All Tomorrow's Bovines

The Science of Creating a Climate-Friendly Cow and Why Your Stupid Vegan Friends Might Be Right After All

Comments

1
If you think vegan food sucks, you're doing it wrong, especially in Portland. The trick is toget over the damned notion that vegan food replaces meat and just start eating food based on its own merits.

Vegans also have less to worry about concerning food spoilage, have much lower concerns about contamination (meat strait up kills on the order of 100 people a year in the US, according to the CDC, and many more worldwide according to the WHO). In addition, vegan chefs tend to be the kind of people who step up their game when presented with a challenge, so in terms of interesting and flaverful food, it is hard to beat a vegan diet - if the cooks know what they are doing.

I went vegan this year (vegetarian for several before) for the reasons you talk about in this article (there is a great TED talk on using insects for protein that doubles as a great argument for environmental veganism, but I actually switched after looking at some Scandinavian studies on meat agriculture and climate impact). I frankly couldn't care much about food animal quality of life, but the amount of Koch money that comes from fertilizer for animal feed crops is repulsive, not to mention the direct climate change results from animal products, and made me decide I better change my lifestyle. I haven't regretted it for a minute.
2
The sentence, "Yet, there's a glaring problem with this argument: It skirts the whole "climate-killing burping" issue," attempts (and fails) to elide the argument proposed by management intensive grazing (MIG). If MIG produces pastures that capture and store carbon for the long term (and it does) then it offsets at least some of the greenhouse effect of the methane emitted by the cows. According to some studies, MIG is capable of creating a carbon-neutral system: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/artic…
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/artic…
Other studies find more modest carbon sink activity.

In any case, the advantage of raising cattle on pasture is that grass (which we cannot use for food) becomes cows and milk (which we can.) The alternative is to turn under the pastures and plant them in soybeans, which is an environmental and aesthetic failure. Particularly in the Willamette Valley, pasture is more akin to what existed pre-European settlement (due largely to burning of the valley floor to create a more food-rich ecosystem) than grain and legume crops. At least with pasture we have the possibility of creating a food system that both mimics nature and allows the encroachment of natural diversity.

I don't advocate a continuation of the same ruinous food production system that we have now, but I fail to see how removing animals from the system will ever result in a so-called "sustainable" system either. A sustainable system (in my view, perhaps your view includes monocultured cereals fed by gaseous ammonium nitrate) would more closely mimic natural nutrient cycles, and nature gets lots of nutrients from animals.