How Meat Can Be Green

Question: Is eating "real \r\nfood"\r\nenvironmentally responsible?

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nNina Planck: \r\nEating\r\nreal food is absolutely environmentally responsible, if by real food we \r\nlook to\r\nfoods of animal origin – that is meat, dairy and eggs – to traditional \r\nmethods of\r\nproduction. So the argument which was most forcefully made by Francis \r\nMoore\r\nLappe in "Diet for a Small Planet" that meat production is\r\nenvironmentally destructive and even socially unjust was sound insofar \r\nas it\r\nwent because it was a critique of industrial meat production.  If we look to traditional methods of\r\nproduction, which we call grass farming in a very simple definition that\r\n is\r\nraising animals for meat on grass and raising…  Those\r\n are beef, dairy, cattle and lamb and raising chicken and\r\npigs on pasture, but with supplemental feed because they’re omnivores \r\ntoo.  If we look to those methods we find\r\nthat those are not only environmentally sound, but enhance the\r\nenvironment.  They make use of\r\nun-farmable land.  They can even\r\nenhance riparian areas.  Those are\r\nwetlands.  And certainly there are\r\nno unpleasant and costly byproducts from raising animals that way and \r\nI’ll just\r\ncite one example, cattle manure is a major environmental waste product.  It is housed in what are called manure\r\nlagoons.  They’re basically huge\r\ncesspools near industrial cattle and hog operations.  There\r\n are so-called environmental grants in order to create\r\nimpermeable pools.  That is cement\r\nfloors for these pools to keep this waste product from leaching into\r\ngroundwater.  This is what passes\r\nfor environmental legislation, right? \r\nWe give you a grant to keep a waste product out of the \r\ngroundwater.  Much simpler to let the cattle walk\r\naround on grass and feed themselves rather than put them in a feedlot \r\nand stuff\r\nthem on grain where you have to remove the manure because in this way \r\nthe\r\nspread the manure around themselves on grass and pasture that needs it.  Wendell Barry described – you know our\r\ngreat agronomy philosopher – described industrial cattle and hog \r\noperations as\r\nneatly dividing one solution into two problems, so the solution would be\r\n let\r\nthe animals feed themselves on grass and spread their manure themselves \r\nwith\r\ntheir own four hooves, rather than pooling their manure so that we then \r\nhave two\r\nproblems.  One, ground that needs\r\nnitrogen fertilizer and two, a manure cesspool that needs… that becomes a\r\n toxic\r\nwaste dump.

While industrial meat production is environmentally destructive and socially unjust, raising animals for meat on in grass pastures actually enhances the environment.

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