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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Guest Opinion: Alicia Bosenko

Greener is better and will cost you more, too. But is it just the price tag at your local grocer, or does the green revolution have a higher cost on our planet as well?

Terms such as “organic” and “sustainable” are being tossed around in our campus paper as well as larger media sources. Recently, The California Aggie has presented articles with information on vegan, vegetarian and sustainable lifestyles on campus. But the information is biased, with interviews coming from sustainability managers at the dining commons and lifelong vegetarians on campus. Additionally, the blemished perception only gives one side of the story, creating a skewed view that the grass is greener on the sustainable side. But is it?

A year ago The California Aggie printed one of the first articles about Meatless Mondays. It stated that the program provides awareness on sustainability concerns associated with meat consumption such as carbon dioxide, water usage and saturated fats.

Sustainability does not mean lack of meat intake. In fact, the USDA defines sustainable agriculture as “farming systems that are capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely. Such systems… must be resource conserving, socially supportive, commercially competitive, and environmentally sound.”

Furthermore, the world population is expected to grow by 2.2 billion people in 40 years, which will decrease water resources and available land. To meet these needs, we have grown in technological advances to create production, harvesting, feeding and growing methods that increase yields, decrease finishing time and generally produce more saleable product for the general consumer. (Finishing time is the life stage where an animal is putting on more fat and less energy into growth so it can reach an appropriate harvest weight.)

Production methods can be further evaluated by researchers including Dr. Jude Capper, of Washington State University, who presented statistics on feedlot versus grass-fed beef. The table provided shows that feedlot cattle require fewer resources and produce fewer emissions than grass-fed cattle. Her research further compares the extended time to produce grass fed beef as an equivalent to putting approximately one more car on the road per single animal. Accordingly, current research is evaluating traditional feeding methods to further decrease carbon emissions while maintaining feed efficiency.

Media hype continues to run complaints against animal abuse with one such article by The California Aggie stating, “As concern for the environment and animal suffering grows, so does the demand for vegan food options, and UC Davis is answering the call.” This is a misconception, especially in the realm of livestock, because abused animals do NOT produce saleable products. An abused, mistreated or lame animal will not consume feed at an efficient rate, which will in turn lead to poor fat coverage, poor marbling, less cooler life, less shelf life in the stores and a lower quality product that will not generally enter the food chain. (Marbling is intramuscular fat that adds to tenderness and flavor. Cooler life is the amount of time a carcass hangs in the cooler after harvesting to properly cool the core body temperature and harden the fat.)

The USDA enforces animal care and meat quality with an 11-step certification on all meat for class, quality or grade. The USDA also has requirements on pen size, animal per square foot and husbandry practices. In order to meet these demands, animals must be well raised and cared for to optimize product quality. The producer will not make income on a poorly cared for animal and thus has no desire to produce livestock in such a manner.

Secondly, Meatless Mondays promote soy products as more environmentally friendly and with a lower fat content than meat. However, supplementing soy for meat has some repercussions. For example, soybean lacks methionine and has lysine, but is not nearly as abundant as milk casein, a similar amino acid. Studies show that complete proteins with all nine essential amino acids as found in meat, poultry and some dairy products are essential in iron intake and are important for growing children, teenagers and premenopausal women.

Finally, the consumption of organics has been broadcast as the better alternative for people and animals alike. The USDA defines organic products as those that came from animals that have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones, and crops that have been grown without the use of pesticides, fertilizers with synthetic ingredients, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. While this may sound like the healthy, wholesome option for some, in actuality it results in decreases in crop yields and raises concerns for animal welfare. As consumers, people often run to the store for cough syrup when a cold emerges or to the doctor for large infections and willingly consume the necessary medications to improve their quality of health. The organic production thereby limits a producer to a decision between their source of income and the proper antibiotic treatments for their animals. In the dairy industry, especially, the use of antibiotics means that the cow cannot be milked in an organic dairy again. Consequently, the organic ideals may not be what are best for animal welfare because it limits animal care or shortens the productive life (the amount of time the animal is actually producing eggs, milk or offspring) if antibiotics are administered. This concern for contaminants in the food chain, which organics is meant to stop, is actually enforced by the USDA for all non-organic livestock as well. The USDA and all medicinal drugs require that animals must undergo a specified withdrawal period before they can be harvested and consumed, thereby keeping contaminants out of the food chain.

