing large volumes of waste that is unsuitable for use as fertilizer since the diet teh animal is raised on renders it toxic.

While the industry calls these practices "efficient" - they're anything but, and I'd say are part of the problem we're trying to solve.

The equation looks sort of like this:

Synthetic Fertilizer & GMO Patented Seeds [$] ----> Pesticides [$] ---> Feed [$] ---> Cows [$] ---> Building [$] ---> Electricity [$] ---> Pharmaceuticals [$] ---> Manure Lagoons [$] ---> Transportation [$] ---> Food

On the other hand, properly raised livestock is solar powered food, it's equation looks like this:

Sun [free] ---> Grass [free] ---> Hay & Silage [$] ---> Cow [$] ---> Food & Organic Fertilizer

Funny, while the politically correct message these days is eat less meat, it truly should be eat more - from livestock raised properly - that is livestock that turns the energy of the sun into high quality food for human consumption rather than requiring intensive energy inputs as the means to an end.

This food - pastured meats - is food that truly is created from the sun to become a solar powered plate of delicious and nutritious quality food for us to enjoy, not only guilt-free, but that also is environmentally friendly too!

You see, what those repeating the message above fail to disclose is that livestock, especially cattle, are not naturally grain consumers - they eat mostly grass, ground covering legumes, and an assortment of weeds and other plants that are indigestible for humans.

These plants grow in abundance in rich soil, turning the energy of the sun into food for the cow - which in turn allows us to consume that same energy that's not usually available to us when we consume the flesh of the animal.

Not only that, but grazing animals do more than turn the energy of the sun into food for us - they fertilize and replenish the soil upon which they graze, allowing rich soil to accumulate and grow plants rich with nutrients, which in turn squesters carbon in the soil and those plants sucking CO2 out of the air.

Farmers from long ago understood the relationship between their animals and their crops too - livestock did much of the necessary "work" for the health of the total farm - grazing in the fields, depositing manure to provide food to birds that followed along behind them (chickens, turkeys, etc.) and create rich soil deposits to optimize the grass and ground covering plants growth, and consuming silage from crops planted on the farm and hay baled throughout the warm months.

All this in a dynamic that allowed the farmer to not only have quality protein from the meat, but also healthy soil to grow nutrient-dense plant foods to provide for both his animals, his family and his community.

This dynamic is lost in factory farming of animals and in monoculture crop farming of plant-foods, where one crop dominates again and again, requiring the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and now, even patented seeds year after year.

And rather than address this issue, we're being told to eat less meat to save the planet.

We're told that's green and good and that it's the way of the future; that it's healthier for us and the environment; that we'll all benefit if we just eat less meat.

Sorry, no can do - I'm simply not going to be part of growing an industry that will continue to require, in higher and higher quantity, synthetic fertilizers, fossil fuels, chemical pesticides, sterile patented seeds farmers need to buy from the industry year after year since storing seed is either useless or illegal whle still requiring huge amounts of energy to transport and process the resultant crops into foodstuff...!

I'm not going to enhance their profits while they destroy our health and the balance of nature with unnatural and intensive input requirements to grow their self-defined "healthy" food products.

Soyburgers? No thanks!

Soymilk? You're kidding, right?

Quorn? Oh, don't even go there!

Tofurky? What's up with mock "meat" anyway?

This Earth Day my commitment is not to enhance the bottomline of ADM, Cargill or Monsanto, but to:

A) Support my local farmers commited to traditional farming practices that enhance the health of the planet and those eating from its bounty - those who pasture their animals and grow crops using organic methods

B) Grow some of our food this summer - tomatoes, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, carrots and more, in our garden

C) Try my best to create and eat foods that really are on a solar powered plate - local fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and yummy pastured meats, eggs and dairy!


  1. Anonymous2:40 PM

    I'm with you on this one! I am so sick and tired of being told to stop eating meat because it's bad for me and the earth. Bullpucky! What's bad for us is the crap they're feeding the animals and the way they're keeping them. If we want to divert grains back into the food supply, for those who eat them, it's easy, get the cows back in the fields and stop force feeding them grains.

  2. Anonymous2:48 PM

    What part of it taking 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef do you not understand?

    Beef isn't a good thing for health either. Plant-based diets are superior for health and longevity.

    Stop killing animals for your food!

  3. Anonymous2:50 PM

    Why a vegan diet saves the planet:

    According to a study published in 2007, the production of a kilogram of beef generates the equivalent of 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

    Rainforests are cleared to raise cattle for beef. At least 50% of the world’s rainforests have been cleared to date.

    Help save dwindling water supplies. Masses amount of water is used to grow grain to fatten animals just for meat consumption.

    According to a recent Newsweek article; it takes 13,250 litres of water to produce one steak. To produce just 4.5 kilos of steak requires the same amount of water as is used by an average household for an entire year.

    There is a world shortage of grain for humans, as this grain is being grown to fatten animals just for meat consumption. According to a Cornell University study in the USA, the amount of grain consumed by animals being raised for slaughter in the meat industry, could feed approximately 800 million hungry people.

    According to the World Watch Institute, it takes 7kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef, 2kg of grain to produce 1kg of poultry and 2kg of grain to produce 1kg of farmed fish. Producing animal protein takes up to 15 times more water compared with producing plant protein.

    With a vegan diet you have less packaging to throw away into landfill.

    With a vegan diet you have less greasy pots and pans to wash every night and less toxic washing-up liquid down the drain

  4. Anonymous2:53 PM


  5. Anonymous2:55 PM

    Per capita meat consumption rose by 40 percent in the United States between 1961 and 2002. One hopes that the Chinese don't follow our gluttonous lead, but the news so far isn't encouraging: Meat consumption in China has already doubled over the past decade. If we don't set the example now for the Chinese, we're in trouble globally!

