Confessions of a Carnivore

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Published on the Doomstead Diner  on August 1, 2015

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The Meat FIX for the week…

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I have a confession to make.


This addiction may be even worse than my Beer Addiction, it's a tossup. can blame the Meat Addiction on my parents.  Growing up in my youngest years in Brasil, they often took me to Churascarias where many delicious cuts of meat were served up directly off the spit.  My Taste Buds became so entranced by the flavor of Meat cooked over an Open Flame that upon returning to the FSoA around age 10 or so, I immediately embarked on a career as a BBQ Chef, utilizing a small Cast Iron Hibachi that was the site of many Steaks, Burgers, Chicken Wings and Salmon Fillets being Grilled to PERFECTION! 🙂

I am of course aware these days of how poorly treated the cows, pigs and chickens are by our Industrial Ag system, but people aren't treated a whole lot better and it becomes a bit much to worry about the unfortunate life of a cow in a feed lot when there are a few billion people not living much better lives, and besides I just LOVE MEAT!  So I can't quite buy in to the Vegan mind set because of this. the downside of the unfortunate life for an an Industrially raised, fed and slaughtered cow in some Chicago Feed Lot is the ENERGY and WATER problems involved with a diet copiously laden with MEAT in it.

According to HuffPo, it takes around 1847 gallons of water to raise up a Pound of Beef.  Chicken does a lot better at just 518 Gallons for a pound of Chicken, and Beer does better than Wine at 296 vs 872, although you then get into serving size questions as well.

In any event, as you can see it takes a whole heck of a lot of water to put the meat on the table, and even the Beer in your Bottle also!  To acquire enough of that water these days also takes energy, pumping it up from ever more depleted Aquifers like the Ogalalla.

However, the problems of Industrial Ag and its treatment of animals used for food sources, the problems of energy consumption and the problems of water consumption are NOT the reason I am writing this article!

The reason is that due to a few reasons, I cannot STOP buying MEAT at the grocery store!  The Feature Photo at the top of the page has this week's selections, a rack of Baby Back Pork Ribs which ON SALE came in around $4/lb, and 3 nice Filet Mignon Cuts coming in at $12/lb.  That wasn't a sale, but it's still pretty cheap for Filet Mignon. to buying this meat, I still have in the fridge leftovers from LAST week. particularly some nice Short Ribs and about 1/3rd of a Rotisserie Chicken left to eat, and that is BEFORE I take the carcass and throw it in the Slow Cooker to make a batch of Chicken Soup, which itself will last me another 2 days EZ.

Layered on top of this is the fact that my neurological problems from my neck injury are depressing my appetite, so most of the time I just don't feel like eating any of it!  Regardless how good it smells or looks!  I'm just not feeling HUNGRY enough to devour it!

Now, because  I can't help myself as an ADDICT, I keep buying this stuff.   I'm NOT living on the SNAP Cad Gourmet budget of $2/day (yet!), but neither am I spending much more than $5/day either on food.  The Filet Mignon I picked up for around $12, The Pork Baby Back Ribs for another $16, but together this is enough Animal Protein for 2 weeks EZ!  If I would just STOP buying the stuff when i see it ON SALE, I COULD stay under $2/day! I can't stop buying it, I'm a JUNKIE for Meat!  Not just beef, any Animal protein.  You know what ELSE I bought this week?  A Cocktail Shrimp Ring for $10!  Like I really need this with all the freaking leftovers I have in the fridge right now?  It will take me a month to work through just the LEFTOVERS, and some of it will probably go bad before I am hungry enough to eat it!

Supermarket-meatsI can't even vaccuum seal it up and put it in the Freezer!  Why not?  Because the freezer itself is JAM PACKED with as yet uncooked Steaks, Fish, Chicken and Sausage I have purchased on other occassions travelling down the Meat Aisles of the local Food Emporiums.  I'm like a kid in a Toy Store when I walk (or these days cruise on the Ewz) down the meat department.  Look at those beautifully marbled Rib Eye's ON SALE!  Gotta have those.  Hot Italian Sausage ON SALE!  Mmmm, think of the great Spaghetti Sauce I can make with those!  LOL.

