Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Caryn: Hi. I’m Caryn Hartglass. I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years and I’ve been a vegan for about 20 years. My motivation for this type of diet is basically based on compassion. When I realized that animals were killed for food, it was something that I really didn’t want to participate in and so I began learning more and more about a plant based diet. As I learned I discovered so many things, there seem to be no reason not eat more fruits and vegetables. For example, I’ve learned that it’s certainly the best thing for our individual health. You will reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, all those chronic ailments that so many people experience in this country and more and more in other countries because of what they eat. Simply by eating a diet of more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds you get the benefit of better health. But in addition, and this is what I want to talk more about today, is the impact on the environment. A diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is gentler on the planet than a diet that is based on animal foods. That means beef and pork and chicken. Dairy products, eggs and fish. They all have different impacts on the environment.
I recently got an email with an article from The BBC and it was about elephant hair reveals competition. Basically what the article was about, they have a method now of determining from the chemical makeup of the tail hairs of elephants of what their lifestyle is like and what they’re feeding on. What was learned from this information of following a single family of elephants in Northern Kenya was that animals are, these animals are losing out to the cattle grazing that is happening on the grass that’s normally used to feed these elephants. There’s more and more pastureland being created for cattle, for food for people. It’s starting to entrench more and more on natural animals. So these precious elephants are having a harder and harder time finding food. That makes me want to talk more about cattle. Cattle as livestock, cattle for beef and cattle for dairy. Now, the raising of cattle for beef and for dairy has tremendous devastating effects on the environment. Basically, you can break it down into 3 basic categories. Beef are responsible for a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The raising of livestock for food and specifically beef has tremendously devastating effect on the land and the soil and also the water. So I want to touch on all of these aspects. To start with, I’ve mentioned this on other shows and I will continue to say it again because it was a phenomenal piece of information when it came out. Back in 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that livestock is responsible for a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions and these are what we call “human induced.” So of all things that are related to human activity is what we look at when we look at the greenhouse gas emissions. So, 37% of methane, 9% of all carbon emissions and 65% of nitrous oxide are from livestock. Most of the time people talk about carbon emissions, but you need to know that methane gas is 23 times more damaging than carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide is about 296 times more damaging or has a greater warming potential than carbon dioxide. It’s really hard to believe that the animals we raise for food, specifically cattle, have such a tremendous impact on greenhouse gas emissions. But, it’s true. Cattle in particular have a greater impact than pork and chicken.
Now, some of you may have heard of Mark Bittman, he’s not a vegetarian. He’s a New York Times columnist and an author and somewhat of a chef hero although he was not trained professionally to be a chef. He’s written a number of books, one called How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. He’s a non vegetarian who is putting a lot of very valuable information out these days about how important it is for us to change our diet so that we’re eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds and eating less meat. It’s so critical for the environment. For example, he says that he’s basically vegan before 6 pm. So what does that mean? All the food that he’s eating before 6 is plant based, and then he eats whatever he wants in the evening. This is one great way to transition to a healthier diet. You don’t have to commit all the way or right away to eating all plant food. But to consciously be aware of what you’re eating and eat less animal foods. For example, a study at The University of Chicago basically said that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20% it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan, like a Camry, to the ultra efficient Prius. That’s tremendous! Just by reducing the amount of meat you eat by 20% that’s not a lot. A couple of hamburgers a week. It has a tremendous impact. I’m certainly not discouraging anyone from buying a Prius, that would be a great thing. But something so simple as adjusting what we eat can make a tremendous, tremendous impact on the environment. I can’t say enough about that and I am going to continue talking about it for the rest of this program.
