After a little dino humour on Tuesday, it is now time for the serious topic of the week. Trust me when I say that I hate writing about these things, because it, yet again, is another inconvenient truth. The good news is that it reminds me why I started writing this blog in the first place.
I don’t know about you, but I have a really big problem with waste. Especially when I read a headline like the one below from February this year:
“Californian company recalls 8.7 million pounds of meat”
So what do you think about that? In February this year 8.7 million pounds of meat (primarily beef) produced by the California meat company, Rancho Feeding Corp., was recalled because it was determined to be “diseased and unsound.” It was actually given a Class 1 level, the most serious classification, which means that if ingested, you could experience serious adverse health effects or death. In the preceding month, this same company threw away another 40, 000 pounds of meat for a similar “slip up.”
Let’s have a look at what 8.7 million pounds of meat means:
A typical 750 pound carcass will yield about 65% of the carcass weight as retail cuts (roasts and steaks) and lean trim. So, in other words, you start with a 1200 pound steer, which has a dressing percent of 63%, so that you have a 750 pound carcass. From that you will get about 65% of the carcass weight, or roughly 490 pounds, as boneless, trimmed beef. If you look at that as a percentage of the live weight of the steer you started with, it is approximately 40% of the live weight. (Sourced from from iGrow)
So if 8.7 million pounds of beef were thrown away, and that 8.7 million is only 40% of the live weight, that means roughly EIGHTEEN THOUSAND animals were thrown away. Given that each pound of beef produced in the U.S. demands approximately 13 pounds of grain and 9463 litres of water, 113 MILLION pounds of grain, and 8.23 TRILLION litres of water were also wasted. In January of this year, the same company made another “small” error which required throwing away 40 thousand pounds of pork. Sixty-five percent of a pig’s live weight is used as meat. The average live slaughter weight of a pig is 225 pounds. To produce one pound of pork, 6060 litres of water are required and 7.3 pounds of grain, generating a total waste of about 300 pigs, 300 thousand pounds of grain, and 242 million litres of water. If only I could include the water wastage in terms of destroyed water habitat from excrement, and antibiotics. If you want to learn more, please see here to learn about the effects of meat on our natural resources.
A truck offloads dead cows for burial in Athi River. Hundreds of cows have died at the Kenya Meat Commission while awaiting slaughter. Photo/ABEL MOSINGISI/The East African (2011)
Wasting Animals and Wasting Water in Australia
So what are we wasting in Australia as a result of animal production? Well, did you know that in Australia, the dairy industry essentially throws away 700 THOUSAND bobby calves per year to supply us with cheap dairy? Once the adult females stop producing milk, they are discarded as well. We have roughly 29 million cattle in Australia, most of which are raised to be killed for food. Each year, 8 million of those are slaughtered (and replaced), and 45% of the beef is exported. Although most cattle in Australia are grass fed (~70%), many of the grass fed cattle are finished in feed lots on grain.
So, how much water does a pound of beef in Australia require? According to Sarah Wilson, Australia’s latest ambassador for the beef and sheep farming industry, the 50,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of beef is simply a myth, and that in reality it only requires 130-540 litres of water per kilo. Whew! Right? Well let’s see how much “only 130-540 litres of water per kilo of beef” really is. Let’s assume here, as above, that in Australia, the average live weight of a steer is 1200 pounds (545 kilos) of which 40% is used as meat. Eight million cattle are slaughtered in Australia for beef each year. The water usage range by the end of the production line for these cattle equates to somewhere between (only) 227 billion and 942 billion litres. We also produce 344,000 tonnes of pork per year, which comes from approximately 2.5 million animals, which demands approximately 2200 litres per pound produced, a total of 757 billion litres of water per year. To put this into perspective, 1 kilo of meat per week consumed over a year requires 390 thousand litres of water, whereby 1 kilo of vegetables uses 19 thousand litres. Meat demands twenty times more water. Just think about it. In a water poor country like Australia, I think water waste is a very important consideration in eating ethically. I will discuss water usage further in a later post.
Averaged out across the USA, Canada, and Australia, we waste about 22 per cent of our meat and 20 per cent of our milk. So if the average Australian consumes 33 kilos of beef and 23.5 kilos of pork per annum (according to Meat & Livestock Australia), and 22 per cent of our meat is thrown away….drum roll please….23 million Australians throw away 122,569 cows and 757,058 pigs per year!! I’m hoping that the MLA have over-estimated the amount of beef and pork we eat, and under-estimated the actual population of Australia. So you can imagine now, based on the figures above, how much water and grain we also threw away as a result. Waste is bad folks. So stop wasting animals and we’ll waste less water, less grain, less food.
“Sustainable Meat Production” is an Oxymoron
By the year 2050, the world’s population is estimated to reach 9 billion. Nine billion people will demand a 70% increase in food production. I appreciate that the meat industry in Australia is working towards more sustainable practices (e.g. Target 100), however “sustainable” seems to be a new catchphrase that eases our conscience to support what is clearly a very unsustainable industry given the current rate of consumption and waste. The truth is, one day we will have to stop consuming meat and dairy. I believe that even before we are forced, animal products should be regarded in the same way as a truffle: precious, rare, and a delicacy. Instead they are treated like a packet of chips.
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought.
Have a great evening.
Sources I have used to write this article are:
ABC Science: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/11/13/3629632.htm
Animals Australia Unleashed: http://www.unleashed.org.au/
Australian Pork Industry: http://australianpork.com.au/
Grace Communications Foundation: http://www.gracelinks.org/
Grass Roots Urban Butchery: http://www.grub.com.au/News/FoodFacts/post/2013/02/06/In-Australia-most-cattle-are-grass-fed-but-most-beef-is-grain-fed.aspx
iGrow: https://igrow.orgMeat & Livestock Australia: http://www.mla.com.au/
PETA Australia: http://www.peta.org.au/
Sarah Wilson’s Blog: http://www.sarahwilson.com.au/2012/12/how-i-eat-my-meat/
Target 100: http://www.target100.com.au/About
Target 100: http://www.target100.com.au/About
Water Footprint Network: http://www.waterfootprint.org/