Monday, June 21, 2010

Reporting the Hype, Not the Facts

Chefs now offering low-carbon diets to help save the planet
In the effort to save the planet from carbon emissions, chefs are saying eat less feedlot beef. That's because feedlot beef is by far the biggest creator of carbon gases. Fed on corn instead of the grass it was meant to eat, cows simply belch and pass wind a lot, creating much of the CO2 that's harming the earth. Bon App├ętit Management Co. and other corporate food-service operators are turning to lower-carbon foods like chicken in an effort to change eating habits while reducing their carbon footprints.
By Paula Bock

SO YOU THINK trading in your gas guzzler for a hybrid will save the planet?

Try cutting back on cheeseburgers! And mangos! And fish flown in "fresh" from the southern hemisphere!

Old millennium: Low-carb diets. The new cool: Low-carbon diets. As in eat green. As in healthy for the environment. As in reduce global warming by minding what you swallow.

Just ask the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. A few years ago, it released a study showing that livestock cause more harm to the environment than all global transportation systems combined. Numero Uno emission emitter? Beef.

If Americans reduced meat consumption by just 20 percent, a University of Chicago study found, it'd be like all of us switching from a standard sedan to an ultraefficient Prius. A Japanese study estimated that raising 2.2 pounds of beef creates the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide as driving an average European car for 155 miles or burning a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
Producing a pound of feedlot beef creates the equivalent of 14.8 pounds of CO2. By comparison, a pound of pork creates the equivalent of 3.8 pounds of CO2; chicken, the equivalent of 1.1 pounds.
Why do cattle have such a huge carbon hoof print? Surprisingly, it's not so much because of transport from feedlot to fast-food joint or land cleared for grazing or even the chemical fertilizers used to grow the feed, though all that also adds up.

It's largely because cornfed cattle pass a lot of gas. Read More


Here’s another example of activism as compared to journalism. If this reporter had done some actual research as opposed to regurgitating common misconceptions, they would have learned there’s a different story to be told. For example, the writer seems to think that cattle will only produce methane if they are being fed a grain based diet. Methane is a byproduct of rumination, not the diet. There is also evidence that suggests grain fed beef actually produce less emissions over their lifetime compared to other production methods. Along with that, even though rumination produces methane, that is the process that allows us to convert indigestible forages into human consumable protein. It allows us to utilize the vast majority of land on this planet that doesn’t allow for farming. The University of Chicago study that is cited is the same one that Michael Pollan used to cite as well until the authors of that study clarified that that wasn’t true. It’s another example of the sad state of journalism today.

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