Green meat

Few creatures would seem as beneficent as the cow. Properly grazed and groomed, it gives us burgers and brie, boot leather and fertilizer. Lately, however, radical green groups and celebrity vegans like Paul McCartney have made cows out to be weapons of mass destruction: not only has their meat caused an epidemic of hypertension and heart disease, but they also trample rainforests, trash the soil, and foul the air with greenhouse gases.
That's the beginning of a Newsweek article called "The Cow Turns Green". The article could have used some stronger fact-checking (its feed ratios for chicken/pork/beef are off, and I find it hard to believe that cattle grazing accounts for 72% of Canada's GHG emissions), but it highlights the macro environmental issues with meat production - GHG emissions and land use/deforestation - and mentions a few initiatives by governments and businesses to address these problems before the environmental - not to mention PR - damage gets much worse.

The article also nails the reason why meatless Mondays in the developed world won't solve the problem alone:
Even if everyone in the rich nations swore off meat today, consumption would continue to soar, thanks to the burgeoning middle classes of China, Brazil, and other nations. Brazilians today eat 89 kilos of red meat and poultry a year, nearly triple the per capita consumption of 15 years ago, while the average Chinese citizen consumes close to two and a half times more meat than he did in 1990.
This is something I feel Michael Pollan and disciples in the U.S. often ignore when promoting lower-intensity food production systems - the U.S. is a major food exporter and if it exports less, that slack will have to be picked up elsewhere in the world. See my comments at U.S. Food Policy for one discussion along these lines.

I was interested to learn that the much-maligned (by Pollan and others) corn-and-soy diet may also be a culprit in increasing livestock emissions:
The owners of the Stonyfield Farm in Vermont found they could improve health and boost milk production in the herds, and reduce methane emissions, by eliminating the soybean- and corn-based feed that became popular during the bumper harvests of the Green Revolution. Instead, they give their cows old-fashioned flax and alfalfa, which are packed with nutrients and benign fatty acids.
Sounds win-win. Overall, greening meat is one of many things that will have to be part of the climate change solution for agriculture, which along with deforestation (for which ag is largely responsible) contributes ~30% of global GHG emissions today, as well as a number of other environmental problems.

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