“Big Organic” Organic Farming Faces New Larger Challenges

 

We’ve all seen it, whether your looking for it or not, those “USDA Organic” labels are showing up more, and in more places too.  It’s no longer pushed into a “special” corner or separated from the bunch, and it’s also available year round.  It’s now called “Big Organic”  and you can find non local organic foods in the grocery aisles year-round, thanks to organics’ meteoric expansion during the past three decades.

USDA Big OrganicIt’s at this intersection of supply and demand where some people question organics’ exponential growth wondering if the movement has lost its soul along the way.  Many longtime organic champions voice concerns about the implications of “Big Organic” and how it affects the true tenants of organic agriculture. Producers, retailers, and shoppers alike fret about increased environmental and economic impacts as organic expands.  Are the worries justified?  Or must organic farming scale up to compete in a global marketplace.

 

 

What Is Big Organic?

 

You may support your own small-scale organic favorites: local companies that make great, wholesome products, sell them at regional shops,and maintain a homemade, hometown vibe.  But you’ve undoubtedly seen ( and likely bought) Big Organic too: large-scale operations, such as Earthbound Farm or Horizon Organic, that supply enormous amounts of certified-organic products to national and international markets (think Costco and Walmart), often at lower prices.

Small towns are not the only parts of the U.S. that desperately need access to organics across socioeconomic lines.  Even large urban districts with sound infrastructure suffer from restricted access to affordable, organically grown produce and packaged goods.  Walmart recently released a statement that it intends to double its organic-produce offerings, but it didn’t mention accountability measures or specific time frames.  As the organic market grows to meet demand, the following challenges and compromises will grow too.

 

Local Challenges

 

Although small-scale organic farming & food makers are the movement’s roots, they sometimes struggle to produce enough, often because or forces outside their control (weather, commodity price fluctuation, sourcing difficulty) that can drive up prices.  In contrast, large companies are able to lean on a deep and wide supply network, which mitigates some of the variables all food producers face.

Organic Farming Big OrganicLet’s say, for example, that you make a fantastic granola with certified-organic ingredients in a small commercial kitchen.  You might order your oats from a nearby farmer you know personally and your nuts and dried fruit from in -state sources.  “But then you  decide to expand your business, so now you need to make a lot more granola.  That probably means connecting with suppliers you don’t know but who can provide larger quantities, perhaps from distant or even international farms.  In addition, now your ingredients travel from all over the world to reach you, and you must ship your finished products in all directions-using vastly more production resources and fossil fuels than before.  So more people get your organic granola, but it’s a trade-off.

“Scale has always been a challenge in organic food for the simple reason that conventional farming, organics’ antithesis uses herbicides, pesticides, and GMOs to maximize crop yield in the shortest time possible.  Large-scale organic operations also aim for healthy yields but subscribe to a broader ethical and sustainable farming approach.” say Danny Houghton, vice president of marketing and sales at One Degree Organic Foods in Abbotsford,,  British Colombia.  “Choosing to compete in this way with conventional farmers in not something that should be passed over lightly.  It’s a daunting task.”

 

Economic Challenges

 

Size also matters when it comes to making organic goods affordable form more consumers.  Large-scale companies can reach a larger pool of customers because of improved production and transportation efficiencies, say Houghton.

Earthbound Farm, suppliers of now-ubiquitous organic boxed lettuce, was among the earliest organic  players to go big.  “We’re Organic Earthbound Lettuce Organic Farmingproud to offer an organic alternative to conventionally product food where people do the majority of their shopping: at the supermarket,” says co founder Myra Goodman.  Because Earthbound Farm is able to achieve economies of scale by large production year-round in a suitable climate, it is able to make organic farming more affordable and reach a larger audience.  Another little-heralded economic benefit:  Organic farming is more labor-intensive and provides more long-term work for skilled farm workers, thus contributing to local economics.

