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Omnivore's Dilemma

Chris Baron
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Joined: Mar 21, 2003
Posts: 1049
paul wheaton wrote:Organic matter: think about it a minute. It breaks down, right? What does it break down into? And is the organic matter in the current soil from just the last few years or from the last 20,000 years?

I have thought about it for more than a minute That's why i asked. It's breaks down to (chemical) nutrients and well, soil.
I sense that organic might not equal to living (plants live, soil not) but how do you loose 30% of the nutrients when plowing. That still doesnt make sense to me. Sorry. I'd rather assume that the remains of the old crop, that are plowed under, add nutrients.
Bert Bates
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Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
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    5
Hey Paul,


Organic matter: think about it a minute. It breaks down, right? What does it break down into? And is the organic matter in the current soil from just the last few years or from the last 20,000 years?

So, Bert, do you support some sort of government ban on all vegetables because they cost more (per your idea of the long term costs) than beef raised on pasture? Be careful what you wish for.

I think it is wise to solve the problems, but what I see a lot of is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I also see a lot of people wanting to live in the desert.


I feel like we're having two different conversations

Paul, I support sustainable agriculture and ranching - full stop. I think the permaculture stuff that you're into is awesome - full stop.

I think that most U.S. agriculture these days is unsustainable. The plowing, the monoculture approach, the fertilizers, and so on.

I think that our precious topsoil is washing away into the oceans. Of course it can be replenished, but no where nearly as fast as we're destroying it.

I think the price of commercial meat in general is artificially low. I think animals can be organically, sustainably* ranched, and that when they are, the meat they produce simply costs more. So what?

(* And by sustainably, I mean that the local natural resources are replenished as quickly as the are used. Aquifers are recharged, clean topsoil is maintained, and so on.)

Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
(If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

Well I am purely vegeterian ...don't have problem with non-vegi's .... but if someone just eating non-veg because they don't find varity in veg one... Please come to india here you have plenty of veg options and I bet it is quite better than the Non-veg...
Eat Heathy Think Better...tin tin tinin....


No Kaustubh No Fun, Know Kaustubh Know Fun..
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Chris Baron wrote: It's breaks down to (chemical) nutrients and well, soil.
I sense that organic might not equal to living (plants live, soil not) but how do you loose 30% of the nutrients when plowing. That still doesnt make sense to me. Sorry. I'd rather assume that the remains of the old crop, that are plowed under, add nutrients.


It breaks down to gasses and near-gasses that are delicately parked. When you plow, that stuff goes up into the atmosphere.

There are other problems when you till - but the OM is the biggest and most obvious problem.







permaculture Wood Burning Stoves 2.0 - 4-DVD set
paul wheaton
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Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Bert,

Please take a look at my wheaton eco scale.

I'm sure you have read some java books that are loaded to the gills with crap. And then you find somebody that thinks THAT book is pure gold.

There are a lot of really lovely people that mean well that don't quite have the full picture and they are trying to move things forward in such a way that it is making things really suck.

For example, when you take a look at the wheaton eco scale, at eco level 1, they buy fluorescent light bulbs. And at eco level 6 they move away from fluorescent light bulbs.

I was invited to a dinner party with a bunch of greenies. One guy was telling me that without petroleum ag products, 3/4 of the world's population would die. I tried to convince him that that wasn't true, but he would not be convinced. After telling him about the works of fukuoka he started to let go a little.

I know you are passionate about this stuff. I just want to give you some extra info that might help point you in a more accurate direction. Being concerned about the beef industry as a whole is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The bathwater is the CAFO beef raised on comodity corn. The baby is 100% pasture raised organic beef.

There are some authors out there that are powerful keen on lumping all of the beef stuff together, or pointing out only the downsides.

The book "omnivore's dilemma" does a fascinating job of exploring many sides. Thus, exposing the dilemma. The choices are not as easy as you might think.


Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1387
Andrew Monkhouse wrote:
Bert Bates wrote:- A pound of beef requires about 3000 gallons of fresh water to produce.
--- (I love that meat eaters force me to buy low volume toilets )

I don't think it is valid to equate one with the other.

