Monday, January 28, 2008

Who said people had to eat meat three times a day?

Mark Bittman (NYTimes, 01/27/08) ends his article by quoting Polan's question: "Who said people had to eat meat three times a day?" In his article, Bittman provides an empirical account of why we should revisit the assumption that eating meat is good. Here some of the data:

  • The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons
  • Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050
  • Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total
  • An estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production
  • If Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius
  • 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days
  • Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chicken
  • About two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption ... It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States
  • [Americans] consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein

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