There have been a lot of falsehoods in the news lately about “alternative” meat. These are meat substitutes made from plant material and/or products cultured from animal cells and called meat.
There has been even more written about the “damage” done to human health, the environment, and the moral fiber of people so barbaric as to eat animals. Most of these stories are the factual equivalent of the juvenile, backbiting attacks politicians visit on each other. As the Nazis demonstrated, some percentage of the public will believe almost any lie. Tell the lie often enough, especially if you can do so with passion, and you can have a significant portion of the people ready to “burn the witch!”
Facts and logic mean nothing to people in this state unless they can be twisted to support their position. So how do we, as ethical people, deal with the attacks on our livelihood?
With the certainty of dating myself, we need to follow the advice of the old song and “Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.” We have a good story and we need to tell it to other producers, but more importantly we need to tell it to the public in general. At the same time, we need to do our best to eliminate the negative. One picture of animals being brutalized will undo the good done by a dozen pictures of fat, happy cattle on green pasture.
There are a lot of positives to be accentuated. Beef and other meats are extremely beneficial in the human diet. We are omnivores, physiologically adapted to eating both plants and meats. We need both plants and meats, not one or the other. In the United States and other developed countries that have adopted industrial agriculture, the mineral content in all foods from meats to grains to fruits and vegetables has dropped drastically in the last 50 years. This loss is a prime factor in the explosion of human disease – Alzheimer’s , heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and most other chronic maladies have nutritional components. We are overfed but undernourished. This condition would benefit greatly from having more nutrient-dense meat in the diet. Before you add me to the witches’ fire for stating that eating meat is good for your heart, please check out the abundance of good, peer-reviewed research available at WestonAPrice.org.
I recently was in the company of a young couple and their two young children. The parents are intelligent, well-educated people who love their kids. They are also committed vegans who eat and feed their children only plant material, even to the point of giving them soy juice instead of milk. I am not a physician, but I have a lifetime of experience in recognizing illness in my animals. Those two children are malnourished, their developing bodies need the high-quality protein, biologically available minerals and saturated animal fat not present in a plant diet. The misinformation put out by the anti-meat coalition is harmful to adults but applying it to children is, to my mind, child abuse. I got afield from my original thought on the demonization of meat production but the effects of agricultural practices that detract from human health are important. There is more information on my website if you want to pursue the thought.
Trying to assess the effects of meat production on the environment without describing the production methods is an exercise in futility. The effects will range from hideous to extraordinarily good depending on what is done and how it is done. There is no denying that agriculture has been and is still a major source of environmental damage. The odor and the wind and water erosion from a 20,000-head feedlot is staggering but trivial when compared to the damage done worldwide by cropping with what are considered conventional methods today. People who want to replace meat with soybeans and kale in order to “reduce greenhouse gases” badly need a course in basic ecology. Every time soil is tilled this cycle of events takes place: Soil carbon – which is essential for soil health – is oxidized into CO2, the ability of the soil to take in and store water is reduced, beneficial soil life is killed, and soil is lost to erosion. If activists are serious about reducing greenhouse gases and improving the health (in multiple ways) of the environment, they should join the regenerative agriculture movement. No simplistic “ban the meat or the dairy or the whatever” campaign can come close to the valuable effects of returning properly managed animals to the land. Holistically planned and managed grazing can reverse most of possibly all the deleterious effects of industrial agriculture. This can be feasible, productive, profitable and a good way to live. Check my website for information on how this can be done.