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The "Myth" of Sustainable Meat?

J.D. Ray


Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 44
Abe Connally wrote:
John Seay wrote: I think we need to test it with a little napkin math:

I raise 300 kgs (660lbs) of rabbit meat a year in an area smaller than most back yards. The area to grow their feed is somewhat larger, but less than 1/3 acre. So, just for the sake of argument, let's assume it is 1/2 of an acre for the space, food, everything. I think that's about 21,000 square feet or so for almost 700lbs of meat. That's about 30 square feet for each pound of meat per year.

We generally eat one rabbit carcass (2.5 lbs) every 2 days for a family of four. That's about a pound a day for my family. Assuming that's your only meat, and you want to eat meat every day, you'd need 365 lbs of meat a year for each family.

So, from my example above, that would require about 11,000 square feet, or around 1/4 of an acre for the meat supply of one family.

Not to be contrary, but when I first read this post, I was concerned about the rounding issues as presented. Mind you, I completely realize that, as you said, it's "napkin math", and was meant to illustrate a point. However, scaling rounded numbers can cause estimation mishaps, so I thought I'd whip out a calculator.

Using the 660 pounds per year and a half acre (1320 pounds per acre of 43,560 square feet), I came up with a rate of 32.9 square feet per pound per year. Working that into a consumption of 1.25 pounds per day (456 pounds per year) per family of four, I came up with 15,002 square feet, or just over a third of an acre.

My personal opinion is that 2.5 ounces of meat per person per day is not sufficient to satisfy the needs of a healthy diet for a large society without other protein sources. I've read a few articles (though not exactly academic papers) that address the overal health of societies where meat is not common (for instance, Southeast Asian peasants). In general terms, the articles said that the lack of good protein sources kept the levels of health and intellectual growth down. I'm being cautious about phrasing this, because I don't want to give the impression that I think people of any category or geographical region or ethnicity are in any way dumb or deficient by nature. However, it seems clear that affluence involves access to resources, and those resources propel societies forward. Poorly managed and ill-respected, those same resources become waste in short order (or "waist", as the case may be), and that's likely worse than constrained resources when applied on a global scale.

Using the same production numbers Abe provided, but increasing the meat consumption rate to eight ounces per day per person (I believe on the high side of what's needed, but I'm trying to test limits), I come up with 24,017 square feet for a family of four (730 pounds per year of meat), or 0.55 acres. So, if the consumption rate per person per day is somewhere between Abe's estimate and mine, then we can safely say that a family of four can produce the meat they need on between a third and a half an acre, which seems completely reasonable to me and is in line with what I've read elsewhere. Even if you increase the consumption rate to a pound a day per person (which sounds like gluttony), the land requirement goes to just over an acre, which doesn't seem impossible, just irresponsible.

The CIA World Factbook (a great site, BTW) says the U.S. has 18.01% arable land, or 437,323,192 acres after some math (carryingcapacity.org says 470 million acres). So, if a quarter of an acre can produce enough meat for a gluttonous diet, and it takes the balance of an acre to produce enough non-meat food to fill out that diet, then we should be able to feed everyone in the U.S. a diet of large proportions and still export enough to feed 100 million more people. So why are there hungry people in this country? Why are we using petrochemicals to move energy out of our transportation loop into our food loop (not to mention using bio fuels to move energy out of our food loop into our transportation loop)?

So, where are we on the "myth of sustainable meat"? I say:

Which is to say that it's not a myth.

Cheers.

JD
tel jetson
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Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3098
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
the only issue I see with your math, J.D., is that you're assuming "arable land" means that it will support animals at the rate you cite. and if it would, what level of inputs are required?


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Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3004
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
Colin Fontaine wrote:"Too many people" isn't an opinion, it's a fact of growth, don't you think there was a reason that up until 1800 the human population remained below 1 billion? Or that any other species on the planet does not overrun the place?


Colin, perhaps your mean it's a function of growth?
Also, most species do overrun their environment until they pollute it so badly the population collapses, like yeast.
Also, the population explosion coincides nicely with the availability if cheap, easily accessible fuel.


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Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Cj Verde wrote:
Also, most species do overrun their environment until they pollute it so badly the population collapses, like yeast.


