Friday, October 26, 2007

Steak trop tard

"According to a 2005 University of Chicago study, a lacto-ovo vegetarian emits far less greenhouse gas than a counterpart adhering to the standard, meat-rich American diet—the difference is equivalent to around 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, assuming the same daily caloric intake. (The study's authors thus claim that going vegetarian has the same effect on carbon dioxide emissions as switching from a Chevrolet Suburban to a Toyota Camry.) The savings mostly come about because of the disparity between the fossil fuel required to produce a calorie's worth of grain vs. that needed to make a calorie's worth of beef; grain is nearly a dozen times more efficient in this regard. Cattle are also a huge source of methane, a particularly noxious greenhouse gas; it's estimated that bovines are responsible for roughly triple the methane emissions of the American coal industry.

But Eshel hastens to add...that your vegan acquaintance isn't necessarily some environmental saint. That's because direct carbon dioxide emissions are only part of the story when it comes to food's eco-impact. You also have to look at the issue of land use—specifically how much and what sort of land is required to sustain an agricultural enterprise. In a region with poor-to-mediocre soil, for example, it may be more efficient to operate a well-managed egg farm than to try growing vegetables that can't flourish under such conditions. And animals are handy at consuming low-quality grain that isn't necessarily fit for human consumption. (Rather than going to waste, that grain can help create nutrient-rich dairy products.) In fact, a recent Cornell University study concluded that modest carnivorousness may actually be better for the environment than outright vegetarianism, since cattle can graze on inferior land not suitable for crops. Squeezing more calories out of the land means that less food needs be imported from elsewhere, thereby reducing the burning of fossil fuels."

My friend who sent me this article added: "I ate steak tartare for supper last night and the night before."

Disclaimer: I am not a vegetarian


Leila Abu-Saba said...

If you're eating local lamb or poultry then you aren't impacting the environment so badly, right?

I had to cut out meat or anything else high fat for health reasons. Olives bother me, too, which is a bigger loss than meat. But I still eat cold water fish, like sardines, salmon and anchovies - only wild-caught salmon, and not much of any of these.

Hope all is well with you, Rami. Sorry I haven't been around much.

Sophia said...

I heard the Cornell university researcher talking on a Canadian radio program. It reminded me that this was exactly our diet when I was a child in a small north lebanese village.

The village had sheeps, goats and cattle mainly for milk and cheese. Only part of the cattle were killed for meat consumption. Every family would also pet a sheep which was killed when adult and part of the meat cooked and stored in its fat for the winter.
Typically, we would eat meat twice a week, the rest was vegetarian food. I am the oldest in the family and between me and my younger brother there is only 9 years difference. By the time my younger brother was born, we started eating meat more often. the village's grocery stores even offered Argentinian frozen meat, and ham. That was in the seventies , just before the start of the 1975 civil war.