  6. Anonymous2:57 PM


  7. Anonymous3:06 PM

    Advantages of Vegetarianism over CO2 Reduction
    In addition to having the advantage of immediately reducing global warming, a shift away from methane-emitting food sources is much easier than cutting carbon dioxide.

    First, there is no limit to reductions in this source of greenhouse gas that can be achieved through vegetarian diet. In principle, even 100% reduction could be achieved with little negative impact. In contrast, similar cuts in carbon dioxide are impossible without devastating effects on the economy. Even the most ambitious carbon dioxide reduction strategies fall short of cutting emissions by half.

    Second, shifts in diet lower greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly than shifts away from the fossil fuel burning technologies that emit carbon dioxide. The turnover rate for most ruminant farm animals is one or two years, so that decreases in meat consumption would result in almost immediate drops in methane emissions. The turnover rate for cars and power plants, on the other hand, can be decades. Even if cheap, zero-emission fuel sources were available today, they would take many years to build and slowly replace the massive infrastructure our economy depends upon today.

    Similarly, unlike carbon dioxide which can remain in the air for more than a century, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years, so that lower methane emissions quickly translate to cooling of the earth.

    Third, efforts to cut carbon dioxide involve fighting powerful and wealthy business interests like the auto and oil industries. Environmental groups have been lobbying for years to make fuel-efficient SUVs available or phase out power plants that don’t meet modern environmental standards without success. At the same time, vegetarian foods are readily available, and cuts in agricultural methane emissions are achievable at every meal.

    Also, polls show that concern about global warming is widespread, and environmental activists often feel helpless to do anything about it. Unless they happen to be buying a car or major appliance, most people wanting to make a difference are given little to do aside from writing their legislators and turning off their lights. Reducing or eliminating meat consumption is something concerned citizens can do every day to help the planet.

    Finally, it is worth noting that reductions in this source of greenhouse gas have many beneficial side effects for the environment. Less methane results in less tropospheric ozone, a pollutant damaging to human health and agriculture. Moreover, the same factory farms responsible for these methane emissions also use up most of the country’s water supply, and denude most of its wilderness for rangeland and growing feed. Creating rangeland to feed western nations’ growing appetite for meat has been a major source of deforestation and desertification in third world countries. Factory farm waste lagoons are a leading source of water pollution in the U.S. Indeed, because of animal agriculture’s high demand for fossil fuels, the average American diet is far more CO2-polluting than a plant-based one.


  8. Anonymous3:08 PM

    According to the National Research Council's Recommended Dietary Allowances 8% of our daily calories need to come from protein, which is recomended as "more than adequate" for 98% of the population (Source: The American Vegetarian Cookbook from the Fit for Life Kitchen by Marilyn Diamond). Protein over this meager amount just passes through our bodies and builds protein levels of septic and sewer systems instead. Like Mon, I avoid demonstrating my food choices in a militant way; however, it concerns me when perfectly good high protein foods are dismissed because they are plant-based. For example, Spinach, broccoli, and numerous sprouts are around or above 50% protein, indicating that a vegan could consume 8% of his or her daily calories of protein without even trying. Don't pee protein! =) Your kidneys will thank you

  9. Anonymous3:10 PM

    Energy efficiency of food needs to factor in food travel distance. As well as energy taken to produce the food. If I live in maine, and get most of my food energy, as a vegan, from processed foods like morningstar farms, then a lot of my food energy comes from Iowa. That's a long distance to travel.

    For example: Morningstar Vegan Gillers (http://www.kelloggs.com/cgi-bin/brandpages/product.pl?product=315&company=23) (first one I found) contains mostly corn and soy.

    Water, textured soy protein concentrate (soy), corn oil (corn), contains two percent or less of autolyzed yeast extract, vegetable gum (corn), natural flavors from vegetable sources (prob. corn), maltodextrin (corn), soy fiber (sory), salt, carrageenan (seaweed), potato starch (potato), onion powder, caramel color, disodium inosinate (could be lots of things), disodium guanylate (seaweed), konjac flour, sunflower oil, sesame seed oil, soy sauce (water, soybeans, wheat, salt), concentrated onion juice, ascorbic acid, vinegar powder, citric acid, aspartic acid, modified corn starch, malic acid, succinic acid, tartaric acid, lactic acid, wheat flour, soy lecithin.

    You get the idea.

    It goes from farmers fields in the middle of the country to a processing plant, which is located who knows where, then on a truck to be trucked to my local supermarket, where it sits in a cooler.

    Most corn and soy produced in this country (and I'd wager ALL in its various forms in this food) is grown at a loss to the farmer, with inputs of pesticides and fertilizers (both of wich use oil as a starting point), are tilled with deisel machinery (oil), and subsidized by a government that already has WAY too much grain.

    But this is the diet the vegans want us to eat.

  10. This smells like part of the long-term carefully orchestrated campaign being run by PETA.

    They bombard my local newspaper with letters to the editor that make these points always citing an "expert" from a front organization that web research shows to be a PETA affiliate.

    The identical letters to the editor show up in newspapers around the country.

    Since Green is hot right now, that's the tack they are taking.

  11. Anonymous3:14 PM

    Earth Day presents us with a reminder to consider how our daily lifestyle choices affect the planet and to make changes to reduce our impact. One of the best ways to do so is to adopt a vegan diet -- one that is free of meat, eggs and dairy.

    The effects of animal agriculture on the Earth are not often given much attention, yet raising animals for food is a leading contributor to global warming.

