Archive for the ‘Meat’ Category

Jun11

The Raw Campaign: An Interview with Jonty Whittleton

Share
Pin It

Nourishing the Planet’s Carol Dreibelbis spoke recently with Jonty Whittleton, senior campaign manager at Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), a U.K.-based organization working to end factory farming and promote animal welfare, about his involvement with the Raw campaign. The Raw campaign focuses on exposing the true cost of factory farming and building a movement for alternative food and farming solutions.      

Jonty Whittleton, senior campaign manager at Compassion in World Farming (Photo credit: Jonty Whittleton). 

I jumped at the opportunity to join Raw. The campaign is well-aligned with my interests and presents a unique opportunity to create positive change. Fighting factory farming lets you tackle a host of environmental, social, and ethical challenges at the same time. Plus I love food, so championing tastier, healthier, higher-quality food is second nature to me!

What, in your opinion, are the most serious impacts of factory farming?

Factory farming has an impact on animals as well as on people and the planet, at a local, national, and international scale. The primary impetus for Compassion in World Farming is to end animal cruelty, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Factory farming is a chronic, worldwide problem: it is linked to antibiotic resistance, obesity, devastated communities, and choked, polluted waterways.

This is the beauty of Raw. Whether you’re an environmentalist, a humanitarian, or both, the fight against factory farming concerns you.

What strategies does Raw use to improve the global food system?

Raw is a long-term movement with an ambition to stamp out factory farming. We recognize that we won’t achieve widespread change overnight. Our first goal is to convince a critical mass of decision makers and the public that factory farming is a failed system of food production. Our work can be broken down into three distinct areas:

  1. Campaigns aimed at communicating critical food and farming issues in compelling ways, with the objective of capturing minds and encouraging focused action;
  2. Networking with relevant opinion and decision makers, and finding opportunities to collaborate; and
  3. Recruiting famous individuals who believe in the mission of Raw and are interested in spreading inspirational messages.

In the future, we would like to expand our networks into other countries where we see a real need for Raw. Compassion already has feet on the ground in the United States, France and the Netherlands. We would also like to broaden the Raw supporter base and deepen the level of interaction.

Raw is working toward a food and farming revolution. What would the global food system look if this were achieved?

Factory farming prioritizes maximum production at the expense of the welfare of animals, people, and the planet. Our vision is a world where all have access to sufficient, nutritious food produced by humane, sustainable farming systems. These systems would protect the environment, support livelihoods in developed and developing countries, and meet our needs without wasting precious resources.

What agricultural innovations have you seen in your work that are making food production more sustainable?

One innovation that we have been following is lab-grown meat, which is in fairly early stages of development and remains controversial. We believe that lab-grown meat has the potential to feed the world’s meat eaters while massively cutting the number of animals farmed worldwide and, therefore, diminishing the impacts associated with factory farming.

And if we provide farmers—some of the greatest innovators known to man—with the right policies and incentives, they will surely find more sustainable and humane ways to do business.

How can our readers help make the food system safer, fairer, and greener?

It’s easy to feel despondent given the vast scale of the task as hand, but we all have the power to help kick start a food and farming revolution. We can vote for better food three times a day, sending a clear signal to retailers and producers that we believe in better food and farming. I have tried cutting out meat, but my  current mantra is to enjoy smaller amounts of higher quality meat. That way, you often don’t have to spend any more and you get to truly enjoy and take pride in your food. There are also a vast number of organizations fighting for a better food system—whatever your interest, now is the time to get involved. And you can always choose how involved you want to be; whether you want to lobby decision makers, donate a few dollars, or just watch a video, the choice is yours. Here’s to a food and farming revolution!

For more information on Raw’s work to end factory farming, please visit www.raw.info. What steps are you taking to work toward a humane, sustainable food system? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Carol Dreibelbis is a former research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Food and Agriculture Program.  

