Sunday, November 29, 2009

Healthy eating - a lesson on digestion, short version

My earlier post is so full of information that your eyes may have glazed over quickly, so here is a shorter version.

This is not so much about your digestion as that of the cows and why it is important to us humans.

I was a vegetarian for 15 years.  Continued slips in overall health finally got my attention and I started reading something besides books that supported my views.  At some time, we have to be brave enough to examine opposing views.  My poor health pushed me to be brave.  If you are a vegetarian, I hope you are brave enough to continue reading this post.

Let's start with the biggest myth and the one I am focusing on today - that it takes sixteen pounds of grain to make one pound of beef.  In truth, it takes ZERO pounds of grain to make a pound of beef.  Cows and steers live on grass if allowed to do what nature intended.  They can live quite comfortably on marginal land that could only support cultivation of row crops through the use of fossil fuel fertilizers, or massive amounts of compost that will only work over time if it is mixed with animal manure.  And remember that worm castings are worm manure and the dead bodies of the worms.  Worms are not vegetables.

While the cow or steer is grazing on this marginal land, it is defecating and urinating copiously, adding nutrients to the soil and actually creating more topsoil than the grass it's eating will utilize.  The myth about how much water a cow needs completely ignores the fact that the cow puts the large majority of the water back on the ground, but now it is full of nutrients.  And the gas from cow belches pales when measured against the gas produced by wetlands. 

Let me add that I am not talking about factory farming in which animals are cramped together, fed grain, and live in filth.  I am talking about small family farms that use rotational grazing and take care of the land.  But there are factory farms that are not raising meat animals; there are factory farms that are stripping the land of nutrients to grow lettuce, tomatoes, corn, oats and wheat, then replacing them with fossil fuel fertilizers.  They are using heavy machinery that runs on diesel fuel, and their farming methods kill hundreds of animals in the process of plowing, cultivating and harvesting.  Factory farming feeds a lot of people cheaply, but it is not healthy for our planet. And please do remember that factory farming undoubtedly produced your soy burger.

I'm going to stop there regarding digestion.  If you want to read the nuts and bolts of how ruminants operate, and more about vegetable farming vs. animal farming, then go to my previous post.  Healthy Eating - long version  But I hope that by reading even this shorter version, I have give you some food for thought.

I have come to believe that it is some innate fear of death in our culture that leads us to poor decisions in land management and food production.  We are part of a circle of life.  At some time, we will be predators and we will be fodder.  We will eat living things, whether it is a carrot or a steer.  And we will eventually be eaten by the microbes that comprise a good percentage of our soil.  Our acceptance of this circle will help us to accept that something must die so that we might live.  To say that the carrot's life is less important than the steer's, that the weed's life is less important than the carrot's, to create some hierarchy of life that is linear, implies that we are on top, that our lives are the MOST important.  Remembering the circle, whether it is the circle of life or the circle of the seasons, will help us to live better, and to accept death as part of life.

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