According to the EPA a leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons per day, and even a toilet in good order can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush (or up to 106 gallons of water per day).

These are not small numbers. Saving that water is important.
Even worse, did you ever consider how much fresh water is wasted when rivers are allowed to just pour their water into the sea?
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
Hey Frank,

I have to assume you're kidding?
Andrew Monkhouse
author and jackaroo
Marshal Commander

Joined: Mar 28, 2003
Posts: 11432
    
  85

I assumed he was making a joke. Not bad, but it needed smileys to indicate that he was joking.


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Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

Heard A fact that in US thousand quintals of grain washed out into sea every year...May be this will helpful to other countries that don't have something to eat..or also helpful to promote veg food in america..
Bert Bates
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Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
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Hey Paul,

I like your "Wheaton Eco Scale", but...

It's a fun tool for people to start thinking about ecology for sure. On the other hand it's kind of one dimensional, being very heavily skewed towards private gardening.

It brings up interesting questions for me:

- Assuming for the sake of discussion that you think Al Gore has as important message to spread, does that offset all the jet plane travel he does?
- I know an amazing inventor who has decided to limit his plane travel - yet when he spoke at conferences and schools he inspired a lot of kids and adults. Should he have limited his travel?
- I wonder about the books I write... even if I'm helping people with their careers, how much is that offset by all the trees that get cut down to print those books?
- If I build a small, neighborhood dam, and use the water I retain to irrigate my horses' pasture, is that having a negative impact on the estuary a few miles downstream? Especially given that the water I'd be retaining would otherwise be washing out the downstream road every Spring?
- If everyone got eco-credits, would it be right that you'd spend a lot of your credits whenever you bought a Big Mac, but you'd spend fewer if you bought the same amount of organic beef? And maybe you'd receive a few credits whenever you bought a veggie patty

paul wheaton
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Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Bert Bates wrote:
I like your "Wheaton Eco Scale", but...



You do realize, of course, that the word "but" negates whatever comes before it?

it's kind of one dimensional, being very heavily skewed towards private gardening.


I would say that it is skewered to my idea of what sustainable means. Hence the reason for my name at the front. I can skew it any way I want. Just as anybody can make any scale and skew it in any direction they want.

Bert, before I get into your new stuff, I'm still waiting for your answers to my previous questions.





Bert Bates
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Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
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Hey Paul,

I think this is an awesome conversation, and I must confess that, what with all the backing and forthing and whatnot I'm not quite sure which questions have been answered and which are outstanding? So let me take a stab at creating the "question status list" and let me know if you concur or if I've made some mistakes

- There's an unanswered question about what percentage of cattle in the U.S. graze on BLM land?
- There's an unanswered question about what happens to all the water that's used in beef production - doesn't it just return to wet systems?
- There's an unanswered question about topsoil depletion?

I'm sure I haven't captured it all, but it's a start.

So, let me reiterate what I think I know about those questions that I think I know something about

As far as water use goes... as of right now, the planet and mankind put together are capable of producing only so much FRESH water. For example, when we pump water out of the Ogallala aquifer and use it for agriculture or whatever, the *used* water tends to flow into a river somewhere which tends to flow out to sea and mix with saltwater. Then mother earth creates clouds and rain which falls back to earth and some of that finds its way back to the Ogallala aquifer. The problem is that we've been pumping out a lot more than mother earth can put back in.

I'm really open to hearing about cows raised the way you think is better. I'm curious to know how they get fed, and if it's mostly via pastures, how those pastures get maintained, and how many such pastures exist in the world. I'm open to learning new facts about this! My sense is that there just isn't enough fresh water to keep 6 billion folks worth of cattle on sustainable pastures. Further, my sense is that there also might not be enough pasture period, even if we did have enough fresh water.

Can you tell me anything about how many acres each one of your cows needs for sustenance?

