So. Did you read Mark Bittman's article in the New York Times this weekend? Bittman, who is definitely not a vegetarian, lays out the hard facts about meat, energy, and the American diet. With Rethinking the Meat Guzzler Bittman takes a step away from his usual spot in the Dining section and his Minimalist column and takes up guest residence in the Science pages.
Bittman, who is known to enjoy a good hunk of meat as much as anybody, argues that the present global demand for meat is unsustainable, contributing to worldwide pollution and energy consumption. He says, "These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests."
Animal feedlots and pork factories are polluting America's water at huge rates, he says, citing the EPA, and consuming energy and resources that could be used to feed the poorest parts of the world instead. He quotes a startling statistic that calculates that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would like we all switched from driving a sedan to a hybrid.
Energy and consumption issues aside, is the American habit of meat three times a day realistic and healthy? Bittman says no. The grain-fed, speedily grown animals that are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics are having a generally detrimental effect on American health.
Americans eat about 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year, which is a 33% increase from 50 years ago for a total of about 110 grams of protein a day (twice the recommended allowance). Bittman argues for 30 grams of protein per day instead - mostly from non-animal sources.
We agree with Bittman on most of his points, but we want ideas and pathways into reducing our dependence on cheap meat. Many have responded by going vegan or vegetarian, but short of that, how can we make a real difference in the world of meat and energy?