Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Eating one-fifth less beef could halve deforestation (nature.com)
83 points by dotsam on May 6, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments

Brazil is burning down rainforest to graze cattle and grow soybeans for that cattle, which is then sold to Mcdonalds and burger king among others.

Indeed. And this is because lumber export bans made them unable to trade extremely precious resources like Mahogany.

So they did the obvious thing that any impoverished, developing country would do and burned it down for farmland and agriculture.

This article could be entitled: "Unintended consequences: why UN export bans are the key driver of deforestation for the last 50 years."

If they could export mahogany, then they’d be cutting the rainforest down to export mahogany. What is your point?

There is a chance they might replant them so that they could harvest it again in 30-50 years while a switch to farmland is pretty permanent.

Wrong. This is happening at alarming rates now due to corrupt government cutting investment on policing the forests and signaling that environmental criminals won’t be prosecuted. Brazil was just as poor 10 and 20 years ago and deforestation levels weren’t as high.

How much Brazilian beef is in a US Big Mac/Whopper?

in april they cleared more rainforest than any other month over the past 7 years (that’s when they started tracking)

Crazy, because actually most people could just eat one-fifth of their current beef consumption and still eat more beef then their ancestors..

Most in north America could eat one-fifth less of their current everything consumption and still eat more than their ancestors.

Halve deforestation associated with beef consumption, not overall

Still good, but really not the same headline.

What are the relative proportions?

I think it's easier to pitch the health benefits of eating less animal gunk.

I've noticed whenever I pig out on dairy I feel really really bad like 2 hours later.

It's at a point where I try to avoid most milk, pizza is temping though.

Historically meat was way to expensive to consume 3 or 4 times a day.

You can see the health effects in real time, countries get "richer", fatter and sicker. Theirs a strong biological impluse to eat stuffed crust Pizza with chocolate on top.

For most of human history this would of ether been absurdly expensive or impossible. So yea it tastes good.

I really do wish we talked more about diet. Bad diets are behind most health issues, and I'd imagine this includes mental health as well.

You feel like crap after eating chemically enhanced chicken, then you eat more chemicals. Your body, in a violent rebellion refuses to act right.

Once I had the self control to go vegan for a week. It felt like the first time I had Red Bull.

>I've noticed whenever I pig out on dairy I feel really really bad like 2 hours later.

>It's at a point where I try to avoid most milk, pizza is temping though.

sounds like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactose_intolerance to me rather than "less animal gunk".

> I think it's easier to pitch the health benefits of eating less animal gunk.

> So yea it tastes good.

And how well have public health campaigns that told people "stop eating delicious things because they're unhealthy" fared?

> And how well have public health campaigns that told people "stop eating delicious things because they're unhealthy" fared?

I did not work with me for a long time of my life. My experience was that it was enough to consciously only eat meat one or two times a week and make myself aware of the supply chain effects (after reading an entertaining book about a self experiment of going all the way to fructarian)

After a few weeks I both did not crave for meat anymore, actually realized the low quality of a lot of it as my taste shifted, and I realized how difficult it was caring about the origin of food. Me and my now wife became vegetarian actually for the convenience of not having to care that much anymore and because of the many disappointments in taste.

Actually I cannot get all away from good cheese and milk. Seemingly I too much enjoy the taste and it is convenient to at least get an organic produce in the average super market.

Edit: waht i forgot to mention. After more than 10 years of rather unhealthy vegetarian diet and unhealthy lifestyle with not enough sports, I got a full checkup at the doctor's lat year. To my surprise all my values seem really good. While I think this is to some extent due to the fact that thresholds were determined for average meat eaters and there is no strong causality between those values and health, I take it as a nice side effect.

It's a shame that heavy government intervention has made meat markedly cheaper than it has any right to be. It's unlikely we'd even be having the conversation about reducing meat consumption if it wasn't artificially priced. It would still be inordinately expensive if subsidies to cattle farmers weren't so damn high.

In 2018, dairy farmers in the UK received about £3.5b in annual subsidy. Hell, most farmers here used to get 90% of their income from EU subsidies (https://www.ft.com/content/db2a28e2-c175-11e8-95b1-d36dfef1b...), which is ironic considering that the class majority of them voted for Brexit.

Thank you , animal products are artificially cheap.

If say meat was a weekly thing most of us would be in way better shape.

There are plenty of very fit people that eat meat every day. Conversely, I’ve met some very fit vegans, and some really unhealthy vegans.

Cow milk is unhealthy because it is loaded with pathogenic exosomal micro RNAs which are biologically active in humans. Fermentation and UHT eliminate the micro RNAs. Many people drink neither fermented dairy nor UHT milk.

Source for all of these claims?