Meanwhile of course out there in the rest of the world and even here in the FSoA, plenty of people have trouble just putting enough Rice in a Bowl to get the daily necessary intake of calories.  Houston, We Have a Distribution Problem!

You might think this would make me feel guilty about buying more meat than I can actually eat, but it doesn't.  Why not?  Because all the dead cow flesh in the local freezer will never make it onto the plate of a starving child in India, and in fact a good deal of it never even goes to feed the homeless up here either.  It just gets tossed if it gets too old and can't even be sold at discount. It's not my fault the distribution system is so fucked up, and I am not going to blame myself because I have more meat to eat than I can handle and somebody else has none.  It happens to be the shelf at my local grocery store, and I happen to have money to buy it, so I do. other reason I can't stop buying the Meat is because of the problem I KNOW is coming down the pipe here at some point, which is that the stuff just won't be available to buy AT ALL.

Cattle are already not looking too good in many parts of the world, and here in the FSoA as the water depletes out of Ogalalla and the energy isn't there to pump it up either, the Cattle right here are going to look just like the one at left.  The ones still left anyhow, since the ranchers are already culling the herds, which leads to some pretty weird effects not dissimilar from what is going on with Oil, which is that in spite of a real shortage, the prices go DOWN rather than UP. as a temporary GLUT hits the market.

You have the additional problem where as Credit dries up, the first folks to lose access to the credit are the actual End Consumers of the product, be it either Rib Eye steaks or Gas for your SUV.  If the end consumers don't have credit to buy the stuff, where can the price go but DOWN?  This deflationary driver is ongoing across the Globe at the moment, and is likely to continue on for quite a while in many places, while in others new Credit is created, driving an inflationary spiral in those places.  Eventually either way though, without the stuff on the meat rack to buy, the Money Dies.  It simply stops working to buy things, and you revert to a barter economy if you are fortunate, this already is occurring in Greece.  You do need something to barter though that somebody else wants, and they have to have something you want.  Both of those things are also likely to start disappearing too.

Which brings us back round to the old question of TIMELINE, how long will it take for this to play itself out, in what locations first and how can you best negotiate what is inevitable here, for yourself and your progeny?  There are no firm answers to those questions, but we do tackle them daily here on the pages of the Doomstead Diner.


King Corn

Off the keyboard of Roamer

Published on the Doomstead Diner on May 3, 2013

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So I am waiting out the bizarre Midwest snow storm before I engage in corn planting.  As someone keen on small scale low tech pasture based farms and desirous of a grain free paleo diet it’s a pretty odd situation I am.  In a week or so I’ll sit in a tractor a couple days on end and plant in automated comfort the same land 10’s of family farms used to derive a living from.  Its not all that unlike modern warfare, GPS based guidance systems, chemical sprays, high tech cockpits all to launch a chemical blitz on the land in the name of “progress”.

Today I am pondering though the nature of this progress, why have markets come to favor this system of food production, is it really more efficient than what it replaced?  What follows are some order of magnitude calculations to put things into perspective on a calorie to calorie basis.

Pasture Based System Gross Caloric Yield

Dairy cattle and their rumens are incredible efficient at converting grass proteins, sugars, and starches into

healthy milk.  The net caloric yield from a milking cow is approximately 2-3 x higher than an efficient beef based converter.  It is not a coincidence that whole cultures evolved around the partnership with these amazing animals to survive there difficult climate and soils.
Typical conversion factors for cows to produce milk on grass are most strongly correlated with dry matter, assuming access to necessary minerals and water and healthy living conditions cows should be able to average a conversion of 1.4 lbs of milk per  pound of dry matter (DM).   Annual dry matter yields per acre are much more variable, in favorable ample moisture midwest ground I am working on DM yields should range between 3- up to 8 tons/acre/year.
3-8 DM Tons/acre x 1.4 lbs milk/lbs DM= 4.2tons milk-11.2tons/acre
Using an average of 272 cal/lb of milk we can get an estimate on the maximal gross caloric yield a pasture based ag system should be capable of producing.
272 cal/lb*8400-22400=2.3X10^6 kcal/acre-6.1kcal/acre

Corn Based Gross Caloric Yield

Average corn yields on the same chunk of ground come in around 140 bushels per acre.  Straightforward caloric analysis shows that this system produces around 5 times more calories per acre than the best case pasture scenario.Corn gross caloric yield=139,000cal/bushel*140bushels/acre=19,460,000 Cal/acre ~5:1 gross caloric outyield on dairy system So surely that means the Monsanto and all other “green revolution” shills are right, we’d starve if it weren’t for their grain techs and chemicals.
Far from it….