As far as topsoil depletion goes... My sense is that if we could get everyone to listen to Sepp, we wouldn't have topsoil depletion problems. But unfortunately most people are not yet listening to Sepp. My understanding is that most U.S. agri-business concerns are rapidly depleting our topsoil. While this isn't the entire solution, an important factor in topsoil depletion is simply the pressure that we the population put on the soil. We put pressure on the soil by eating corn on the cob, and we put a lot more pressure on the soil by eating corn-fed critters. So, again not a total solution, but if we all ate a little less critter, we'd take a lot of pressure off our soil. Once Sepp is in charge we can all share some big juicy t-bones - which frankly I miss!

Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

BERT->but if we all ate a little less critter, we'd take a lot of pressure off our soil.


Not the only way to reduce the numbers of critters but if you eat veg automatically there's less production of critters in the market the weight on the top soil will automatically reduced...Why we always point other species for our problem better to reduce population which makes more weight on top soil...We're danger for them not they..
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1387
Kaustubh G Sharma wrote:
BERT->but if we all ate a little less critter, we'd take a lot of pressure off our soil.


Not the only way to reduce the numbers of critters but if you eat veg automatically there's less production of critters in the market the weight on the top soil will automatically reduced...Why we always point other species for our problem better to reduce population which makes more weight on top soil...We're danger for them not they..
It's not so much the eating of animals that uses resources, but rather the raising of animals for eating.

If, instead of feeding beef cattle we simply add another billion people to the world and we all eat grain, wouldn't we be using the same amount of resources?

Maybe the greenest solution is to eat people.
paul wheaton
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Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

bert the humble: A pound of beef requires about 3000 gallons of fresh water to produce.

paul the mighty: I'm a little curious about that number.

So I guess I should start with converting my statement to a question. Since a gallon of water weighs about eight pounds, then 3000 gallons of water is 24,000 pounds of water. And while I could see somebody saying that a pound of beef is 0.8 pounds of water, and I can also see that during the lifetime of the steer that the steer may have consumed 100 pounds of water to end up with 1 pound of meat. I suppose there could be a lot of water used for the harvest. Maybe another pound. Maybe the steer's mom drank more during the pregnancy. So I'm coming up really short.

So, my first question: how do you get to 24,000 pounds of water for a pound of beef?

And then I picked out potatoes to compare. So 24,000 pounds of water compared to how many pounds of water per pound of potatoes?



Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
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Hey Paul,

You're correct when you say that cows don't actually drink that much water.

MOST of the water I'm talking about is used by "big-agriculture" to grow the corn that feeds the cows. I'm not talking about a Sepp-approved cow, I'm talking about the typical corn-fed, antibiotic injected, sad cow.
paul wheaton
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Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

I just wanna compare big-ag beef to big-ag potatoes. Although I'm okay with comparing big-ag beef to big-ag corn. If it is 24,000 pounds of water for a pound of beef, maybe it's 2,400 pounds of water for a pound of corn. And then is that just irrigation or is there more to it?

Keep in mind that cattle are not designed to eat corn - another thing that the "omniore's dilemma" covers.

Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
I just wanna compare big-ag beef to big-ag potatoes. Although I'm okay with comparing big-ag beef to big-ag corn. If it is 24,000 pounds of water for a pound of beef, maybe it's 2,400 pounds of water for a pound of corn. And then is that just irrigation or is there more to it?

Keep in mind that cattle are not designed to eat corn - another thing that the "omniore's dilemma" covers.


There is a scale (which I've converted from gallons into pounds )

Note: This is from memory so I might be off a little bit:

1 pound of beef needs 24000 pounds of water
1 pound of chicken needs 6000 pounds of water
1 pound of soy or corn needs maybe 300 pounds of water?

Agreed that cows don't like corn - a big reason why they get so many antibiotics, and a big reason why they're so sad

Finally, my understanding is that it's mostly irrigation.
Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

Frank :- It's not so much the eating of animals that uses resources, but rather the raising of animals for eating.

If, instead of feeding beef cattle we simply add another billion people to the world and we all eat grain, wouldn't we be using the same amount of resources?