So what makes meat, specifically beef, so polluting? Some would think that perhaps it’s all the transportation that goes on from pasturing the animal to putting it on a plate. But actually only 1% of red meat’s emissions can be attributed to shipping. So, it’s a part but it’s a very small part. The high percentage of methane emissions and nitrous oxide from beef, which can come from the fertilizers that are used to grow the corn. Corn is most often used in feed for cattle. That effects the cow’s digestion and it causes a lot of methane gas to be emitted into the atmosphere. In addition to that, there’s a tremendous problem with the waste. Managing of the waste from these animals. That emits more greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, we have to, we’re running out of land to graze these animals, and so we’re clearing more and more forests. That effects global warming as well because without the trees, the trees will take in a lot of carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Without that cleaning machine, some ways that’s what a tree is, we loose the ability to make that exchange between carbon dioxide and oxygen. Also, there’s the growing of the food for the animals. All of these things: the growing of the feed, the clearing of the land for grazing, the managing of their waste, and the animals’ digestion, all contribute significantly to the animal’s contribution of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas. So, I mentioned land, the impact of our land based on the raising of cattle. You know that cows account for approximately 24% of the Earth’s land surface? Other livestock account for another 6%. So about 30% of the available land that we have is used for raising livestock. Now, I did a calculation a while ago. For the number of animals being raised today, if they were all able to be free-range and be able to graze there’s nowhere near enough land on the Earth to free-range graze all of these animals. It’s estimated that by 2050, the number of animals we are going to grow and raise for food, is going to double. So how do we accommodate all of these animals if we don’t have enough land to graze them? Well they’re crammed into these factory farms. High-density amount of animals. This high density of animals causes a tremendous amount of air pollution.
I’m talking about the impact of the raising of cattle for beef and it’s impact on the environment. It’s tremendously devastating. I mentioned briefly how we’re expanding the pastureland. How as we raise more and more cattle, there needs to be more land for them to graze. So what’s happening is we’re destroying lots of trees and other plants. There’s this destruction of the forests, rain forests. In fact, 70% of the forests in Central and South America have been cleared for cattle grazing. This is considered to be the main cause of extinction of both plant and animal species there. The extinction of some of these plants for example, we don’t even know the damage that it’s going to do to us in the future because we get a lot of our medicines from some of these wild species that we find in the rain forest. In addition, when we clear trees, a lot of things happen to that environment. When the trees and plants are leveled, all of that organic matter is carbon based and a lot of that just goes up into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and increases the greenhouse gas. Thus raising the climate temperature. A lot of different things happen. We’re releasing more CO2 into the environment, and also all of these plants were absorbing CO2 and putting out oxygen and so we loose that balance as well. Unfortunately in the rain forest, the soil is really not very good when the area has been deforested. So the cows will come in and graze in these areas and they’ll trample the land and the land will not be used in a sustainable way for pasturing these animals. Then, the soil quickly becomes infertile and like dust, and you can’t use that area anymore for even grazing. That leads to more and more deforestation. It’s not a sustainable process and we really can’t continue doing this because forests are so essential to our own well being, to our own existence.
So, I’ve mentioned so many things happen with deforestation. Soil erosion, the degrading of vegetation which leads to increased carbon release, and it also leads to a reduction in biodiversity and also the availability of water because the root system in a forest is so important to stabilize that environment and hold water in that particular area. When the trees are gone the water has nowhere to be held or to go, so the water dries up and the area becomes really, really dead. Unfortunately, because the desire for meat is so great, the only model that we see is using this contained animal feeding operation, CAFO, as the way to produce enough animal food to satisfy human’s desire for meat. Certainly the increase in human population is part of this problem, but we can manage sustainably feeding the number of people on this planet and the one’s that are to come in the future if we were eating a plant based diet. It’s not sustainable on a meat-based diet. So, there are so many things that use water. For example, in the beef production the animals need to be hydrated, cleaning the facilities, but it’s really in growing the plants to feed the animals where we use a tremendous amount of water. So there are all these water concerns. There are 2 problems with water related to beef. That is the pollution or the contamination of our water and also the huge quantities of fresh water that are used. Number one, there’s a tremendous amount of waste that these animals create on these factory farms, a tremendous amount of waste. This waste is either stored in these open-air lagoons, or they’re sprayed like fertilizer on land. The problem today about 70% of all the water quality problems in rivers and streams are attributed to the agriculture sector and most of that is from beef. A lot of the problems that we have in our rivers and streams, pollution that are impacting the fish life, the coral reefs, are due to the toxic nature of the waste coming from livestock, primarily beef. The animal wastes are filled with nitrogen, and phosphorous. Lots of organic matter, solids, pathogens, odorous compounds. In fact, the people that live near many of these factory farms have the unfortunate situation of living in a very smelly neighborhood. There have been a number of articles where people talk about how they can’t even hang out their laundry because it smells so bad outside. This animal waste is killing fish, leaching into the soil, polluting our drinking water, it’s really devastating. Now in addition, there’s the fresh water. Only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh, fresh water. Now, only about 8% of the world’s fresh water is used by livestock. I will continue on this in a moment. I’m going to take a call right now.