On a personal note, I agree with expanding and diversifying dining commons menus to better reach varied lifestyle choices in vegetarianism, veganism and even some religious menu options. Additionally, UC Davis has done well at creating a green and sustainable campus in areas including bike use, energy efficient building construction, waste reduction and recycling options, as well as fuel efficient buses. All of the terms and ideas being printed as the proper alternative should be re-evaluated and all voices should be heard so that our educated and developing campus can make their own informed decisions, and so we as a society can compromise to feed the ever-expanding population that continues to limit our land and water resources.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I would also like to point out to any student who is unsure of the practices of meat production or cattle production that our campus provides classes for you to learn about the industry and its practices. In fact, even vegetarians work at these facilities and learn a new and informative perspective about the raising of livestock and the resources that go into it. In fact, our campus is home to various conventional livestock production facilities, including a Feedlot, Sheep Barn, Avian Facility, Swine Barn, and yes even a slaughter house.

    Should you be interested I encourage ALL students to take courses such as ANS 1, 41, 41L, 49B (this is a beef production class and it will be offered in spring quarter), and more that can be found in the course catalog. These classes are fun, hands on, interactive courses that provide students with insight on livestock production and its practices.

    On another note, I would like to say that just because people eat meat (as the omnivores that we are) does not mean that the general population understands where that product comes from or how it is raised. I have eaten meat all my life, but coming from the city (San Jose, home to a million people) I did not gain a perspective on where my meat was coming from until I was 19 years old and took my first production class here at UCD. These classes have given me a grasp on how livestock are raised and exactly why each conventional practice is done. Usually, they are to ensure that the product that reaches your plate is safe, healthy, cheap, and nutritious.

  2. I find it funny that so many people are going to miss the point of this article as they are immediately up in arms about whether vegetarianism or eating meat is better. The point of this article is trying to convey is that in general the articles in the Aggie tend to be slanted one way and that we should be aware of both sides of the arguement rather than blindly declaring who is right. Perhaps instead of slinging technical facts back and forth we can just acknowledge the underlying point here.

  3. Also just a few more side notes:

    Yes cattle do consume a lot of feed but 1) corn doesn’t hold a lot of nutrition for humans which is 1 of the main grains fed to them and 2) at 12-15 months old a steer (a castrated male cattle- cows are only female) weights about 1500 lbs. They do need to consume a lot of food to supply their body needs. But in contrast they also supply a large amount of product to consumers after harvesting.

    Finally, farmers and ranchers recycle their water usage because it is limited to them especially in California. Lagoons made from water and animal waste can be recycled for watering pastures of hay and other crops so that the waste acts as fertilizer and the water is re-used in another operation on their farm/ranch.

    My article was intended to inform some of the truth and facts of agriculture that are being misinterpreted and left out in the general media and our campus newspaper.

  4. To Momo: Hi I am the person who composed this article and not solely for people as yourself who are in fact removed from agriculture and speak against things they obviously have never worked with, but for the middle ground people who do indeed read paper articles and just assume it as truth. So many articles by the Aggie have been written without research, science, or an understanding of the industry.

    I am a UCD Alumni with a degree in Animal Science and Management. I spent my time at UC Davis involved in our facilities, the department, internships with local ranchers, attending conventions on water resources and land management, etc. As well as being a rancher myself. I have plenty more credentials that back my article and you can email me if you truly want them. I am well educated in what I was saying as well as using supporting evidence from research and the actual industry. I know I cannot change the views of people as extreme as you and if you note in my conclusion I do not oppose you. I feel everyone should be entitled to their opinion. BUT we should also have all the facts.

    As stated grass fed beef releases as much carbon dioxide as a single car. Not as green as we thought it to be.

    Livestock are not the main producers of green house gases. This has been disproved by our own UCD professor Dr. Mitloner on our campus! In addition, the facts above about livestock versus transportation are well supported as well.

    And the standards set and enforced by the USDA are growing, expanding, and capable of protecting our animals as well as consumers. However, similar to pets that get abused and removed from homes on a daily basis there are bad people out there and it takes time for a government agency to hear or see the effects of these few people hidden in our mass population. I can assure you I have seen emaciated cows from both organic and traditional ranches.

    Cattle, sheep, and goats are all made to consume roughages (grasses, hays, etc.) and also need a concentrate such as corns and grains so like us they can grow from the use of proteins. Hogs which are also livestock have a stomach similar to us and shouldn’t consume roughages therefore high concentrates are better for their digestion. Nutrition is something you know little about in this instance.

    I am sorry my article offended you so deeply, but instead of throwing out information from google searches, perhaps you should use your time on this campus to further evaluate the aspects of agriculture (including the gas, emissions, water resources, etc of vegetables) to at the very least become more informed.

