If you love beef…

Let me start out by saying that I love eating beef. But the more I see and hear about the subject, the more I am coming to believe that the large scale production of beef which currently allows us to enjoy such plentiful, high quality and inexpensive beef, is largely environmentally (and as a consequence, economically) unsustainable. Check out this Mark Bittman TED talk which goes into some other topics as well.

Now I hope the animal activists and environmentalists don’t kill me but this has recently led me to the conclusion that this means that I need to eat as much beef as I can right now while it’s still affordable. I don’t want to look back on today from the Soylent Green future and regret not taking advantage of everything I had when I had it!

The way I see it, everything in beef production is going to get more expensive. I see costs skyrocketing every step of the way from growing the feed all the way to transportation costs for shipping the processed meat all over the world, especially in a future where oil is running out and alternative energy sources aren’t quite ready for prime time. The future I see for cheap beef is pretty bleak.

Now I’m not saying beef will go away completely. In fact, I think the average quality of beef will go way up as it evolves into an expensive, niche-market delicacy, similar to the role beluga caviar plays (though maybe not quite as expensive). And so, while beef will still be around to be enjoyed and appreciated, the days of going down to the local market and picking up a huge slab of beef for a pennies a pound will be long gone.

We simply do not have the resources to keep meeting the increasing demand for beef and go on living as an environmentally responsible society. Beef is extremely inefficient when you look at how much land and energy and effort goes into feeding the cattle compared to how many mouths you end up feeding in the end.

As resources dry up we’ll be looking for more efficient sources of food. We won’t want to waste so much land just for feeding cows anymore. The increasing use of biofuels will also cause a decrease in the available land for raising cattle feed crops. We’ll have to start feeding fewer cows, otherwise the quality of the beef will go down. I have seen the cows and eaten their meat in countries that really didn’t have enough resources for raising cattle, and believe me, it wasn’t very pretty, nor was it tasty. And so the large scale production of cheap beef will eventually go away, and what little meat there is left will be very expensive (but probably also very good).

Which brings me back to the beginning. I love beef, but its time is coming to an end. But since the industrial beef machine is already running in full swing, I might as well enjoy the cheap and high quality beef we have while it’s still around. In the not-too distant future that I see, the large scale industrial production of beef will become economically unsustainable and that will bring about the end of the beef industry far quicker and more decisively than any environmental unsustainability or animal activism could manage.

Oh and speaking of beef: Hey South Korea, what’s with all this rioting over American beef? I’m Korean and I eat American beef pretty much every day. Sometimes even the risky brainy parts they put in chorizo. I’m still ok! Just thought I’d let you know that. That and also that you guys should please not forget that if you want Korea to do good you need to play nice with America, that’s just the reality of the situation.


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