 

May08

Emissions from Agriculture and Livestock Continue to Grow

Share
Pin It

By Laura Reynolds

In 2010, global greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector totaled 4.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) equivalent, up 13 percent over 1990. Agriculture is the third largest contributor to global emissions by sector, following the burning of fossil fuels for power and heat, and transportation. In 2010, emissions from electricity and heat production reached 12.5 billion tons, and emissions from transport totaled 6.7 billion tons.

Agricultural emissions have increased over the past two decades. (Photo credit: www.mnn.com)

Despite their continuing rise, emissions from agriculture are growing at a much slower rate than the sector as a whole, demonstrating the increasing carbon efficiency of agriculture. From 1990 to 2010, the volume of agricultural production overall increased nearly 23 percent, according to data compiled by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for its program, FAOSTAT. FAO released a new GHG Emissions database for agriculture, forestry and other land use changes in Dec 2012, which can be found here.

According to FAO, methane accounts for just under half of total agricultural emissions, nitrous oxide for 36 percent, and carbon dioxide for some 14 percent. The largest source of methane emissions is enteric fermentation, or the digestion of organic materials by livestock, predominantly beef cattle. This is also the largest source of agricultural emissions overall, contributing 37 percent of the total.

Livestock contribute to global emissions in other ways as well. Manure deposited and left on pastures is a major source of nitrous oxide emissions because of its high nitrogen content. When more nitrogen is added to soil than is needed, bacteria convert the extra nitrogen into nitrous oxide and release it into the atmosphere. Emissions from manure on pasture in Asia, Africa, and South America together account for as much as 81 percent of global emissions from this source. These emissions from the three regions increased 42 percent on average between 1990 and 2010, reflecting an increase in range-based livestock populations; elsewhere, these emissions either decreased or stagnated.

(more…)

Jan10

Iguana Meat Is on the Table

Share
Pin It

By Victoria Russo

Green and scaly, with a mouth full of sharp teeth, the iguana might not look like a nutritious meal. But as the iguana population surpasses the human population in Puerto Rico—destroying gardens, digging holes under houses, and blocking roads and runways—residents are beginning to use the animal for meat. Although there is, as of yet, little global demand for this untraditional dish, Puerto Ricans are looking to international meat markets to support local pest control.

Iguana meat is said to taste like chicken. (Photo Credit: National Geographic)

Iguanas originated in Central and South America and were first brought to Puerto Rico in the 1970s to be sold as pets. The reptiles reproduce quickly, with mature females laying up to 70 eggs annually. Once iguanas entered the wild in Puerto Rico, the population quickly spiraled out of control. The animals are well camouflaged and very fast, which makes them difficult to catch.

By using iguanas for food, Puerto Ricans have found an effective way to control the reptile’s exploding population. Iguana meat has been compared to a slightly sweeter version of chicken, and common recipes include stews, tacos, and roasts. Iguana eggs are edible as well, and are said to have a rich, cheesy flavor. Puerto Rico is not the only place using iguanas for food: in Central and South America, the meat is seen as a delicacy. Nutritionally, it is rich in minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, and has more protein than chicken. If Puerto Ricans develop a taste for the meat, iguana could become a staple food source for the island.

Some other countries, including El Salvador and Mexico, already have export industries for iguana meat. Between 2001 and 2008, the United States imported more than 9,071.85 kilograms of the meat to meet the low but rising demand for consumption by humans. According to the Dallas Observer, iguana meat can go for up to $50 per pound in some U.S. markets. The business can be so lucrative that people in some countries have established iguana farms to ensure consistent supply. The production of iguana has resulted in markets for other products as well: iguana skin is used to make leather, while iguana oil is used for medicinal purposes (for example, for rheumatism, to clear up bruises, and as an aphrodisiac).

The production of iguana meat and other products could benefit Puerto Rico in multiple ways: it could protect other Puerto Rican fauna, offer new employment opportunities, and boost domestic food security.

Have you (or would you) try iguana meat? Let us know in the comments below.