Maybe the greenest solution is to eat people.


Hey Frank I know it's diffucult to push everyone to eat veg and it would be a great harm for the eco system too... But believe me non-vegi's not eat it because they care about this eco system well I am not agaist to non-veg eaters but they must show some good or true reason for eating it or they really mean to save eco system....
paul wheaton
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Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

I guess I'm thinking there is something a bit off still. I would think if it is 24,000 for the beef and it is based on irrigation, then it must be something like 3,000 for the corn. My impresion is that it takes five to ten pounds of cow food to make a pound of cow.
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
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Here are a few links. The numbers vary from source to source but overall I'd say the conclusion is the same - Fattening cows with corn takes WAY too much water, and we simply don't have enough land to sustainably let enough cattle be grass fed so that everyone can keep munching on burgers.

http://www.vegsource.com/articles/pimentel_water.htm

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gleick/detail?entry_id=39645

http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/grass-fed-beef/
paul wheaton
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Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Looking at the first link, corn takes 1344 pounds of water to get a pound of corn. Of course, this is coming from a vegetarian site.

And then there are people raising cattle salatin style: they eat only pasture grass with zero amendments. And all of their water comes from streams and ponds. Same for his chickens and hogs.

So if a vegetarian eats three pounds of food a day, they would use up about 3000 pounds of water. About a million pounds of water per year. People getting half their diet from the same source plus salatin-style meat would use half that.

The author of "omnivore's dilemma" spends a week at salatin's farm. And I know that there are a LOT of farms now like salatin's.


Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

Is it all about to save water well I think there are lot of way out to do that...
Anil K Chandra
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Joined: Dec 12, 2008
Posts: 44
This is an interesting read. Covers some points of Bert and Paul's discussion.
Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

Images on above link are not an eye catcher...Bad when you kill someone for your dine
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Frank Silbermann wrote:
Maybe the greenest solution is to eat people.


Stranger in a strange land ...

Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

Maybe the greenest solution is to eat people


saw a mail regarding this where in some asian countries(probably china and taiwan) they eat human also...
Lester Burnham
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Joined: Oct 14, 2008
Posts: 1337
Kaustubh G Sharma wrote:saw a mail regarding this where in some asian countries(probably china and taiwan) they eat human also...

I once saw an email, too. But I think it was about India. Or maybe the Iron Chef, I don't recall.
Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

Lester Burnham wrote:
I once saw an email, too. But I think it was about India.


Not possible in india, I think india has the most vegetarians compaire to all over world. Well in some cast(jainism,hindu) they don't even eat onions Here they follow everything very strcitly.

If you're talking about 'AGHORI Saints' then the case is different it is not by choice .
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

long pork.
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1387
Kaustubh G Sharma wrote:
Maybe the greenest solution is to eat people


saw a mail regarding this where in some asian countries(probably china and taiwan) they eat human also...
It can happen anywhere in a time of famine. In living memory we've had great famines that led to cannibalism -- in China resulting from the Cultural Revolution, in the Soviet Union during the campaign to exterminate the Kulaks through starvation.

I suppose that when this happens, there can be people who grow to like it and do it by choice.

Since the 1960s, there has been a Conventional Wisdom that, except for religious/mortiary ritural and instances of starvation, cannibalism never existed. The motivation for this position is that accusations of cannibalism had often been made by the West against primitive cultures, and they wanted to fight the notion that primitive cultures are in any way inferior.

But recently, in a 1500 year old site in the American Southwest archaeologists found masses of human bones with signs of butchering, abandoned in a dump that looked more like a garbage pit than a burial, along with numerous human feces on the site which analysis indicated that large quantities of human flesh had been eaten.

Though there are still a few hold-outs who claim it is still unproven that any society accepted cannibalism as normal food source, many anthropologists have quietly changed their opinion and now admit that, yes, there have been human cultures that saw other humans as food.
Kaustubh G Sharma
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Joined: May 13, 2010
Posts: 1270

Aggreed
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
 
subject: Omnivore's Dilemma