Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meat - To Eat or Not to Eat?

About two weeks ago, a new guest declined meat (chicken sausage) with breakfast.  This alone is nothing new because very many guests forgo breakfast meats.  I find most guests here at Arroyo Vista Inn are trying to eat healthy.  The surprising thing about this request was that it came from a man who recently retired from a well known nationwide grocery business.  He described himself as a life-long "meat eater who has recently given up meat."  When I inquired further about the change, he indicated he had recently learned that to produce one pound of ground beef requires 650 gallons of water.  With our planet in short supply of clean drinkable water, he had decided to give up all meat (not just beef) in an individual effort to put natural resources to their best use.

This thought has been percolating in my head for a while (slow thinker!). I've read  Omnivore's Dilemma and other Michael Pollan and Russ Parsons books, but I continued old eating habits, except for throwing in more organic foods. So after this latest redirection to the issue, I decided to research How much water does it take to make a pound of ground beef?  I discovered that different groups have come up with different calculations.  The one most favorable to the beef industry, arrived at by the beef industry, is 441 gallons per pound.  Some other estimates exceed 2000 gallons per pound.  David Pimentel, Professor of Ecology and Agriculture at Cornell,  has edited a book called Ecological Intergrity: Integrating Environment, Conversation and Health (2001). One of the many scholarly conclusions therein is that it takes 50 times more water to produce a calorie of energy from beef than it does for one calorie of energy from potatoes.  One is forced to consider: is that a prudent and sustainable practice?  Hmmm!   Food for thought....

Additional reading on how water is used (by industry) in different states and how much it takes to grow different products:   http://www.cias.wisc.edu/curriculum/modIII/secc/modiii_secc_act.htm      Growing and conversion efficiencies make pork and chicken use much less water to produce, but they still use more water than growing vegetables. http://www.earthsave.org/environment/water.htm               

Arroyo Vista Inn guests are provocative and well-read!  The guests' conversations are very interesting.  Come and be part of it.