Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Food (or Meat) Crisis

"Cutting down on carnivorism is a message that the world does not want to hear."

"It takes about 7 pounds of corn to produce 1 pound of beef, 6.5 pounds of corn to produce 1 pound of pork, and 2.6 pounds of corn to produce 1 pound of chicken."

Marianne Lavell and Kent Garber, "Fixing the Food Crisis," U.S. News and World Report, May 19, 2008

I am not by nature an evangelical, prosletyzing vegetarian. As I tell my kids, I've eaten my share of chickens.

The argument that first got me trying out vegetarianism was presented in a classic cookbook of the 1970s, Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe. She made the above "efficiency" argument" -- and I was convinced, if unable to follow the path.

Although China's consumption of meat has risen to 109 pounds per person with economic growth and a larger middle class, compared to 273 pounds per person in the US in 2007, "Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa suggested that the Chinese 'go back and eat rice' if they don't like the fact that American corn is being used for ethanol." You've got to love our sense of entitlement.

I wandered for years, just eating chicken or fish, and sometimes falling completely off the wagon. My final turning point came while reading Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. There was the cruelty factor, of course, but I was ultimately convinced by his non-belief in the crystal clear divide between humans and other creatures. He posed the simple question, "Wouldn't most animals prefer living another day if asked." I'm haunted by the happy tail wagging "yes,another day."

The scale up problem for vegetarianism, despite these solid arguments and Singer's recipes, seems insurmountable when looked at objectively -- protein rather than carbs, taste, and being able to throw it on the grill. But vegetarianism is one of those things that just makes sense.

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