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How many cows does it take to make a burger? (economist.com)
6 points by cwan 2989 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments



I assume you mean "How many cows does it take to make a hamburger?" A good question with a disgusting answer. According to the same NYT article on the E. coli-ridden burger that paralyzed a children's dance instructor, "a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses." Sources vary on the precise number, but on average they report that in a single burger there are parts from 50-100 distinct cows. That number ignores the pieces of still other cows ground into the food eaten by the cows in the burger.

Better answer: Zero! Eat delicious veggie burgers instead.


"Delicious" is certainly up to interpretation. Additionally, if "meat is murder", then why so many "fake murder" products?

I don't really see what the issue is with the article. So hamburgers are a homogeneous mix of meat from multiple cows. I never had deep-seated convictions that they only came from one cow in the first place. Does a bag of frozen vegetable medley come from one plant? Does it even come from one plant per type of vegetable?


The significance of a hamburger being comprised of many different pieces of multiple cows is that it's hard to track and there are higher-risk meats than others. For example, meat that resided near the intestines/colon has a much a higher risk of e. coli contamination.

Honestly, I'm with you in my lack of concern, but probably for a different reason. It is a very small justice that meat-eaters should get e. coli from time to time.


not adhering to handling standards is a different issue than "mixing meat from different parts of the cow and different cows". And if you're going to act like that, then it's poetic justice that a lot of vegans are malnourished.


How would it be "poetic justice" for a vegan, who cares for other living things, to be malnourished? They're just being not evil. Of course, being vegan has all kinds of eprsonal health benefits in addition to its benefits for others. Vegans have significantly lower rates of cancer and heart disease, for example. Maybe you're one of those people who think that being trim is equivalent to being malnourished. It isn't.

On the other hand, one who pays another to torture and slaughter living creatures for his own discretionary meals is indeed making a withdrawal from his/her karmic balance, if you will.


Why would that be poetic justice? Vegans are contributing to a cleaner, healthier, less cruel planet (and by the way, can have perfectly healthy diets without the increased risk of heart disease, cancer, etc., that meat-eaters have). Meat-eaters are doing the opposite -- hence poetic justice in experiencing a health problem after supporting the torture and slaughter of others.

How is "acting like that" -- i.e., standing in opposition to the negative status quo -- in any way equivalent to supporting extreme suffering?


You know what's sick? The fact that we slaughter 10 billion sentient, thinking animals in the United States each year. And then we have the nerve to be appalled that a tiny sliver of that suffering is transferred to humans. There are not enough words to describe how misguided we all are.


I really don't think you can fairly call cows sentient. Along with chickens and turkeys, they are some of the dumbest creatures around. They're barely more than walking vegetables.


I had to reply as I accidentally upvoted you.

I don't want to get into meat vs veg, but considering meat as "walking vegtables" is inhumane thought.

Have you spent some time with any animals? Go spend some time with some hens/roosters and their chickens. spend a day watching - watch how the mother hen teaches her chickens to hop over obstacles and the chickens trying to find the shortest path to hop over. Watch how each individual chickens have their own personality. Watch the roosters personality - dominance/sexual drive...

My maternal grandfather had cows back in India. Every cow would respond differently. He would talk to them, The calf would listen to him(when he would milk the cow, the calf would get impatient for mumma's milk). One of the cows wouldn't allow anyone other than my grand mom/grandfather to milk her.I have more anecdotes, which helps me in connecting them animals and us animals.

So much for walking vegetables!. Perhaps you are just visiting here. Perhaps you are here for the long run, but imho, please spend a lot of time reading here(searchyc for archives) before commenting.


A rat will nurture their young far more than a chicken, is much smarter, and will display more personality than a chicken ever will. OTOH, if one shows up in your kitchen I am sure you will be on the phone to the exterminator in minutes. Just because a chicken or cow is cute does not make it "special" and anthropomorphizing the activities of that animal is a pretty weak argument.


Nobody on this forum has argued for granting other animals moral consideration based on cuteness or anthropomorphism. I didn't see anyone elevating anything else over rats, either. Farm animals and rats intrinsically deserve not to be tortured.


Torture was never mentioned by anyone other than the anti-meat crowd here.


