Welcome to another post of real or spiel. In this post I will be addressing the article written in the NY Times “The End Of Meat Is Here.” This article produced massive controversies, but then again what is new with the “battle” between vegetarians and carnivores?
Without a doubt the Coronavirus has disrupted the meat industry. For your burger to be made a cow needs to be born, raised, slaughtered, butchered and processed. There are many supply lines involved in this system in which has ranches overpopulated and store shelves empty. And this is pretty universal in agriculture.
Worse yet, livestock is being slain. The simple reason is the optimal time to slaughter animals can easily be missed because of the disruption of supply lines. Optimal slaughter times for livestock vary for many reasons including flavor, maximizing meat harvest, minimizing overhead, and even to fit in systems for slaughter. There are various other factors depending on the type of livestock. Livestock always costs money to keep alive, dead livestock costs very little.
Vegetarian/Vegan Versus Meat-Eaters
There is a very heated debate over these three types of diets. I will only talk about the points brought up in the article. However, I do want to make one thing perfectly clear. I am a meat-eater. Not only do I eat meat, but I also have hunted, slain, and cooked a deer.
That being said, I actually do not consume as much meat as my typical American counter-parts. I follow a diet called the Mediterranean diet which focuses on fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. I have brought this up before, but two-thirds of my meals focus on high-protein yogurt. However, it is not a vegetarian diet, I still eat meat. This diet has been very beneficial to my health. We all receive enough shame and grief in this world as is for simply being ourselves, why shame people for their diets when we have no idea what is best for them? Granted there is no reason for soda or bacon (among many other things) to be in anyone’s diet.
Many people need meat to sustain themselves healthfully. Believe it or not, but women need more nutrients commonly found in meat than men. That being said, meat should be less the center of a diet and more a part of a balanced diet like it should be. Read a previous post on how to make great recipes using what you can from a pantry. You will be able to make excellent balanced meals by just combining what you have. I know this is a pretty controversial topic, but I feel like the least I can ask from you to hold back shameful comments. I will not approve of any shameful comments.
Meat Packing Plants Are Coronavirus Hotspots
Many meat packing plants have been hotspots for the Coronavirus. This had led to the shutdown of many plants.
You know why it is called the meat industry? Because it has been industrialized. We have all but said goodbye to the traditional icons of farms, red painted barns, manual tillers, etc. Granted some of these items have been replaced by more efficient equipment for the sake of production, but in turn farms and slaughterhouses could easily be mistaken for manufacturing factories instead of agricultural buildings.
That is because they are factories. Factories are not designed with the idea of workers being 6 feet apart. Would you expect workers to be able to social distance in a factory to assemble cars? Then how could they social distance to disassemble a pig?
Too Few Slaughterhouses
There are 800 approved slaughterhouses in the US. That may sound like it is not a small number, but keep in mind, these 800 slaughterhouses are supposed to process billions of pounds of meat in the US each year. To make matters worse, almost 50 cattle slaughterhouses process 98% of cattle. These statistics are hardly any different for chicken or pork. This just forces too many butchers to be in a confined space.
I learned this back in the first half of my life. This is not news. Furthermore, the large number of Covid cases likely from meatpacking is far from the first time the government has reported finding an unusually large number of diseases from meat packing.
Unfortunately, US meat packing plants are not very hygienic. One of the possibilities to improve meatpacking plants’ hygiene is to increase the number of meatpacking plants so efficiency can be maintained without sacrificing hygiene.
People Are Eating Less Meat
Somewhat Real – There are more vegetarians and vegans than ever and more people are cutting back on meat. In fact, around 15% of US millennials identify as vegetarian.
That being said I have observed that people have different definitions of vegetarian. Being a vegetarian has no clear definition. One of my colleagues is a vegetarian and she says you cannot identify as a vegetarian if you eat eggs, even in baked goods. I imagine if that definition was clear there would be hardly more vegetarians than vegans (0.5% of the US). In fact, I have heard many other looser definitions of vegetarian diets. Some believe seafood does not count as meat. I have even heard some say that poultry could be in a vegetarian diet. I will be honest, I have no explanation for why seafood much less poultry would be ok in a vegetarian diet.
It ultimately does not matter. Even though the word vegetarian is pretty loose, even a person who identifies loosely as a vegetarian is at least trying with some success to cut back on meat. At the very least that is requiring less demand from the already struggling meat industry.
Meat Is Bad For The Environment
Not real nor spiel – The meat industry tends to produce more greenhouse emissions and require more land in agriculture. Key word is tends. The world does not work on just what tends to happen.
