The Carnivore’s Dilemma by Nicolette Hahn Niman

To a rancher like me, who raises cattle, goats and turkeys the traditional way (on grass), the studies show only that the prevailing methods of producing meat — that is, crowding animals together in factory farms, storing their waste in giant lagoons and cutting down forests to grow crops to feed them — cause substantial greenhouse gases. It could be, in fact, that a conscientious meat eater may have a more environmentally friendly diet than your average vegetarian.

So begins an argument in favor of traditional farming methods of raising meat by a practicing vegetarian. Nicolette Hahn Niman articulates the arguments better than I could…And says exactly what I’ve felt was the problem with the industrial agriculture world view. Trying to squeeze the last cent of profit from every transaction leads to a devaluation of every part of the circle of life.

In contrast to factory farming, well-managed, non-industrialized animal farming minimizes greenhouse gases and can even benefit the environment. For example, properly timed cattle grazing can increase vegetation by as much as 45 percent, North Dakota State University researchers have found. And grazing by large herbivores (including cattle) is essential for well-functioning prairie ecosystems, research at Kansas State University has determined.

Additionally, several recent studies show that pasture and grassland areas used for livestock reduce global warming by acting as carbon sinks. Converting croplands to pasture, which reduces erosion, effectively sequesters significant amounts of carbon.

This piece in the New York Times covers a lot of ground with some very informative references…Take a few minutes and check it out. Just looking at the environmental issues raised, Ms. Niman makes a compelling argument for a rethinking of “modern” agricultural practices. When you add in the health issues raised by industrial agriculture, you are in a whole new realm of problems.

But then, I must be one of those “intellectual elites” who feels everyone deserves a healthy diet and that the real costs of all of our food should be included in what we are paying at the grocery store. Chances are if we weren’t subsidizing farm crops and pushing off to our grand-kids the costs of the environmental and health disasters industrial agriculture is enabling  we would see that the cheap food in the local supermarket really isn’t really cheap at all…

Full Article – The Carnivore’s Dilemma- Nicolette Hahn Niman – NYTimes.com.

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