    According to a United Nations report, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. Additionally, waste from factory farms pollutes water sources, and millions of acres of rainforests are burned down each year to make pasture for cattle.

    The consumption of animal products supports these assaults on the environment, so if we truly wish to take care of our Earth, we must be vegan.

  12. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Looks like the vegan troops found you. I wonder how many of them truly live a total vegan life though?

    To give up all animal products and be truly sincere to their 'cause' du jour, how many of them are not using anything plastic, not buying anything in cardboard containers, and not using any ink?

    Plastic, cardboard and paper containers, the cellophane and wax paper used to keep foods fresh and packages sealed, and the ink and glue used on the label, all involve animal products.

    Oh, bet they didn't know that animal products are in those things.

    A world without computers and electrical circuits? Well, they too depend on part of the animal that we don't eat.

    The film and publishing industries depend on animal products for things like photographic films and filters, inks and papers. Artists and musicians rely on them for brushes and art supplies and instruments like drums, pianos, and other tools of the trade.

    Animals also help clothe us. Wool, felt, down, leather and fur are obvious. Less obvious are buttons used to fasten clothes and fabric dyes used to colour them.

    The asphalt on roads and walkways, the concrete blocks used to build bridges, even the steel in trains and planes are made using animal products. Animals also play a part in all sorts of mechanical items. For example, fatty acids and proteins are used to make lubricants and fluids. Glycerol is in brake fluid and anti-freeze while stearic acid is used to help tires hold their shape and improve their wear.

    Before they go preaching to the masses to stop eating meat, I say they need to practice what they preach first and stop using all the modern conveniences that require animal products!

  13. Anonymous3:41 PM

    Great post. Apparently the PETA members commenting here are too entrenched in their talking points to actually read it and consider the excellent arguments you made.

    It would be interesting to see someone calculate the carbon footprint (and water consumption, etc.) of locally grown, grass fed, organic beef (what I eat) vs. the factory farm calculations all the commenters are posting in their frenzied attempts to rationalize for everyone else their choice not to kill and eat animals.

    For the moment, I'll take your summary to heart and celebrate Earth Day by griliing a steak. Medium rare, with a side of sauteed garlic brocollini. Good for me, good for the environment.

    Thanks for all you do to bring some sanity to the debate.

  14. Anonymous4:01 PM

    Pastured meat - the ultimate, simplest, and most direct conversion of sunlight into grass into protein with minimal input, especially on land not suited to tilling (non-arable). Very low on the food chain, too.

    Next month I'm getting a half side of pastured bison - far more "earth friendly" than many vegan or vegetarian foods foods.

    I highly recommend The Worst Hard Time, a fantastic book about the history of the Great American Plains (the last part of the US to be settled by homesteaders, precisely because of its unique biosystem), about how an ancient grass prairie ecosystem that perfectly supported millions of head of bison, and the numerous nations of Native Americans who lived in harmony with bison herds, was in just a generation or two turned into a dust wasteland for an entire decade, with hundreds of millions of pounds of fertile topsoil forever lost to the winds, all because of commodity agriculture - the plowing of the soil to plant wheat - not to feed the local populations, but as a quick way to make a buck by selling grain around the world. And history repeats itself.

    The book isn't about meat eating or vegan eating, but it's hard not to read it and compare it to our current situation and not see that our modern agriculture system of chronic overproduction of just a few commodity crops (that are inedible without massive amounts of processing); massive petroleum input of fertilizers, fuel, pesticides, and transport (for livestock or crops); and insistence on the cheapest cost per unit, is incredibly shortsighted, unsustainable, and contributes to environmental degradation at a tremendous pace and scale.

    It isn't about whether to eat meat or to be vegan, it is about all food being produced in a sustainable manner and scale that mimics nature, instead of subverting it.

    On a similar note, I watched the movie King Corn the other night on PBS with my 9 year old son. he was very impressed by the huge farm machines, of course. I couldn't help thinking about the massive power of these huge machines used in modern farming - the plows, the sprayers, the cultivators, and especially the combine harvesters. Vegans who think their crop-based meals don't inflict horrible deaths of animals should think again - many a deer, fox or hare is caught in the combine on a regular basis. Mice and rats go into the mechanical harvesters of salad greens and have been documented in washed bagged greens (how's that for some protein with your salad?). When the movie was over, I looked through my cupboards and found them nearly bare of corn or corn derived product (soy and wheat, too). It hasn't been easy getting to that point, and it has taken time, new cooking and eating habits (with better health along the way), and there yet is more I can do to choose foods that have less of an impact on the environment (growing more myself in my garden, for instance). But in my opinion, reducing all forms of industrial corn, soy, and wheat intensive-foods (livestock as well as grain-based processed food products) is probably the most significant positive environmental step we can make, food-wise.

  15. Anonymous4:10 PM

    15 Reasons to Stop Eating Meat

    Health Reasons:

    Lower risk of cancer. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has reported that vegetarians are less likely to get cancer by 25 to 50 percent.
    Lower risk of heart disease. Researchers Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn have a program that includes a vegetarian diet and is currently one of the few programs that has been proven to reverse heart disease. A vegetarian diet reduces cholesterol.
    Lower risk of osteoporosis. Studies have shown that too much protein in our diet causes loss of bone calcium. Meat eaters generally get far more protein than they need or can use.
    Lower risk of kidney and gallstones. The calcium leached from the bones by the body’s efforts to neutralize the acids produce by too much protein intake can end up forming kidney stones and gall stones.
    Factory farmed animals carry disease. According to the FDA poultry is the number one source of food-borne illness. Despite the heavy use of pesticides and antibiotics, up to 60% percent of chickens sold at the supermarket are infected with live salmonella bacteria. Approximately 30% of all pork products are contaminated with toxoplasmosis. We are increasingly at risk from highly contagious diseases like Mad Cow Disease and Foot and Mouth disease in sheep and cattle.
    Factory-farmed animals contain toxic chemicals. Meat contains accumulations of pesticides and other chemicals up to 14 times more concentrated than those in plant foods. Half of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in farm animals and 90% of those are not used to treat infections but are instead used as growth promoters.
    Environmental Reasons:

    Inefficient use of agriculture. 70% of U.S. grain production is used to feed farm animals. The grains and soybeans fed to animals to produce the amount of meat consumed by the average American in one year could feed seven people for the same period.
    Inefficient use of water. It takes 2640 gallons of water to produce one pound of edible beef. The water used to raise animals for food is more than half the water used in the United States.
    Inefficient use of energy.
    Calories of fossil fuel needed to produce 1 calorie of protein in beef: 28.
    Calories of fossil fuel needed to produce 1 calorie of protein in soybeans: 2.
    Environmental Pollution. Raising animals for food is the biggest polluter of our water and topsoil. Factory farm animal waste pollutes the ground and groundwater horribly.
    Destruction of natural habitat. It takes more land to raise animals for food than it does to produce the equivalent nutritional value by raising edible plants. Rain forests are being destroyed to make room for huge cattle ranches. Coyotes and other animals are poisoned and shot by western cattle ranchers who consider federal land to be their land for grazing.
    Animal Rights Reasons:

    Animals on factory farms are over-crowded. They spend their brief lives in crowded and ammonia-filled conditions, many of them so cramped that they can't even turn around or spread a wing.
    Animals on factory farms are tortured. Within days of birth, for example, chickens have their beaks seared off with a hot blade. Animals are hung upside down and their throats are sliced open, often while they're fully conscious.
    Animals on factory farms are treated like machines. They are pumped up with drugs, fed their own waste and forced to grow or produce as fast as possible. They are subjected to 24-hour artificial lighting while being crammed into tiny cages one on top of the other to make it easier to harvest.
    15. We don’t need to eat animals! Most of us in the U.S. don’t eat animals because we must in order to survive. We eat them because we want to. We are subjecting animals to torture, damaging the environment unnecessarily and subjecting ourselves to greater risk of disease just to satisfy a desire, not a need.

    You can get a totally balanced diet without eating meat. All vegetables contain protein and too much protein consumption is unhealthy. Grains, legumes and soybeans contain plenty of protein. Vegetarian foods do not have to be boring. Spice it up! For example, veggies and rice with some Teriyaki sauce is delicious and as filling as any meat dish you can think of while being far more healthy for you and easier on animals and the environment. Why not give a vegetarian diet a try and give our environment a break. Your body will thank you and so will the Earth!

  16. Anonymous4:15 PM

    science has proven by experiments that invariably the nourishment obtained from vegetables has a greater sustaining power, and the reason is easy to see.

    In animal food the cells have already become more individualized, and as the animal has a desire body giving it a passional nature, it is easily understood that when we eat meat it is harder to overcome these cells which have animal consciousness resembling the dream state, and also that such particles will not stay long in subjection. Hence a meat diet requires larger quantities and more frequent meals than the vegetable or fruit diet. If we should go one step farther and eat the flesh of carnivorous animals, we should find ourselves hungry all the time, for there the cells have become exceedingly individualized and will, therefore, seek their freedom and gain it so much the quicker. An excess of meat is burned up, but leaves poisonous uric acid, and it is being more and more recognized that the less meat we eat, the better for our well-being.

    It is natural that we should desire the very best of food, but every animal body has in it the poisons of decay. The venous blood is filled with carbon dioxide and other noxious products on their way to the kidneys or the pores of the skin to be expelled as urine or perspiration. These loathsome substances are in every part of the flesh and when we eat such food we are filling our bodies with toxic poisons. Much sickness is due to our use of flesh foods.

    There is plenty of proof that a carnivorous diet fosters ferocity. We may mention the well-known fierceness of beasts of prey, while the prodigious strength and the docile nature of the ox, the elephant, and the horse show the effect of the herb diet on animals.

    As soon as we adopt the vegetarian diet, we escape one of the most serious menaces of health: the putrefaction of particles of flesh embedded between the teeth. Fruits, cereals, and vegetables are from their very natures slow to decay; each particle contains an enormous amount of ether which keeps it alive and sweet for a long time, whereas the ether which interpenetrated the flesh and composed the vital body of an animal was taken away with the Spirit thereof at the time of death. Thus the danger from infection through vegetable foods is very small, and many of them are actually antiseptic in a very high degree. This applies particularly to the citrus fruits: oranges, lemons, grapefruits, etc., not to speak of the king of all antiseptics, the pineapple. Instead of poisoning the digestive tract with putrefactive elements as meats do, fruits cleanse and purify the system, and the pineapple is one of the finest aids to digestion known to man. It is far superior to pepsin and no cruelty to sentient life is used to obtain it. Some modern nutritionists advise that for full benefit of the nutrients, citrus fruits should not be mixed with other foods.

    Looking at the matter of flesh-eating from the ethical side also, it is against the higher conception to kill to eat. We have a heavy debt to pay to the lower creatures whose mentors we should be, but whose murderers we are; the good law which works ever to correct abuses will in time relegate the habit of eating murdered animals to the scrap heap of obsolete practices.

    Man, in his earlier stages of unfoldment, was like the beasts of prey in certain respects. However, he is to become God-like and thus he must cease to destroy in order that he may commence to create. Flesh food has fostered human ingenuity of a low order in the past; it has served a purpose in our evolution; but we are now standing on the threshold of a New Age, when self- sacrifice and service will bring spiritual growth to humanity. The evolution of the mind will bring a wisdom beyond our greatest conception, but before it will be safe to entrust us with that wisdom, we must become harmless as doves. Otherwise we would be apt to turn it to such selfish and destructive purposes that it would be an inconceivable menace to our fellow men. To avoid this, the vegetable diet must be adopted.

    In this changing age, when more advanced Egos are born, many of them are naturally vegetarians; a new race having a higher consciousness is coming to birth, especially on the Pacific coast. The coming age will be a vegetarian age, and all who are progressive will naturally fall in line and become vegetarians--the others will remain behind and be classed among the stragglers of humanity.

  17. Anonymous4:20 PM

    Veganism is a way of life avoiding the use of all animal products: food, clothing, cosmetics and so on. The most common reasons cited for becoming vegan are:

    Animal welfare
    Religious/spiritual beliefs
    Environmental concerns
    Resource use (ie it takes more land and water to raise livestock than to raise crops)

    Stop eating animals today!

  18. Anonymous4:49 PM

    "The Solar Powered Plate"

    I like it.

  19. Anonymous4:52 PM

    All the great philosophers knew that a vegan or vegetarian diet is better for our health, emotional wellbeing, mind and spirit. Why don't we all follow the greatest thinkers of history and stop killing and eating living creatures?

  20. Anonymous4:57 PM

    Recession proff your diet, go vegan


  21. Anonymous5:07 PM

    Justify it anyway you will, but killing is wrong.

  22. Anonymous5:10 PM

    You don't care abut the planet, just your meat. Keep eating it. You'll die sooner than me.

  23. Anonymous5:12 PM

    Meat gets clogged in your colon, makes your cholesterol go up, causes hart disease and makes people sick. You have to kill to eat meat. When you kill your own animal you'll understand it's killing and not just a juicy steak. I dare you, kill your food yourself. If you try it, you'll stop killing to eat.

  24. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Anyone who can't see the horror of killing for food simply won't stop eating meat. You're living proof of this. KILLER

  25. Anonymous5:18 PM

    You're obviously in a position where you can afford to make such declarations in your life. What about those of us who cannot afford that pricey grass-fed beef, the organic dairy and pesticide free vegetables? What are we supposed to do to stop supporting the factory farms? It's easy for you to make the change and mock those who stop eating meat because the factory farms are bad, but if you couldn't afford the cost, tehn what would you do?

  26. Anonymous5:47 PM

    Vegans: So much dogma and polemic...so little data. Just find me ONE vegan greater than 100 years old. Just one.

  27. Anonymous you really are obsessed - come out behind your disguise if you dare!!

    Regina, totally agree with your post. I'll keep eating meat and be healthier for it. Vegans have that sickly, ghostly white appearance unlike the rosy-cheeked healthy glow of meat eaters.

  28. Oh now, come on, Regina!

    You're raining on the PETA veg*n parade on their NATIONAL HOLIDAY! LOL

    Notice how most of them just spew the grain consumption mantra when you've already clearly blown that away. Apparently, vegans can't read!

    Regina, once again, you are simply making too much sense!

    Prius Driver and grass-fed meat eater (eating "real" isn't more expensive, btw)

    Prius...it isn't just for vegans anymore!

  29. I just realized that there is a major missing element in your first equation. It belongs somewhere before the "Feed" element:

    Enormous Federal Tax Subsidies for Growing Corn and Soybeans [$$$] --->

    The Feds don't subsidize growing grass.


  30. Anonymous10:41 AM

    @anonymous(es) - It's rather obvious that the PETA alert network was called to arms to respond to this blog post, as evidenced by all the PCRM/PETA propaganda, misinformation, and dogma being posted in the comments here.

    Let's be clear - I fully and completely support your right to choose not to kill animals to feed yourself. I know, respect, and love many vegetarians - so much so that I married one of them.

    Unfortunately, today you have picked the wrong blog on which to start a debate, as readers of this blog are much more schooled in nutrition and critical thinking than the vast majority of the public, and so know that while veganism may be a perfectly acceptable moral choice, it is by no means the healthiest way to eat, nor, as Regina has so skillfully explained, necessarily a 'green' alternative.

    Like any human being you rationalize your moral choices, and selectively filter information to defend and convince others of why your choices are right, and their choices (if different) are so obviously wrong. We all do it, myself included. But self-righteously labeling me a 'KILLER', or otherwise questioning my character contributes nothing to the discussion here. Stick to the subject, and bring some facts to the discussion, and I promise I will try my best to consider them objectively.

    FACT: Millions of years of evolution have determined that homo sapiens physiology is designed to eat animal proteins and fat, green leafy vegetables, and some nuts and berries, IN THAT ORDER. A few thousand years of agriculture and 'great philosophy' aren't going to change that nutritional reality anytime soon.

    So stick around, read some of the information here. You might learn something. And you'll be healthier for it.

  31. Anyone who thinks "grains" or wheat products are good for heart health needs to check out Dr. William Davis' Track Your Plaque program. It's known that wheat, grains, and all the excess carbohydrates commonly found in vegan diets cause small/dense LDL cholesterol particles...the kind that really cause heart diease. The Track Your Plaque program blows away the low-fat Ornish program for reversing heart disease.

  32. Anonymous11:43 AM

    "This smells like part of the long-term carefully orchestrated campaign being run by PETA."

    Either that or the outpatients unit has closed

  33. Here's a nutty idea about sustainability.

    Plants, even the wheat and corn that feed lot cows eat, are renewable. On an annual basis.

    Petrochemicals are also renewable. On a million year time scale!

    So, you can work to save the food that cows eat (PS- cows and ethanol do not eat corn that is suitable for human consumption, so it's a false argument to suggest that feed going to livestock or gasohol would feed starving kids in Africa, because it wouldn't in the short or medium term). And save the cows (would there be as many cows if we all stopped eating them? Me thinks no). Or, we can work on developing sustainable energy.

    Some other quick facts for the greenwashed PETA-philes. I make a fermented plant product, like beer or spirits. I make an industrial waste product in the process. This waste product is the remains of my input that has had the sugar fermented out into alcohol. I feed it to cows and pigs and other methane emitters. Their methane farts cut down huge. In fact, Anheuser Busch (makers of 1 out of every 2 beers consumed in the US, better than 1 of every 3 in the world) and Diageo take all of this formerly useless waste product, and essentially give it to factory feed lots to cut the methane farts of the cows. So, these PeTAphiles who are on about methane need to check their facts.

    One more thing: Have you ever noticed that the e (for ETHICAL) is lowercased in the PeTA logo? I suspect this violence supporting "activist" group is telling us something about their ethics.

    PK Black - A Person for the Eating of Tasty Animals.

  34. Anonymous12:47 PM

    The best way to solve PETA's problem regardng meat consumption would be for us meat-eaters to start eating vegans. Yummy meat without all that nasty killing of animals.

    Reduction in overall ambient sanctimony levels would be an added bonus.

  35. If everyone stopped eating meat, what kind of resources would it ACTUALLY take to supply adequate daily nutrient requirements. We would have to be growing alot more of something; what would that be and how would that affect the environment? Do we actually have enough arable land to even do that? After all, pastured animals have traditionally been raised on land that was less suitable for other agricultural use.

    I'd love to see a well researched comparison of resources required for a nutritionally adequate vegan diet versus resources required for a sustainable (ie, non-CAFO) omnivorous diet (which I beleive is by definition nutritionally adequate).

  36. A vegan just about went nuclear on me the other day because I said I thought a lot of people, especially seniors, weren't getting enough protein. She insisted that WHO says nobody needs more than 50 g a day and anyone getting more is in danger of kidney disease and osteoporosis. Since those myths were disproved, I'm thinking maybe she isn't getting enough protein and fat to keep her brain functioning properly even though I know for a fact that she takes ten vegan DHA pills along with a multi and a B-12 every day to make up for the lack of meat (makes her queasy) and dairy (sent her to the ER in shock) in her diet. I understand her need to not eat most animal products (she does wear leather and eat gelatin) but she can't seem to understand my (and many others) need to eat a lot more than 50g. I think I heard of a study that said lack of adequate cholesterol tends to make people violent, too. Maybe I need to be careful about arguing with vegans.
    I just know that even my prescribed ADA diet included 90 g of protein per day. Over the last few years while nearly doubling my animal protein intake I lost weight and lowered my cholesterol (if you subscribe to the cholesterol-heart disease theory, which I don't.) Eating more animal products has greatly improved my health.
    BTW, those starving kids' big bellies are caused by inadequate protein in their diets.
    So, don't eat meat, you'll leave more for me!

  37. Anonymous10:55 PM

    I am convinced that all vegans are mentally defective. they really truely believe soy is a food oh boy are they in big trouble. the only way second generation vegan friends of mine could bring a successful pregancy to term was to start eating meat. fact.

  38. Anonymous12:09 AM

    Good grief, there's nothing more pathetic than an orchestrated vegan-bombing.

    Personally, I think the vegans should not only not eat any vegetable protein, they should eliminate 100% of the fat from their diets and completely reduce their carbon footprint. At least that way, we won't bankrupt medicare when they become seniors and are all being treated for heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, etc... from a very high carbohydrate diet.

  39. I hunt for about a third of my family's meat. We buy the rest, almost entirely pasture-raised beef, pork, and chicken. Some grain was consumed to make the meat we eat (pigs eating corn in winter, also part of chicken feed in inclement weather), but nowhere close to the 8lbs/lb of a feedlot cow. The amount of water consumed growing wild animals and pasture-fed animals is also a small fraction of that consumed during the production of industrial meat. Finally, pasture-fed animals contribute their wastes back to the soil, closing the nitrogen cycle and reducing the need for fertilizer dramatically. Feedlot cattle poop is toxic waste and can't even be used as fertilizer due to the antibiotics and hormones contained within it.

    A few vegans in the comments above have suggested that if I took responsibility for killing my own meat that I would lose the taste for meat. I originally tried hunting for exactly that reason. Didn't work out that way. Instead I became a hunting advocate because taking responsibility for my own food enhanced my appreciation for the caloric and health bounty of animal flesh.

    I do feel a little sad for the dead animal when I'm looking down at it. But I know that I'll respect the animal by making as much use of it as possible, and that the animal already had a better life than could be found in any CAFO.

    As for the "science" frequently quoted regarding the health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet... Argument by repeated assertion is not an argument. The frequently studied Seventh-Day Adventists and strict Mormons have equivalently low risk of health problems, but the Mormons are big into meat eating. Hint: something else is responsible for the health (possibly processed foods, which are avoided by both groups).

    Incidentally, there have been no 100 year old vegetarians in the US. Invariably, those who live to 100 in this country eat meat and plenty of it.