You can begin your journey down the rabbit hole with publications by Bodo Melnik over the last ten+ years


Here's a good open access paper to start your journey:

Exosomes of pasteurized milk: potential pathogens of Western diseases


> Theirs a strong biological impluse to eat stuffed crust Pizza

Can you explain how this impulse works? Absurdly expensive is not a biological reason.

Side note: I personally do not experience this. This sounds awful to me.

The biological impulse is basically "eat as much as you can". This worked well in the past because it was hard to eat too much due to the expense/scarcity.

Now that high-energy foods are very accessible this impluse is less helpful.

Even my toddler has no such impulse. He eats till he got enough and then starts throwing food on the floor.

Eating through your savings was detrimental even for hunter gatherers.

'Could' being the operative word here.

See I think this drives an interesting point, but saying you need a "meat substitute" or "microbial meat" makes it really unattractive.

Why not just say eat one fifth less meat and a bit more veggies instead?

Do you know the audience you are trying to convince?

I'm not sure if they know. I mean I personally don't need to be convinced, but my most carnivore friends all abhor meat substitutes much more than eating a vegetarian casserole.

Good thing that all grains, corn and non-meat alternatives are green, carbon neutral and cruelty free.

Less costly doesn't mean more costly is morally equivalent

I think this has to be balanced with the increased meat demand that follows economic development and poverty reduction.

IMHO, 10 billion people with 'developed country' living standards simply does not work.

Being an inhabitant of a developed country doesn't mean you must eat beef. We can all eat less, no matter our location.

Beef consumption doesn't appear directly tied to development. According to https://sentientmedia.org/beef-consumption-in-the-us/, beef consumption has been falling in the US since the 1970s. Even so, the US is only second in consumption per capita for all countries, behind Argentina.

There is a correlation between economic development and meat consumption.

Meat consumption increased in the West along with economic development and the same is happening worldwide.

The US was developed in the 70s. You would need to look at trends from poor and undeveloped to developed. In the US you would need to rewind to early 20th or 19th century to post-WWII golden age to see the increase.


Within the U.S. today, do you feel that the most economically-advantaged social groups are increasing or decreasing their meat and beef consumption? And any reasons why if so? (diet, health, politics, ...)

In my experience, the anticonsumption crowd has the most of everything

Its an amusing juxtaposition because you cant tell if they are obnoxiously out of touch or intentionally trolling at their amazing properties and parties

(while actually not eating meat)

I would say it is economically advantaged people with the privilege to do these things, choosing to. The industry that caters to the diet and health preferences overprices everything. This exacerbates the odds that less well off people will opt out of trying non-meat diets.

Hmm, yep, I'd question and potentially be frustrated by some of those behaviours too.

Ultimately all you can do is choose how you wish to live your own life, and make your own consumption decisions (roughly speaking: I don't like to overconsume, and I don't like to overpay, although those are easy to say from what I think is a reasonably comfortable position -- and I'm aware they're easier to optimize for when more time is available to make the individual purchase decisions involved. that's why watching out for and reducing distractions during important purchase moments should be encouraged for everyone).

Vendors overpricing desirable products is tricky too: if they're doing that to build a business that genuinely improves people's health and outcomes, and they intend to reduce prices at scale, that seems reasonable. If it's purely predatory pricing and/or doesn't produce value for customers.. well, that's less great. Perhaps consumer protection groups, journalism, and healthy peer discussion are the best options to help respond there.

If we eat less beef but twice as many people, or more, eat beef then the net effect is still not sustainable and may even be worse than now.

The crux of the issue is that we are too many. So either population drops and we can all enjoy life or we survive with a lower quality of life because we have to watch everything we consume.

These aren't hard and fast rules. A civilization growing doesn't mean they automatically eat more meat. And having more population doesn't mean we automatically eat more meat. It's cultural and can be changed completely at any stage of development. And you even make another assumption that feels off, that less meat means less quality of life. Come on! None of these are a rule.

On average people want to eat meat but cannot afford it when they are poor.

Meat consumption thus increases with economic development (even without going into what might be deemed excessive consumption, which is a fuzzy concept outside of health considerations). That is a fact worldwide (see for instance link I included in another comment).

Regarding quality of life, my point is that if we are forced to abstain from eating what we want (then not ravelling as we please, then live in smaller houses, etc) because we have to preserve resources then very clearly we are reducing our quality of life. And the root cause is actually population because what ultimately drives consumption of resources is population.

No worries, eating all that plant based meat! Problem solved.

Or replace one in five meals with a vegetable dish. Then we can skip the whole factory processing and additives to make it feel like meat.

For me that’s a veggie sandwich from Jersey Mikes done “Mike’s way”. With a Tex-Mex heavy diet, a light veggie sandwich with a splash of vinegar hits the spot more than you might guess.


FYI, if ribeyes are out of your price range, chuck steaks are a decent cost effective replacement. Everyone, poor or rich, has a right to a nice juicy steak.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact