Has Vegetarianism Gone Out Of Style? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 7 2012 @ 10:22am

This recipe for squirrel melts will surely get another "gross" from Zack:

by Chris Bodenner

A reader quotes from the latest installment of the vegetarianism thread:

"Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in: at least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein; more environmental damage; and a great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat." The problem with this is that it (like many things that try to use this as an argument against a vegetarian or vegan diet) is that it neglects to mention the fact that livestock farmers use more of those grains to feed their animals (the eventual red meat) than any vegetarian or vegan would ever consume. So in turning away from meat one might consume more grains directly, but less grain would still be used overall, and therefore the idea that the use of grain is contributing to more deaths overall is moot.

Another agrees:

There may be a case to make that beef production results in less animal death … in Australia.

Of course, in the United States, where the use of Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations (CAFO) is much more widespread, far more of the average beef cow's life is spent in a feedlot, being fed soy and and corn, which is, as the article you link to points out, horribly inefficient. And that doesn't even touch most of our other common meat sources, like chicken, pork, and turkey.

If this was a debate between lovers of grass-fed beef pastured on marginal land and vegetarians, we'd have a debate. But most vegetarians criticize the farming system we have, not a hypothetically more human and less destructive one.

Another has numbers:

The majority of grain grown in the U.S. – something like 85% – if fed to livestock. Every pound of beef we produce consumed an additional 3-5 pounds of corn or wheat while in feedlots. Therefore, to make any sort of assertation about the environmental or animal-cruetly impacts of eating meat you have to take into consideration the damage associated with the amount of grain being fed to these animals. If we are talking about red meat, as your article does, the ratio of grain to beef becomes something near 20:1. The amount of damage done by meat farming, then, is compounded and ends up magnitudes of difference higher.

From Cornell: "The 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population." From Utah State University: "So, with the example above of 50 bushels of corn fed to a finished animal, now 4.67 pounds of corn were required for each 1 pound of beef. If you calculate the red meat yield from this and equate that to pounds of feed per pound of red meat yield, that conversion may approach as high as 20, especially using the 6 pounds for every 1 pound gain."