This Is How Much I Hope that Everyone Stops Eating Beef
[This post is going to veer considerably from the crumpet-lite typique of what you'll find on Damn That's Rye, not that I post frequently enough to be typical.]
On August 2nd, The Atlantic published a piece entitled "If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef" and this will permanently change what I eat, or rather, what I will not eat.
I highly encourage you to read the article yourself, but briefly, Hamblin reports (based on research from Oregon State University, Bard Collage and Loma Linda University) that if everyone in the United States stopped eating beef, we would be able to meet the greenhouse-emission goals we'd made in 2009 in Copenhagen. That's amazing. Also, how did I not know prior to this article that almost 1/3 of our planet's arable land is used to raise and feed cattle?
Read it. Weep if you like beef. But continuing to consume beef is ultimately such a gross use of resources that I'm out. No more beef for me. I'll allow myself to be swayed by Kobe tartare if I happen to be in Japan and someone else is paying.
So I'll apparently stop eating a certain something if it is destroying the planet. At least that. There's already plenty of reasons to not eat beef even if the industry wasn't pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. There is nothing humane about beed production, for one, nor is beef very good for you. Earlier this year The New York Times reported correlations with red meat consumption and cancer.
The way cattle is "processed" casts our species in a super unflattering light. And that alone should be incentive enough to not eat beef (or meat) from industrial butchers, ever. I think I felt rationalized, up to this point, in eating meat and beef (after a stint with vegetarianism that lasted about four years until I became so anemic that I couldn't keep awake in my undergrad classes) because I was properly "sourcing," ensuring that it was organic, free-range, grass-fed.
The thing is.
According to foodtank.com, it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Though that is a natural resource easily taken for granted in America, Californians right now are feeling the burn of drought, as is Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Idaho.
This is not just a matter of ethics or health (though it is also an ethical matter). It's easy to see counter-arguments on both counts. This, this ecologically fatal reality, is a very objective matter of dwindling resources and the environmental impact of deforestation. The abuses inherent in raising beef puts entire communities and species at risk.
(Hamlin's piece coincides with some personal thoughts re: am I eating in an ethical way? Why do I think so much about eating? Can I eat without doing harm? I think that I have, as I'd argue that most of us do, an idea of what eating well might look like, if we had but the zen to actually eat that way. Hamlin has encouraged me to reframe the very one-sided consideration of diet, where before I thought about it as something that was only affecting me, rather than something that truly affects the animals I eat and the land they use.)
I mean, it does affect me, but also:
What progress environmentalists had made in their efforts to Save the Amazon Rainforest during the 90s and and early aughts has been felled hard: "In the Brazilian Amazon, the world's largest rain forest, deforestation rose in 2015 for the first time in nearly a decade, to nearly two million acres from August 2015 to July 2016" ("Amazon Deforestation, Once Tamed, Comes Roaring Back", The New York Times). Beef production is largely responsible for this deforestation. The fields of soy replacing the trees are not feeding humans. If that were the case, we would need much less of the rainforest floor. It's cattle fodder. Pointe.
(I don't mean to simplify, because there's other things that need to be done in addition to not eating (as much or not at all) beef. But. One-fat-ass-third of arable planet earth! Dedicated to hamburgers/tri-tip/filet mignon! Why????)
I think that there's, to some extent, a mass-amnesia of what sorts of food things should be special, rare, rich, too-rich, too-costly. The brunt of the cost of eating beef has been mitigated to large swaths of South America, the San Fernando valley, Texas, Florida, Africa... and whatever lay downstream of that. (While I was looking a photographs of the world's largest ranches I just learned that the Mormon Church actually owns the largest cattle ranch in America, in St. Cloud, Florida. Haha. Gross.) Eating rich meat products daily is now normal, as is dairy and sugar... food products that more traditional cuisines indulge in rarely but Americans eat every day, often several times a day. And while the conversation around these products have focused on adverse health effects and obesity, there's also a larger socio-ecological system that's at the receiving end of the inherent waste and violence involved in producing these things at an industrial scale.
Beans are great. And they're so great for you. I had some amazing butter beans made with a rich veggie broth and sun dried tomatoes the other day. For example. They're also so cheap. Admittedly I haven't been eating much beef in the past couple years anyway. There's a recipe on Damn That's Rye for a lover's borscht that does have beef and its really fucking delicious but that's because borscht is delicious and I think that I can come up with another recipe to replace that one. Really, there's just so many other things to eat. And we should be eating less of most the things we eat in any event.
I'm interested to hear what sort of healthful and ecological regimens exist for you if you're up to share. I might save mine for another post, though I don't know how relevant that would actually be to anyone really. But this, cow --> beef --> ecological disaster, is something I'd like to see on more blogs.
So long, farewell, future bœuf haché that I might have had. Here's me and here's my goodbye: