Stone Age diet secret: Cavemen ate less meat than we thought
Scientists reconstructed ancient diets by measuring the fraction of heavy-to-light nitrogen isotopes in fossilized bones.
Posts tagged meat.
this is how I feel about eating any meat.
it just … irks me.
Five years ago, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization published a report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which maintained that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were attributable to the raising of animals for food. The number was startling.
A couple of years later, however, it was suggested that the number was too small. Two environmental specialists for the World Bank, Robert Goodland (the bank’s former lead environmental adviser) and Jeff Anhang, claimed, in an article in World Watch, that the number was more like 51 percent. It’s been suggested that that number is extreme, but the men stand by it, as Mr. Goodland wrote to me this week: “All that greenhouse gas isn’t emitted directly by animals. ”But according to the most widely-used rules of counting greenhouse gases, indirect emissions should be counted when they are large and when something can be done to mitigate or reduce them.”
The exact number doesn’t matter. What does is that few people take the role of livestock in producing greenhouse gases seriously enough. Even most climate change experts focus on new forms of energy — which cannot possibly be effective quickly enough or produced on a broad enough scale to avert what may be the coming catastrophe — and often ignore the much easier fix of adjusting our eating habits.
It’s good that we’re eating somewhat less meat, but it still amounts to something just shy of a staggering 200 pounds per person per year. And no matter how that number changes domestically, on the world scale there’s troubling movement in the wrong direction. Meat consumption in China is now twice what it is in the United States (in 1978 it was only one-third). We still eat twice as much per capita as the Chinese, but when they catch up they’ll consume more than four times as much as we do.
But the Chinese don’t need to eat like us; we need to eat like them. Or, rather, like they did until recently.
If you believe that earth’s natural resources are limitless, which maybe was excusable 100 years ago but is the height of ignorance now, or that “technology will fix it” or that we can simply go mine them in outer space with Newt Gingrich, I guess none of this worries you. But if you believe in reality, and you’d like that to be a place that your kids get to enjoy, this is a big deal.
A primer: The earth may very well be running out of clean water, and by some estimates it takes 100 times more water (up to 2,500 gallons) to produce a pound of grain-fed beef than it does to produce a pound of wheat. We’re also running out of land: somewhere around 45 percent of the world’s land is either directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, and as forests are cleared to create new land for grazing animals or growing feed crops, the earth’s capacity to sequester greenhouse gases (trees are especially good at this) diminishes.
I could go on and on about the dangers of producing and consuming too much meat: heavy reliance on fossil fuels and phosphorous (both in short supply); consumption of staggering amounts of antibiotics, a threat to public health; and the link (though not as strong as sugar’s) to many of the lifestyle diseases that are wreaking havoc on our health.
Here’s the thing: It’s seldom that such enormous problems have such simple solutions, but this is one that does. We can tackle climate change without inventing new cars or spending billions on mass transit or trillions on new forms of energy, though all of that is not only desirable but essential.
In the meantime, we can begin eating less meat tomorrow. That’s something any of us can do, with no technological advances. If personal choice enacted on a large scale could literally save the world, maybe we have to talk about it that way. We could be heroes, like Bruce Willis in “Armageddon,” only maybe the sacrifice is on a more modest and easier scale. (You already changed your light bulbs; how about eating a salad?)
As the global appetite for meat grows, we’ll doubtless figure out a way to satisfy it. But no matter how profitable that may be for producers, the toll it would take on our finite and dwindling resources would be unconscionable.
We have to think about producing and eating meat in those terms. Anything else would be unethical.
You should be worried about mad cow disease. There is no proof California’s mad cow case didn’t come from feed. Also, we’re still feeding cows to cows.
Also, just don’t eat meat?
If you’re paying premium prices for pesticide- and antibiotic-free meat, you might expect that it’s also free of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not so, according to a new study. The prevalence of one of the world’s most dangerous drug-resistant microbe strains is similar in retail pork products labeled “raised without antibiotics” and in meat from conventionally raised pigs, researchers have found.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a drug-resistant form of the normally harmless S. aureus bacterium, kills 18,000 people in the United States every year and sickens 76,000 more. The majority of cases are linked to a hospital stay, where the combination of other sick people and surgical procedures puts patients at risk. But transmission also can happen in schools, jails, and locker rooms (and an estimated 1.5% of Americans carry MRSA in their noses). All of this has led to a growing concern about antibiotic use in agriculture, which may be creating a reservoir of drug-resistant organisms in billions of food animals around the world.
Tara Smith, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa College of Public Health in Iowa City who studies the movement of staph bacteria between animals and people, wondered whether meat products might be another mode of transmission. For the new study, published this month in PLoS ONE, she and colleagues bought a variety of pork products—395 packages in all—from 36 different stores in two big pig farming states, Iowa and Minnesota, and one of the most densely populated, New Jersey.
In the laboratory, the team mixed meat samples “vigorously” with a bacterial growth medium and allowed any microbes present to grow. MRSA, which appears as mauve-colored colonies on agar plates, was genetically typed and tested for antibiotic susceptibility.
The researchers found that 64.8% of the samples were positive for staph bacteria and 6.6% were positive for MRSA. Rates of contamination were similar for conventionally raised pigs (19 of 300 samples) and those labeled antibiotic-free (seven of 95 samples). Results of genetic typing identified several well-known strains, including the so-called livestock-associated MRSA (ST398) as well as common human strains; all were found in conventional and antibiotic-free meat.
Red meat lovers have more kidney cancer
Researchers found that adults who ate the most red meat were 19 percent more likely to be diagnosed with kidney cancer than those who ate the least.
revenge of the cows
A new study says eating less meat could help double the world’s food supply.
Along with sustainable farming, and reduced deforestation (both issues related to meat and livestock feed production) eating less meat might mean more food for everyone. Researchers suggest that by using prime farmland to grow food to feed humans rather than inefficient livestock, countries could increase their edible food supplies by 50%. Not just a good thing but a nessesary one.
The world population is currently around 6.9 billion and is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. If everyone in the west continues eating their current meat-heavy diet and folks in developing nations continue to increase their intake, there will not be enough edible resources to go around.
The study’s authors aren’t saying that everyone even has to go vegan (although they should). The authors suggest that avoiding meat 2 or 3 days a week could do the trick. Amazing to think that such a small change could have such a huge impact.
Curious to see how this new research changes the debate. The study will be published in its entirety on October 20th in the journal Nature.
The Detroit Zoo serves up a meat-stuffed Chicago Bears pinata in the lions den. Detroit plays Chicago on “Monday Night Football.”
Photo: Carlos Osorio / AP (via SFGate: Day in Pictures)