Re “From Hoof to Dinner Table, a New Bid to Cut Emissions” (front page, Dec. 4):
There is a solution to at least some of the beef industry’s sustainability woes, and that is to raise cows in a pasture-based system.
Many of the beef industry’s problems result from feedlots that consume tremendous amounts of grain and that pour out huge sloughs of waste. Finishing the cattle on grass is a far “greener” method.
Of course, the meat is more expensive since it takes lots of real estate to freely graze a herd, and it’s tougher than typical supermarket fare (Americans are used to a style of marbling that’s caused by grain diets and flabby cattle, whereas grass-fed cows are trim from their daily ambles). But the leaner meat from grass-fed animals actually tastes richer and more savory.
The other problem with meat consumption is proportion. Consumers can help the beef industry save itself by both buying less and choosing grass-fed.
Evan D. G. Fraser
Jamaica Plain, Mass., Dec. 5, 2008
The writers are the authors of “Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World.”
To the Editor:
Missing from your article was mention of deleterious environmental and health effects resulting from intensive animal farming in addition to global warming. An approach to address all of these, instead of just developing technology to control methane emissions, is vital.
Specifically, the increasing meat-consumption trend could be reversed if consumers paid the true price for meat. For this to happen, subsidies that keep animal feed artificially low, and encourage producers to raise as many animals as possible, should end.
In addition, allowing animal waste to be spread on fields at rates higher than can be absorbed, resulting in nutrient runoff and oceanic dead zones, needs to be stopped.
If these policies were adopted, small-scale animal agriculture would be a more economical model, and people would eat less meat. This would result in improved human health, decreased environmental destruction and better animal welfare.
Baltimore, Dec. 5, 2008
To the Editor:
Kudos to The New York Times for covering the much-neglected connections between meat and climate change. As you note, the lack of media coverage of the livestock sector’s contribution to climate change is one reason it has escaped large-scale public outrage.
At the yearly Meat Marketing conference this summer in Nashville, the industry representatives seemed most worried about negative press concerning animal welfare; the words “global warming” were never even uttered. Now, with mounting public awareness, the meat industry may soon realize that investment in sustainable practices is not just a nice idea. It is essential for the industry’s survival.
With a new administration and agriculture secretary we can also hope that our leaders will also grasp that food and farming policy is climate change policy as well, and will make bold choices to ensure a healthier planet for all of us.
Brooklyn, Dec. 4, 2008
The writer is a co-founder of the Small Planet Institute.
Note from KBJ: The author of the New York Times story describes human beings as "carnivores." This is stupid. A carnivore is an organism that, by nature, feeds only on animal flesh. A herbivore is an organism that, by nature, feeds only on plants. An omnivore is an organism that, by nature, feeds on both animal flesh and plants. Human beings, like dogs, are omnivores. No human being has ever been, or ever will be, a carnivore.