America’s Unsustainable “Diet!”

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 11:23 AM


America’s Unsustainable “Diet!”

Where do you get your protein? According to the New York Times, roughly 70 percent of American protein requirements are obtained through the consumption of meat. The Chinese, on the other hand, consume roughly 20 percent. Diets high in meat protein are linked to many chronic health problems. These problems include: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and many types of cancers (to list a few). 

Did you know?

  • Did you know it takes protein to make protein?
  • It’s true; the American diet is literally “robbing from Peter to pay Paul!” 
  •  This is why more than 70 percent of the grain and cereals that we grow in this country are fed to farmed animals (PETA).
  • The practice is also largely ineffective and produces food shortages throughout the world.
  • “It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat, and even fish on fish farms must be fed up to 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce 1 pound of farmed fish flesh” (PETA).
  • “It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein” (PETA).
  • According to World Hunger: “Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is the most lethal form of malnutrition/hunger. It is basically a lack of calories and protein. Food is converted into energy by humans, and the energy contained in food is measured by calories.  Protein is necessary for key body functions including provision of essential amino acids and development and maintenance of muscles.”
  •  “Every year 15 million children die of hunger” (World Hunger).
  • Basically, one third of the world is starving. Meanwhile, the United States is using fossil fuels, and other finite resources to maintain an unsustainable diet. Our agricultural industry is using roughly 16 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat.
  • In 2007, the worlds gross meat supply (poultry, pork, fish, cows, etc) was “estimated to be 284 million tons” (NY Times). This means that in 2007 the world’s agricultural industry spent roughly 908,800,000 pounds of grain and cereal or 454,400,000 tons to produce the meat we are eating! I assume that 454,400,000 tons of grain would go a long way to eliminating hunger worldwide.
Other Problems.

  •  “According to Greenpeace, all the wild animals and trees in more than 2.9 million acres of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil were destroyed in the 2004-2005 crop season in order to grow crops that are used to feed chickens and other animals in factory farms.”
  • Industrialized farming is not only using vital resources, but it is also a major contributor of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere and other Greenhouse gasses.
  • In addition, According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “the runoff from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.”
  • There is literally hundreds of millions of tons of feces polluting our waterways and cities worldwide due to meat farming.
  • According to Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke, factory farming constitutes "a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems." This translates into roughly “89,000 pounds per second” of untreated fecal contaminants. 
So What Now? 

  • You may be asking yourself, where do we go from here, and how can I make a difference.
  • The answer is as complex as it is simple. We live in a market based economy. Where there is demand there is supply. Therefore, we must cut out dependence on meat based protein. I am just like anyone, I enjoy the occasional steak; but is it worth the consequences? You don’t have to cut meat out of your diet (as it is a good source of complete protein); you just need to cut you percentage of calories obtained from meat.
  • If we truly cut our dependence on meat based protein from 70 percent to roughly 20 (the Chinese target) of our diet, think of how much good we could do worldwide. We could literally eliminate worldwide hunger, lower greenhouse gas emissions, create an abundance of toxin free drinking water, and stabilize our economy by lowering our dependence on foreign oils and unneeded health care costs.
  • The solution to America’s Unsustainable Diet is not a one size fits all solution. Sensible varied diets, responsible choices, and a ground up restructuring of our agricultural industry all must happen. I believe that with enough vision, collaboration, and courage we can make a difference. I believe in the power of US! Do you?
 


References
Bittman, Mark. "Re-Thinking the Meat-Guzzler." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News. The New York Times, 27 Jan. 2007. Web. 3 Feb. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html?pagewanted=all>.
Brody, Jane E. "Huge Study Of Diet Indicts Fat And Meat - New York Times." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Web. 03 Feb. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/08/science/huge-study-of-diet-indicts-fat-and-meat.html?pagewanted=all>.
"Meat Production Wastes Natural Resources | PETA.org." People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA): The Animal Rights Organization | PETA.org. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Web. 03 Feb. 2012. <http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/meat-wastes-natural-resources.aspx>.
"Worldwide Hunger." An End to World Hunger: Hope for the Future. Think Tank. Web. 03 Feb. 2012. <http://library.thinkquest.org/C002291/high/present/stats.htm>.

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