That might be because we're the only ones here who are willing to call it what it is. Meat-eaters may not want to admit that they are most often supporting unbelievable torture -- a human's worst nightmare, in fact.

Obviously, the issue of torture is implicit in discussions of meat-eating in our time, as the vast majority of meat has been tortured before it's been eaten.


Evgen, the system isn't letting me reply to you directly for some reason, so my apologies if this garbles the thread.

What you have written is so riddled with logical fallacies I don't know where to start, but I'll give it a shot.

You said: "There is a difference between pain response and suffering. The latter requires the consciousness to know what the future has in store for the organism."

Your redefinition of what it means to suffer is entirely ad hoc (and just plain weird). The word "suffering" describes a pained state of being. One who is suffering need not have any beliefs whatsoever about whether or not that suffering will continue. They need not even have a word for it. If you contest this, I suggest you look in a dictionary. And by the way, no creature "knows" what the future has in store, not even members of your delusional humanity. By your sloppy ad hoc definition, then, nobody can suffer. What a meaningless little semantic game you play with yourself.

You said: "Animals can be abused, but very few of them have the level of consciousness required for the abuse to be 'torture.'"

And the trivial game continues. Once again you redefine common words for your own ad hoc convenience. All of a sudden, in your view, one must have some vague level of consciousness that goes beyond the feeling of intense pain in order for the abuse one undergoes to be called "torture." Of course, this is not a part of the definition of "torture." Moreover, you say non-human creatures can be "abused" but not "tortured." That is some pretty... tortured... logic.

You said: "You can pretend that animals are people too all you want, but wishing it to be true does not make it so."

If by "people," you mean "humans," obviously nobody has made the claim that a cow is a human. Straw man fallacy. Also, you are conveniently defining "people" as the only beings who are worthy of deep moral concern to argue that humans are the only beings worthy of deep moral concern. That is, you've assumed a premise that is identical to your conclusion, committing a blatant, egregious fallacy of circularity. Forget about proving your point; you haven't even made one.

With that, I'll throw your own words right back at ya: "Wishing it to be true does not make it so." Quite.


There is a difference between pain response and suffering. The latter requires the consciousness to know what the future has in store for the organism. Animals can be abused, but very few of them have the level of consciousness required for the abuse to be "torture." You can pretend that animals are people too all you want, but wishing it to be true does not make it so.


evgen,

You are completely wrong when you say "very few of them" have the level of consciousness required for the abuse to be torture." All factory farmed animals are tortured physically and psychologically -- tens of billions the world over. The vast majority, if not all, of lab-tested animals are tortured physically and psychologically.

You have no idea what it is to be tortured (not that this is required to take those who have been tortured at their word). If you did, you wouldn't dismiss the torture of those with very similar central nervous systems to ours so lightly. And the fact is, torture of human animals can bring out all the fight or flight evolutionary responses and fears we have within us as a result of our completely animal history and existence. Your cavalier approach to the tremendous suffering of others is a disgrace.

Once, again, you are trying to draw arbitrary lines based on what you want to be true to justify your own behaviors, which are morally indefensible. Do the research for yourself, since you don't want to listen to reason from anyone else.


did you really just tell me to "lurk moar noob"?


no i didn't. whatever i said is based on the style of your expression, which I thought was unlike usual comments.

my explanation was related to "walking vegetables". I already mentioned I don't want to get into meat/anti-meat.


moron4hire,

You'd be less intelligent too if you'd been selectively bred for thousands of years to promote complacence and stupidity.

Still, to call farm animals "barely more than walking vegetables" is highly uninformed. Pigs, for one, have been shown to be about as intelligent as dogs. Cows have been shown to celebrate after solving problems. Chickens and turkeys seem to be less intelligent, but they are nonetheless worthy of serious moral consideration.


While jeremymims didn't explicitly espouse a vegan viewpoint, he did mention the "slaughter [of] 10 billion sentient, thinking animals", an emotionally charged choice of words which in my experience is a characterization that only ever comes from a vegan viepoint. Serious moral consideration is a whole different story than "don't eat them". This article, and thus my statement, has nothing to do with the torture of animals.

