Mind Your Meat
Let’s just get this out there: Carnivores have an added responsibility in the world’s food problem. Meat production is inherently inefficient. Raising livestock consumes water and energy to convert calories in the form of grain into less calories in the form of meat—not to mention all the water, energy, and resources it took to grow that grain to begin with.
But just because meat is inefficient doesn’t mean it’s entirely bad. Livestock eat plenty of things that are inedible to humans. They’re also essential to plant agriculture—they consume what would otherwise be agricultural waste, control pests, and generate fertilizer. Animals also represent a source of critical nutrients and a secure financial asset to farmers in poorer countries.
But the global meat production system is overextended. We dedicate a third of the arable land on earth to feeding livestock, they eat a quarter of our cereal grains, and the global appetite for red meat is only growing. It’s not as simple as saying “a cheeseburger costs 100 gallons of water and four pounds of corn,” but when it comes down to it, perhaps the single easiest way consumers can reduce stress on our food system is to eat a little less corn-fed beef.
When you do crave red meat, find a butcher that processes local, pasture-raised animals (Lowry Hill Meats, St. Paul Meat Shop, and Clancey’s are all good places to start in the Twin Cities). If you have a deep freezer, consider buying a quarter cow or whole hog from a local farm. Not only will the meat be delicious, you will be making a serious impact on a local farmer’s bottom line and bypassing a wasteful supply chain at the same time.
The problem isn’t eating meat; it’s eating meat mindlessly. To rely on the supposed convenience of the golden arches is to ignore the fact that meat is a precious, resource-intensive commodity. And to see something that consumed so many resources get mangled into a lifeless gray sponge of a burger? What a shame.