Amanda Radke: ‘Meat is horrible’ draws attention, rebuttal
It’s hard to ignore an article titled, “Meat is horrible.” Written by Rachel Premack for The Washington Post, the op-ed opens with the line, “It may be delicious, but the evidence is accumulating that meat, particularly red meat, is just a disaster for the environment — and not so great for human beings, too.
The article is riddled with so much bias and so many inaccuracies, it’s hard to know where to begin; however, instead of tearing it apart line by line, I thought it might be more beneficial to compile factual information about beef production and the environment.
First, Premack suggests that it takes 48 times as many liters of water to produce the same amount of beef as vegetables; however, she fails to recognize that beef packs more of a nutritional punch than vegetables ever could.
Look at it this way, one cup of broccoli contains 31 calories, and you would have to eat more than three cups of broccoli to get 11.1 grams of protein. A 3 ounce serving of beef provides 25 grams of protein for 180 calories. Active individuals, pregnant women and growing teens are encouraged to get 75-80 grams of protein per day, which would mean you would have to eat 24 cups of broccoli to reach that 80 grams of recommended protein versus 9-10 ounces of protein to reach protein recommendations.
The article also insinuates that red meat isn’t a sustainable food for a healthy planet. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to a checkoff-funded lifecycle assessment, “From 2005 to 2011, the beef industry achieved a 3 percent reduction in water use. The assessment also revealed that beef made great strides in several environmental areas including a 10 percent improvement in water quality, 7 percent reduction in landfill contributions, 2 percent reduction in resource consumption and energy use and 2 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”
The article suggests that eliminating beef from the diet could significantly reduce our carbon footprint; however, folks shouldn’t feel guilty about the environment when eating a burger.
According to an article written by Daren Williams, NCBA senior executive director of communications, “In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) published a study entitled ‘Livestock’s long shadow’ which stated in the executive summary that global livestock production is ‘responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.’ However, that comparison was later recanted by one of the report’s authors, Pierre Gerber, after a review of a beef checkoff study pointed out that the UN report compared every possible source of GHG emissions from livestock while only counting emissions from tailpipes for transportation (excluding other sources such as drilling for and refining oil, smelting steel, manufacturing vehicles, etc.).
“A subsequent UNFAO 2013 publication, reported that GHG emissions from global livestock production had dropped to 14.5 percent (still much larger than the U.S. at 3 percent but improving nonetheless). As much as 30 percent reductions could be achieved through improvements in animal health and feed efficiency — two areas in which U.S. producers excel. The U.S. beef industry has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world due to cattle genetics, the quality of cattle feeds, animal management techniques, and the use of technology.”
Finally, Premack suggests that a meat tax would reduce consumption and therefore decrease health costs. However, despite the rhetoric, research shows that including animal proteins and fats in the diet can be highly beneficial in avoiding obesity-related problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
In fact, a study which appeared in the Journal of Nutrition found that increasing your daily intake of protein-rich foods that contain certain amino acids reduces the risk of heart disease as much as giving up smoking. Specifically, researchers found that eating a 75-gram portion of steak was effective in reducing arterial stiffness.
There are currently 721 comments on this article with folks on both sides of the discussion weighing in. Feel free to use some of the above talking points to compile your own response to this editorial piece. Let’s demand that sources like The Washington Post do better to produce factual articles. ❖