Are you being manipulated into buying things you don't want or
need? In my book Meatonomics
I show that animal food producers control our everyday food-buying
choices with misleading messaging, artificially low prices, and
heavy control over legislation and regulation.
This producer behavior is simply shocking. The result is that
in many respects, we have lost the ability to decide for ourselves
what -- and how much -- to eat.
By learning just 10 quick facts about this industry and its
highly coordinated messaging and manipulation, you can empower
yourself to make better-informed choices immediately. You'll see
benefits to your health, your waistline, your ecological footprint,
1. In a creepy, Big-Brotherish tactic straight out of a
sci-fi movie, the federal government uses catchy slogans to get
people to buy more meat and dairy.
Beef. It's what's for dinner.
Milk. It does a body good.
Each year, USDA-managed programs spend
to bombard Americans with slogans like these
urging us to buy more animal foods. Although people in every age
group already eat more animal protein than recommended, and far
more than our forebears did, these promotional programs are
shockingly effective at making us buy even more. Each marketing
buck spent boosts sales by an average of $8, for an annual total of
an extra $4.6 billion in government-backed sales of meat, dairy,
2. Americans eat more meat per person than any other people
on earth, and we're paying the price in doctor bills.
At 200 pounds of meat per person per year, our high meat
consumption is hurting our national health. Hundreds of clinical
studies in the past several decades show that consumption of meat
and dairy, especially at the high levels seen in this country, can
, and a host of other diseases. Thus, Americans have
twice the obesity rate
twice the diabetes
, and nearly three times the cancer
as the rest of the world. Eating loads of meat isn't
the only reason people develop these diseases, but it's a major
3. Animal food production is the world's leading cause of
That's right. Forget carbon-belching buses or power plants.
Animal food production now surpasses both the transportation
and electricity generation as the greatest
source of greenhouse gases
. Yet amazingly, if Americans could
just cut back on animal foods by half, the effect on greenhouse gas
emissions would be like garaging all U.S. motor vehicles and
vessels for as long as we keep our consumption down.
4. There's no sustainable way to raise animal foods to meet
the world's growing demand.
Two acres of rain forest are cleared
to raise cattle or crops to feed them. 35,000
miles of American rivers are polluted with animal waste. We're
watching a real-time, head-on collision between the world's huge
demand for animal foods and the reality of scarce resources. It
takes up to one hundred times more water and five
times more land
to produce animal protein than equal
amounts of plant protein. Unfortunately, even "green" alternatives
like raising animals locally, organically, or on pastures can't
overcome the basic math: the resources just don't exist to keep
feeding the world animal foods at the level it wants.
5. A $5 Big Mac would cost $13 if the retail price included
hidden expenses that meat producers offload onto society.
Animal food producers impose $414
in hidden costs on American society yearly. These
are the bills for healthcare, subsidies, environmental damage, and
other items related to producing and consuming meat and dairy. That
means that each time McDonald's sells a Big Mac, the rest of us pay
$8 in hidden costs.
6. American governments spend $38 billion each year to
subsidize meat and dairy, but only 0.04% of that ($17 million) to
subsidize fruits and vegetables.
The federal government's Dietary Guidelines urge us to eat
more fruits and vegetables and less cholesterol-rich food (that is,
meat and dairy).
Yet like a misguided parent giving a kid cotton candy for
dinner, state and federal governments get it backwards by
to animal agriculture while providing almost no
help to those raising fruits and vegetables.
7. Big businesses love farm subsidies. Small farmers and
rural Americans hate them.
In the last 15 years, two-thirds of American farmers didn't
receive a single penny from direct subsidies worth over
-- the funds mainly went to big corporations.
The subsidy money spurs the growth of factory farms, which are
surprisingly bad for local economies (they employ fewer workers per
animal than regular farms, and they buy most of their supplies
outside the local area). That's why when pollsters asked Iowans how
they feel about farm subsidies, a large majority preferred ending
8. Factory fishing ships are exploiting the world's oceans
so aggressively that scientists fear the extinction of all
commercially fished species within several decades.
Like an armada bent on victory at any cost, the 23,000 factory
ships that patrol the world's oceans have decimated one-third of
the planet's commercially fished species. They also
indiscriminately kill and discard 200 million pounds of non-target
species, or bycatch, every day. Because of such colossal
destruction and waste, the United Nations says fishing operations
net economic loss to society
9. Fish farming isn't the answer.
Sometimes hailed as the future of sustainable food production,
fish farming is actually just another form of factory farming.
Farmed fish live in the same stressful, tight conditions as land
animals, and concentrated waste and chemicals from aquaculture
damage local ecosystems. Escapes lead to further problems, as in
the North Atlantic region where 20% of supposedly wild salmon
of farmed origin
. When genes from wild and farmed fish mix, it
degrades the wild population.
10. If they treated a dog or cat like that, they'd go to
Industry-backed laws passed in the last 30 years make it legal
to do almost anything to a farmed animal. Connecticut, for example,
in 1996 legalized "maliciously and intentionally maiming,
mutilating, torturing, wounding, or killing an animal" -- provided
it's done "while following generally accepted agricultural
practices." Since most states have similar exemptions, farmed
animals have almost no protection from inhumane treatment.
What's a person to do?
Vote with your pocketbook. If you're concerned about the
creepy marketing, environmental damage, health risks, economic
problems, or ethical issues that plague the meat industry, you can
take action immediately. Make a choice to buy less meat, fish,
eggs, and dairy -- or better yet, give them up completely. It's one
of the most powerful things you can do.
Reprinted from mindbodygreen.com