Most of my meat comes from local farmers, people I know personally, even places I worked when I was a kid. Cattle can and are raised in humane conditions. But when a cow can push against an electric fence, recoil from getting shocked, and then push on the fence again, there is clearly something missing in that cow brain that accounts for learning in other creatures. Cows are not intelligent creatures.


"While jeremymims didn't explicitly espouse a vegan viewpoint, he did mention the "slaughter [of] 10 billion sentient, thinking animals", an emotionally charged choice of words which in my experience is a characterization that only ever comes from a vegan viepoint."

"Emotionally charged," eh? Is it not "slaughter?" Of course it is. Are these slaughtered creatures not "sentient" -- that is, do they not have the ability to experience sensations? Of course they do. Are they not "thinking," even though they use their brains to process sensory inputs? Of course they are. Tell me, when did facts become "emotional" expressions? You should really bother to ask yourself, What exactly do I deny about his statement?, prior to auto-defending whatever thought first comes to mind.

"Serious moral consideration is a whole different story than "don't eat them"."

You definitely win the obliviousness award. "Serious moral consideration" requires that you not arbitrarily dismiss viewpoints simply because you have a bias against the label. All you've stated is that you have an aversion to the word "vegan." You haven't made any other point whatsoever. "Serious moral consideration," indeed.

"But when a cow can push against an electric fence, recoil from getting shocked, and then push on the fence again, there is clearly something missing in that cow brain that accounts for learning in other creatures."

Perhaps the cow is like countless human prisoners throughout history, who have gone insane at the tedium of their prolonged imprisonment. Perhaps the cow has not lost its mental footing, but instead prefers the sensation of something, anything, rather than the tedium of standing in a stall.

"Cows are not intelligent creatures."

Clearly, you've done a great study into the matter. I'm sure you know that cows have personalities and problem-solving abilities. I'm certain that you must know they share every part of the human brain except for the pre-frontal cortex, which allows us to do all sorts of bad things. So, maybe they're not smart enough to enslave, torture, and murder other animals en masse, but hey, that isn't really a strike against them.


Sentience is being able to experience pleasure or pain (which cows certainly do), not a measure of intelligence. We do not execute young children or the mentally disabled nor do we enslave them.


The ability to perceive pleasure/pain is not enough. An amoeba will move away from a negative stimulus, so sentience is completely unimportant. What can be said is that cows are not sapient/conscious. The reason we do not view young children similarly for the same lacking sapience is that we know they will very likely gain this attribute as they grow older; cows will never do so.


"What can be said is that cows are not sapient/conscious."

The ability to perceive pleasure and pain is absolutely enough to not be tortured and slaughtered. You have done nothing to prove (or even argue) that it shouldn't be, yet the burden is on you before you can justify torture and slaughter, which you have to admit is at least potentially morally catastrophic.

The claim that cows are not conscious is patently ridiculous. Not only have you avoided defining what it is to be conscious, but the scientific evidence is also mounting against your position.

For you to compare the complex sentience/nervous systems of farm animals to the single-celled existence of amoebas is, quite frankly, insane. Again, you have done nothing to support your claim.

The reason you choose to believe this about cows and other animals -- despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary -- and not about children is that you find it convenient to do so in our current cultural/legal framework. And that's a truly stupid reason.

No one should take your remarks here seriously.


The scientific evidence supporting the similarity of other animals' experiences of the world to humans' experiences is indeed "mounting." It shouldn't have to, because the incredibly evidenced theory of evolution -- the single unifying idea behind all modern biological understanding -- necessitates that such is the case. But scientists are also species-ist, even when the truth stares them right in the face.

Oh, and I would like to take a moment to point out that humans, via that supposedly morally superior "sapience" (talk about a circular, species-indulgent term), have used their intelligence to needlessly torture and kill tens of billions of fellow creatures every year in death camps, and to cause the only mass extinction of life on Earth ever initiated by a single species. If moral status comes down to what you do -- not what you are -- then humanity has a lot of work to do, and a lot of sacrifice to make, before it can claim the mantle of special moral worth.


I can't wait until we can grow meat and other organs in "standalone-mode". There wouldn't be any need for slaughter when we reach that level of technology.




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