  5. Slpbear,

    You are clearly not interested in changing your mind and considering alternative points of view. I’ve considered yours – I ate meat for the first 18 years of my life. But I always find it funny when people get aggressive and angry with vegetarians. I’m sorry that you view those of us who try to make ethical dietary choices as somehow threatening to your lifestyle.

    You seem to have no answer for the fact that we are putting more water and more grain into meat production than we get out. These factory farms are bad news for the air, the water, the soil, the animals, the workers, the people who live in those polluted towns and have increased health problems, the people who now have increased resistance to antibiotics, and the girls who hit puberty early because of all the hormones in their food.

    Just a quick note on your thoughts on the United Nations report:

    Figure 3.1 – Agriculture does not include the effects of deforestation, use of pesticides (the nitrates give off a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide), methane from the cows, etc. See page 51, 75, 79, 80, and 82 for more.

    Here are some more sources that might be quicker to read:

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2010/march/livestock-revolution-environment-031610.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html

    http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html

    http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6297

    http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Aug97/livestock.hrs.html

    I don’t have time to sit on the computer and debate (I have about 600 pages of reading to do this weekend), but I encourage you to check these reputable sources out and consider a different perspective. People don’t like to think about what goes on in factory farms but ultimately there are ethical, environmental, and health implications at stake that are important to consider.

  6. So just a few things from the link you posted:

    Figure 3.1 (Page 39) Agriculture contributes 14% to global emissions when TRANSPORT contributes 13% I’m pretty sure the MEAT industry does not make up 100% of agriculture yet transportation = transportation. Hmmm so how can the MEAT industry alone have more of an impact than transportation as you states as your FACT? Sorry theres more to agriculture than meat, this includes the evil little veggies that take equipment to harvest.

    Now lets look at the next figure page (40) As Figure 3.2 shows, electricity generation is the largest source of GHG emission in the US, contributing 36% to the total net emission in 2006. In 2007, 48% of a total 4,156 TWh (terawatts; one million megawatts), were supplied from coal power plants (EIA 2009). Coal, natural gas and petroleum combined produce 71.6% of electricity generated in the US (EIA 2009).

    The next largest GHG emission source is fossil fuel combustion in transportation, contributing 29% of the total net GHG emission in 2006. The third, fourth, and sixth largest sources are the industrial, residential and commercial sectors respectively.

    So somehow the first 2 relevant pages in the paper already disprove your “You Want Facts”

    Unfortunately I have to be off to work but don’t worry I’ll be sure to read the remaining pages of you 112 page document and “get back to you”

  7. Slpbear,

    Read this:

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:O5ZKhDb3s4YJ:www.unep.org/resourcepanel/documents/pdf/PriorityProductsAndMaterials_Report_Full.pdf+united+nations+meat+assessing+the+environmental+impacts+of+consumption+and+production&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a&source=www.google.com

    Then get back to me. Thanks.

    Christopher – I value free speech but it is scary to think that people will read this, think “hmm, that makes sense,” and continue to support factory farms while being sadly misinformed.

  8. Maybe momo you should have reviewed the RESEARCH cited that was attached to the printed article. RESEARCH with FACTS that are done at very reputable universities INCLUDING UC Davis. Its pitiful that people such as yourself who probably have absolutely no contact or direct knowledge of the food animal industry jump to conclusions solely based on your ability to google “facts”. Our nation is so far removed from agriculture that everyone believes what they hear and ignore research.

  9. Thanks, Momo. I was thinking the same thing while reading this infuriating article– but she is entitled to her opinion and whatever leaps of logic she may take to justify it.

  10. What a load of crap. Do you guys fact check before posting these? I can’t figure out if you are willfully ignorant or just in denial to make yourself feel better about supporting CAFOs.

    If you think the USDA effectively enforces any well-being for animals you are sadly mistaken. Their guidelines are not very humane, either, so even if they did enforce them, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

    And while CAFOs are more “efficient” because they crowd the animals together and pump them full of hormones and steroids and antibiotics to make them grow faster, you might want to consider the ethical implications for treatment of animals, treatment of workers, and pollution of air, soil, and water.

    You want facts?

    It takes 12,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

    The meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the transportation in the world combined.

    If you’re so concerned with feeding the world, maybe we should stop feeding all the grain to cows, who aren’t even designed to eat grain. It takes 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef. That sure doesn’t make sense to me.

    You don’t need animal products to get the right protein and iron. For example, quinoa is a complete protein with all essential amino acids. Americans are already consuming too much protein. Vegetarians actually suffer from vitamin deficiency LESS than meat-eaters.

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