Americans consume almost a quarter of all the beef produced in the world. Every 24 hours 100,000 cattle are slaughtered in the United States; the average American consumes the meat of seven 1,100- pound animals in his or her lifetime.
According to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General, more than 70 percent of deaths in this country -- more than 1.5 million annually -- are related to diet, particularly the over- consumption of beef and other foods high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Study after study confirms that consumption of red meat is a primary factor in the development of heart disease, strokes, and colon and breast cancer. The American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that people reduce their consumption of red meat and other animal-derived foods, and eat more grain, fresh vegetables, and fruits instead.
The beef addiction of the United States and other industrialized nations has set off a global food crisis. Today, hundreds of millions of cattle are being fed precious grain so that American and European consumers can enjoy the pleasures of "marbled" beef. Meanwhile, nearly one billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and between 40 and 60 million people -- mostly children -- die each year from starvation and related diseases
Currently, more than 70 percent of the U.S. grain harvest -- and more than one third of the grain produced in the world is fed to cattle and other livestock. We could provide proper nourishment to more than a billion people if we used the world's agricultural lands to grow food for human consumption rather than feed for cattle and other livestock.
Forests, particularly the rain forests of Central American and the Amazon, are being burned and cleared to make way for cattle pasture. Since 1960, more than 25 percent of the Central American forests have been lost to beef production -- most of it for export to the United States and Europe. It has been estimated that for every quarter-pound fast-food hamburger made from Central American beef, 55 square feet of tropical forest -- including 165 pounds of unique species of plants and animals -- is destroyed.
Nearly half of the world's land is being used as pasture for cattle and other livestock. In addition, hundreds of millions of acres of arable land are being used to grow feed for livestock.
Even Ethiopia at the height of its famine in 1984 was using some of its agricultural land to produce linseed cake, cottonseed cake, and rapeseed meal for export to feed livestock in Europe.
Currently, one third of the world's grain is fed to livestock. In the United States, 70 percent of the grain produced is fed to livestock; and two thirds of all the grain the United States exports to other countries goes to feed livestock rather than hungry people.
This misappropriation of resources is the direct result of economic policies and programs adopted by the developing world at the urging of the industrial nations, multi-national corporations, and international aid-givers.
The United States has encouraged developing countries to climb the protein ladder in order to provide a market for surplus American grain. At the same time, developing countries have been encouraged to enter the world commodities market with livestock feed to pay off their considerable debt to the first world. Today, production of livestock and livestock feed for the world market is supplanting the production of staple foods in many developing countries.
In Mexico, for example, where millions of people are chronically under-nourished, one third of the grain produced is fed to livestock. In Brazil, where 23 percent of the cultivated land is now being used to grow soybeans -- half of which is destined for export for livestock feed -- less land is available to grow corn and black beans, staples of the Brazilian peasant diet. The result has been less food at higher prices for an increasingly hungry and impoverished population.
Beef industry workers are among the most exploited inhumanely treated workers in the United States. Meat-packers, for example, suffer from one of the highest rates of injury of all occupations. Working conditions are often dehumanizing and primitive. Employee turnover is as high as 4.7 percent a month at some plants -- a situation that is often deliberately encouraged in order to discourage union activity. According to Eleanor Kennelly of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, "A meat- packing plant is like nothing you've ever seen or could imagine. it's like a vision of hell."
Imagine what would happen if every American decided today to cut his or her beef consumption in half.
The Chinese study found that Chinese consume 20 percent more calories than Americans, but that Americans are 25 percent fatter. That's because 37 percent of the calories in the U.S. diet comes from fat, whereas less than 15 percent of the calories in the rural Chinese diet comes from far. The study also found that 70 percent of the protein in the Western diet conies from animal sources and 30 percent from plants. In China, only 11 percent comes from animal products and 89 percent from plants.4
if worldwide agricultural production were shifted from livestock feed to food grains for direct human consumption, more than a billion people could be fed -- the precise number which currently suffer from hunger and malnourishment.8
The present level of human malnutrition—twenty percent—is the highest in human history.
· Nearly half of the earth's landmass is used as pasture for cattle and other livestock. On very rich grasslands, two and a half acres can support a cow for a year. On marginal grazing land, 50 or more acres may be required.13
"When we kill the animals to eat them, they end up killing us because their flesh, which contains cholesterol and saturated fat, was never intended for human beings."
-- William C. Roberts, M.D., editor ofThe American Journal of Cardiology
If you step back and look at the data, the optimum amount of red meat you eat should be zero."
-- WALTER WILLETT, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital, director of a study that found a close correlation between red meat consumption and colon cancer
· Equally revealing are figures from the US Department of Agriculture. The per capita consumption of grain, milk, and vegetable oils has been reported to be 2300, 172, and 90 pounds respectively for the US. The figures for India are 392, 79 and 24 pounds respectively. The consumption statistics for meat products provides an even more striking contrast. The USIndia are 3.5 pounds, 4.2 pounds, and negligible. accounts for per capita consumption of 94 pounds of beef, 100 pounds of poultry, and 65 pounds of pork. The corresponding figures for India are 3.5 pounds, 4.2 pounds, and negligible.