Caryn: Hello, are you there?
John: Hi yes, my name is John I’m calling from New York City.
Caryn: Hi John.
John: Hi. Hey, listen I really like your show and I was just wondering, do you have any books you can recommend to kind of get in deeper on the subject on what you’re discussing?
Caryn: Oh absolutely John, great question. John Robbins wrote his ground breaking bestseller in 1987 called Diet for a New America. Everything that I’m talking about was founded on what was in that book.
John: Diet for a New America?
Caryn: Diet for a New America. Now, since that time he’s written a more updated version called The Food Revolution. They’re both excellent books.
John: Can I find those on your website?
Caryn: We don’t sell those books, but they’re easy to find and there’s a website foodrevolution.org that’s John Robbins’ site for The Food Revolution.
John: Excellent. Excellent. Thank you so much, I’m really enjoying your show. Thanks a lot.
Caryn: Okay thank you.
Caryn: Bye. Thank you John. Now back to beef and the use of water. As I was saying, only about 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh water. Only 8% of the fresh water used is by the livestock industry. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but those few 8% are responsible for the largest source of water pollution. Wow. How can that be? Well, as I mentioned there’s the animal waste. You know what’s in the animal waste? Antibiotics, hormones, there’s chemicals from the tanneries where leather is made. There are the feed crops that are used for these animals, we use lots of fertilizers and pesticides and when those animals eat those foods, it comes out in their waste and into our water supply. So, there are a lot of different numbers that talk about how many gallons of water are actually used to raise livestock and specifically cattle for beef and dairy. It really depends on where the animal is being raised. The range is quite significant. The cattlemen will give you the lowest amount, it’s somewhere around, they’ll tell you around 850 gallons of water to make a pound of beef. But that number will vary and I’ve seen numbers as large as 12,000 gallons to create one pound of beef. So, somewhere between 10 and 50 times more water is needed to make a pound of beef verses a pound of plant food like potatoes or wheat. It’s huge. Where does that water come from? A lot of the water today is pumped up from aquifers with high-powered diesel pumps. These aquifers were created during the ice age. Lots and lots of wonderful fresh water under the Earth’s surface. We pump it out and we irrigate a lot of what was called the dust belt, because it can be dry and we grow a lot of cereal crops, corn primarily, to feed animals. It’s so inefficient and it’s so unsustainable. On that note, I’m going to take a little break and we will continue talking more about beef and the environment when we come back.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, I’m Caryn Hartglass. There are so many diets out there, and as we all know, most weight loss diets don’t work in the long term. But, when you move to a healthy, plant-based diet (more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds), it’s really a lifestyle it’s not a weight loss diet. And what happens is you lose weight. You lose weight naturally, easily, and I find that I don’t feel deprived at all. I eat what I want when I want and as much as I want because the foods that I chose to eat are healthy. And when you are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, they’re filled with fiber and they’re filled with water, and these things make you feel full and satisfied.