  40. Anonymous12:06 PM

    It is sad but funny that none of those anti-meat posters actually READ what Regina had to say. They did not respond to her points, just regurgitated the same old platitudes, which she handily refuted in her blog before they even got here!

    Read the book "The Hundred-Mile Diet" if your want to eat in a way that protects the environment - and then try doing it vegan, in Wisconsin, in January.....

  41. a link to a great blog posting on another hidden cost of CAFOs: http://www.ethicurean.com/2008/04/24/buck_the_cafo_tax/#more-2740

    (with pictures of how things can be done differently)

  42. Great post, Regina.

    I often wonder if the really passionate animal activists (vegan or otherwise) have ever spent much time observing animals in their natural environment, or studying natural history/anthropology/evolutionary biology/zoology, etc. Or grew up on a working farm. Or even lived in the country/rural areas, where there was a lot of wildlife around.

    Anyway. I'm all for hearing alternative points of view, but backing them up with established science would be nice. PCRM doesn't count.

    BTW, have you seen PETA's "I Can't Believe It's Vegan" food guide? (I just blogged about it - shameless plug ;))A handy guide to vegan processed food. How on earth eating Pop Tarts and Cocoa Puffs (with non-fat soy milk, of course) is HELPING the environment, I can't fathom.

    And rainforest areas, BTW, are cleared for soybeans as well. And rice paddies emit methane. Hmm. (So does the rainforest floor, when it's being churned up for soybean farms)

  43. Anonymous6:34 PM

    One of the things I have noticed when vegans and animal rights activists comment en masse on blogs (as in this case), is that they nearly uniformly demonstrate nearly no knowledge or understanding of animals, wild or livestock, which is rather ironic.

    And after reading all these comments, I thought I'd put in a plug for a great book that would benefit just about everyone - meat eaters and vegans alike - Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Hurtful Acts, and Bad Decisions. I have no connection to the book, publisher or authors, other than as a reader. But this book about cognitive dissonance goes a long way toward explaining the inexplicable tenacity of people to stick to their dogmas, no matter what the evidence says.

  44. Anonymous7:59 PM

    Vegetarians = Ruthless Murderers

    Every year millions of animals are murdered by combines harvesting grains. These animals are killed, non-humanely, in vain and not even made into a delicious steak.

    If you really care about animals do the right thing, and cook them.

  45. Hey! I love your rants! You said it so beautiful." livestock that turns the energy of the sun into high quality food for human consumption"
    I never thought about it that way, but I agree with the statement 100%.

  46. Anonymous11:57 AM

    Holy cow, the gree vegan trolls are out.

    Not only do they spew their nonsense about meat, but try to justify it by using the other bogus scare mongering of AGW (anthropogenic global warming).

    Here some links to very interesting sites showing that the climate debate is far from being settled.

    and so on.

    You've seen how nutrition science has been treated in the main stream, why not look at how climate science has been misrepresented.

  47. Anonymous12:12 PM

    Great post, Regina!

    Hey, veg-heads - do try to remember that we get our research from places that are simply trying to find the best path to health as opposed to using long-debunked "science" to buttress someone's dogma.

    Most of the "health dangers" you bring up so readily are not supported by actual historical research. Studies have shown that some of the healthiest peoples in the world ate extremely high amounts of meat and fats.

    Here's a place to start.

  48. Anonymous12:02 PM

    "grass-fed" is the label to look for. And you want to remove "Hay & Silage [$]" from your equation and add water. The result with rotational grazing is Food & Organic Fertilizer & Improved Soil.

    Guess what happens when vegans and their ethanol-powered Priuses are competing with birds, insects, small animals, and predators of said critters, for fields of grains and vegetables? Vegans 1, Biosphere 0! Vast swaths of cropland must be cleared of life for a vegan to eat. (The same argument applies to sustaining animals in CAFOs)

  49. Anonymous4:28 PM

    This will be short, but I posted about this on my site more indepth.

    The fact that people think we can stop eating beef is not only absurd, but the freed grain would then have to be given to the jobless people that not eating meat would cause.

    You have to look at the economic benefit of this decision, too. Millions of people would lose their jobs if no one ate meat. You say well they could grow grain, well this is not the 1800's a single man can grown 1000's of acres of grain by himself. The area that it takes to raise the cattle and slaughter them would not be enough to generate enough revenue to even employ 1 out of 10,000 employees to help raise the crop.

  50. Wow! Some hilarious comments above. Regina, great article, I'll be linking it from my site.

    Micheal Pollan covered some of the same issues in his new book, I was fascinated by the fact that there is MORE soil after a cow eats the grass because of the manure and earthworms. Truly a beautiful and simple system. I think I'm going to have a nice grass-fed beef burger at lunch!


  51. Here is an example of people finding ways to get sustainably, humanely raised meat from family farms at a reasonable price. It can be one!


  52. Has anyone noticed that the people screaming about how we shouldn't eat meat are pretty much the same people screaming about how we need to fight "Global Climate Change" (NOT Global Warming anymore - hmm.)

    You said in another post: "These findings speak volumes about the unintended consequences of good intentions that are based on dogma and assumptions rather than hard data. And when hard data points to the opposite of the assumptions and dogma, it's ignored."

    There is plenty of science debunking man-made global warming, too, but that also gets ignored. (For those who are interested, try: http://z4.invisionfree.com/Popular_Technology/index.php?showtopic=2050
    for a huge page of links on that subject)

    I bring this up because I find the parallels amazing. Bad science is bad science - and it seems to me quite interesting that there is such an overlap in the groups trying to push bad science on us to advance their own agenda. It's all about the INTENTIONS - it doesn't matter whether it works or not, it doesn't matter whether it's true or not, as long as your INTENTIONS are good.