But while availability goes up and prices go down, Goodman also acknowledges that something important gets lost.  “Small growers can offer consumers a much more intimate connection with their food.  It’s wonderful to be able to meet the people who are growing your food face-to-face, whether at a farmers’ market or while picking up your CSA box, and be able to ask questions and hear their unique stories about what’s going on in their fields or orchards,” she says.  Another often-overlooked consideration: In a time when many large-scale organics are owned by conglomerates, such as Unilever and PepsiCo, smaller ones tend to be independently owned and invested in their local communities.

 

Environmental Challenges

 

Because of USDA organic standards, which took effect in 2000, all verified-organic manufactures must comply with strict regulations and meet regular inspection requirements.  In as sense, these standards were written with organics’ soul in mind, to create a level playing field for anyone seeking to ear the trusted USDA Organic seal.

Organic Farming LettucesOne Primary function of these standards: to protect Earth.  Small organic farming producers are nimble enough to implement new strategies or change harvest practices if necessary when prices or weather patterns fluctuate, but the sheer size of large operations often force them to rely of gas and water sucking farm equipment to meet their supply goals.

Even so says Goodman, it’s worth it.  According to the USDA, there are nearly 5 million acres or organic farmland across the nation, representing less than 1 percent of total U.S. agricultural acreage.  “The more people buy organic food, the more land is farmed without dangerous synthetic chemicals.  Earthbound Farm alone avoids the use of more than 19 million pounds of synthetic agricultural chemicals every year; that’s a huge impact,” she says.

Organic benefits Earth’s inhabitants, too and not just the shoppers who eat clean, toxin-free foods.  Farm workers in organic fields are exposed to far fewer pesticides and herbicides compared with convention farms, many of which require no safety measures for laborers.

 

Vote With Your Dollars

 

So is small always beautiful?  That depends on your priorities.  “While all food companies are entitled to make a profit, you should do your homework and choose to reward companies that balance the pursuit of profit with tangible, sustainable business practices,” says Houghton.

Whether you find shelves of organic cereal in a big-box store or a single organic brand in a small town, Goodman’s personal approach may simplify your decisions.  “I think in this conversation about big and small organic, it’s really important not to pit one against the other and realize that all organic farming is a huge step in the direction of creating a healthy and sustainable food supply,” she says.  “People need to know that when the health of their family and the environment is a top concern, they need to choose organic first and foremost.  The questions of size an location are truly secondary.”

The thing I really like about this article is that it shows the incredible challenge this originally “Grass Roots” industry and the consumers who support it face.  It’s like any small high quality product or process that goes above and beyond for a social or moral impact, but then is faced with growth and expansion that will pull at the very core that holds it together.  I do believe that “Organic” is good overall, and will definitely be positive from an environmental standpoint.  But in a world where the big international companies could eventually run the majority of the market, I think is where you lose most of the economic value.  Will we follow the clothing & manufacturing trends and eventually import the majority of “Organics” because we want it cheaper & companies can make it cheaper elsewhere?  Lets hope not, but in the mean time, support your local co-op or farmers market, you won’t be able to beat that local organic farming “Freshness.”

Article Adapted From: -Delicious Living

What’s your take on “Organics”? Share your comments and stories in the comments below or with us social media.

 

 

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Lynne is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Therapeutic Massage and Ethics Educator with extensive study in preventative nutrition and physiology. For over 35 years, Lynne has helped thousands of people through consulting, seminars and writing.

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5 Healthy Ways To Speed Up Your Metabolism

 

Most dieters are aware of  metabolism and it’s effects on an individual’s weight.  Metabolism is a process that serves many important functions, including converting food and drinks into energy and using energy to construct certain components of cells.

For the typical dieter, metabolism can be a natural-born enemy, a process that simply isn’t fast enough for dieters to lose weight.  Even more frustrating, a person’s metabolism can hinge on genetics and gender.  People may inherit a speedy or slow metabolism.  Gender also plays a role as men have a tendency to burn more calories than women, even while resting.  Those who inherited a speedy metabolism are often the people who can seemingly eat whatever they want without gaining a pound.

