Meat Consumption Linked to Global Warming

Some people just love to consume meat. No meal to these people is considered complete without a serving of steak or pork chop. Health studies, however, have long confirmed that the regular consumption of processed meat is associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and other ailments.

A separate study has now shown that there is another reason for cutting back on meat other than your health. For every serving of meat you consume, you may be contributing to the increase of nitrous oxide (N2O), a toxic greenhouse gas that is emitted and released into the atmosphere.

A study performed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is urging that meat consumption on a global scale needs to be curtailed by at least 50 percent by the year 2050.

N2O is believed to be the third largest contributor to global warming, right behind carbon dioxide and methane. N2O is mainly spread through the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in farming and agriculture. Bacteria breaks down the fertilizer and releases the nitrous oxide into the air. The fertilizer is also used in handling livestock manure.

By consuming less meat, there will be lesser demands for it. This means less livestock and a lesser need for the use of fertilizers. It’s basically a domino effect that begins with the consumer’s decision to cut back on the consumption of animal flesh.

This is obviously not good news if you enjoy meat. Of course, nobody is advocating that the whole world adopts a vegetarian diet. The study simply revealed that there is a harm done to the environment as the demands for meat production increases. If you like the taste of meat, you are not obligated in any way to give it up. However, it wouldn’t hurt to cut down your daily intake by a serving or two.

The New England Butchers

There are not many slaughterhouses in New England that are equipped to process large quantities of beef, however, Paul Miller ships cattle from his dairy farm in eastern Connecticut some 300 miles to a Pennsylvanian meatpacker.

Miller prefers to send the cattle to a slaughterhouse in the area so he can sell locally produced beef, save on the costs of transportation and avoid long rides for calves that lose weight during shipping. New England officials of agriculture would also prefer that because their purpose is to increase food production to make the region more self-sufficient in case disasters such as huge snow storms and terrorist attacks make it hard to deliver food.

The real stumbling blocks, however, for meat processors and farmers are many: building a slaughterhouse is a huge investment, and local zoning rules bar such businesses. Meatpackers in New England say that it is hard to compete price-wise with slaughterhouses in other states, and it is difficult for them to keep skilled meat cutters and other workers. Because New England only has 28 slaughterhouses, said Chelsea Lewis, agriculture development coordinator for the Vermont Agency for Agriculture. Wisconsin, on the other hand has some 285 small meat processors.

Cowabunga: Is Pasturing Cattle Eco-Friendly as well as Cattle-Friendly

Some people, despite being meat eaters, insist that the animals, before slaughter, were treated humanely. My mother, who will eat a juicy hamburger, yet not veal, is one of these people.

In harmony with an age of relative environmental concern grass-fed beef is somewhat in vogue these days. The consensus is that it is more humane for the cattle and ultimately more yummy. But the main question is, is pasturing eco-friendly as well as cow-friendly?

Scientists at the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science of Japan estimate that producing one kilogram of beef releases more greenhouse gas than driving 155 miles. In Slate Magazine, Brian Palmer wrote:

“Since the average American covers 32 miles to and from work, your 8-ounce steak dinner might contribute to global warming as much as your daily commute.”

The various alternatives to consuming beef, be they grass-fed or corn-fed, are bad for the earth.

Under USDA regulations, cattle bearing the “grass-fed” label only are permitted to eat foods known as “forage” once they’ve been weaned. Forage comprises hay, grass, brassicas (a group of plants including turnips, kale, and cabbage) and the stems and leaves of young shrubs and trees. The cattle must have pasture access. Unless the beef bears an organic label, they might receive hormones and antibiotics, although most producers trying to capture the high-end market avoid such drugs.

When standard cows are ready for fattening, they usually move into a pen with 10 to 14 other animals. Every cow, measuring around five feet long and two feet wide, gets a 16-by-16-foot space.

The objective of adding 1,000 pounds of weight on an animal in a few months takes a formidable amount of grain. During its finishing period, the average beef cow eats 2,800 pounds of corn.

Be that as it may, many researchers claim that cattle fattened at a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) are better for the environment than free-range cattle. Grass-finished cattle, according to recent research, require about two-and-a-half times as much energy to produce as grass-fed ones.

Cows that live in quarters, shoulder-to-shoulder are the same as humans crammed into small urban spaces: Transporting food to the animals, and then the animals to the slaughterhouse, takes less energy for CAFO-raised cattle.

Add to this, cows hopped up on hormones and eating calorie-dense grain grow two to three times as fast, thereby making it easy for ranchers to crank out more beef with fewer resources. And while finishing a 1,200-pound corn-fed cow requires three acres of land, finishing a grass-fed cow, however, requires nine acres.

Lab Grown Meat for You to Eat

petrimeatWhat if you didn’t have to kill the cow to get the meat? No, we’re not talking about cutting the cow’s leg off and eating it and then letting it sadly hobble around. That’s just cruel. We’re talking about “test tube meat.” There’s a new initiative to grow real animal protein in a lab, which has a lot of benefits, and not only for cows. Even though it sounds ultra creepy.

The meat and dairy industries account for a bigger chunk of greenhouse gasses than the entire global transportation industry. This is because cows burp methane when they eat, which is about 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Essentially, this means that going vegan reduces your carbon footprint much more drastically than buying a fuel efficient car.

But what if you don’t have to go vegan? This is why, on a PETA initiative offering one million bucks to the first guys to offer lab-grown meat, we’re starting to really work on the idea. Supposedly, it could start being mass produced in as little as 10 years. Want to hear some crazy quotes? OK.

“Cultured meat would have a lot of advantages,” said Jason Matheny of research group New Harvest. “We could precisely control the amount of fat in meat. We could make ground beef with an ideal fatty acid ratio — a hamburger that prevents heart attacks instead of causing them.” Not only that, but reducing animal-farming-originated diseases like…Swine Flu! Or Mad Cow disease.

Thermodynamically speaking, whenever you go up a trophic level, you lose about 90% of the energy that goes into the process. Meaning, the transfer of energy from cow feed to cow is about 10% efficient. Grow meat in a lab, and you can increase that ratio by a heck of a lot, drastically reducing the cost of meat.

A study by at the University of Oxford even suggested that cultured meat would reduce the carbon emissions of meat production by more than 80%.

Now the trick is to get the public to buy the stuff and eat it. The world is certainly getting stranger by the day…