[permaculture] beef consumption

Toby Hemenway hemenway at jeffnet.org
Thu Apr 15 02:39:53 EDT 2004

Okay, I'll respond to Bob's assertion that he's forwarding this stuff to
start a discussion.

On Tuesday, April 13, 2004, at 03:21  AM, Jocelyn Paquette/Bob quoted:

> A gallon of gasoline is required to produce a pound of grain-fed beef.

Cows are not the problem. Conventional ag uses a similarly large amount of
oil to produce a potato, or any other crop.

> Intensive breeding of
> livestock and poultry for such restaurants leads to deforestation, land
> degradation, and contamination of water sources and other natural resources.

Ditto for vegetables in conventional ag.

> For every pound of red meat, poultry, eggs, and milk produced, farm fields
> lose about five pounds of irreplaceable top soil. The water necessary for
> meat breeding comes to about 190 gallons per animal per day, or ten times
> what a normal Indian family is supposed to use in one day, if it gets water
> at all.

Again, similar figures are true for vegetables from industrial ag.
California cotton uses the most water per pound of any type of ag in that
state; more than beef.  And raising annual vegetables is seasonal
clear-cutting that robs soil of nutrients, causes massive erosion, and
requires huge inputs to replace the harvested biomass, while intelligent
grazing returns nutrients and builds great soil.

My point is not to diss Vandana‹she¹s awesome. But there is nothing
fundamentally wrong with raising animals. It's all in how it's done. Do not
confuse the criminal idiocy of the meat industry with the essential role of
animals in a healthy agro-ecosystem. I doubt if you can do sustainable ag
without animals.

 I¹m sorry to see overzealous vegetarians distort the issues to justify
their personal choices. The oft-cited figure of 10 lbs of grain to raise 1
lb of meat is a case in point. For starters, let¹s be honest about the
numbers: even in industrial ag it¹s 8 lbs for beef, 5 for pork, and 2 for
chicken (USDA figures). But more importantly, most of that is returned to
the soil as manure, not exported as with veggies. And it¹s stupid to feed
grain protein to ruminants that have 4 stomachs designed to digest cellulose
(grass). The problem is the meat industry¹s focus on profit, since grain
fattens fastest. Put a ruminant on a weedy pasture that¹s too poor to grow
human food directly, and it will convert the plants to edible meat. Much
less damaging than trying to grow crops on marginal land if it¹s done right.

Meat-eating is not the problem. Industrial agriculture is.


More information about the permaculture mailing list