But gaining a faster metabolism isn’t just for men or those who inherited  a speedier metabolism at birth.  In fact, here are 5 healthy ways to speed up your metabolism.

 

Healthy Way #1 To Speed Up Metabolism

 

5 Healthy Ways To Speed Up Your MetabolismPack on some muscle.  People with more muscle tend to have a higher resting metabolic rate.  That’s because muscle burns more calories than fat.  According to the American Council on Exercise, each pound of fat burns just 2 calories per day, while various estimates suggest each pound of muscle burns between 35 to 50 calories per day!  Those figures might seem insignificant, but they add up over time and someone with significant muscle can burn considerably more calories than someone without.  Employ resistance training to build muscle, as such training activates muscles all over the body, increasing your daily metabolic rate as a result.

 

Healthy Way #2 To Speed Up Metabolism

5 Healthy Ways To Speed Up Your Metabolism

Emphasize intensity.  Daily exercise is great, but high-intensity daily exercise will prove more effective at speeding up your metabolism.  Low or moderate intensity workouts don’t pack the same punch as high-intensity workouts, which produce a longer increase in resting metabolic rate.  Sign up for Zumba or a spin class at your gym, or find something similar you can do at home like Burst Interval Training.  All of these are the kind of high-intensity cardiovascular workouts that can speed up your metabolism.  These kinds of workouts can also help busy people get a great full body workout without blocking off big chunks of time.

 

Healthy Way #3 To Speed Up Metabolism

 

5 Healthy Ways To Speed Up Your MetabolismEmbrace grazing.  Grazing is a dietary philosophy in which individuals eat 5 to 6 smaller meals every 3 to 4 hours instead of 3 large meals each day.  Eating this way helps keep your metabolism working, and the result is you will burn more calories throughout the day than you would if you ate a more traditional diet.  Of course, what you eat while grazing is important, too.  Choose low-fat high-nutrient foods, and snack on fruits and vegetables instead of more popular snacks like potato chips.  Grazing on unhealthy foods won’t lead to weight loss and may even cause weight gain.  Some of my personal favorites are shelled pumpkin seeds, baby carrots, apples, oranges and bananas, some of which I purposely leave out on the counter to make it easy.

 

Healthy Way #4 To Speed Up Metabolism

5 Healthy Ways To Speed Up Your Metabolism

Eat more protein.  Protein can serve many purposes for people trying to lose weight.  Protein has a tendency to make you feel full when you eat it, reducing the likelihood that you will overeat.  In addition, the body burns more calories when digesting protein than it does while digesting fats or carbohydrates.  Turkey, low-fat dairy products, fish, nuts and beans are great sources of protein, which should not be all you eat but can be used a periodic replacement for other foods that may slow down your metabolism.  Did you know:  1/4 cup of shelled sunflower or pumpkin seeds has 10 grams of protein?  Talk about easy, a big handful would give you around 20% of your daily recommended value.

 

Healthy Way #5 To Speed Up Metabolism

 

5 Healthy Ways To Speed Up Your MetabolismStay hydrated.  Your metabolism will likely slow down if you allow yourself to get dehydrated.  When the body does not have enough water, several of its functions, including the ability burn calories, slow down.  Muscles are roughly 70 percent water, so if they are not fully hydrated they cannot generate energy, affecting your metabolism.  In addition, the body is not as effective at using fat as fuel when it is dehydrated, further slowing metabolism.  Staying hydrated is as easy as drinking enough water throughout the day.  How much water an individual needs to stay hydrated is open to debate among medical professionals, but most of us know the ” 8 or more glasses of water per day” rule, which studies show burned more calories than those who drank 4 glasses of water per day.

 

Many people feel they were either gifted at birth with a fast metabolism or doomed from the start with a slow metabolism.  But an individual’s metabolism is not set in stone, and there are a host of healthy ways men and women can speed up their metabolism.  Use these 5 Healthy Ways To Speed Up Your Metabolism and you’ll be well on your way!

