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A third example, now on eating meat. Are we going to produce it smarter or just much less?

Last modified October 26, 2009 15:59

A third example, now on eating meat. Are we going to produce it smarter or just much less? Do you have examples on this subject or other diverging views on agriculture, please send them to us. Kees Stigter, INSAM (

Viewpoint one


EDITORIAL: Smarter food production can benefit everyone

By The Dallas Morning News

Publication: The Dallas Morning News (Texas)


Date: Friday, August 28 2009

You don't have to be a Berkeley prof in Birkenstocks to wonder whether we could grow food here in a way that places less stress on the environment, puts fewer pounds on our bodies and doesn't consume so much of our federal budget.

Growing so many grains to feed cattle, pigs and poultry in feedlots affect water supplies and air quality. Producing ample supplies of fatty meats adds to our waistlines. Subsidizing crops like corn takes a big bite out of the federal budget.

"Sustainable agriculture" is how reformers describe new farming and ranching techniques that don't stress the environment, our bodies or the federal budget. Time magazine's Bryan Walsh wrote a controversial cover story on the subject last week, "The Real Cost of Cheap Food." It sparked criticism for buying too much into to the "good food" movement that is driving sustainable agriculture.

We don't agree with everything he writes, but he does raise a fundamental point: Is there not a better way to grow our food?

First, let us be upfront: Organic farming and backyard gardens won't replace the efficiencies of America's breadbasket, which supplies meat, grains and vegetables to millions of Americans and millions more around the world. Radical changes in the way we grow that food will increase our costs at the grocery store. Given everyone's current economic straits, we don't see the wisdom in that.

But North Texas shoppers, West Texas farmers and ranchers, and policymakers in Austin and Washington could help create a more sustainable agricultural system. Here are a few ways:

-- When permitting dairy farms, which are fast expanding across the Texas Panhandle, the state should examine what impact a farm would have on the Ogallala Aquifer, the Panhandle's ability to grow more grain to feed those dairy cows, and how to get rid of more animal waste. Texas AgriLife Extension Service researchers are studying the impact of dairy farms, so their work should give groundwater district officials and others information to make an informed decision.

-- The state needs more experiments like the one state Sen. Robert Duncan and the Texas Water Development Board have helped launch in Lockney in Floyd County; ranchers and farmers there are working on raising cattle and crops using less water, including more efficient irrigation techniques.

-- The federal government should look for opportunities to buy produce from local farmers who use techniques that don't damage soils or the environment. The feds purchase huge quantities of food, including for school lunches and the military, so even targeted purchases could boost the cause of sustainable agriculture.

-- The next time you shop for produce or meat, look for a locally grown product that hasn't required so much diesel fuel to market. Or look for meats that have been raised with less corn or antibiotics pumped into them.

We're encouraged that some organizations, like the Chipotle fast-food chain and the W.W. Kellogg Foundation, already support the move toward a more sustainable agriculture. This movement won't supply all of our food needs, but there is certainly room for better ways to produce what we eat.


Viewpoint Two

Ten reasons why you should eat less meat

Posted by Diane MacEachern

You don't need to be a complete vegetarian for your diet to help protect the planet. Just eat less meat. Here's why:

  1. Save the rainforest. World Wildlife Fund estimates that, every year, an area of the world's rain forests larger than the state of New York is destroyed to create grazing land. In latin America, says the United Nations, some 70% of forests in the Amazon basin have been cut down to raise cows.
  2. Refresh the air. If you've ever driven by a feed lot, you've probably had to hold your nose. No wonder. About 1.4 billion metric tons of solid manure are produced by U.S. farm animals each year - 130 times the quantity produced by people.This figure includes pigs and chickens as well as cattle, but cattle are the single largest source.
  3. Keep water clean. Two-thirds of the beef cattle raised in the U.S. are fattened up using hormones like steroids, testosterone and progesterone. When the cows pee, they can pollute surface and ground water with all these chemicals, affecting the ability of frogs and fish to reproduce, too.
  4. Save water. It takes 600 gallons of water to produce one hamburger patty. Just one.
  5. Feed more people. It takes about 2 pounds of grain to produce a quarter-pound of burger meat. Why not convert that grain (and the resources used to grow it) into food more people can eat?
  6. Stop climate change. "Hamburgers are the Hummers of food" when it comes to climate change, say scientists. Switching from steak to salad could cut as much carbon as leaving the car home a couple of days a week. Food is the third largest contributor to the average household's carbon footprint after driving and utilities. If people simply cut their meat intake from the average 90 kg/year to 53 kg/yr, meat-associated carbon emissions would drop by 44 percent.
  7. Be nice. Many livestock and dairy cattle are raised in cruel and inhumane conditions where they must be injected with antibiotics so they'll fatten up and seem healthy. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that about 70% of all antibiotics made in the U.S. are used to fatten up livestock.
  8. Avoid drugs. In addition to hormones and antibiotics, conventional meat producers routinely process their products using chemical additives and preservatives like phosphates and sodium nitrites. That makes them pinker, but not necessarily healtheir. Sodium nitrites may react with amino acides to form carvinogenic nitrosamines; various studies have found a link between high processed-meat consumption and colon cancer, possibly attributable to prservatives like sodium nitrite.
  9. Live longer. Speaking of health, eating a lot of meat can increase the likelihood of heart attacks and high blood pressure.
  10. Save money. Meat is usually the most expensive item you put in your shopping cart. Buy less meat, and shift the savings to organic fruits and vegetables.
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