Meat-Based Diets Benefit the Environment

Published March 1, 2009

Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a four-part series identifying falsehoods regarding the consumption and production of beef. The series exposes a classic “scare campaign” designed to manipulate public opinion and force changes in government policy.

In August 2007, Claudia H. Deutsch of The New York Times wrote an article titled “Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change.” Talk about grasping at straws!

This alleged science writer was apparently unaware the Earth has been cooling since 1998 and a legion of scientists, climatologists, and meteorologists has blasted great big holes in the global warming hoax.

“The biggest animal rights groups do not always overlap in their missions,” wrote Deutsch, “but now they have coalesced around a message that eating meat is worse for the environment than driving. They and smaller groups have started advertising campaigns that try to equate vegetarianism with curbing greenhouse gases.”

Anti-Meat Party Line

Deutsch quoted Matt A. Prescott, manager of vegan campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as saying, “You just cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist.”

She also cited a Web page quoting Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Humane Society’s campaign against factory farming, as asserting, “switching to a plant-based diet does more to curb global warming than switching from an S.U.V. to a Camry.”

Such claims are so absurd they challenge credulity—even if we ignore the fact that carbon dioxide (CO2) increases have no effect on the warming of the Earth, as CO2 constitutes only a tiny 0.038 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. The absurd claims are, however, part and parcel of the general attacks on the production and consumption of beef.

Nutritional Abundance

Americans have grown accustomed to the “food police,” groups forever warning about eating just about anything and who complain Americans are suffering “an obesity epidemic.” Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, for example, has opined that Americans should eat like eighteenth century serfs, dining “on perhaps a pound of bread, a spud, and a couple of carrots a day.”

Such a diet could be imposed only by sheer force. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), U.S. consumers spend a smaller percentage of their disposable income on food consumed at home (6.5 percent) than any other nation in the world.

The abundance of a wide variety of nutritious and delicious beef and other meat items in supermarkets across the United States is a triumph of science and animal husbandry. Some 800,000 producers of beef not only feed Americans but also help the economy through their exports.

Stewards of the Land

Those who raise livestock for America’s dinner plates are also strong stewards of the land and more rightfully qualify to be called environmentalists than those seeking to convince people their diet is contributing to a bogus global warming crisis.

More than half the agricultural land in America is unsuitable for raising crops. Grazing cattle is an example of responsible land management and has been practiced for hundreds of years. Grazing allows the land to remain productive while battling erosion, invasive plant species, and wildfires, thus protecting water and encouraging the growth of natural grasses.

Health Benefits

Despite these important environmental benefits, beef producers and farmers remain the targets of animal rights activists and environmental groups who consciously ignore the fact that food is required for human life while focusing all their attention on the energy required to produce it.

Yet the health benefits of beef products cannot be denied. They provide the nutrients for energy with a lower intake of calories than plants do, and they contribute a range of vitamins and minerals for a healthy lifestyle.

This doesn’t stop the propagandists from claiming meat is responsible for a variety of cancers and other alleged health threats.

The vegans will not tell you that diets rich in meat are a major factor in the regeneration of blood and in tissue repair. As a tissue builder of muscles and other elements, meat has no equal. Meat is easily digestible because the human body is designed to process it. The human body literally requires less effort to convert meat than it does for fruits and vegetables.

Incursions Against Liberty

Unfortunately, the world is full of busybodies and scolds seeking to expand the power of government by intruding into private and personal decisions about what people can eat. That is why they require restaurants to provide caloric information about everything they serve and seek to restrict fast-food establishments. It is why, in general, they treat us like children or fools who cannot be allowed to decide what we eat, how much we eat, and where we eat.

Beef production has nothing to do with global warming because there is no significant human-induced global warming. What warming occurred after the Little Ice Age ended in 1850 has been natural. So-called “greenhouse gas emissions”—from animals, humans, or energy use—have no impact on the climate.

For that you need to look to the sun, the oceans, clouds, volcanic eruptions, and events well beyond human control.

Hungry? Have a steak. Have a hamburger. Have some ribs. Eat some meat! The Earth will be just fine, and so will you.

Alan Caruba ([email protected]) writes a weekly column for the Web site of The National Anxiety Center ( and blogs at