 

 

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Lynne is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Therapeutic Massage and Ethics Educator with extensive study in preventative nutrition and physiology. For over 35 years, Lynne has helped thousands of people through consulting, seminars and writing.

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7 Simple Ways To Beat The Winter Blues

 

The holidays are behind us and the sun & nice weather seem like a only a distant dream.  No wonder we feel like climbing back into bed.  According to Consumer Reports, up to 20 percent of adults suffer from subsyndromal SAD, a milder from of seasonal affective disorder, better known as the winter blues.

“The increased hours of darkness disrupt brain chemicals that affect mood,” says Dr. Kathryn A. Roecklein, an assistant professor of psychology at thte University of Pittsburgh.  But that doesn’t mean you have no choice but to mark the days until spring.  Try these 7 simple ways to beat the winter blues and watch your mood improve:

6:30am to 7:30am

Catch a sunrise.  It will set the tone for your day, boosting levels of serotonin, your brain’s feel-good chemical.  Not up for an early morning?  Try to get 30 minutes of sunlight a day, suggests Dr. Stephen C. Josephson, a seasonal depression specialist and associate professor at the Cornell University Medical School.  If it’s gray for much of the winter where you live, consider light-box therapy, in which you sit for a half hour in front of a box that mimics outdoor light (about $100 and up).  It may sound a little weird but, “They have results similar to antidepressants and with far fewer side effects,”  Josephson says.

7:30am

Always eat breakfast.  Besides improving energy and curbing cravings, breakfast  helps regulate your internal clock, or circadian rhythm, research suggests.  Aim for a combination of complex carbs and protein with a smaller amount of healthy fats, suggest Jackie Newgent, a registered dietitian in NYC.  Try oatmeal made with fat-free milk and topped with dried fruit, nuts and seeds; granola with plain Greek yogurt, berries and sliced almonds; or an egg with grits topped with bell peppers sauteed in a little olive oil.

12:30pm7 simple ways to beat the winter blues pin

Get some (fun) exercise.  Besides improving energy, exercise released mood-boosting chemicals.  Experts recommend squeezing it in during the daytime to get an extra dose of sunlight.  Set aside at least 30 minutes a day for your favorite activity, maybe walking your dog or jogging.  When it’s cold, go mall walking or, if you have access to an indoor pool, swim or do  water exercises.  “Your joints benefit from the hydrostatic pressure, and being immersed in warmish water when it’s cold outside fells like pampering,” says Gina Allchin.

3:00pm

Have a smart snack.  Cravings for sweets really do go up during winter months, since they trigger the release of pressure-producing chemicals dopamine.  But sugar will cause your blood glucose level to spike and then crash, leaving you hungry again.  Instead, bust afternoon hunger pangs with a combination of protein, fiber and healthy fat, which will keep you full until dinner.  Good choices include apple slices with peanut butter, popcorn sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, or a snack sized bag of almonds, pistachios or walnuts.  This can also be a perfect time to use our natural Moodlift Complex.  This unique Shaklee combination contains St. John’s wort, which research shows provides dietary support for a positive mental outlook after four to six weeks of use, and inositol, (found to be at lower levels in people with the “blues”) which complements the activity of St. John’s wort by playing a role in the proper transmission of nerve signals.  Read more here

5:30pm

Do something nice for someone.  Research suggests that small, random acts of kindness can indeed lift your spirits.  Try this as your day winds down: Pay the toll for the car behind you on the way home; invite someone who’s new at your office or in your neighborhood to lunch the next day; or help a friend or relative move.  It will silence your inner grouch.

7:00pm – Bedtime

Relax.  Set yourself up for a good night’s sleep and counter the effects of stress with an unwinding ritual that begins early in the evening.  Before dinner, hit the “off” button on your phone and computer; (for some this may seem impossible or daunting) after dinner, soak in a hot bath or sip a cup of caffeine free tea.  Meditate for 10 minutes right before you hit the sheets.  And count your blessings to help you fall asleep.  Studies have found a correlation between reflecting on the things you’re grateful for and a more positive emotional state.