I've not heard of many examples of that, actually. Certainly not "most species."


Idle dreamer

J.D. Ray


Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 44
Point conceded. Still, I suspect, as many seem to here, that our biggest problem is poor management of the land, not that there's not enough land to live on an omnivore's diet in a sustainable fashion.

Cheers.

J.D.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3004
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Cj Verde wrote:
Also, most species do overrun their environment until they pollute it so badly the population collapses, like yeast.


I've not heard of many examples of that, actually. Certainly not "most species."


The other example I was thinking of was wolves (or maybe it was foxes) v rabbits. We enter the cycle when the rabbit population is on the upswing (because food is plentiful and predators are scarce). The population naturally increases beyond the carrying capacity of the land for rabbits. They must migrate or each rabbit get less nutrition than they need. They are also easy pickings for the fox. The fox gorges on the easy plentiful and weakened prey. Their numbers increase. They eventually increase beyond the carrying capacity of the land for foxes. They must migrate or each fox get less nutrition than they need. As the number of fox decline the rabbit population increases...

It's interesting that you linked to a low-carb site. I've been doing reading in this area and someone (I forget who ATM) said that in nature, animals respond to an increase in food supply by increasing procreation and not increasing the size of the individual. So the individual yeast, fox, rabbit, with excess food does not get obese. Very few examples of obese wild animals.

Lastly, as an aquaponics person, you know that the limitation on the amount of fish you can stock is related to your grow bed area, ie if you stock more fish than the bacteria in the grow bed can handle the fish will kill themselves (or you kill them) due their environment being polluted with their own waste.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3004
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Cj Verde wrote:
Also, most species do overrun their environment until they pollute it so badly the population collapses, like yeast.


I've not heard of many examples of that, actually. Certainly not "most species."


Tyler,
If we could flip the premise around, could you give me an example of a species that does not naturally overrun it's environment. I can't think of any but that doesn't mean self-limiting species don't exist.
Michael Radelut


Joined: Jan 21, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Germany, 7b-ish
They do exist, but they're exceedingly rare - I remember there's a species of small antelope; Allan Savory mentions it in 'Holistic Management'.
Colin Fontaine


Joined: Sep 27, 2011
Posts: 8
Cj Verde wrote:
Colin Fontaine wrote:"Too many people" isn't an opinion, it's a fact of growth, don't you think there was a reason that up until 1800 the human population remained below 1 billion? Or that any other species on the planet does not overrun the place?


Colin, perhaps your mean it's a function of growth?
Also, most species do overrun their environment until they pollute it so badly the population collapses, like yeast.
Also, the population explosion coincides nicely with the availability if cheap, easily accessible fuel.


Yes, using the word 'fact' seems to have been quite the mistake. I'm not sure how many species overrun their environment, or if it's important enough for study, but I'm sure there's some literature out there if anyone is feeling ambitious.

I'm reformulating my original points here because they have been taken the wrong way in previous posts. Now on the Myth of Sustainable Meat:

1. There is a finite amount of resources here on the planet.
2. We are using up the fossil fuel resources that enable us to grow large amounts of food (or calories).
3. The more the population increases, the faster resources deplete.
4. "Too many people" in this case now means too many people using more energy (petroleum/fuel>plants>meat) than they need to live.
5. Once the fossil fuels run out, production of calories will drop, and hopefully permaculture will rise as the new agricultural philosophy.

These are the thoughts that are bouncing around in my head. Yet say hypothetically we decrease the energy usage, and everyone on the planet now has enough food. I have to pose some questions now:

Is there really enough space to have residence, farms, pasture's, forests, habitat for wildlife and water sources for an ever growing population? And to increase the size of residence, farms, pasture and water sources as population demands it as well?

How will we be able to feed metropolitan cities good meat? We're talking millions of people in a condensed area. Can surrounding permaculture farms rise to the task of supplying them all?

In my mind, sustainable means permanent, thus I tend to take this issue as if it is happening now and forever in the future. Though we might have the ability now and the land to supply a many people with meat, can it continue to be this way if we remain on our current trend of consumption, or will certain things have to change?




