[NAFEX] You Think You Got Pest Problems? OFF-TOPIC

Mark & Helen Angermayer hangermayer at isp.com
Thu Aug 23 21:54:57 EDT 2007


Hallo Hans,

I appreciate your personal decision to become a vegetarian and want to be
sensitive to that.  It must have, at least at some point, involved some
sacrifice.

However, I would disagree with the statistics you quote off the Website.  To
wit:

" For each hamburger passed up, as much water is saved as taking 40
showers with a low-flow nozzle. In other words, save massive amounts of
water - 3000 to 5000 gallons (about 11,350-19,000 liters) of water for
every pound of beef you avoid;"

As my background is in hog production, I will mainly speak to that.  I know
it takes roughly 2 gallons of water to produce a pound of pork, 3 gallons at
the very most.    This includes drinking water, wash water, water wasted,
etc.  It would be less for chicken because there is no wash water used in
chickens, and they waste less.  Cattle drink more per pound of gain than
hogs or chickens, but they don't take much wash water, so I would think they
would fall somewhere between hogs and chickens.  What I don't know is how
much water is used for slaughter and further processing, but I think a
reasonable estimate would be 1 gallon per pound.  So we're up to 4 gallons.
Taking the midpoint of the estimate off the Website (4000 gallons) that
would leave 3996 gallons of water to grow the few pounds of grain that goes
into a pound of pork.  Perhaps they are exaggerating a little.  Regardless
of how much water it takes to grow a few pounds of grain, there are a few
observations worth noting.  First, by far most of the water used to grow
grain is rain water that would be wasted if not used for grain.  When
supplemental irrigation is used (most grain farmers don't irrigate), it's
almost always from personal water wells or farm ponds and not from a public
water source.  The same thing applies to livestock farms.  The farm I used
to own in Higginsville MO got it's water from our own wells, and I can
assure you no one in town had to forego a shower because of our farm,
although we had to take extra showers :-)  Lastly, the amount of water it
takes to grow grain is really a mute point, because if we didn't eat the
meat, we would presumably have to eat the grain anyway.  What really matters
is how much grain it takes to convert it to a pound of meat, and as I said
before, it takes very little.

The other quote:
"If each American reduced his or her meat consumption by only 5%,
roughly equivalent to eating one less dish of meat each weak, 7.5
million tons of grain would be saved, enough to feed 25 million
people-roughly the number estimated to go hungry in the United States
each day."

It's not that simple.  I would posit if Americans reduced their meat
consumption to zero, it would have no effect on the 25 million Americans
that go hungry every day.  Why?  Because grain is so plentiful and cheap
already.  The price of corn at the elevator averages about $3.00 per bushel.
A bushel weighs 56 pounds, which will feed a person for a while.  True, a
person still has to get to the elevator and buy a pickup load and have a
place to store it, but this is a function of other problems not because
grain is scarce, being fed to all the animals.  Even buying processed grain
in the store is cheap.  We buy 5lbs. of flour for about a dollar.  Again
it's not because grain is to costly that people go hungry here in the U.S.,
it's because they don't have cooking facilities, transportation, etc.

Secondly, agriculture is driven by cost of production.  What I mean is this:
Let's assume the average cost of production to produce a bushel of corn is
$2.50 (I don't know what it actually is, so this is a guess).  If everyone
quit eating meat, there would initially be a huge surplus of corn (in fact
it would go unharvested, left in the field).  But in the long run production
would be reduced until the equilibrium price of corn was back to it's cost
of production ($2.50 per bushel).  It would take a lot of land out of
production, but it would have no effect on the 25 million Americans that go
hungry, because people that can't afford $3.00 corn aren't going to be able
to buy it for $2.50 either.

Again I appreciate your stance, and I'm not trying to be a self-appointed
promoter of Americans eating more meat (I agree Americans eat too much meat,
as well as sugar, coffee, etc.-here I plead guilty to some of this) but I
disagree with the implicit assumption that eating a hamburger or steak
causes someone else to go hungry.  I also disagree meat production is an
enormous waste of resources.  On the contrary, U.S. (or modern) meat
production is very efficient, and getting more so all the time.

ciao,
Mark
Kansas







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