The USDA may not be able to recommend that Americans cut down on their meat intake, but the Center for Investigative Reporting isn’t bound by the same politcal forces. They’ve just released a new video, The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers, which looks at all of the work and resources that goes into America’s favorite food–and all the pollution that comes out of it. But they have a solution, and it’s not going vegetarian.
What I like about this video is that it points out a very true, very simple fact, which is that eating some beef isn’t ruining the environment–but eating the amount of beef we eat in America is. It doesn’t recommend ceasing meat intake, just cutting back to a healthier, more sustainable level.
However, it does kind of skirt around is the fact that beef is heavily subsidized, which is one of the biggest reasons why the U.S. is such a big consumer of meat products. Because of these subsidies, Americans pay less for their meat products than they would in a truly free or open market, where farmer’s and ranchers weren’t receiving billions in government dollars.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing–it helps keep hard-working farmers in business, and it provides low-cost food–except that subsidizing beef and other meat products (and, as a result, corn and soy, too) in this way tends to lead to people consuming way more meat that is good for the environment, or good for our health.
Additionally, because the government is literally financially invested in the meat industry’s success (again, back to the USDA and their Meatless Monday PR debacle), consumers in the U.S. are continually told that meat–no matter what kind or how much–is the healthiest thing ever. Which just isn’t the whole picture.
At the end of the day, more meat leads to more waste, more land use, more pollution, and yes, more obesity-related costs. We’re basically shelling out billions in taxpayer money to keep burgers on the $1 menu at the drive-thru. Which the CIR does point out in this short.
Commenters on YouTube immediately demanded to see where the CIR got its statistics (which is a fair question), the organization has made no attempt to conceal that information. The website for the video features a pretty nifty annotated transcript, which provides the sources of all the information contained.
The video’s a little long–about eight minutes–so you may want to bookmark it/Instapaper it/whatever and watch during your lunch break. And even if it doesn’t convince you of anything, it’s good information to have in the back of your mind when you’re planning this week’s meals.