Spencer Andrews : That’s an interesting thought — why DON’T grains make a showing at farmer’s…
Ray Kowalchuk

Ray, I hope you are open to what I’m about to tell you, because I do sincerely mean it out of a desire to be helpful and informative. Here’s one thing we agree on, factory farming is atrocious and an assault on human ideals. We have to be rid of it. It’s a terrible polluter and obviously not humane. I have no bone to pick with you there. But…

“The portion of the U.S. grain harvest consumed by all animals, 81 percent then, has plummeted to 42 percent today, as yields have soared and more grain has been converted to ethanol. Ethanol now consumes 36 percent of the available grain, beef cattle only about 10 percent. Still, you might think that if Americans ate less beef, more grain would become available for hungry people in poor countries. There’s little evidence that would happen in the world we actually live in. Using an economic model of the world food system, researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, D.C., have projected what would happen if the entire developed world were to cut its consumption of all meat by half — a radical change. “The impact on food security in developing countries is minimal,” says Mark Rosegrant of IFPRI. Prices for corn and sorghum drop, which helps a bit in Africa, but globally the key food grains are wheat and rice. If Americans eat less beef, corn farmers in Iowa won’t export wheat and rice to Africa and Asia.”

(The Amazon rain forest is also being cleared to plant soy, and I obviously do not agree with the slash and burn techniques in that country…whether it’s to grow soy or cattle).

May I see your information about factory farmed meat being the #1 polluter of oceans and river ways? That’s strange, because I thought that the run off from the use of nitrogen fertilizer in large scale industrial monoculture projects was the main culprit (contributing to the acidification of the ocean and subsequent temperature rise).

Speaking of nitrogen fertilizer, Do you know what it’s made from? Do you know what has to be done to clear a plot of land to grow mass produced grains? By the 1930's we had destroyed the US soil with industrial agriculture (See: The Dust Bowl). During WWII while toying around with making bombs, we found how to create nitrogen fertilizer from natural gas. So, to answer the first two questions I posited above 1.) nitrogen fertilizer is created using natural gas. And yes, “organic rice, quinoa etc…” HAVE to use nitrogen fertilizers. A vegans diet is 50–70% grain and legume. They are unknowingly supporting the big energy monoliths. When we deplete these resources, so will we deplete our ability to create food using industrial agricultural techniques. 2.) in order to clear a plot of land for industrial monoculture use one must literally destroy every single thing on that land then apply nitrogen fertilizers to grow anything. There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of animals living in one hectare of this land. At least 25 mice alone are killed per hectare, and that doesn’t include animals like spiders, lizards, and other insects. The biggest tragedy is the destruction of productive soil. Soil that, if healthy, could be used to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, grow native plants, and stabilize the water table. In my opinion, vegans have just as much blood on their hands as omnivores.

Methane from animal farming produces 17% of the methane in the atmosphere. It’s right behind “bogs” and “wetlands.” I’m trying to address climate change as a whole, not just less than 1/5th of it, and pasture raising animals, including beef is part of the solution: but it HAS to be done in a particular way. Farmers can rotate their livestock around the land in a way that it restores the soil and landscape to its original, teeming with life, carbon sequestering state. This can be done on land that is literally impossible to grow grain on (such as a hill). The use of animals on this land is absolutely paramount, because it mimics roaming wild life pre-industrial revolution, when roaming bison and buffalo had a symbiotic relationship with the grasslands.

In order for the world to be fed on a vegan diet we have to hand our food system over to the big energy industry (when we can’t use natural gas, we’ll use coal). Grains cannot be produced in the capacity they are needed without the use of nitrogen fertilizer…and eventually we will run out of these sources.

I believe the solution is to put the power back in to farmers hands; to eat seasonal vegetables, fruits and tubers from farms less than 50 miles away. To eat locally grown meats that are produced using grass fed techniques that restore the landscape, soil, water table, and promote the sequestering of carbon.