The graph at the right  breaks down where the 2011 corn crop went.
As is evident only ~10% of corn is used for direct consumption in the USA (of dubious nutriative value), 39% is used for ethanol, and 37% used for beef.  Assuming a 10% corn to meat conversion efficiency, US human caloric production per acre of corn is 2.63 x10^6 Cal/acre, which is actually right with the lower case gross caloric yield for grass based scenario.

This is to say nothing at all of the terrible nutriatitive quality of corn calories.  The high fructose corn syrup may as well be a net negative when long term health problems associated with it are weighed in.
It is also omitting  the net inputs that we must put into the corn operation, the nitrogen, the herbicides, the processing ect. It is also omitting the top soil degradation of both organic matter and erosion that occur over time with corn.  The loss of biodiversisty, the destruction of aquifiers were also ignored.

In the end corn to me looks like the perfect leverage point for banksters to centralize and mine the land, at the expense of the health of the land and the people.  The arguments of superior efficiency and productivity are not sound.  Look at the end use of corn, it is really pretty poor as a food, it was NEVER about feeding anybody except the wallets of those vested in maximizing returns at the expense of the agricultural system and the land.

Fossil Fuel Slaves Out-competing Honest Farmers


If though pasture based farming can produce equivalent amounts of calories at higher nutritive value, why have we adopted corn? I believe the answer is all about labor maximization through the leverage of fossil fuels.  Automation and mechanization has lowered labor costs /bushel.  Pasture based agriculture though does not allow for centralization beyond perhaps a herd of a few hundred.  Somebody still has to move the cows, bring them in, milk them and care for them, put up hay ect.   There is no way for outside benefactors (Cargill, adm, Monsanto,  John Deere Ect) to manipulate and squeeze profit out of the system, where grain based systems allow for precisely that.   Pasture based has inherent decentralized limits built in by natural protocol, grain based with the adoption of mechanization has no such limits (until peak oil and declining EROEI are seriously upon us).

Pasture based systems also suffer by not being able to consistently access markets, despite the vast superiority of the food the produce.  ADM, Cargill and the like all figured corned grain markets, and because of its longer term stability they were able to centralize and in effect control the ag land of the US.  People for progress call pasture based aged inability to be centralized a problem, I call it a solution, and a cry to relocate and redistribute people closer to small town America.

You get what you pay for and you are what you eat…..

There is nothing really redeeming to be said of this system of corn agriculture.  It is I suspect more at the heart of our societal collapse than many consider.  No system in the history of the world has disconnected people from the land and natural cycles of life to the degree of this unholy mass mechanized chemicalized system has.  Its largely responsible for our failing health as a nation, our failing rural communities, our deep disconnect with land and our food, topsoil depletion, and aquifer pollution.  We fall for it though, we see the linear math and the raw calories and assume its a necessary evil to “feed the world”.

It started I believe when we as a people bought en large the notion that low price food was the end all.  This favored labor centralization and grain production.  Quality of food and land followed.  There is not likely any way we can have sustainable agricultural systems without having a little higher costs to cover the larger degree of labor input that is needed.  This does not mean that these systems do not produce enough to feed the world, sustainable system can produce the gross calories needed at far higher qualities, its just that the dollars need to go to empower the labor needed to maintain lower chemical and energy input systems.

Its a bad cycle though we get trapped in, tight margins and we are tempted to skimp on food.  Its made all the more worse by the multitude of confusing hippy dippy or corporate “organic” options designed to lure the concerned consumer into feeling good about his/her purchase. It is though something we vote for every trip to the grocery store, and whatever way we vote I think we really need to stay educated on where our food is coming from and its effects on the environment and our bodies. Its likely a bigger deal than any of us might tend to consider.

Peak Patriarchy?

