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Meats: A Health Hierarchy

Meats A Health Hierarchy Atlantic Mobile

Farming cattle produces about four times as much greenhouse gas as does poultry or fish. If livestock are basically just converters of grain to meat, cattle and their four stomachs might be the work of Rube Goldberg—cool, but not every light switch needs to involve dominoes. Here’s how beef compares to chicken:

Meats A Health Hierarchy Atlantic Mobile

Meats A Health Hierarchy Atlantic Mobile


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July is the pinnacle of the U.S. meat obsession, because of the cookouts, with all the burgers, steaks, meat fights, meat helmets, etc. Americans lead the world in meat consumption at 260 pounds per year (Europeans eat 190 pounds, and world-wide the average is more like 93 pounds). It feels normal to just have meat around all the time everywhere, but for most of history, meat has been incredibly hard to get; precious and prohibitively expensive. But when was the last time you even thought to call your meat precious?

Diane Rehm hosted a patriotically apropos discussion on her radio show this week, in which experts called for the U.S. to be global leaders in assuaging climate change—with our meat choices. Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (which conducted the studies that created these charts), said, "If every American stopped eating beef tomorrow—which I don't expect—and started eating chicken instead, that would be the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road.”

Even if their projection is off by a few million, that’s a lot of cars. It's also probably more manageable for people to substitute chicken for beef than it is to, say, change how they power their homes or how they get to work. Those just feel like bigger concessions. At the current rate, Faber said, meat and milk production are forecast to double by 2050. 

More than half the water and grain consumed in the U.S. are consumed by the beef industry. “If we took half the land that we're now using to produce corn and beans to feed animals, and instead dedicated that to produce food for people right now,” Faber said, “we could feed an additional 2 billion people."

That "meat helmets" video is something else:

"More than half the water and grain consumed in the U.S. are consumed by the beef industry."

So it's basically an economic argument that the way beef is produced today is highly inefficient.

Beef isn't produced, it's raised.  I LOVE the statement above, that cows are Rube Goldfarb grain conversion machines.

Rube GoldBERG:

Didn't you stash an article that talks about beef being produced in a lab?

I'm gonna have to look for that one and read it again.

(What ... the ... Goldfarb?  Where did that come from?!  Ah!  

Oh yeah, labmeat.  

Lab meat needs a better name to sound more appealing.

Super meat?

Better than mine:  Man-Made Muscle Meat.  Mmmm...

there's a young adult book called FEED that takes place in the future and has a scene where the kids go on a field trip to the meat factory, where filets and other favorite cuts are being produced one at a time, cloned and linked to a blood circuitry machine.  who knows?  :)

Magic Filets sounds a lot more appealing than Lab Meat.

magic filets!  also a great band name...

Tough one, I love beef!  I should do a better job of eating alternatives, including meat free days ;)

Scientists are working on creating guilt-free beef in a lab that is humanitarian and carbon-friendly.

Meat free days are fine, but I'm looking forward to a future with guilt-free meat!

too bad beef tastes so much better than chicken.

Perhaps when food scientists perfect Magic Chicken Filets they can infuse it with beef flavor.

The problem here is conflating human and cultural eating habits with industrial regulatory capture and exploitative profit making prerogatives.  

1. Grain fed beef is an abomination.  It is not what our great grandparents ate or any of our forebears.  Cows are ruminants that naturally eat, survive and thrive on grass.  Cattle ranchers that settled the west used to be known as grass farmers.  Grain was a cheap and less labor intensive way to expand "meat" production (you don't need to watch over and tend the cows in pasture--just leave 'em in a pen, or feedlot).

2. Big industry creates and extends all our perversions in food quality consumption and production "standards".  These standards have little and nothing to do with the well being of people OR planet.  We can see evidence of these dynamics everywhere, such as in pasteurization, where the false assertion is that it's necessary for the public health.  It is not.  Pasteurization is necessary for large scale production of low quality and disease infected foods.  It was widely adopted by big industry to both drive out smaller competitors (who couldn't afford the added equipment costs for their higher quality offerings) and to enable large scale production of safer, shelf stable "sterilized" lower quality products that would last longer.  Good for profits in multiple ways.  Bad for people and planet at every level.

