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We must change food production to save the world, says leaked report (theguardian.com)
47 points by perfunctory 75 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments



Facts:

- The meat over-production has a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions

- Humans naturally didn't eat the amounts of meat which we consume today

- Humans don't need to eat large quantities of meat for any health of fitness reasons

- Eating large amounts of meat increase the chances of certain cancers

Therefore, given that there is nothing natural about eating meat at the current levels and given that there is no health benefit of eating this much meat and even has some negative impact and given that the meat production is contributing to the demise of our planet, it's only logical to drastically reduce our meat consumption. Laws need to be drafted. Taxes on meat need to be risen, etc.

All those fatsoes which claim they couldn't live without meat should be treated like smokers: a dying breed of humans inflexible of understanding the above logic. There's always going to be some fat guy who thinks that eating McDonals burgers every day is normal, but the reality is that it's not and one day these people will be dead and new generations will have grown up in a world where it's normal to eat more veg & fruit and will think "how weird is it that people once ate an entire cow just for breakfast", just like kids today think "how weird is it that someone was allowed to light up a cigarette on an airplane where the smoke is affecting everyone around them and where open fire is generally considered a risk".


While you're completely right on the "calories available per energy expended" point, nutrition has come around to thinking that meat is a source of "fatsoes" (what with being mostly protein and fat), and

> - Humans naturally didn't eat the amounts of meat which we consume today

Humans "naturally" ate whatever was available and edible, in northernly latitude they certainly ate ridiculous amounts of meat what with most of the food available outside of high summer being hunted or fished. Humans are not a vegetarian species, and their survival on a strictly vegetarian diet is non-trivial.

Furthermore, our staple cereal carbs literally didn't exist in the "natural" diet timespan, the sources of carbs would have been fruits (where and when available at all) and fibrous and starchy tubers, so your appeal to nature isn't exactly helpful to feeding the world while solving climate change.

Finally:

1. not all meats are equal, poultry has an FCR of about 2 (that is 2 units of feed will produce 1 unit of chicken or eggs), rabbits and pigs are around 3.5~4 and beef cattle is ~6.

2. of note, dairy is worse than beef on an FCR basis.

3. OTOH not all feed are equal and I don't know that FCR takes this in account (cattle being fed raw roughage while poultry or fish is fed concentrate)

4. feed can be a side-product of other food production (e.g. straws) or it might be produced on lands otherwise inclement to human food production, or as part of a rotation scheme


> Humans "naturally" ate whatever was available and edible, in northernly latitude they certainly ate ridiculous amounts of meat what with most of the food available outside of high summer being hunted or fished. Humans are not a vegetarian species, and their survival on a strictly vegetarian diet is non-trivial.

For the most part of our existense we didn't eat much or any meat. Only when humans invented the farming of livestock we started our journey to the (over) consumption of meat.

Our teeth, nails and inability to easily digest raw meat and other physical properties are also a testament to the fact that we were not designed to hunt and eat meat as much as we think we do.


> Our teeth, nails and inability to easily digest raw meat and other physical properties are also a testament to the fact that we were not designed to hunt and eat meat as much as we think we do.

I don't know where you got that idea. Our teeth are pretty standard omnivorous and we have archaeological evidence of hunting long predating modern humans (we're talking >2MYA).

> Our teeth, nails and inability to easily digest raw meat

As opposed to our ease of digesting raw beans, grains and tubers, which at best we literally can't do and at worse are actively toxic unless extensively prepared?


> inability to easily digest raw meat

Humans digest raw meat just fine. Cooking does help a bit but not that much as to suggest it's an evidence for us being herbivorous. It's more about taste and safety nowadays.

I'd suggest you try raw meat vs raw beans/grains and tell me which ones you have more problems digesting.


These are ideological driven oversimplifications, not facts.

However it's not that hard to play this game

The Plant-based milks,grains, pasta, breads, Industrial Seed Oils, flours, cereals over-production has a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions

Humans don't need to eat large quantities of Plant-based milks, grains, pasta, breads, Industrial Seed Oils, flours, cereals for any health of fitness reasons

Humans naturally didn't eat the amounts of Plant-based milks, grains, pasta, breads,Industrial Seed Oils, flours, which we consume today

- Eating large amounts of meat increase the chances of certain cancers (Based on epidemiological/observational/rat studies)


How is that ideological ? You sound like every meat lover who just can't stop eating his steak


There's not really any meaningful definition of "natural" that is useful in the context you are using it.

You are arguing that people eating what they like isn't natural!


Please provide citations for your claims.


I think you can use google yourself, but I honestly hope that we can conduct a conversation with a certain expectation of common knowledge. I hope I don't have to provide links that gravity exists when I tell you that when I throw a rock it will hit the floor.

None of these claims are new or controversial. They have been researched and proven to death by now.


Here's what you've done in this thread so far:

"These are facts: ..."

