To the Journal editor:
I always respect the opinions of Dr. Conway McLean, DPM, and especially appreciate his emphasis on the connection between nutrition and health. However, I would like to offer some corrections to his incorrect statements and misleading comments in the Feb. 12 column titled “Eniviro Consequences of the Carnivore.”
He states “more than 80 percent of the corn we grow is used to feed livestock.” 2013 data shows 40 percent of US corn crop went to ethanol production, 36 percent was animal feed, and the rest for export, human, and other uses. Of the animal feed use, 27 percent was used for beef cattle or about 10 percent of total corn use.
The same amount was fed to poultry, a little less for pork production and even less for dairy cattle. The other error was the claim that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were from livestock, information from the UN’s FAO Long Shadow 2006 report. The FAO agrees that number was not correctly calculated and the USA’s EPA 2009 study puts livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions at 2.8 percent. The beef cattle segment of the livestock industry is responsible for about 1 percent of the total USA greenhouse gas emissions.
Misleading comments include the “herbivorous animals don’t consume meat, yet they have protein.” That is correct but herbivorous animals get their protein from their ruminant digestive process that utilizes high fiber forages (poorly digested by humans, pigs and chickens) to make their protein via microbial fermentation process. Also, while the livestock industry does use “30 percent of the earth’s land surface,” many of those acres are only capable of low yielding forage production, (consider our western range lands) and not capable of “growing a crop for human consumption.” It’s cattle and sheep, like the bison before them, that can turn those many acres into high quality human food. The world’s cattle may consume as many calories as the human population, but cows do it by eating forages that humans can’t utilize. In addition, data shows properly grazed livestock improve soil health and sequester carbon which reduces CO2 in the atmosphere.
I fully agree that our diet has a huge impact on our health. If we look at the changes in human health, while beef consumption per person has gone down, sugar has gone up and so have our health /obesity challenges. It’s illogical and misleading to blame livestock for our health and environmental concerns.
BEN BARTLETT, DVM
Log Cabin Livestock