So if you feel like this winter is never ending and you find yourself with a case of the winter blues, use these tips to help you get back in a positive state of mind.  And keep in mind that these tips offer positive real world benefits without having to combat side effects and a negative push back on your body.  Cheers to a happier you!

Have your own tips or things you’ve found helpful? Share them with us in the comments below or with us on your favorite social network.

 

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Lynne is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Therapeutic Massage and Ethics Educator with extensive study in preventative nutrition and physiology. For over 35 years, Lynne has helped thousands of people through consulting, seminars and writing.

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Do You Make This Crucial Brain Robbing Mistake?

 

For many parts of the U.S. and abroad this time of year marks the dead of the Winter season.  It can bring brutally cold temperatures and make it hard to think about leaving the warm to go work out or just get to some exercise equipment.  As I write this article it is -16 here in Minnesota with a -41 windchill!  So believe me in saying its not always easy.  But as we’ll see below we may have some rather simple options that can provide us with huge benefits.

Everyone knows walking is good exercise, but it has another benefit: a daily 20-minute walk can cut the risk of Dementia by 40%, studies are showing.  In a previous article we wrote it shows that people’s number #1 fear as they get older is losing their mind.

Taking those findings a step further, neurologists at Jacksonville, Florida’s Mayo Clinic are studying whether getting patients immobilized by disease to walk can also help ward off mental decline.

Dementia, Alzheimers, Stroke, Exercise Brain HealthDr. Jay Van Gerpen, a neurologist who specializes in gait, is recruiting Parkinson’s patients for a study to help them stay on their feet and retain brain health.

“Walking is a window to the brain,”says Van Gerpen.  Regular walking not only helps preserve brain function in healthy people, but also protects against further damage caused by Dementia, Alzheimer’s and diseases like Parkinson’s, a degenerative disease that causes tremors, motor impairment and cognitive decline.

When someone’s gait changes – steps get shorter or pace slows – that frequently indicates the brain is damaged.  Thus, walking problems are common in those with Dementia and Parkinson’s, because these conditions cause brain cells to die.

Walking not only slows that progression, but helps brain cells recover by forming new connections, Van Gerpen said.  Van Gerpen invented a laser device several years ago that helps Parkinson’s patients walk better.

The device attaches to walkers or canes and shoots a red laser beam in front of the person walking.  Visual cues can help Parkinson’s patients focus on stepping over the line, they access the visual part of the brain, which bypasses the motor output area that isn’t working, Van Gerpen “Said.

The device was a game changer for Wayne Puckett of Clermont, California.  Four years ago, the 48 year old started having tremors, followed by difficulty walking and memory problems.

Puckett said gait freezing was the biggest issue.  “I would just come to a halt, especially at doorways,” he said.  The former postal worker used to  be able to memorize two zip codes worth of street addresses, but that ability was gone.

In March 2010, he went to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where Dr Van Gerpen diagnosed him with a form of Parkinson’s and gave him a Mobilaser that attaches to his walker.

The first time Puckett used the Mobilaser, which is now distributed worldwide and costs $400, he couldn’t believe the difference. “I Dementia, Alzheimers, Stroke, Exercise Brain Healthwas almost walking like normal.  I was in sheer amazement.  It still amazes me.”

It helped in other ways, too.  “When I wasn’t able to move as much, I noticed my brain was much worse,” Puckett said.  “With the laser I can move, get around, and am definitely able to concentrate better.”

In a 2012 study, Van Gerpen’s team studied a small group of Parkinson’s patients who had difficulty walking.  By using the laser, they cut in half both the time it took them to walk a course, and the number of times they came to a halt, said Van Gerpen.  His new study aims to prove that the laser helps patients walk every day, over months and years.