(baseless claims with no justification)

"I hope I don't need to explain why they're are true"

(no justification or actual argument)

"None of these are controversial"

(apart from people disputing them here)

"They have been proven"

(without presenting proof)


I'll quit meat completely (already eating less than 1 lbs/week, so it's easy) if someone else starts buying new devices only when the battery starts failing? Because that infuriates me to no end, "lololol I still have my S7, but the S8 looks better, and my laptop is out of storage space".


And then you will move the goalposts and nothing will change. Many people do that...

Anyway, the point is to not strike at consumers, but the producers. Taxation and environmental targets are the way to do it.


What goalposts though? I can safely say "I'm doing my part". But overall it's nothing, not even a blip. There's more spoiled meat and broken phones in the local dump than I'd ever use.

This only works if everyone does it, production will fall of there's no demand. Although that would bring economic problems in the current system...

Taxation may work, but the best way is to change the culture. The alcohol and tobacco tax has skyrocketed, yet people still drink and smoke a lot. I think the mindset of "not smoking is better, I'd rather never start" worked better than the taxes.


By not throwing away 1/3 of food in western world would make world saving much easier: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/aug/20/f...


Even if climate change open up more land for agriculture near the Arctic circle, I don't think that fertile soil will magically move there.

Are we going to try to move billions tons of soil ? That does not seem really feasible. So all in all we are going to see the total surface of arable land diminishes in the coming decades.


That said, about 40% of arable land is currently being used to grow cattle fodder. So there's a big opportunity here: if we drastically reduce our meat consumption (especially beef and lamb), which is not a huge effort, we can significantly reduce GHG emissions, stop deforestation, and reclaim arable land.


Every stat I hear about meat production is shocking. 40% is lunacy. For anyone interested, the book, Diet for a Hot Planet takes a close look at this topic.


The wind and animals carry around the seeds and bacteria needed for soil to happen naturally. It takes some time though, not sure how long.


IPCC politely requested media not to quote or cite the draft report. Of course, media ignored it.

Let's just wait a few days. Can't you wait?

https://www.ipcc.ch/2019/07/16/media-reports-draft-special-r...


This makes me think of Alan Savory calling for the reduction of elephant population to save the land from overgrazing and then later regretting it.

Today he preaches using cattle and herds to turn deserts green.

"We were wrong before and we are wrong again." - Allan


Unfortunately the majority of beef we eat does not come from grass fed cattle.


Most beef cattle in the USA are raised on pasture from birth in the spring until autumn (7 to 9 months). Then for pasture-fed animals, grass is the forage that composes the great majority of their diet. Many cattle are then fattened before slaughter in feedlots and are fed small amounts of hay supplemented with grain, soy and other ingredients in order to increase the energy density of the diet (fattiness carcass weight, etc).

(And a lot of this cattle raising is done on huge tracts of land which used to be grazed by Bison, which we nearly eradicated, and replaced their biomass with cow biomass.)

I think its somewhat disingenuous to say the majority of the beef we eat does not come from grass fed cattle. But if you want more purely pasture raised animals, that is mostly an economic argument which is somewhat separate from what's best for the land, etc.


We need to do a lot of things, not just change food production. We should do all of these things, not just change food production. I'm not sure why people are so laser focused on cattle when we need to make drastic cuts everywhere. This isn't an either-or. This isn't optional. "Preferences" are irrelevant when it's between an uninhabitable earth for large parts of the human population and a habitable one.

I'd love to own a car and I'd love to eat 500g of beef everyday, but that's utterly unsustainable, so I don't.


The report is about land use, not CC mitigation in general.

Also, the beef problem is conceivably solvable. It’s the lowest-hanging fruit around.


It's no more easily solvable than transportation or travel habits or any number of other sources of GHG. I think you underestimate how hard it will be to force people to change their eating habits significantly, but it's a change that needs to be made, just like a lot of other changes.


Surprisingly easy. Just make it extremely expensive and most people will switch to Indian kind of diet. (Or Chinese before extreme availability of poultry.)


You could do the same for a lot of things. And it still isn't as easy as you're imagining. Just look at Americans screaming about freedoms and gun ownership. It's the same clusterfuck. Pretending it's otherwise is just delusional.


The combination of climate change and increased competition from a growing population will make meat unaffordable for all but the very rich.

"We're Already Starting To Ration Our Corn" - Perfect Storm Could Send Spot Prices Higher - https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-08-03/were-already-start...


That will be a NO for me. Beef, bison, and eggs are my favorite.

The premise that food production is causing climate change is wrong. The ship Indiana Harbor, 1,000 ft long, delivers coal from Superior to a power plant near Detroit 2 times a week. It hauls 6 train loads of coal at one time. That power plant receives 3-4 shipments a week. Just one plant...but, cows are the problem...LOL!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTWLbO9GgCc


There are bigger issues that should be taken care of for sure, but the current food industry is a mess, especially the meat industry.

I personally don't think completely stopping eating meat makes sense, but surely there are steps between 300gr of meat everyday (avg us consumption) and no meat at all. Especially considering the amount of low quality ultra processed junk most people eat.

