American consumers are accustomed to buying beef, pork and poultry by the pound. There is a more comprehensive way to measure the cost of livestock production, however: by the acre and by the gallon.
Using this standard, the opportunity costs add up fast; including the acres of grain needed to feed the herds, the acres of species-rich land lost; the gallons of water needed to sustain immense animal concentrations, and the gallons of water in streams, lakes and oceans contaminated by runoff.
Veganic farmers are doing their part to mitigate these toxic effects, not only by providing healthy, ﬂavorful alternatives to meat-centered meals, but also by reducing the demand for that other mass by-product of modern livestock operations: manure.
By almost every measure, any downward pressure on the demand for slaughterhouse products would have widespread positive impacts throughout the ecosystem. Data from EarthSave provides some important perspective:
• Among the resources consumed by the production of livestock: 50 percent of all the water used in the U.S., 70 percent of the annual U.S. grain harvest.
• Pounds of edible product that can be produced on an acre of prime land: apples 20,000, carrots 30,000, potatoes 40,000, tomatoes 50,000, beef 250.
• Producing one pound of feedlot beef uses 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain, 35 pounds of topsoil and the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. By comparison, one pound of apples requires 49 gallons of water, a pound of carrots 33 gallons, a pound of potatoes 24 gallons and a pound of tomatoes 23 gallons.
EarthSave was founded in 1988 by John Robbins, author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated book, Diet for a New America.
One fascinating aspect of this international nonproﬁt’s story is that Robbins’ world was not always centered on issues of global environmental consequence, but was instead once consumed by questions of cones, cakes and 31 scooped ﬂavors. For John Robbins began life’s journey as heir to the Baskin-Robbins fortune.
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