Monday, June 21, 2010

Reporting the Hype, Not the Facts

Chefs now offering low-carbon diets to help save the planet
In the effort to save the planet from carbon emissions, chefs are saying eat less feedlot beef. That's because feedlot beef is by far the biggest creator of carbon gases. Fed on corn instead of the grass it was meant to eat, cows simply belch and pass wind a lot, creating much of the CO2 that's harming the earth. Bon App├ętit Management Co. and other corporate food-service operators are turning to lower-carbon foods like chicken in an effort to change eating habits while reducing their carbon footprints.
By Paula Bock

SO YOU THINK trading in your gas guzzler for a hybrid will save the planet?

Try cutting back on cheeseburgers! And mangos! And fish flown in "fresh" from the southern hemisphere!

Old millennium: Low-carb diets. The new cool: Low-carbon diets. As in eat green. As in healthy for the environment. As in reduce global warming by minding what you swallow.

Just ask the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. A few years ago, it released a study showing that livestock cause more harm to the environment than all global transportation systems combined. Numero Uno emission emitter? Beef.

If Americans reduced meat consumption by just 20 percent, a University of Chicago study found, it'd be like all of us switching from a standard sedan to an ultraefficient Prius. A Japanese study estimated that raising 2.2 pounds of beef creates the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide as driving an average European car for 155 miles or burning a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
Producing a pound of feedlot beef creates the equivalent of 14.8 pounds of CO2. By comparison, a pound of pork creates the equivalent of 3.8 pounds of CO2; chicken, the equivalent of 1.1 pounds.
Why do cattle have such a huge carbon hoof print? Surprisingly, it's not so much because of transport from feedlot to fast-food joint or land cleared for grazing or even the chemical fertilizers used to grow the feed, though all that also adds up.

It's largely because cornfed cattle pass a lot of gas. Read More


Here’s another example of activism as compared to journalism. If this reporter had done some actual research as opposed to regurgitating common misconceptions, they would have learned there’s a different story to be told. For example, the writer seems to think that cattle will only produce methane if they are being fed a grain based diet. Methane is a byproduct of rumination, not the diet. There is also evidence that suggests grain fed beef actually produce less emissions over their lifetime compared to other production methods. Along with that, even though rumination produces methane, that is the process that allows us to convert indigestible forages into human consumable protein. It allows us to utilize the vast majority of land on this planet that doesn’t allow for farming. The University of Chicago study that is cited is the same one that Michael Pollan used to cite as well until the authors of that study clarified that that wasn’t true. It’s another example of the sad state of journalism today.

5 comments:

GoLightly said...

The writer sure misses the point. "Think global, buy local" is extraordinarily important.
Well, to me anyway.
It still annoys me that Ontario "imports" their beef from Alberta. Why truck all that distance? Why can't we produce it here?

I do have to ask this, for my own info.

If you can run grass-fed beef on x number of acres, why would you produce corn fed beef? Aren't you using more acreage? They fatten quicker on corn? Aren't the input costs much higher?
That's my conundrum with the question of cows. Which are delicious, btw.
Sorry for all the questions. I should ask...
wanders off...

Janene said...

Try reading this and see if you understand things a bit better:
http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Summer2010/Cows/tabid/1614/Default.aspx

And let me know what you think. ;-)

Sara said...

What kind of gas gets "passed" if we are only allowed to eat bean burritos instead of beef! Ha!

GoLightly said...

If that link was for me, and thank you if it was, it doesn't work.
Does not compute.
:(

Anonymous said...

Only statement that seems true:
“Old millennium: Low-carb diets. The new cool: Low-carbon diets.”
– It’s another one of those fad diets and they are using research supporting their view to promote their restaurant. If the writer of this article wanted to look further (called investigating), she could find research supporting both sides. Depends on who is doing the research and what results they want – the research cited was done by environmental authors looking for something to support their views. If one really wants to help the planet, instead of bashing an industry or an eating preference that provides diversity for our planet, they should get off their duffs and pedal to work one day a week. Promote Motorless Monday – purchase an American made bike and get up early and pedal for a day a week. Get their kids pedaling, too instead of buying them cars and getting them licenses before they graduate from high school. Would help the economy and help keep us fit.