by Len Frenkel
Raising animals for food requires enormous amounts of food and energy and contributes greatly to global warming.
The production of factory-farmed animals is extremely inefficient in providing the food needs of the world’s peoples. More than 70% of our home-grown grains are fed to cattle rather than to people, while up to 20 pounds of grain must be fed to a cow to produce one pound of beef. The world’s cattle consume enough calories to provide food calories for more than all the people on the planet. 20% of the world’s population could be fed with the grains and soybeans fed to U.S. cattle alone. Plant-based eating would contribute greatly to solving these non-sustainable practices.
The energy required to raise food animals is also enormous. It has been calculated that more than one-third of all fossil fuels produced in the U.S. are used to raise animals for food. This is not surprising considering the land and operations required to carry out these farming practices. There are more than a dozen stages, all requiring energy, to grow the grains and soybeans, harvest and transport them to the factory-farms, bring the animals to slaughter and carry out those operations, then transport the meat to processing plants and then to retail stores before they come into homes to be refrigerated and cooked. Ten times more fossil-fuel energy is needed to produce a calorie of protein from animals than a calorie of protein from plant sources. Obviously plant-based eating goes a long way to consuming less energy in the form of fossil fuels.
Animal agriculture also contributes greatly to global warming, although we hear very little about it. Instead, attention has concentrated on carbon dioxide, mainly from transportation and energy production. However, methane, a major product of animal farming, is far more damaging to our planet’s climate than carbon dioxide. This makes vegetarianism a powerful tool for limiting the negative impact of methane.
If one is truly concerned with sustainability of the planet and its resources, then one must give serious attention to basing ones food inputs on plants rather than animals.
Len Frenkel, Coordinator, Lehigh Valley Vegetarians