Dear Going Organic:
In response to your recent Water Issue, I would like to add…
It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, compared to a mere 25 gallons to produce one serving of rice or grain, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. More conservative estimates put the water consumption of cattle farming closer to 1,000 gallons per pound, but either way, that’s a lot of water.
If you aren’t ready to commit to a vegetarian or vegan diet full time, consider opting for a meat-free meal once each week, which can save a whopping 84,000 gallons of water per year. On days you still eat meat, choosing poultry instead of beef also cuts down on water use. It only takes about 500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of chicken, compared to the thousands of gallons required for beef, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
In a report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) predicts that by 2050, two-thirds of people worldwide will lack clean water to meet even their basic needs and the biggest cause is animal agriculture.
Over 10 billion animals are raised for food in the United States alone every year. Those animals drink huge amounts of water, and even more fresh water is used to grow the feed that they eat. In 2008, approximately 50% of the corn crop and 60% of the soybean crop were fed to US livestock according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Besides using all that clean, fresh water, animal agriculture pollutes a lot more of it. For example, tons of animal wastes are discharged into waterways each year. In most of the developing world, untreated manure enters water used by people for drinking, washing, and bathing.
Along with the manure flow come lots of other undesirables, including pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and their breakdown products, not to mention the surplus of nitrogen and phosphorus coming from fertilizers placed on the feed crops. All of this livestock-related influx upsets balance in nature. It can lead to fish kills and algal blooms which can deaden lakes.
“Livestock’s Long Shadow” states that the #1 contributor of greenhouse gases is not vehicle emissions, but raising livestock, which accounts for 18% of all carbon dioxide equivalents. And between the methane, ammonia, and nitrous oxide, the situation is really heating up (literally!) on a global level—raising livestock is responsible for 70% of forests cleared for grazing and feed crop production in the Amazon Rain Forest.
By going vegan or decreasing your meat intake, you will help save vast amounts of water, stop pollution, slow global warming and deforestation, and on top of all that, save money! Buying seasonal produce, canned and dried beans, bulk grains, and tofu is cheaper than steak, no matter how you slice it.
—Sincerely, Mitch Wallis
Growing up in Louisiana was a perilous proposition, tomboy that I was. Swimming down on the bayou, catnaps atop giant Magnolias, and riding bareback at night and capturing poisonous critters all headlined my summer activities. It is a miracle I made it out alive.
Afternoons I hung out in the kitchen with our housekeeper while she cooked the most delectable Southern fare. All things fried or sugary were her specialties, and I couldn’t get enough. She’d let me spoon Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk out of the can. It tasted like Heaven on Earth. Fudge was also a staple at our house.
A typical dinner was fried chicken, chicken fried steak, or deep fried crustaceans. Side dishes were cheesy grits, hush puppies, topped off with mouth-watering sugary desserts. How I avoided juvenile diabetes is a medical mystery.
My awakening began after moving to California in mid-1970. Everyone was obsessed with all things healthy. With a new marriage, three young children and a busy career, I was running on empty. I’d been a Kodak model and looked fit, but I was tired to the bone, especially mornings.
A friend recommended I see a holistic doctor. My blood sugar levels were off the charts, and I was advised to clean up my diet or suffer the consequences. A little book called Sugar Blues opened my eyes. Next, I began reading about toxic chemicals sprayed on fruits and vegetables, and hormones and antibiotics injected into animals. I began to understand that food was my body’s fuel, and eating well provided me with vital life force energy. I had avoided diabetes, and I started literally eating my way to health and wellbeing.
There is a price to pay for living consciously. A holistic, organic lifestyle takes more time, energy, thought, and sometimes more money. But the payoff is priceless. As we eat, drink, and exercise our way to a vibrantly healthy life, we look and feel years younger, and who doesn’t want that? Living organic is worth it, for sure! Thanks for helping us in Going Organic,
—Cheryl, La Quinta CA