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Author and food activist Nina Planck was raised on a family farm in Virginia, where she learned to appreciate "real," traditional foods. She worked as a reporter for TIME Magazine[…]

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

Question: Is eating "real rnfood"rnenvironmentally responsible?

rnrnrnrnNina Planck: rnEatingrnreal food is absolutely environmentally responsible, if by real food we rnlook tornfoods of animal origin – that is meat, dairy and eggs – to traditional rnmethods ofrnproduction. So the argument which was most forcefully made by Francis rnMoorernLappe in "Diet for a Small Planet" that meat production isrnenvironmentally destructive and even socially unjust was sound insofar rnas itrnwent because it was a critique of industrial meat production.  If we look to traditional methods ofrnproduction, which we call grass farming in a very simple definition thatrn isrnraising animals for meat on grass and raising…  Thosern are beef, dairy, cattle and lamb and raising chicken andrnpigs on pasture, but with supplemental feed because they’re omnivores rntoo.  If we look to those methods we findrnthat those are not only environmentally sound, but enhance thernenvironment.  They make use ofrnun-farmable land.  They can evenrnenhance riparian areas.  Those arernwetlands.  And certainly there arernno unpleasant and costly byproducts from raising animals that way and rnI’ll justrncite one example, cattle manure is a major environmental waste product.  It is housed in what are called manurernlagoons.  They’re basically hugerncesspools near industrial cattle and hog operations.  Therern are so-called environmental grants in order to creaternimpermeable pools.  That is cementrnfloors for these pools to keep this waste product from leaching intorngroundwater.  This is what passesrnfor environmental legislation, right? rnWe give you a grant to keep a waste product out of the rngroundwater.  Much simpler to let the cattle walkrnaround on grass and feed themselves rather than put them in a feedlot rnand stuffrnthem on grain where you have to remove the manure because in this way rnthernspread the manure around themselves on grass and pasture that needs it.  Wendell Barry described – you know ourrngreat agronomy philosopher – described industrial cattle and hog rnoperations asrnneatly dividing one solution into two problems, so the solution would bern letrnthe animals feed themselves on grass and spread their manure themselves rnwithrntheir own four hooves, rather than pooling their manure so that we then rnhave twornproblems.  One, ground that needsrnnitrogen fertilizer and two, a manure cesspool that needs… that becomes arn toxicrnwaste dump.