“Getting these patients walking is extremely helpful because it helps the brain’s blood flow and reduces mental and muscle decline, ” said Dr. Nizam Razack, a neurosurgeon and Florida Hospital Celebrations Health who performs brain surgery on Parkinson’s patients to help improve their motor impairment.

But beyond helping those with Parkinson’s, a daily walk has broader implications for Americans who are developing Dementia at an epidemic rate, said Van Gerpen.

Dementia is on the rise not just because Americans are living longer, but because they have so much vascular disease.  “Dementia is related to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes,” he said.  All these conditions impair blood flow to the brain.

“When blood flow in a large vessel to the brain gets blocked, a person has a stroke,” said Van Gerpen.  “When small vessels get blocked, brain tissue also dies.  You just don’t notice it at that moment.”

Walking reduces the risk of small vessel damage.  That will delay the onset of dementia and help protect what function is left.

The device has also helped Kenneth Sikora of The Villages, put one foot in front of the other again.

Sikora, age 66, has lived with Parkinson’s for more than 20 years.  He had been using a walker to get around “but not getting very far,” said his wife, Kathryn Sikora, who speaks for her husband because he has difficulty talking.

“Now, he’s up and moving hours a day as compared to not at all,” his wife said.  Puckett estimates he’s walking at least three times as much, at double or triple the speed than before.

 

So as we’ve take in the information, we’ve seen that even a simple 20 minute walk a day could help us stave off Dementia at a rate of over 40%.  Is that worth it to you?  Who cant find 20 minutes a day to just walk!  Find out more about the 4 ways our brains age and how we can take measures against it here.  We hope this information can help you take a proactive approach to aging and put the outcome in your hands.

 

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Lynne is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Therapeutic Massage and Ethics Educator with extensive study in preventative nutrition and physiology. For over 35 years, Lynne has helped thousands of people through consulting, seminars and writing.

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Which Foods Are The Worst For The Environment?

 

The argument that a vegetarian diet is more planet-friendly than a carnivorous one is straightforward: If we feed plants to animals, and then eat the animals, we use more resources and produce more greenhouse gases than if we simply eat the plants.

As with most arguments about our food supply, through , it’s not that simple.  Although beef is always climatically costly, pork or chicken can be a better choice than broccoli, calorie for calorie.  Comparing cows with pigs, and meat with plants, is often done using data from the Environmental Working Group, which produced a report in 2011 that detailed the environmental cost of meat.  The report includes a chart that ranks various foods according the amount of emissions generated in the course of production.

Ruminants are the worst offenders, with lamb generating 39 kilograms of carbons  dioxide for each kilogram of meat, and beef generating 27.  Then come pork (12), turkey (11) and chicken (7).  Plants are all lower, ranging from potatoes (3) to lentils (1).  But there’s another way to look at the same information.  If you stop eating beef, you can’t replace a kilogram of it, which has 2,280 calories, with a kilogram of broccoli, at 340 calories.  You have to replace it with 6.7 kilograms of broccoli.  Calories are the great equalizer, and it makes sense to use them as the basis of the calculation.

 

“There are other arguments, on both sides – so many that it’s easy to pic the ones that make the case for whichever kind of agriculture you’re inclined to support.  Grass-fed cows don’t compete for plants humans can eat, and animals grazing on non-irrigated pastures don’t compete for water that could be used to grow food (true), but grass digestion creates more methane than grain digestion (also true).”

 

When you reorder the chart to look at climate impact by calorie, the landscape looks different.  The ruminants still top the chart, but the monogastrics look a whole lot better.  Low-calorie crops like broccoli don’t do so well.  Although beef still looks bad and beans still look good,  pork and poultry are on a par with green vegetables.  (Which means that a beef-and-leaf paleo diet is the worst choice going environmentally speaking)

The claim that vegetarianism is kinder to the planet also fails to consider a couple of kinds of meat that aren’t on the Environmental Working Group’s chart.