The problem today with the standard American diet, sad standard American diet, S-A-D sad, is that processed foods make up most of the calories that people eat and these processed foods are dry. They have no water in them, and a lot of them have very little fiber. And so what happens is you want to eat more, more of these foods to feel full and you end up eating more calories than you need and gain weight. It’s really very simple. If you would munch on a bag of mesclun greens, organic fresh green right out of the bag instead of a bag of chips, you’d be getting so many nutrients and feeling full instead of eating all of those empty calorie foods. Now you might say, “I don’t want to eat a bag of greens. They don’t taste good”. It does take a certain amount of time, three weeks to three months, for your taste buds to actually change and as you are reducing the amount of salt and fat in your diet, you’ll find over time that the salty, fatty foods don’t really taste good anymore. So there is a little bit amount of work on your part in the beginning, but it’s really worth the rewards. You’re going to look better, feel better and not really have issues with your food anymore. It’s really very liberating when you can eat what you want and feel good about it, and the foods are delicious.
Okay, I just wanted to finish up, we were talking about the impact of raising cattle on our environment today and as I’ve mentioned, it’s devastating to the soil. It’s devastating to our waterways, very polluting. It’s also devastating to the air where a lot of greenhouse gases are unfortunately being emitted. Now one of the reasons why cows put out so much methane gas, it’s because of what they eat. Cows are supposed to eat green grass and as I’ve mentioned before, there really isn’t enough land on the Earth to graze animals, the number of animals that are on the planet for food. And so we have to confine them in factory farms. Now, cows are allowed to graze, typically on grass, until they weigh about sixty hundred and fifty pounds until they are about six months old. And then to speed up their growth, they’re moved into feedlots and they eat about twenty-five pounds of fattening corn-based grain mixture a day for about six months. And then they grow to about another four hundred pounds. They’re also given steroids. And it’s this corn, grain mixture that they’re eating that gives them a tremendous amount of digestive problems and as a result, they put out a lot of methane gas. If they were eating green grass all the time and allowed to grow at a much slower pace, they wouldn’t be putting out as much. Even still, if we were to graze all the cattle, well we’d need several other planets because we can’t physically do it, so what has to happen? People need to reduce the amount of animal food they eat. People need to reduce the beef that they’re eating. Now some people say, “Okay, I don’t eat red meat, but I’m eating more chicken and fish”, and that’s not the answer. The answer is not to just reduce the amount of red meat and move over to chicken and fish. During some other programs in the future, I’ll talk about the problems of fish consumption and eating chicken on health and on the environment. Both not good. What needs to happen is for people to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Organic, locally grown is good. We need to get more plant foods in our diet, and we all need to do our part. Unfortunately, the government to date has contributed to the problem. For example, we have the Clean Water Act and to a small degree, some of the waste from these confined animals is regulated by this act but it’s not enough and a lot of it depends on the voluntary acts of the farmers to clean up this mess and as a result, it’s not happening. And the government is also not doing a great job of looking for the violators and punishing them so we can’t really depend on the government. Certainly, I anticipate a change in the subsidies that are given to grow corn and raise livestock and when those subsidies are reduced or go away, that will help, but it’s the supply and demand. People need to stop demanding more beef and demanding more dairy and when that happens, we’ll have better hope for the environment. So, we all need to do our part and I want to make the world know that it’s not a difficult thing to do and the more of us that do it, the more other people that will want to do it. The more popular it will become so you really need to do your part.
So, that’s basically what I wanted to talk about regarding beef, and I can’t say enough about it. What’s really frustrating to me is when I hear things on the television or in the media and certainly the topic of “going green” is very popular today and people are talking about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I get bombarded with emails from different environmental organizations saying to sign a petition or call your legislative leaders to talk about different things that are related to the different methods where we get our energy to promote solar and wind and to reduce the mining for coal and to make cleaner energy sources and all that is really important, but what I never ever ever hear is that we all need to reduce the amount of animal foods in our diet. And that is the single thing that would have the most effect. The most dramatic improvement. Why isn’t anyone talking about it? Well we’re talking about it here. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and this is All About Food.