Off the keyboard of Guy McPherson

Published on Nature Bats Last on March 24, 2013

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Allan Savory has been receiving a lot of attention based on his recent TED talk. I hate to dignify his ludicrous ideas with a response, even in this this little-read space, but I can’t seem to help myself. Savory’s general ideas are utter nonsense, as I will illustrate in this brief essay. Further, as you can see in his TED talk, he practices an approach steeped in the command-and-control patriarchal hubris for which civilized humans have become infamous and which led directly to the disaster in which we find ourselves firmly ensconced. Not surprisingly, many of my white male colleagues fail to see the ongoing disasters for what they are.

Admitting he participated in the murder of 40,000 elephants, Savory belatedly discovered the strategy failed to accomplish the stated objective. Rather that admit failure, he proposes an exponential increase in omnicide, specifically by using livestock to destroy the remaining life in the world’s grasslands.

If you’re looking for a more extreme example of command-and-control management underlain by patriarchal hubris, you might be looking a long time.

Savory repeatedly uses the phrase, “mimicking nature” as if speaking the words makes it so. Instead of mimicking abusing nature with implements of destruction, perhaps we could instead rely upon native species and natural processes (e.g., fire allowed to spread at the scale, frequency, and season coincident with the evolutionary history of organisms in an area). Grazing is not the same as blazing, disturbance advocates aside.

Livestock represent the single most destructive force in the history of western North America, as I explained about 15 months ago. Cattle wreak havoc on soil via several avenues, most notably by compacting soil, removing organic matter, increasing runoff, and decreasing infiltration and percolation of precipitation. The wreaking of havoc is not restricted to soil, but instead extends to other organisms. Exactly nada zilch none zip bupkiss zero species native to North America evolved in the presence of cattle. Don’t even get me started on the completely irrelevant comparison between bison and cattle, two species with disparate behavior, diet, and morphology.

Next up, Savory offers cattle as a cure for global warming. Never mind that methane generated in the stomachs of Savory’s beloved ruminant animals contributes significantly to climate chaos, perhaps surpassing the damage done by automobiles. If you’re looking for logic, look elsewhere.

In other words, Savory proposes using cattle to heal the land (damaged primarily by cattle) while also reversing global warming (by ratcheting up methane production). And yes, people are taking him seriously. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but this is the same old bombing-the-village-to-save-it routine with which we’re all well-acquainted by now.

And, on the topic of logic, what are livestock supposed to do? That’s right, convert plant biomass to animal biomass. Along the way, the animals remove biomass from the land. That’s the whole point of the enterprise, after all: convert biomass into a form suitable for human consumption, and stripping the landbase is collateral damage.

Because this entire notion is nearly too absurd to believe, I insist upon providing a recap. Savory proposes using the single most destructive force in the history of western North America to heal western North America. Were he alive, even George Orwell would be embarrassed. Stunningly, that’s not all. Savory also claims that a primary contributor to climate chaos will be used to reverse climate chaos. And, just to clarify, people are taking seriously Savory and his ideas.

As if logic were not sufficient to put a stop to Savory’s stupidity, we have data. Droves of data. And all those data point in the opposite direction Savory would have us you believe. Consider, as starting points for debunking Savory’s ideas, the following print publication and the online references linked here, here, and here. Contrary to Savory’s crop-the-photograph approach to presentation of information, these publications are rooted in the process of science.

Briske, D.D., J.D. Derner, J.R. Brown, S.D. Fuhlendorf, W.R. Teague, K.M. Havstad, R.L. Gillen, A.J. Ash, and W.D. Wilms. 2008. Rotational grazing on rangelands: reconciliation of perception and experimental evidence. Rangeland Ecology & Management 61:3–17.

I am not suggesting these papers mention Savory by name, although they point out that his ideas are deleterious to soil productivity and biological diversity of native species. When acting within their profession, most scientists criticize ideas, not people.

Nor am I suggesting science as a panacea. Science as a process and a way of knowing relies upon models, concepts, predictions, and data to generate reliable knowledge. However, science is not capable of addressing some questions, particularly as they apply to the personal lives of individuals. These and a few other caveats notwithstanding, I prefer data-driven science over anecdote-driven marketing for most matters.


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