Deer and Canadian geese do active damage in the areas where they’re over populated, and wild pigs leave destruction in their path wherever they go.  Eat one of those, and do the planet a favor.

Most people, though, are most likely to get their food from the farm, and it’s important to note that, although the chart attaches one number to each kind of food, farming styles vary widely and not all pork chops or tomatoes, or eggs are created equal.  Unfortunately, its all but impossible for us consumers to figure out the climate impact of the particular specimens on our dinner table, whether they’re animal or vegetable.

Which foods are the worst for the environment

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, organic agriculture’s CO2 emissions per acre are significantly less than those of conventional agriculture.  But yields per acre are also generally lower, and that mitigates the savings.  Counterintuitively, the strawberry you buy from the farmer down the road might have a bigger environmental footprint that the strawberry you buy from far away, where a large farm in an ideal climate may grow it more efficiently.  But it might not.  You can’t know.  It’s maddening.

When it comes to meat, trying to eat responsibly presents a genuine conundrum:  What’s best for the planet is often what’s worst for the animal.  The efficiencies of modern conventional livestock farming do indeed decrease greenhouse gases, but they also require the confinement and high density that draw the ire of animal welfare advocates.

 

“The case for plants has to include their nutritional value.  Carbon aside, broccoli beats pork, hand down.”

 

Growing an animal as quickly as possible decreases climate impact because it’s that many fewer days (or weeks or months) the animal is here to pollute.  Increasing feed efficiency likewise decreases the acreage devoted to growing the animal’s food.

Rich Pirog, senior associate director of the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State University, has studied the environmental impact of various ways of raising livestock; he has co-authored studies of Iowa cattle and pigs.  For beef, he found that feedlots, where cattle are kept at high densities and fed grain, beat pastures, where animals are allowed to graze, in the tally of environmental impact.  (A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academics of Science reached a similar conclusion.)

There are other arguments, on both sides – so many that it’s easy to pic the ones that make the case for whichever kind of agriculture you’re inclined to support.  Grass-fed cows don’t compete for plants humans can eat, and animals grazing on non-irrigated pastures don’t compete for water that could be used to grow food (true), but grass digestion creates more methane than grain digestion (also true).  Grazing cattle on grasslands can sequester carbon in the soil, but improperly managed grazing can make things worse rather than better.  Pollution from manure reservoirs on conventional farms can threaten water and crops, but manure in reservoirs, from animals in confinement, can be converted to energy by methane digesters.  Then there’s the price of meat, inevitably high in less efficient systems.

The meat vs other meat debate is irrelevant to the committed vegetarian, but there are issues other than greenhouse gases in the meat vs plant debate, too.  The case for meat includes the ability of an animal to contribute constructively on an integrated farm (chickens help with pest control), the potential for turning food waste (spent grain, whey, expired dairy) into high-quality protein, and the ability to use grasslands, inappropriate for row crops, to produce human food (with grazing cows or goats).

The case for plants has to include their nutritional value.  Carbon aside, broccoli beats pork, hand down.  And it has to consider killing, which many plant eaters find unacceptable.  While the moral implications are beyond the brief of a column devoted to matters of fact, we all have to acknowledge that agriculture is an animal killing enterprise.  Does the rat, poisoned because it’s a threat to the grain stores, count for less than the pig, raised and slaughtered with care?

There is no one label (vegetarian, local, organic) that carries all the responsibility.  There isn’t a last word, which means there’s not a lot of room for sanctimony.  While I think we all need to pay attentions, vegetarians shouldn’t tell omnivores to eat quinoa instead of pork any more than omnivores should tell vegetarians to eat venison instead of quinoa.

 

Where do you stand?  Tell us what you think in the comments or by joining the conversation on any of the social networks to the left of this article.

 

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Lynne is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Therapeutic Massage and Ethics Educator with extensive study in preventative nutrition and physiology. For over 35 years, Lynne has helped thousands of people through consulting, seminars and writing.

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