Red meat has almost become a staple diet in recent times perhaps coinciding with the rise of Fast Food restaurants after WW II and subsequent industrialization of animal farming. As the level of emission from farm animals’ scale to dangerous levels, replacing animal meat in our diet with other scientifically approved sources of complete protein should be considered along side any alternative energy strategy to control global warming.
Did you know that there are 1 trillion farm animals in the world to cater for the 6 billion humans on this planet? It is estimated that about 18% of the total emission responsible for global warming comes from farm animals—this is greater than from automobiles, planes and trucks. Waste from farm animals add damaging levels of methane into the, already CO2-stressed, atmosphere. Besides, a molecule of methane can trap 25 times more heat than a molecule of CO2, excess of which is already believed to be responsible for recent devastating climate changes.
An industrial farm with 5,000 hogs produce as much waste as a town with 20,000 people. The industrial farmers have no obligations to process the waste from their animals because we are willing to look the other way to keep our hamburgers cheap. This is totally irresponsible as the waste from corn fed steers contain drug resistant microbes that are already challenging our health care system. The E.coli outbreak in the recent past is witness to this oversight. Can you imagine a town of 20,000 people without access to a sewer system? Furthermore, all this seem so extravagant considering that meat production is the most inefficient process in the industrialized world.
The biological conversion efficiency is as low as 10%; meaning that roughly 7-10 lbs of feed grain (mostly corn) are required to produce one pound of feedlot beef. In another example, when your family consumes a pound of tuna for dinner, your family has actually consumed 10 pounds of fish that the tuna ate, 100 pounds of sardine that fish consumed, 1000 pounds of zooplankton that sardine swallowed and 10,000 pounds of algae taken in by zooplankton. Don’t get me wrong. I am not so tasteless to advocate eating algae.
Even if we overlook the poor biological conversion efficiency, bigger animals are also a bigger load on Mother Earth. For millions of years Mother Earth has delicately balanced the consumption and waste of its inhabitants. With a trillion animal wandering this planet, waiting for the human omnivores to consume, it is now our burden to restore that delicate balance. This task would be like cutting the very branch we are perched on. So we have to make some difficult choices.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, Confucius.
By replacing morsels of red meat with other sources of complete protein, we can spare corn for many more people on this planet, we can prevent millions of acres of forestland from converting into corn fields, we can save our children from devastating climate change, we can protect our future from drug resistant bugs, and we can stop our planet from turning into a giant septic tank by 2050.
Yes, We Can. Considering that meat consumption has never been the basis of cultural development during human evolution and considering that humans are classified as frugivore (fruit eaters) based on the anatomy of our teeth, length of our intestine, acidity of our digestive track and structure of our salivary gland, the transition to meat alternative in our diet is likely to have positive impact not only on our environment but also on our health.
Assuming that Obama will introduce tax on gasoline to curb global warming, which I strongly support, please join me in lobbying for a Get-Out-of-Tax Card for every vegetarian/vegan for use at pumps to fill their Hummers.