People bitch about not being able to have an impact on pollution all the time but stopping eating meat is probably the next best thing you can do after selling your car. And you're right in a way, it's not an excuse to give a free pass to other things.


If we're talking individual contributions, here's a few easy ones: buy new equipment less often, paint roofs and walls white/silver/reflective, use gravity fed heating systems (more up to house builders), if you have a garden grow edible plants, maybe have a chicken coop, use a bicycle for short trips.

And yet, one trip on a yacht equals dozens of families doing the above. So people say, why should I suffer if those people don't?


> So people say, why should I suffer if those people don't?

Depends on your moral compass I guess. If you think "suffering" is eating less meat and reducing your car/plane travels I have bad news for you though.

The more people engaged in these behaviors the better. Do you want to wait until the elite tell you to stop destroying the world (pro tip it's not going to happen as long as it's profitable) or do you want to tell the elite what to do ? The latter is only going to happen if a non negligible portion of the population decide to take action. And yes, it's going to be painful, we'll have to stop some of our habits, adapt others, &c. It'll just be paying the cost of living unsustainably for the last few decades.


Yacht? You meant jet?


Don't even get me started on those :)


> the current food industry is a mess

Made worse by the Supermarkets, who still insist on "nicely shaped" produce and farmers then have to landfill the "ugly" produce. One UK Supermarket is proudly advertising its "Wonky Veg" initiative, but then the idiots are then wrapping them up in apparently non-recyclable plastic. These people are IDIOTS and do not represent me as a consumer.


nope.jpg

The produce that's slightly better than inedible is used for soups, salsa, jam, ice cream, juice, smoothies, stock, etc.

The produce that is ugly is sold at the grocery stores for poor people.

The reason you only see tier 1/2 shape and flavor produce is because you're priviledged.

Ugly produce is a non-issue, eating meat is non-sustainable and oil companies are killing our planet.


But I like coal, so coal can't be the problem either. ROLF!


And the energy produced by the plant goes where and does what? Are you sure it's not related to food production?

For example, the Haber-Bosch process burns natural gas (3 percent of the world's production) and releases loads of carbon (3 percent of the world's carbon emissions). That process is used to produce ammonia, which goes into fertilizer production, which is used to fertilize fields to produce crops. As a result, more than half of the nitrogen in our bodies was fixed using the Haber-Bosch process. And that process, by releasing CO2, does definitely contribute to climate change.


And that’s ok. The no beef movement should materialize in terms of laws, taxes and enforcement - voluntary efforts (or refusals) are irrelevant.


Food production is a larger source of pollutants than transportation in the global economy.


Hmm... Not yet but close enough. Unless you consider destruction of ecosystems and habitats, then way yes.


if you only look at primary source you're correct. But if you assign pollution by end product then food production is the worst. Fertilizer production and food supply chains are part of food production imho.


I have to say I agree with this sentiment somewhat, if there is anything we shouldn't change without a very good replacement, is good production.

Let's stop burning coal and worry about he rest later.

Note, I'm all for protecting forrests, reductionism etc, we should just stop making people guilty for eating food.


A rational approach to climate change consists of accounting for GHG emissions where they are and cutting them where they are. Meat production and fossil energy are 2 large causes of GHG emissions, and so we must significantly reduce both. There's no debate to be had about this, it's just facts and numbers.

The point is not to make people for eating meat, just like it's not to make people guilty for lighting and heating their homes with coal-powered electricity. It's just to live sustainably. Let's not deny the facts because we don't like to hear them.

Is eating less beef a decrease in life comfort? Yes, it certainly is. It's still much, much better than living in a +2°C hotter world, in which getting any food at all will become challenging.


> A rational approach to climate change consists of accounting for GHG emissions where they are and cutting them where they are

The problem here is that would require an enormous international agreement. I do not see the political will for this in the largest polluters (US, China) and corruption would be a major problem in large parts of the world.

Doing this on anything less than a global scale would lead to unintended side effects where importing from country A get cheaper because A does not tax GHG emissions, just replacing the emissions.

You could theoretically fix this at the border with tarifs, but determining how much emissions a particular product caused becomes real hard real quick.


Easy enough patch: require full (GHG, ecosystem impact) documentation of production process. This would also push some business in country as that's skip the tariff and make the documentation requirements easier.

Kinda like FCC for radios.


I repeat

> I do not see the political will for this in the largest polluters (US, China) and corruption would be a major problem in large parts of the world.


Reductionism just doesn't work as long as constant growth is a requirement of our economic systems. It just doesn't go hand in hand. We will also never use less energy than we are using today, so we better improve energy production.

Doesn't mean we should skip engineering energy efficient devices. That is just an additional requirement.


You, and I, all of us, in fact, will have to change our lifestyles in order to preserve the habitability of our planet for us and our children. Our current culture is unsustainable.

Pointing at coal in this context is whataboutism at its finest. Yes, coal has to go. But so does beef. Than has been clear for decades now, it's not news.


> That will be a NO for me. Beef, bison, and eggs are my favorite.

Your favourites simply don't matter at this point.




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