Victoria Russo is a research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project.

 

Nov21

A Tale of Two Farms: Industrial vs. Sustainable Meat Production in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic

Share
Pin It

By Carol Dreibelbis

Most food in the United States comes from industrialized, intensive farms. Meat and dairy are no exception: nationwide, 40 percent of all U.S. food animals are raised in the largest 2 percent of livestock facilities. And these large-scale facilities, commonly referred to as factory farms, continue to grow. Between 1997 and 2007, the U.S. factory farming industry added 4,600 hogs, 650 dairy cows, 139,200 broiler chickens, and 1,100 beef cattle each day. On a global scale, industrial animal production now accounts for 72 percent of all poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production.

Pastured broiler chickens feed on grass and grain at Virginia-based Polyface Farm. (Photo credit: Polyface, Inc.)

Although factory farms provide large quantities of relatively inexpensive meat, the associated environmental, social, and human health costs are high. Factory farms rely on massive inputs of water, fossil fuel energy, grain-based feed, and other limited resources. Feed production alone accounts for an estimated 75 percent of the energy use associated with factory farming; growing animal feed also requires the input of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and it occupies arable land that could be used directly to grow food. An estimated 23 percent of all water used in agriculture goes to livestock production.

Industrialized meat production also creates huge amounts of waste, contaminating nearby air and water and threatening the health of humans and wildlife. Some large factory farms produce more waste than large U.S. cities. The livestock industry is also responsible for approximately 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than the entire global transportation sector. By contributing to climate change, factory farms affect people both locally and around the world.

(more…)

Nov16

U.S. Government Raises Estimates for Corn and Soybean Harvest, But Lasting Effects of Drought Still Loom

Share
Pin It

By Andrew Alesbury

The U.S. government predicts that the nation’s 2012 corn and soybean harvests will not be as low as previously predicted, although the effects of this year’s drought in the country’s top agricultural region are not yet over.

The USDA has raised its production
forecasts for corn and soybeans, but
the effects of the drought are not yet over (Photo Credit: Collective Vision).

In a recent report on national crop production, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts a slight rise from October’s projections, with total corn production expected to hit 10.7 billion bushels and soybean production projected to reach 2.97 billion bushels. Even with the new projections, the drought is expected to cause deficits in 2012 U.S. corn and soybean production of 13 percent and 4 percent, respectively, over 2011.

This summer’s drought was centered in the Midwest, the heart of U.S. corn and soybean production. Because the United States is the world’s biggest exporter of the two crops, the plant-withering conditions caused soybean and corn prices to reach record highs worldwide, fueling fears over continued price increases. But rainfall late in the growing season has lessened the drought’s impact, allowing farmers to make up for some of the crop shortfall and bring prices down.

Analysts such as Mark Schultz, chief analyst at Northstar Commodity Investment Co., speculate that decreased demand for grains has also helped to soften the blow of global shortages. “Surging costs may have damped demand by makers of food, biofuel and livestock feed,” Schultz said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Given all the rhetoric about the rest of the world running out of food, it appears that supplies are adequate and that high prices may have slowed demand.”

Yet not all is back to normal. Irrespective of recent rainfall or of demand compensating for decreased supply, the drought has still accounted for large crop losses and may have lasting effects. Corn yields for 2012 are expected to average 122.3 bushels per acre, down 24.9 bushels per acre from 2011. If these predictions prove accurate, they would represent the nation’s lowest corn output since 2006 and lowest average yield since 1995.

(more…)

Oct24

Global Meat Production and Consumption Slow Down

Share
Pin It

By Danielle Nierenberg and Laura Reynolds

Global meat production rose to 297 million tons in 2011, an increase of 0.8 percent over 2010 levels, and is projected to reach 302 million tons by the end of 2012, according to new research conducted for our Vital Signs Online service. By comparison, meat production rose 2.6 percent in 2010 and has risen 20 percent since 2001. Record drought in the U.S. Midwest, animal disease outbreaks, and rising prices of livestock feed all contributed to 2011’s lower rise in production.