Jonathan Fuller


Joined: Feb 17, 2012
Posts: 29
Abe Connally wrote:The US throws away more than half of the food/biomass it produces. So, right there, if we managed our waste streams in a better way, we could support 50% more people on the exact same land and inputs that we are currently using.


Abe,

In a totally non-confrontational, only slightly pedantic way I wish to correct a math error in the above statement. If 50% of the biomass is waste and we can support 300 million folks on the remaining 50% we could I think, support 100% larger population if we utilized that waste stream perfectly. i.e. 300 mil folks eating 50 gazillion tons of food = 600 mil folks eating 100 gazillion tons of food.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Cj Verde wrote:
If we could flip the premise around, could you give me an example of a species that does not naturally overrun it's environment. I can't think of any but that doesn't mean self-limiting species don't exist.


I was responding to your statement "most species do overrun their environment until they pollute it so badly the population collapses." I could not think of many examples of species "polluting" their environment so badly the population collapses. The rabbits and foxes do not "pollute" their environment.

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Colin Fontaine wrote:Is there really enough space to have residence, farms, pasture's, forests, habitat for wildlife and water sources for an ever growing population?


An "ever-growing" (infinite) population is not sustainable. Therefore this question is irrelevant to the issue of "sustainable meat."

Colin Fontaine wrote:How will we be able to feed metropolitan cities good meat? We're talking millions of people in a condensed area. Can surrounding permaculture farms rise to the task of supplying them all?


Metropolitan cities of "millions of people" may not be sustainable, therefore this question may not be relevant to the issue of "sustainable meat."

Colin Fontaine wrote:can it continue to be this way if we remain on our current trend of consumption, or will certain things have to change?


I think people have mentioned that many things will have to change in order to have "sustainable meat." I think a few folks have said that a few different ways.

Chris Lumpkin


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 43
Location: Mechanicsville, VA (zone 7a)
    
    4
I see this pattern of miscommunication surrounding the word "sustainable", which was one of the annoying things about the article to begin with. I grok "sustainable" is a function of its context, not a word with some static definition. If you use the word without context or qualification, then anything that currently exists is "sustainable" simply by virtue of its existence - it is currently being "sustained" in the conditions available.

This is my verbose way of saying, "sustainable" must be used in a sentence in order to have relevance. Perhaps we could agree here to restrict our use of this word to say things like "eating meat is sustainable given x weight per day for x population size given x land area". The larger the context/population, the less meaningful and relevant the discussion. Sometimes it is fun to look at global possibilities in abstract, but since none of us has power over global population, and these thought exercises introduce a gazillion variables, I consider those discussions to be just for fun and not very useful for answering serious questions.

One of the great things about permaculture is that the proof is in "the pudding" (the soil, the meat, etc), and for many folks here there is a high likelihood they are typing with dirt under their fingernails. I don't care if you are vegan or omnivore, just tell me how much you can produce on what amount of land, what are your inputs. We may not be able to satisfy some theoretical academic fuzzy logic definition of "sustainable", but at least we can easily calculate the cost of our lunch. That is a hell of a lot easier to do with a Polyface chicken, or one of Abe's rabbits, than a Boca burger. Even a raw vegan diet requires fertility, and when you start shipping in fishy fertilizers, you muddy the waters of our calculations. As permies, we are closing the loops to prove what is "sustainable" in a manageable context.


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Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Jonathan Fuller wrote:
Abe Connally wrote:The US throws away more than half of the food/biomass it produces. So, right there, if we managed our waste streams in a better way, we could support 50% more people on the exact same land and inputs that we are currently using.


Abe,

In a totally non-confrontational, only slightly pedantic way I wish to correct a math error in the above statement. If 50% of the biomass is waste and we can support 300 million folks on the remaining 50% we could I think, support 100% larger population if we utilized that waste stream perfectly. i.e. 300 mil folks eating 50 gazillion tons of food = 600 mil folks eating 100 gazillion tons of food.

yeah, you are right, I was wrong. your version is better.


