Monday, October 29, 2012

Eat Less Animal Products and Win Big

Americans eat a lot of meat. They love the stuff. Barbecue, bacon, chicken wings, chicken wings wrapped in bacon, fried chicken, pulled pork, hamburgers, tacos, meat lover's pizza, steak, roasted chicken, pork belly... In order to support this habit, some real sh*t goes down. I know you hear this argument from every angle and from every vegetarian soapbox in town, but leave that at the door for a minute folks, because this sh*t is legit. I'll keep it short and straight up. I even got down on some citations for your skeptical pleasure.

Animal foods are more energy intensive than plant foods to produce.
I found a published study of calculations concerning the US food system on The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. By two professors from Cornell College in Ithaca New York. Their findings are grim. They compare the projected long term sustainability of a meat-based diet vs. a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (fancy word for a vegan). They discovered that "...more than 9 billion livestock are maintained to supply the animal protein consumed each year (1). This livestock population on average outweighs the US human population by about 5 times." (2) In other words, "[t]he amount of grains fed to US livestock is sufficient to feed about 840 million people who follow a plant-based diet (7)."

Animal foods require more clean water.
Water is one of these so called "energy inputs." All across the board, the amount of water needed to produce animal protein is WAY higher than plant protein. To give you an idea: "Producing 1 kg of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing 1 kg of grain protein (8)." This figure will vary depending on what crop you are comparing.

Why does water matter? We're running out, quick. If you're interested in knowing more about the topic of water, watch the movie "Blue Gold" (linked to trailer). Clean water is precious. Let's use it for humans rather than cleaning shit out of cow stalls and growing corn that makes the poor cows fart, anyway.

Stop worrying about protein.
Worried about protein? The calculation includes an estimation that meat-eating Americans consume on average 112g of protein (2). The Recommended Daily Amount is 56g. That's twice the amount. People eating a plant-based diet average at about 89g per day. Not much to worry about, in other words.
So what, I have to be a vegan?
I'm eating Turkey at Thanksgiving, but the last time I had meat was one month ago. I'm saying EAT LESS MEAT, and you might save yourself some money, save yourself from a heart attack, make it less likely for yourself to get food poisoning, and ensure a slightly better future for those of us who have to be around in 2050. Check out the lentil and bean situation, and the whole grain paradigm. Watch Forks Over Knives if you're still skeptical.

FYI: They found that turkey and chicken were the most energy efficient of animal products (in a ratio of energy input to kilocalorie produced), lamb and beef being at the top of the list. The list included pork, dairy, eggs, beef, lamb, turkey and broilers (chickens for eating). Energy considered was direct energy (used to directly raise the animal), and indirect energy (energy used to raise the feed and other materials needed to raise the animals).

1. US Department of Agriculture. Agricultural statistics. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, 2001.

2. Pimentel, David and Marcia Pimentel. "Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. © 2003 American Society for Clinical Nutrition". <;postID=7011019466848487378>

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