Record drought in the U.S. Midwest, animal disease outbreaks, and rising prices of livestock feed contributed to the lower rise in meat production (Photo Credit: AZ Green Magazine)

Also bucking a decades-long trend, meat consumption decreased slightly worldwide in 2011, from 42.5 kilograms (kg) per person in 2010 to 42.3 kg. Since 1995, however, per capita meat consumption has increased 15 percent overall; in developing countries, it increased 25 percent during this time, whereas in industrialized countries it increased just 2 percent. Although the disparity between meat consumption in developing and industrialized countries is shrinking, it remains high: the average person in a developing country ate 32.3 kg of meat in 2011, whereas in industrialized countries people ate 78.9 kg on average.

Pork was the most popular meat in 2011, accounting for 37 percent of both meat production and consumption, at 109 million tons. This was followed closely by poultry meat, with 101 million tons produced. Yet pork production decreased 0.8 percent from 2010, whereas poultry meat production rose 3 percent, making it likely that poultry will become the most-produced meat in the next few years.

(more…)

Oct08

Yaks: The Bison of the Mountains

Share
Pin It

By Hitesh Pant

Originating in the “roof of the world,” the yak is an important animal, providing a host of nutritional and practical benefits to the people of the Tibetan plateau. It can withstand freezing temperatures and sparse vegetation, and is a major source of meat, milk, fiber, and hide. Although the population of Bos mustus sharply declined due to the arrival of new farmers who poached their meat for commercial gains, the domesticated yak (Bos grunniens) gradually migrated into Nepal, Bhutan, and Mongolia, becoming an essential driver of economic development in these regions.

Wild yaks are now regionally extinct in Nepal and India, and the demand for domestic pastures has sharply reduced their food source, and with it their population (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Similar in appearance to the North American bison, the yak is characterized by its thick black coat and large dewclaws, both of which are adaptations to the harsh climate of the Himalayas. Perhaps the most striking feature is its round and thick horns, whose open arch gives this bovine an intimidating appearance. The yak reaches sexual maturity by age six, and has an average life span of 23 years.

Seasonal variation of environmental conditions is the biggest limiting factor in yak growth and the main determinant of individual productivity; approximately 25 percent of the body weight gained during the summer is lost over winter and spring, an amount that is difficult to regenerate given the limited availability of year-round grasses. Despite the limitations on growth that they face—low annual rainfall, mean temperatures below 5°C, and seasonal shifts in vegetation—yaks have continued to supplement subsistence farming in the Himalayas and have become an important ecosystem service for the area.

Yak milk is very dense and thick, and its high fat (5.5-7 percent) and protein (4-5.5 percent) content makes it a valuable source of amino acids. Meat, which is primarily derived from castrated or ‘surplus’ males, is an important source of income to the herding families. The thick fur that coats the yak has been extensively used for insulating tin roofs and the growing demand for their fur has resulted in an increase in crossbreeding to bear individuals with the thickest fiber. Although the quality of their hide is lower in comparison to cattle, yak hide is a major source of rawhide in China and is used to pack raw butter, wrap boxes for storage, and felt boots and soles. Farmers use yak feces to make pens and enclosures for winter stocks, and they also paint it on fences to fill cracks.

Known locally as the ‘boat of the plateau,’ the yak serves as an important draft animal and is used for plowing and threshing grain. Likewise, its high endurance makes it ideal to carry loads across large distances without having the need to continually replenish it with water.

Unfortunately, the introduction of motor vehicles in rural Tibet coincided with an increase in commercial poaching, and coupled with the interbreeding of domestic and wild animals, looks to have gradually resigned yaks to the same fate as the bison. Wild yaks are now regionally extinct in Nepal and India, and the demand for domestic pastures has sharply reduced their food source, and with it their population.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

Oct01

Taihu Pig: A Fertile and Tasty Breed of Swine

Share
Pin It

By Caitlin Aylward

Pork plays a prominent role in Chinese cuisine, particularly in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River Valley. As a result, swine, like the Taihu pig breed, are important components of native agriculture and livestock production in the region.