3. Grass fed beef and meats from other pure ruminants (aside from sheep) do not appear on these charts.  Pastured and grass fed is the only natural meat that should be an industry standard for people and planet reasons.  More companies are making a profit reviving these thousand-year sustainable approaches to ranching, but it's a small segment of the overall beef producing market.

4. If we want to further connect the dots aligning responsible and healthful food production standards to the benefits of people and planet, we need to expose that most health problems today are driven by an imbalance of Omega 3 to 6 essential fatty acids in modern diets, which produces greater levels of inflammation in the body.  Grass fed ruminants are not only high in Omega 3s (leading to anti-inflammatory prostaglandin production), they are also low in Omega 6s (which lead to inflammatory prostaglandins).  Chicken and pork introduce fats very high in Omega 6s to our diets.  These are peripheral foods, not meant to be staples and even major religions ban eating pork at all, as pigs and birds are the two primary vectors for most all trans-species infectious diseases (swine flu, bird flu, etc.).  We've never heard of anyone catching cow flu or sheep flu...

5. It is the first 1% of EFAs we consume that dictate the internal hormonal environment of our bodies and resulting health or dis-ease... and this has been both well researched and scientifically proven decades ago.  And if we want to be healthy, as well as help the planet, we need to reform the Big Ag industry of beef production as Corn Consumers and get back to ranching and growing cows the way they were born to be.

For more background on Omega 3 to 6 balance in our foods and health, check out Dr. Bill Lands work:

Are there enough grass fed ruminants to feed the planet?

Rob, Mad Cow Disease?

Geege, it'd be better called "Mad Ranchers Disease" because it was created by feeding cows their own dead and diseased brethren and decaying carcasses... that was a man-made disease, not a spontaneous, infectious disease which used cows as a vector to jump into human populations, like malaria uses mosquitos. As per

"For all the fuss over mad cow disease, otherwise known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), it’s actually not transmittable to humans."

My point about disease was more about continually appearing and historic contagions and pandemics, like swine flue, bird flu, Spanish flu, chicken pox and etc., which are driven by and accelerated into human populations by these animals because, for some reason, they're apparently more hospitable hosts and petri dishes for trans-species diseases to enter human populations than cows are.

Yes, apparently a huge mistake of human manufacture... 


Yes, we can raise enough to do it... so start buying and ordering grass-fed meat.

Yes, there's not only enough to feed the world, but it's even better than that--increasing the amount of grass-fed, grazing livestock is THE answer to solving desertifcation and helping reverse Climate Change.  WHOA!  Yes.

Yes, this is contrary to the entire orthodox view of what many claim about cattle and livestock's methane contribution to climate problems.

Yes, grass fed livestock is as responsible and sustainable a food supply for humans as we can imagine (as opposed to the abhorrent industry practices currently imposed on feed lot cattle and society).

Yes, by raising more grass feeding livestock and free grazing cattle we would not only help feed the world and be able to enjoy healthy Omega 3 steaks and burgers guilt free, but we would also improve our atmospheric CO2 capture and remediation in the most devastated landscapes on the planet--those succumbing to increased desertification.

And as Allan Savory states:  there is ONLY ONE OPTION left to address climate change, store carbon and break down methane--intense use of grazing livestock...

Watch his TED talk here:

that's great info, rob!  now if only we could get the cows to eat hemp, we'd have even more CO2 absorption, more O2, and maybe even magic filets!

Here you go:

William von Schneidau, an intrepid butcher in Seattle, is giving a whole new meaning to "potbelly pig." Lately, he's been feeding marijuana refuse to the pigs he turns into prosciutto for BB Ranch, his butcher shop in the city's famous Pike Place Market.

Pot-scented bacon? Well, not quite.

The stems, leaves and root bulbs von Schneidau recoups from Top Shelf Organic, a medical marijuana dispensary, don't season the meat, he says. But the meat from the first few "pot pigs" he's butchered has been "redder and more savory" than what he usually works with, he says.

yes!! somebody's already on it!

i'll bet those pigs are super chill...

Super Chill Pigs would be a great rock band name.

It is! And thanks for the TED talk.

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