This diet made it possible to remove cattle from their natural environment and encourage the efficiency of mass confinement and slaughter. But it causes enough health problems that administration of antibiotics is routine, so much so that it can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten the usefulness of medicines that treat people" (Bittman 2008, p.1).
Beef mass production also releases methane gas into the atmosphere because of the sheer volume of cows that are used to sate America's unending desire for beef. Bittman who is a non-vegetarian but an advocate of radically cutting America's beef consumption notes: "Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5% of the world's population, we 'process' (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15% of the world's total. Growing meat (it's hard to use the word "raising" when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it's a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30% of the earth's ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world's greenhouse gases -- more than transportation" (Bittman 2008, p.1).
Pollan and Bittman are not vegetarians -- in fact, Pollan's ideal is not 'big organic' agriculture, which both he and Bittman says often are a mere technicality, in terms of being in line with government regulations about pesticides. Rather, it is Polyface Farm, run by a fundamentalist Christian who rotates his crops, grazes his cattle for slaughter and milking, and allows his chickens to run wild, pecking at cow manure to eat bugs and to spread their own manure around as fertilizer for crops. "This is chicken as I remember it from my childhood. It actually tastes like chicken," the customers exclaim when they eat his product (Pollan 2006). Sustainable food, locally sourced is healthier and taste better, Pollan and Bittman advocate. Even if not everyone can life the Polyface Farm way, what Americans can do is cease to patronize fast food establishments and stop eating processed foods that are the result of industrialized agriculture. Until inefficient farms subsidizes cease to exist, Americans can grow gardens or at least buy from farmer's markets, and reduce beef consumption, and eat grass-fed beef when they do eat meat. Sustainably raised dairy, only eating fish that are not endangered -- this is all good sense, Pollan argues.
Some would argue that Pollan and Bittman's good sense, much like Alice Water's Edible Schoolhouse movement is elitist, particularly both men's recent comments that high food prices might actually be a blessing in disguise to Americans, given this would reduce beef consumption and result in a shift to eating less food out of the home, more gardening, and less processed foods. Industrialized food has after all guarded against malnutrition, has infused iodine through processed salt into communities where goiter is common, has created vitamin-fortified cereals that horrify sustainable food advocates, but do guard against scurvy and other nutritional deficiencies amongst the poor -- and has allowed us as a society to make food less of a priority due to its cheap abundance. But is this a good thing, ask sustainable food advocates, when the cheap food we live on has little flavor, little health value when compared to traditionally raised foodstuffs, and when we watch the Food Network rather than engage with one another as a society, making real food together?
Bittman, Mark. (2008, January 26). Rethinking the meat-guzzler. The New York
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Feenstra, Gail; Chuck Ingels, & David Campbell. (2009). What is sustainable agriculture?
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Organic agriculture: A glossary of terms. (2009). UC-Davis.
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Pollan, Michael. (2003, October 12). The (Agri) cultural contradictions of obesity. The New York
Times Magazine. Retrieved March 31, 2009
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