    Why is it that this mindset has become so dominant?

  53. Anonymous1:27 AM

    "Why is it that this mindset has become so dominant?"

    Because it sells stuff.

    Global climate change used to sell air conditioners (Trane?) - that TV ad was a huge awakening for me!

    Just like the low fat/high carb "prudent" diet and vegetarianism, once global warming/climate change became accepted to the masses (not everyone, but to enough of a critical mass), then it was engulfed by the commercial interests. Sadly, it seems there is no holding back anymore, to allow for continued discussion. It's Global Climate Change, or you have two heads.

    I don't know if there is or isn't GCC, GW, or human induced global weather patterns, but I'd love to see more about all the views on it, not just the ones that have determined "it is so". Doesn't mean I don't think we need to conserve energy, reduce pollution, reduce consumerism, either, though I do, for other reasons.

  54. Anonymous6:39 AM

    Good grief - same old tired arguments from the veggies. I can't believe we're not all dead from colon cancer and heart disease now.

    Let me ask you veggies who linked eating meat to global warming...ahem..."climate change" - please SHOW that carbon is warming the planet with EMPIRICAL evidence. Go ahead.

    It was probably a hit and run, but one can hope.

    Great blog, Regina.

  55. Consider that one of the more powerful yet stealthy lobbies on the planet--not just in the USA, I mean on the PLANET--is that of chemical companies making 'terminator' seeds.

    As long as we eat cows that we can breed, we have some degree of resistance to this.

    The more we are totally dependent on plants, the more these seeds, and their "accidental" spreading to ordinary crops, stand the chance of making the entire human race totally dependent for food on the same companies that, for example, specialized in death-gas for the Nazi chambers.

    I think relying on oil from homicidal people who hate us seems a little bit unreasonable, but I think relying on plants from homicidal companies who don't care enough about humans to hate them but have the ability and power to manipulate the world, is even more dangerous.

    Hilarious vegan comments. I'm glad you let them through. When there is no more meat to eat, and the world realizes what a total humanity killing disaster that is, we can always eat the vegans.

  56. I loved this post. I have such Weltschmerz when I think of the U.S. industrialized agriculture.

  57. I don't see how eating meat is "gluttonous," which word implies that eating meat makes you fat. That is not my experience. The difference between me at 237 and me at below 220 wasn't cutting meat out of my diet, but cutting grain out. I found I could eat as much as 2900 calories a day, much of it meat and also fat of animal origin, and still drop weight like a stone. If that's "gluttonous," explain the weight loss.

    The insulting part is I have Native American ancestry and these yahoos are telling me I should not eat the way my ancestors ate. WTH. That's why First Peoples have diabetes now. Because we are not built to eat wheat and corn and soy. Those foods make us SICK.

    Another point: These same people freak out all over the place about deforestation, then they claim it occurs because of raising meat animals. Guess what? There's not a single meat animal you HAVE to raise on a pasture. Fact. You can even raise cattle under tree cover, I've seen it in agricultural magazines. There's a famous variety of pig in Spain that lives in oak forests, and just ask the people of California or Hawai'i where the pigs live. Read the old Greek myths about boar-hunting. It all takes place in FORESTS. Chickens are another one. They like tree cover a lot better than being out in the open; there are more plants and bugs they can eat.

    Tilling large fields to grow crops kills more animals than raising meat animals does, if you use traditional methods. Furthermore, growing huge fields of grain destroys the environment by causing soil runoff and is directly responsible for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico which is being fed by runoff from agricultural fields and their tons and tons of synthetic fertilizer. Extra fertilizer in the ocean + algae bloom = catastrophic loss of oxygen = lots of dead fish.

    I could go on about this all day. I'm tired of these wackos lying to us. Actually if you want to get right down to it, the real problem in human food production versus the environment is there are just too many of us. Converting pastures to soy fields is not going to solve that problem. Guilt-tripping people who eat real human diets is not going to work either. Y'all go ahead and destroy your thyroids and your pancreas on your crap diet, but don't take it out on me.

  58. Anonymous1:09 PM

    most of them are sort of like that new york guy...client # WTF.....always seems the holier than thou peeps are the biggest hypocrites

  59. Anonymous8:27 PM

    i haven't the time to sign up, but ALL these anonymous people talking about vegan lifestyles.

    to the person who suggested killing my own meat... been there, done it, ATE IT.

    to the person suggesting I will die sooner than them... I don't believe I've ever met a 100 year old vegan.

    "Anyone who can't see the horror of killing for food simply won't stop eating meat. You're living proof of this. KILLER" not even going to being explaining why the logic behind this is pure idiocy

    blogger: the idea of a solar powered meal... sublime. loved the rant, keep them up. favourited x

  60. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Interesting point of view, but there's a fatal flaw in your argument. There is simply nowhere near enough pasture land to accommodate the animals required for everyone who currently eats factory farmed meat to make that switch (not to mention all the people in developing countries who don't eat much meat now, but aspire to our 'standard of living' and will soon be clamoring for meat). A few hundred years ago, that would have been possible. Now the earth just has too many people for that to work. If we used all the available pasture land that is not fit for growing crops, we could ration out the resulting meat, but you won't be getting enough to have for dinner every night. The reason we need to use land that can be cultivated for crops (using sustainable methods of course) is that we can get much higher yields in terms of calories and nutrients from vegetables, fruits, and grains than we could from animals raised on the same area of land. Americans' current rate of meat consumption is only possible due to factory farms. Since population is not likely to decline in the foreseeable future, eating less meat really is the only way to be green and sustainable. And yes, when you eat meat, it should be pasture raised.