There are currently 1.5 billion cattle populating the earth. They take up nearly 27% of the land mass of the planet and consume enough grain to feed hundreds of millions of people. Their combined weight exceeds that of the human population of earth.
Beef is an inefficient way to deliver protein and energy to people. The world has reached a plateau where, with 27% of the world's land mass dedicated to beef industry and the human population and cattle population rising, something has to give.
The sad irony of the present situation is that while the poor nations of the world are starving their own populations to export beef, the beef buying rich are dying from the diseases of brought up by wealth (and our health care costs as a result are breaking the economy).
Overgrazing is a problem worldwide, and it isn't only a problem with cattle.
In the USA, the giant meat packers are using a new inspection system called the Streamlined Inspection System (SIS), which virtually eliminates the role of the federal meat inspector in the examination of beef destined for interstate and foreign (Canadian) markets. With this system, less than 1% of the carcasses are examined by federal inspectors, whereas they used to examine every animal that came down the line. In the interest of speeding up production, cutting costs, and improving profit margins, the American beef industry has seriously undermined the safety and health of the nation's slaughterhouses.
Beef is the most dangerous food for herbicide contamination and ranks third in insecticide contamination. Eighty percent of all herbicides in the U.S. are sprayed on corn and soybeans which are used primarily as feed for cattle and other livestock. When consumed by the animals, the pesticides accumulate in their bodies. The pesticides are then passed along to the consumer in the finished cuts of beef. Large feedlots have other sources of potential chemical contamination in beef including use of industrial sewage and oils in feedlot mixtures and aerial spraying of insecticides on feedlot cattle.
There are no sustainable alternative way to produce beef. Eat organic beef or better yet, don't eat it all. However, cattle as a subsidiary component of a grain or potato farm can contribute to the sustainability of farming through utilization of waste feeds and crop residues, and facilitates the growing of soil improving forages and cover crops.
Today's reality is that the planet is overcrowded with people and cattle. Peoples have been starved to support the beef addiction of a handful of wealthy nations. In Europe, the United States and Japan, this addiction has resulted in millions of deaths from heart attack, cancer and diabetes- the diseases of wealth.
The Global Community has to regulate its population by means that are voluntary and benign and has to take along with a fair proportion of other lifeforms. Proper Earth management will certainly be a necessary tool to achieve our goal. If not there will be a collapse of humanity and of the environment. From now on every global decision we do will have tremendous consequences on our future.
In general, populations of all lifeforms grow exponentially that is by a steady proportion of whatever was there before. When there is no practical limit on resource then populations usually grow maximally and the only limit is that of the reproductive capacity of the female animal. About 10,000 years ago, human beings were obliged to commit themselves more or less fully to agriculture and the human population was 5 to 10 million. By the time of Christ, after only 8,000 years of large-scale agriculture, the human population was 100 to 300 million. After this time, the exponential growth of the population entered its rapid phase. The billion mark was passed by 1800 A.D. By year 2000, the human population exceeded 6 billion. Thus agriculture allowed a thousand-fold increase in numbers over a period of 10,000 years.
We need to form a global ministry dealing only about agriculture and the protection of our soils. All nations will be part of the ministry. We have to design systems of food production that meet our own needs, and also leave room for these other lifeforms we want to take along with us. Western agriculture is designed in the end to maximize profit. As a primordial human right, the prime concern of the human species is to feed people. Therefore we have to do things differently. We will have to produce less livestock as we effectively double the population we need to feed: ourselves, plus the livestock that is supposed to be feeding us. We also have to apportion the land surface of the whole world more efficiently, using some for highhly intensive food production (which makes use of less land), some for extensive agriculture (combining food production with wildlife conservation) and designing some specifically as wilderness areas with global corridors between them. Hopefully this will help natives of British Columbia, Canada, to settle their land claims in their favor as they are the only people in Canada who can help protecting wildlife, at least for now. There should be a definite and specific clause in any agreement with the natives that it is what they will do with the land and not turn it into a huge industrial site as would the white man do.
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