March 8, 2015: Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of “Defending Beef”
She talked about the ecological side of meat production and dispelled many myths around it. For example, she exposed the myth that beef is too water intensive for our water-stressed state and world. She said that there are vastly exaggerated claims in the mainstream media stating that one pound of beef uses 12,000 gallons of water. What she found in her research is that typical feedlot beef uses about 440 gallons and grassfed beef uses about 120 gallons for one pound of beef. She also said that there are many crops grown in California that are very water intensive ~ avocados, almonds and rice. She said rice uses about 440 gallons of water/pound!
Another interesting fact was about the nutrient iron. She said iron from beef or other meat (heme iron) is much more easily absorbed by humans. If you aren’t eating meat, you need to consume twice as much plant-based iron to get an adequate amount. Also, the absorption of the plant-based iron is easily affected by other foods which isn’t true for meat-based iron.
She also talked about the importance of grass. Grass sequesters carbon, acts as a sponge for water, protects from erosion, etc. Historically, huge herds of ruminant animals moved around the large grasslands on the different continents, pushing seeds into the ground, cycling nutrients with their waste, increasing the microbes and supporting the grasses. Studies by Allan Savory and others have shown that large herds of grazing animals maintain and increase the healthy soil if properly managed. Check out Allan Savory’s fascinating TED talk (How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change):
By Karen Hamilton-Roth