Is it a surprise anymore that cattle produce much of the greenhouse gases in the world? They do not breathe out the methane they produce, but they come close to it. Cattle is hands down the number one greenhouse emission source for livestock.
However, some seafood is almost as costly in greenhouse gases.
And other forms of meat make fewer greenhouse emissions. Eating poultry versus beef is better when it comes to emissions of greenhouse gases. Rabbit, though not commonly raised, appears to emit a similar amount of greenhouse gases to chicken.
It is hard to say that all meat is equal, especially when it comes to greenhouse emissions.
Many Other Factors To Consider: Fertilizers
Cattle is not just an animal that produces meat and milk. It is one of the best producers of fertilizers. An alternative to using dung as fertilizers include ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is not just dangerous when sparks are close to it, it requires chemicals to produce. You know, the ones that make the environment toxic. Furthermore, using too much ammonium nitrate can produce nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas. If it gets into waterways, it could destroy environments.
Animal manure is known to be an eco friendly fertilizer (EFF). That means it will not easily wash away and will be mostly held within the soil safely. Despite popular opinion, you cannot just turn any poop into agricultural gold. You cannot save your own poop, nor your dog’s to compost into fertilizer, at least not for growing edible crops. These feces require additional treatment before being used for edible crops, and maybe not even then. It is far easier to remove deadly pathogens than toxic pharmaceuticals from feces.
Granted there are other sources for fertilizer including chicken and rabbits. Chicken feces are known to be more nutrient rich than cattle feces. Rabbit feces are agricultural gold. I know people who raise rabbits and make more money selling rabbit feces than the rabbits as meat or pets.
Too Many Factors To Mention In My Blog
Fertilizer is not the only thing to consider before eliminating all livestock, even all cattle. I think Richard Young’s words are better at explaining this than I am though. Check out his article in this link. Hands down a diet centered on beef will have more greenhouse emissions than a plant-based diet, but there are still many factors to consider before removing all domesticated cattle.
I am sure some advocates of the plant-based diet are saying that even chicken and rabbit are more environmentally unfriendly than a plant-based diet. That depends.
Plant Based Diets Can Be More Environmentally Unfriendly Than Some With Meat
Some of the plant-based meats may be vegan, but be honest with me, have you seen anyone older than a millennial eat one? I have not. Advocates of these products claim these are meant to help people transition from a meat filled diet to a plant-based diet, bringing about the end of meat.
Ok, why can I not find a plant-based chicken product from these companies that is not breaded? Why would they make that? My guess is that poultry is apparently accepted by some vegetarians so only vegans and strict vegetarians would buy those products. Another reason that is less speculative is the fact that these companies market themselves as environmentally green. However, based off greenhouse emissions alone, plant-based meat from popular brands do more damage to the environment than chicken, and just a little less than beef. Ergo, plant-based meat industries could not advocate that plant-based poultry meat is a green product.
And what about the other damaging effects from production? One of the primary ingredients for popular plant-based meats is pea protein isolate. It is a protein extraction using advanced laboratory methods. Translation: many chemicals used, probably even highly toxic chemicals. Not exactly green. With that in mind it is possible plant-based meats are worse for the environment than beef. It is just not a good trade.
Go More Natural
Plant-based diets are generally more environmentally friendly, but only if it is not processed into burgers nor sausage. Heck throwing eggplants on the grill would make a better beef substitute than any of the popular plant-based meat companies can produce and you can grow that in dirt, wash it, and put it on your plate like nothing happened. Mushroom (though technically not plants) make great substitutes. I may eat meat, I may even hunt meat, but it is just a part of a balanced meal for me and the wife. Unfortunately, that is not commonly the case in America. A sign of that is now when I bring up eating a salad I have to specify that it is made of lettuce, not pasta. And I remember correcting at least eight people of this.
Meat Has Been Genetically Modified
100% real – Chicken, beef, even rabbits have been breed to form variants that would not be found in nature. But guess what, so have plants and even more so to plants.
Agriculture centers around domesticating crops and animals to ultimately produce more food. Crossbreeding became a thing as soon as Mesopotamia or ancient America. Chickens are now so massive they cannot walk properly. Some even have heart attacks due to the weight. It’s not too much unlike a human being 200 kilograms overweight. Hardly anything needed to be done to be larger, they were produced by crossbreeding. Genetically engineered salmon is the only commercially available genetically engineered meat and not in America, yet.
