Sunday, March 25, 2007

More on The Omnivore's Dilemma

I received this email yesterday:

First-time poster - my uncle is a friend of yours and told me I might like this blog. And I do.

I have not read Omnivore's Dilemma yet, though I intend to. I have read Polian's NYT Magazine articles, however, as he developed the book. I,too, have toured beef-processing plants and even spent part of my youth making sausage.

The NYT stuff actually curtailed my red meat consumption dramatically -- not for gross-out reasons, but because he also described the vast amount of oil needed to produce a calf that becomes a cow fit for slaughter, then to move the product to your table.

But I confess my eating habits haven't entirely caught up to Polian's arguments.
First, thanks for the response. I appreciate your uncle for directing you to my blog.

Second, Pollan touches on the subject of oil throughout the book. Here's one passage: "I don't have a sufficiently vivid imagination to look at my steer and see a barrel of oil, but petroleum is one of the most important ingredients in the production of modern meat, and the Persian gulf is surely a link in the food chain that passes through this (or any) feedlot. Steer 534 started his life part of a food chain that derived all of its energy from the sun, which nourished the grasses that nourished him and his mother. When 534 moved from ranch to feedlot, from grass to corn, he joined an industrial food chain powered by fossil fuel . . . After I got home frm Kansas, I asked an economist who specializes in agriculture and energy if it might be possible to calculate precisely how much petroluem it will take to grow my steer to slaughter weight. Assuming 534 continues to eat twenty-five pounds of corn a day and reaches a weight of twelve hundred pounds, he will have consumed in his lifetime the equivalent of thirty-five gallons of oil -- nearly a barrel.

"So this is what commodity corn can do to a cow: industrialize the miracle of nature that is a ruminant, taking this sunlight- and prairie grass-powered organism and turning it into the last thing we need: another fossil fuel machine."

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