The Taihu pig is a Chinese heritage breed known for its tasty meat (Photo Credit: Robin Loznak)

The Taihu is a domestic breed of pig from the Taihu Lake region in the lower Yangtze River valley of China. In general, the Taihu is a relatively large breed of pig, characterized by its thick skin, black color, large floppy ears, and distinctly wrinkled face. However there are several different varieties of Taihu, including the Meishan, Fengjing, Jiaxing Black, and Erhualian varieties, all of which are differentiated by the variability in character and the region they inhabit.

The Taihu pig is one of the most prolific pig breeds in the world, and is particularly well known for its high fertility rates. The Taihu sows are capable of producing multiple litters throughout their lifetime, often averaging around 14 piglets each; however litters can range in size from anywhere between 12 to 20 piglets. The Taihu also matures sexually at an early age, making it a popular swine among breeders.

Taihu pigs are typically raised in densely populated townships and cities. Consequently, the Taihu are often kept in enclosures year round. The diet of the Taihu is mostly comprised of barley and rice brain, but also includes radish, pumpkin, grass, and certain aquatic plants. The Taihu’s rich diet contributes to its highly desirable tasty and juicy meat. The swine’s exceptional resistance to disease is yet another advantageous characteristic that distinguishes the Taihu pig from other breeds.

(more…)

Aug14

Hidden Cost of Hamburgers

Share
Pin It

By Caitlin Aylward

The “Food for 9 Billion” project recently released a video highlighting the “Hidden Cost of Hamburgers” as a part of a new YouTube investigative reporting channel, The I Files.

The video uncovers the true price of a hamburger, revealing the environmental and social costs of factory-farmed meat.

The average American eats around 3 hamburgers a week, which adds up to 156 burgers per person each year. As a nation, Americans consume more than 48 billion burgers annually.

(more…)

Aug13

15 Innovations Making School Lunches Healthier and More Sustainable

Share
Pin It

By Seyyada A. Burney

As summer draws to a close, it’s time for kids to go back to school. Sadly, this often means a return to terribly unhealthy school lunches filled with fried chicken, pizza pockets, sugary drinks, and high-calorie snacks. School food can  jeopardize the health and well-being of America’s next generation, but fortunately, it’s also the best place to start addressing the obesity epidemic—one in three children is obese or overweight, increasing the risks of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver problems later in life. This needs to change.

Fostering healthy eating habits at a young age is critical to life-long health. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) feeds 32 million kids every year and is expanding rapidly as more families qualify for free or reduced-price meals. These lunches represent the primary source of nourishment for many children, but few schools have the facilities or the know-how to prepare fresh food—only the ability to reheat froze, processed foods high in sodium and fat. Even cafeterias that serve more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are often forced to subsidize programs using vending machines and snack bars loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup due to fiscal deficits and a lack of student interest.

As kids head back to school, Nourishing the Planet outlines 15 innovative ideas and programs that are making school lunches healthier and more sustainable.

1.         Higher nutrition standards: Under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can finally set nutritional requirements for school lunches—a measure they implemented earlier this year. First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently unveiled new national standards for school meals—the first in fifteen years. They require daily fruit and vegetable offerings; more whole grains; only fat-free or low-fat milk; and reduced saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium in school lunches.

2.         Cooking from scratch: Contrary to past privatization and outsourcing trends, a University of Michigan study reported that privately managed cafeterias have few economic advantages. Their food options are also more likely to be processed, with higher sugar, fat, and sodium contents and relatively few fresh vegetables. In recent years, entire school districts such as Minneapolis have introduced locally sourced salad bars and have shifted to more on-site preparation in order to serve kids fresher, more nutritious food.

(more…)