Before the excerpts from Matthew Rales, we have Michael Pollan. His video is an entertaining and thought provoking discussion about the relationships between people, food and plants; gardening, industrial agriculture, and farming.
The last section of the video wonderfully illustrates what is possible with grass and cows. In fact, Pollan is describing his visit to Joel Salatin's farm. He discusses how natural and ecologically balanced this system is, and how much food it produces.
(Sandra's comment: It's almost a side benefit that it also takes carbon out of the atmosphere. You can't get better than that!)
Farming in this way produces healthy animals, healthy plants, and extraordinarily health-supporting food. At the same time, it is BOTH ecologically and economically viable.
Go to the video on ted.com. The part about Salatin's farm starts a bit after 10:30 minutes.
The Omnivore's Next Dilemma
Now, to Rales.
An Inconvenient Cow: The Truth Behind the U.N. Assault on Ruminant Livestock
Wise Traditions, Spring, 2008 edition
In late November of 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a startling report. Its official title is "Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options". References to this report have been frequent in the last year, especially on environmental and nutrition-related fronts. The report accuses the cow of the worst environmental crimes -- land degradation, water pollution, acid rain, biodiveristy and habitat loss, desertification, deforestation, and foremost among the headlines, global warming. Cows and other ruminants are responsible for generating 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous-oxide, 64 percent of ammonia, and 37 percent of the world's methane, the U.N. scientists declare.
Ancillary reports that expound upon these figures are everywhere. The American media have enjoyed selling the annihilator-cow theme to an audience conditioned by anti-animal foods propaganda and environmental fabrications, such as the "fact" that greedy farmers in the Amazon eradicate rainforest for more and more land to graze their cattle.
Syndicated nutrition columnists present us with lists of environmentally friendly food choices, invariably free of any and all animal products, and environmentalists cite the report as further evidence to keep cattle out of national parks and "protected" public lands.
But it's not just the mainstream news networks and publications that have circulated these accusations aginst livestock. Alternative energy and sustainable living magazines have produced a smattering of recent articles: "Eat Less Meat", "Meat is Methane", "Save the World; Go Vegan". These catchy titles sit on the magazine rack at your local natural foods co-op. And so the readership of these publications continues to patronize those trendy pseudo-foods like soy milk and veggie burgers -- the production of which is a principle reason for deforestation in the Amazon. The other use for soybeans from these degrading land use practices is feed for confinement animals -- beef and dairy cattle, pigs, poultry and fish -- for which pasteured cows continue to be blamed.
Allan Nation, editor of the Stockman Grass Farmer, reports back from his recent trip to Argentina that "eight dollar" soybeans for world export are edging out the domestic, sustainable grass-fed beef industry. Why don't we hear environmentalists denouncing this supreme symbol of industrial agriculture with the same passion they muster for condemning beef? Why are the green-conscious not boycotting the oilseed plant that literally drinks Middle Eastern oil in the form of petrochemical herbicides? That's because our society has been conditioned to support a co-opted environmental movement in the name of a chemical-intensive vegetable bypass industry, at the tragic expense of good health to both man and environment via the qualities of grazing animals (those methane-belching creatures that we love to hate) and their products -- meat and milk for people, manure for the soil -- none of which our society can afford to lose.
The real paradox of the report is the way in which it avoids dealing with the twin-conundrum of mass-scale monocultural grain production and confinement animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These are the two destructive pillars of an industry gone wrong, yet the U.N. points its global finger not at bad management practices like feedlots and confinement dairies, but at the cows themselves; not at Monsanto, but at real farmers, who raise livestock in accordance with nature's principles -- on grass.
[end of first excerpt]
SIXTY MILLION BISON
In his fascinating recent book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles Mann paints a picture of wild ruminant populations before the arrival of Europeans: "North America at the time of Columbus was home to sixty million bison, thirty to forty million pronghorns, ten million elk, ten million mule deer, and as many as two million mountain sheep". That's just North America. We have not even considered the enormous herds pounding the African plains, nearly all of which are methane-producing ruminants including wildebeest, Cape buffalo, giraffes, gazelles, antelope, kudu -- you get the point. Even today, these animals number in the hundreds of millions; their number were many fold greater in the past. How can it be that we have been able to overlook this perfectly natural scenario and move forward with casting the blame on the world's 1.5 billion domesticated cattle?
Managed grazing, which attempts to mimic the grazing patterns of these great wild herds, can produce an abundance of nutritious animal foods, while sequestering massive amounts of atmospheric carbon. We are told by the global warming gurus that the earth is heating up due to excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Through specific grazing strategies we can sequester this excess carbon and form rich, productive topsoil in the process. We do this not by planting more trees, or even setting aside more wildlife preserves. We do this with domesticated ruminants -- pulsing the landscape with large numbers of animals for short periods of time.
[end of excerpt]
-- Read the latest reports on global warming here: Is Global Warming for Real?
-- Read about the environmental benefits of grassfarming here Grassfarming Can Help to Reverse Global Warming, and here Reversing Global Climate Change with Holistic Management
-- Read about the importance and value of cows and about the battle over raw milk here.
-- Go to my blog posting about soy, to learn about the health hazards associated with the consumption of soy foods. A tremendous amount of information about soy is available through the Weston A. Price Foundation, among others.
Monsanto's Harvest of Fear By Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele Vanity Fair. May 2008 Issue. Monsanto already dominates America's food chain with its genetically modified seeds ...
-- Read about the Clintons and their ties to Monsanto at Our Food, Monsanto & the Clintons.