Page 2 of 4
Our meat eating, as an end result of our food system, has made us the fattest people on the planet, and, as many of you have probably already heard, our fatness is having a direct dramatic effect on our health, and our life expectancies. Kids today will live shorter lives than their parents, because of what they eat. And they eat a lot of meat.
A report released just this week by a group of retired military officers calling for healthier school lunches declares an impending national security crisis if obesity rates aren't reduced: one in four young people are too fat to join the military.
I'm not eager to send anyone off to fight, fat or thin, but you know things are bad when retired military types are lobbying for healthier school lunches.
Four years ago the UN released a report titled 'meat's long shadow' which declared that meat production has a greater negative impact on the environment than any other area of human activity—growing animals for food produces 51% of the world's production of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all our of transportation—cars, trains, and planes—put together.
According to a 2004 report, about 70 percent of the grain produced in this country goes to feed farmed animals—the WORLD's cattle consume enough calories to feed 8.7 billion people—more than the world's total population. 1.5 billion people could live on the grain and soy being fed to American cattle alone: as much as I want to take the animals' side in this, and tell everyone to give up meat to lessen their suffering, it's we, the people, who are really losing out by participating in the industrial meat system.
Raising animals for food degrades or destroys ecosystems, generates air and water pollution, and consumes precious fresh water. More than 90 percent of the rainforest that's been destroyed is now being used to graze livestock or grow grain to feed food animals. Then there's e-coli problems, and mad cow disease; high cholesterol and heart disease; sinking water tables and eroding topsoil... the list goes on and on. Where are we? We're trapped by our habit of eating meat in a system that is destroying the environment, harming our health, and subjecting billions of animals to unspeakable suffering. Switching to a vegetarian diet does more to lessen one's environmental impact than almost anything: more than switching to a hybrid car from an SUV, more than eating locally grown food. Going vegan a couple of times a week does more for the environment than going totally local.
Transportation of food accounts for about 11% of its carbon footprint, not insignificant, but production amounts to more than 80%—and animal products are far more intensive on the production side—just imagine the amount of energy needed to slaughter and process one billion living creatures, and then clean up the mess.
So, again, where are we? We're here, in New York City, in Manhattan, far from most of the sources of our food. We're surrounded by food choices—amazing restaurants serving every cuisine known to man or woman. Delis and grocery stores are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to provide us with whatever we desire. Asparagus in December? No problem—we'll fly it in from the southern hemisphere. Ten kinds of peppers? If you're grocery store doesn't have them, go to one that does.
All that food comes in by plane, train, or truck—I'm not even going to go into the energy expended stocking our fair city's shops, kitchens, and pantries. What's truly shocking is what gets trucked right back out, days or weeks, or months, later: thousands of tons of uneaten food.