Crops Have Been Crossbred Heavily Too
Do you have any idea of what wild edible plants look like? Chances are you only know what these plants look like in nature if you took wilderness survival courses or had grandparents who gathered wild plants when they were young. If you were starving and an edible wild carrot fell on your lap, you would probably discard it. No plant we cultivated look like the wild plant anymore.
You would think that there is no way people could further genetically modify crops. Not even close. There are numerous crops that are genetically modified. And keep in mind CRISPR edited crops do not count as genetically modified simply because no genes are added, they are only edited. CRISPR is relatively new, even compared to GMOs. There are almost as many CRISPR edited crops as GMO crops. I would not be surprised if CRISPR crops become more common than GMOs.
If you hate genetically engineered agriculture, that is your opinion. But keep in mind, animals have next to no genetic engineering done to them. Also there are crops engineered to feed you scorpion venom, you cannot find that in an animal.
Do Not Be (Too) Afraid Of Genetic Progression
Genetics are changing all the time. Even yours. The chemical makeup of your chromosomes change considerably with the blink of your eyes. Literally.
That being said, we must consider the fact that there is no such thing as an isolated gene. The Human Genome Project was completed over a decade ago. While this was one of the greatest scientific achievements of all times the results were underwhelming. We found that our genomes, something we considered biologically complex have only 20,000 to 25,000 genes. However, The Human Genome Project did not anticipate that it would pave the way to new understandings in genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics, almost every -omics. There are many questions for how these are linked. The short answer is everything is tied together, the only questions are how are they tied, and how closely are they tied? Changing a single gene much less introducing one is almost guaranteed to have effects on other aspects of an organism’s biochemistry.
We Do Not Need Meat Anymore For Personal Health
Mostly spiel – there are some who benefit incredibly with a vegetarian or vegan diet, but most people either need some nutrients from meat, or supplements.
Do not order a bacon cheeseburger though. No one ever needs a bacon cheeseburger, if anything we need to get rid of them.
Some argue the only thing you need is protein from meat. As easy as that would sound, it simply is not true. There are numerous nutrients you can only get from meat, some of which are essential. Ergo, you must either eat a few ounces of meat every once in a while, or take supplements.
I think meat has gotten a bad rep because of fast food and the foods they serve. Meat is not always the determinant in whether the meal is healthful. There is a big difference between a bacon cheeseburger and a deer meat summer roll.
Farmers Will Not Suffer From The Shutdown Of Big Meat
Have you heard of a documentary called “Super Size Me?” It’s only one of the most popular and famous documentaries in the world. Did you know there is a sequel? Both are free on YouTube. In it, Morgan Spurlock looks at whether fast food has become more healthful. I will not give spoilers, but I think you are smart enough to know the conclusion.
The more interesting part was about how big meat has produced a system that is severely unfair to many farmers. The tournament system keeps starting farmers from getting ahead. Furthermore, big meat has contracts that farmers claim keep the overhead too large to maintain without debt. It is hard to get in, and when you do, you almost cannot get out. At the very least these systems need an overhaul to benefit farmers better.
Vegetarian Diets Are Not Elitist
Some vegetables and other non-meats are expensive. I can find mushrooms that are close to $20/lb, and I have heard of some mushrooms, mostly truffles, that go for more than $100 or even $1,000 a pound. You will not find these commonly at the grocery store, sometimes not even in your nation.
You can still obtain protein filled meals using vegetables and fruits without breaking the bank. Just do not expect vitamin B12 or heme iron in them.
The meat industry is in trouble right now. In all fairness, they were in trouble before. Big meat has focused too much on efficiency to consider the spread of diseases to keep up with demand of citizens. Some aspects of the meat industry need to end, but not meat itself.
I would expect an overhaul of the meat industry to make the industry safer, but ultimately, individuals and policy makers are more in control of whether there are any changes. Simply put, if you want the meat industry to change for the better, you should produce less demand for meat. You do not need to go full vegetarian, in fact, depending on yourself, it may not even be advisable. But have a meatless meal every once in a while or try recipes in which are not simply meat and bread. This can help lower the amount of meat you eat every month. Keep in mind the average American eats 222 pounds of red meat and poultry each year, that is over half a pound each day. You really only need a few ounces of meat each day, tops (unless you are pregnant, then a few more).
Other ways to help are to support smaller farms. When you buy meat by the cow or chicken, you are most likely supporting a small farm. And who says you cannot start a small farm to produce your own meat, but supply people with sustainable meat?
This is not the end of meat, but with any luck, there will be change.