(From Grass: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pasture, p. 197-198)
In fact, grassing over that portion of the world’s cropland now being used to grow grain to feed ruminants would offset fossil fuel emissions appreciably. For example, if the sixteen million acres now being used to grow corn to feed cows in the United States became well-managed pasture, that would remove fourteen billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.
Moral: consumers have the ability to create change through purchase power. Make a difference by avoiding corn-fed beef and support your local farmers who raise cows on pasture.
Nitrogen and phosphorus from industrial farming and chicken factories is washing into the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico and over-fertilizing algae. The enormous algae blooms take over fish habitats and consume all the oxygen, making hypoxic zones where no aquatic life can survive.
Your Chicken Nuggets Are Killing Your Crab Cakes
The primary source of the chemicals is industrial corn farms in the Midwest, and factory chicken farms in the Mid-Atlantic.
Industrial corn farms over-apply fertilizers to their fields. The crops cannot absorb the entire amount, and rains carry the residual chemical from the corn farms into the Mississippi, which deposits them in the Gulf of Mexico, where they feed the algae bloom.
The chicken factories on the Delmarva Peninsula produce a huge amount of nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich manure, too much of which is washed into the Chesapeake Bay.
I think the title of the linked article sums it up nicely. If you, like me, enjoy Maryland crab cakes or Louisiana shrimp gumbo, stop eating factory-farmed chicken and processed corn-containing products!
News from the NRDC blog: Senate votes overwhelmingly to end corn ethanol subsidies —
- The amendment will end three decades of subsidies to the corn ethanol industry and save taxpayers several billion dollars.
- The VEETC (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit) [cost] taxpayers $6 billion this year alone and [gave] almost nothing in return in domestic ethanol production or industry jobs above and beyond what is already mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard
- [The VEETC] comes at the expense of developing the new and cleaner advanced biofuels we need to create jobs, increase our energy security and address global warming.
We wanted to see if Michael Pollan had written anything recently about ethanol subsidies, and read this article from 2006:
- The way we grow corn in this country consumes tremendous quantities of fossil fuel: Every bushel of corn grown in America has consumed the equivalent of between a third and a half gallon of gasoline.
- Corn receives more synthetic fertilizer than any other crop, and that fertilizer is made from fossil fuels — mostly natural gas.
- Corn also receives more pesticide than any other crop, and most of that pesticide is made from petroleum.
- To plow or disc the cornfields, plant the seed, spray the corn and harvest it takes large amounts of diesel fuel
- To dry the corn after harvest requires natural gas.
- Distill[ing] the corn into ethanol, an energy-intensive process that requires still more fossil fuel. Estimates vary, but they range from two-thirds to nine-tenths of a gallon of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol. (The more generous number does not count all the energy costs of growing the corn.) Some estimates are still more dismal, suggesting it may actually take more than a gallon of fossil fuel to produce a gallon of our putative alternative to fossil fuel.
- According to the Wall Street Journal, it will cost U.S. taxpayers $120 for every barrel of oil saved by making ethanol.
- The federal government offers a tax break of 54 cents for every gallon of ethanol produced
- At the same time, the government protects domestic ethanol producers by imposing a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imported ethanol
- Ethanol is just the latest chapter in a long, sorry history of clever and profitable schemes to dispose of surplus corn: there was corn liquor in the 19th century; feedlot meat starting in the 1950’s and, since 1980, high fructose corn syrup.
This all reminds us of a t-shirt we saw recently: http://www.goodjoe.com/Store/Product.aspx?id=66. It’s not clear from the creator’s description if she is making a statement about the large quantity of corn products found in the composition of the average American body…
“You are what you eat” is a truism hard to argue with, and yet it is, as a visit to a feedlot suggests, incomplete, for you are what what you eat eats, too.
–from p. 84, the conclusion of the section describing how factory farms pump cows full of corn.
The Paleo diet and its relatives preach the importance of choosing free range meat and animal products over factory farmed options, for health reasons. Unhealthy, stressed animals have toxins and sickness flowing through their bodies, which are then transferred to humans upon consumption of the meat, eggs, or dairy products the animals produced. The Paleo argument tends to focus primarily on “think about what you’re putting into your body” and less on “think about the treatment of the animals.” However, FitFemaleForty has a reprint of an article written by Jeremy Gordon, a CrossFit instructor, that addresses the humane treatment of livestock to a Paleo audience.
The article presents some horrifying information about the effects of a grain diet on a cow’s digestive system. The grain raises the acidity in the digestive tract of the cows, who were built to eat grass only, which can lead to an abscessed liver and the introduction of E. Coli. From a nutritional standpoint, the fatty acid composition of the meat is negatively affected, and fat soluble vitamin content decreases.
Factory farmed meat eaters who aren’t concerned about the treatment of the animals could be swayed to change their ways based on the descriptions and evidence in this article.