So, there are some other things in the news that are very important. Twice a year, the National Organic Standards Board holds public meetings and they want to hear from the public and make recommendations to the USDA National Organic Program and it’s really important that we all participate and give our voice to this program because there’s always a tendency that they want to water down the standards for the Organic Program and we really can’t let that happen. So, you can submit comments to the National Organic Standards Board and there are a number of things that are really important: biodiversity should be prioritized in the organic system plan. What is biodiversity? It’s the availability of a lot of variety of plants that we grow on Earth and unfortunately, more and more we are going to a monocrop system where over a tremendous amount of acres, the giant agribusiness will grow one thing. One kind of wheat, one kind of potato. But, it’s really important to have a variety of all of these things because it makes it more sustainable. When there’s one kind of food that’s grown, one kind of potato, if there’s ever a blight of some sort, a virus or a pest that takes over, you lose that whole crop. And when you have diversity, you have the ability for some of those strains to resist the particular problem. And so if we only grow one type of crop and that is wiped out for some particular problem, then we dramatically reduce our food supply. That’s very serious so biodiversity is really important. And in terms of taste, it’s much more interesting to have a wide variety of foods to choose from. There’s so many different kind of potatoes. There are white ones and yellow ones and red ones and little ones and big ones, and they all have slightly different flavors. The same thing with wheat and apples and everything that we grow. There are many different varieties, and variety is the spice of life, isn’t it? So we really want to have a system that supports diversity.
Another problem is carbon dioxide and other inner gases are used frequently in packaging aids and they create an appearance of freshness. So, some of the packaged bags of vegetables are filled with carbon dioxide or other gases that are inert but the food looks fresh but it really isn’t. And as soon as you open that bag, the food will spoil very quickly and we really shouldn’t be using this especially not for organic food. The food should be fresh. It’s really important to buy fresh food, buy locally, and try and get food as fresh as possible. You don’t want food that’s been in a warehouse for three weeks and then in a store for several weeks and then in your refrigerator.
I was reading an interesting article about how permanent genetic changes caused by poor nutrition in the womb. So there’s more and more evidence now that shows that the nutrition of the mother while the child is growing in the womb will permanently affect the health of the child. And there’s more information now about how what the child eats as it’s growing will impact its health in later years. My favorite doctor, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, wrote a book called Disease Proof Your Child, and he also talks about how early nutrition is really critical to provide quality of life and great health in later years. So, I can’t say enough about eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and it’s so important throughout all of our life. Some people might think, “Oh, it’s difficult. My child’s a finicky eater and when they grow up and learn, then they will know how to eat better”, but it’s really important to start when the child is not just young but even before then in the womb. And often what happens is when the mother eats well when the child is born and continues to be introduced to healthy foods, the child won’t want to eat junk food or foods that aren’t good for them. We have a natural desire to eat healthy foods. I’m always really saddened sometimes when I ride the subway for example and I see young mothers and I can’t believe what I see sometimes in the bottles that they are feeding their children. Sugary sodas or very sweet, sugary juices, and this is only developing a sweet tooth for the child and it’s going to want more sweet, sugary foods. And what’s being shown, we’re seeing more adult diseases. Diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and we’re seeing them younger and younger in children. It’s so important. Nutrition is really everything.
I have a number of friends that recently have had difficulty with their children having ear infections, and I’m always so upset when I hear about any child that’s sick. Children shouldn’t be sick. They should feel good, they should play, they should be happy and when they have pain, it really just breaks my heart and what’s really difficult for me is that a lot of it is unnecessary. People don’t realize most ear infections are linked to dairy consumption and so all that parents have to do is avoid feeding their children dairy. And it’s so easy today because there are so many different fortified drinks that can replace milk like soymilk and rice milk. There’s oat milk and juices for example that can be supplemented with calcium if you’re concerned about the calcium in the milk. And it’s so simple and yet instead, the children are being fed a lot of dairy and as a result, they have ear infections or when I was a child, I had strep throat quite frequently. And then as a result, the children are given antibiotics. Sometimes, frequently, they are not responsive to the antibiotics because the infection is viral and antibiotics don’t respond or don’t work on those types of infections. And so the kids are given antibiotics and that impacts their natural immune system. Frequently, antibiotics will kill the bad bacteria but also the good bacteria that we count on to resist the bad bacteria. Now, I’m not knocking antibiotics but we certainly use them a little too often. They can be useful with some very life threatening illnesses and infections. So, there are simple things that parents could do, and dairy is the thing to avoid. I can’t say enough about it.
So, this last week, we had Passover and this weekend was Easter and a lot of people were with their families, friends and had lots of festive foods to eat and I will admit that I participated in some of that. And as a result, we don’t feel so good when we’re gorging on lots of food especially for Passover, there’s a lot of white flour foods. So, what to do after the holidays? Well, it’s best to just get right back on track and eat the foods that are healthy and eat simply. Maybe just have some juice, some light foods and exercise is so important, yoga. Yoga’s great because you can go at your own pace and ease into exercise even when you don’t want to. And with yoga, you’re like massaging your organs and it can aid a lot in digestion and help you feel better.
Before I was talking about why we want to reduce red meat and beef specifically in our diets because it’s so detrimental to the environment. And rather than moving to replace the meat you eat with fish or chicken, it’s really best to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. We have one program where we’re doing sandwiches and lunch foods called “the power lunch”, and I make a plant-based burger. And it’s a really wonderful recipe and what you can do is watch the sequence, the recipe is on the website, and what I like to do is make a lot of them and you make a lot of them and you can freeze them. And so they are in your freezer available anytime and this is a great replacement for a regular meat, beef-based hamburger. And if you don’t have time to make your own burger, I can’t tell you how many different plant-based vegetable burgers there are today on the market. We’re really so fortunate, there are more and more wonderful foods and so you can easily get the veggie burgers that are available, and there’s all kinds of things now. In the cold case, there’s a soy-based replacement for chopped meat. You can use that and season it just like chopped meat and make meatballs, your favorite recipe for meatloaf. There’s really less and less reason to use beef because there are so many wonderful replacements that are healthier and gentler on the planet. And we’re fortunate here in New York City to have a number of places that make some really wonderful wheat or soy-based meat analogue. So, if you have difficulty, if you want to eliminate the meat in your diet but you’re having difficulty because you crave it so much, there are wonderful, wonderful substitutes. Supermarkets today have more of the deli meats that are vegetable-based. You can get plant-based baloney, plant-based ham, plant-based turkey, and you can use them on a sandwich with wonderful bread and other condiments, and I promise you will not miss a thing.
Okay, so before we go, I want to talk about some events that are happening in New York City and the New York area where I am. For example, this Sunday I am going to be tabling at an event in Huntington, New York at a Unitarian church. Their website iswww.uufh.org, and they are located at 109 Browns Road in Huntington and they are having a program called Holy Cow and it’s all about cows and a bit about what we talked about today and they’re going to talk about ethical eating and I’ll be there tabling. There’s an organization called Friends for Life Foundation. They’re atwww.friendsforlifefoundation.org, and it’s a support group for women who have had breast cancer and other cancers and I will be speaking there on Thursday, April 23rd. That’swww.friendsforlifefoundation.org. There’s also a food festival coming up in Brooklyn on May 2nd, Saturday, May 2nd called the Brooklyn Food Conference. You can get more information atwww.brooklynfoodconference.org, and that’s at John Jay High School in Brooklyn on 237 7th Avenue. I’ll be there most of the day tabling. And I wanted to thank my brother, Barry Hartglass, he supplied the music for this program and he and his jazz group will be having a wonderful concert this Friday in Carmel, Lake Carmel and more information on that atwww.artsonthelake.org. That’s Friday at 8pm and I will be there. The music is really fabulous.
Okay, so I want to thank you for joining me today. This has been It’s All About Food. I’m Caryn Hartglass so thank you very much, and we’ll talk again next week on Earth Day. Thanks for joining me.
Transcribed by Adella Finnan, 6/13/2017 and Lauren Inbody 4/25/2017