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Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
tel jetson wrote:the only issue I see with your math, J.D., is that you're assuming "arable land" means that it will support animals at the rate you cite. and if it would, what level of inputs are required?

actually, just use the lawns, that's where I found the land in my example. So, it takes max .55 acres for a family of 4 to produce their own meat, and we have 21 million acres growing rabbit food (lawns). So, we could supply a minimum of 38 million families (152 million people, 1/2 of the US) rabbit meat without touching any other aspect of the US food system.

and JD is totally right, I rounded things a few times to make it easier for my brain. Napkin math should be checked, folks. I was happy to see that someone was actually reading my long-winded examples....

I would like to add that my system of raising rabbits is not the most efficient in terms of space or productivity, cause I have plenty of space and food for the rabbits (I'm not limited to a 1/2 acre). If you were to optimize things for production, you'd see less land being used than my example.

But, again, even using my backwards, redneck ways of doing things, you could grow enough meat for at least 1/2 the US in just the lawns, not touching any other piece of land.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
my math's been corrected twice on this page, alone. I am glad you guys are paying attention!
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3098
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Abe Connally wrote:
tel jetson wrote:the only issue I see with your math, J.D., is that you're assuming "arable land" means that it will support animals at the rate you cite. and if it would, what level of inputs are required?

actually, just use the lawns, that's where I found the land in my example. So, it takes max .55 acres for a family of 4 to produce their own meat, and we have 21 million acres growing rabbit food (lawns). So, we could supply a minimum of 38 million families (152 million people, 1/2 of the US) rabbit meat without touching any other aspect of the US food system.


that's assuming a lawn is a good idea. goes back to your point earlier that grass won't grow some places without ridiculous inputs. we could throw golf courses in there, too, but they aren't exactly beacons of ecological stewardship.

I'm not criticizing the idea, just the numbers. it may well turn out that you're vastly underestimating the amount of rabbits lawns could support even with the sprinklers turned off, but you might also be overstating things a bit. really hard to say, unfortunately. I'm sure this could easily fill up a doctoral dissertation. any university students reading this?

on some level, though, those numbers aren't really critical. find land that's been badly abused and nurse it back into shape with all the tricks we know and some more we'll learn along the way. that's a big enough project to keep us busy for a good long while before we ever need to address theoretically possible yield.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3004
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Cj Verde wrote:
If we could flip the premise around, could you give me an example of a species that does not naturally overrun it's environment. I can't think of any but that doesn't mean self-limiting species don't exist.


I was responding to your statement "most species do overrun their environment until they pollute it so badly the population collapses." I could not think of many examples of species "polluting" their environment so badly the population collapses. The rabbits and foxes do not "pollute" their environment.



I had to go back to Colin's original sentence... I added "pollute" and should not have. It's just one way that species "overrun." I think the original discussion was about population growth. So, as far as I know, most species will expand their population until checked by ... something.

We don't know the yield limit of permaculture, but there is a limit. Some have said the yield is infinite but there is a limit to the amount of solar energy the earth receives.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Cj Verde wrote: as far as I know, most species will expand their population until checked by ... something.


They will expand their population if food/energy is available. So I agree, they will expand until checked by lack of food, disease, predators, etc.
Shawn Harper


Joined: Mar 01, 2012
Posts: 225
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
    
    1
Cj Verde wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Cj Verde wrote:
If we could flip the premise around, could you give me an example of a species that does not naturally overrun it's environment. I can't think of any but that doesn't mean self-limiting species don't exist.


I was responding to your statement "most species do overrun their environment until they pollute it so badly the population collapses." I could not think of many examples of species "polluting" their environment so badly the population collapses. The rabbits and foxes do not "pollute" their environment.



I had to go back to Colin's original sentence... I added "pollute" and should not have. It's just one way that species "overrun." I think the original discussion was about population growth. So, as far as I know, most species will expand their population until checked by ... something.

We don't know the yield limit of permaculture, but there is a limit. Some have said the yield is infinite but there is a limit to the amount of solar energy the earth receives.


Agreed, we do know there is a limit to even permaculture methods. Where we disagree is with those who think we have reached it.


She changes everything She touches, and everything She touches changes.
Boyd Craven


Joined: Mar 20, 2012
Posts: 16
Location: Linden, Michigan
tel jetson wrote:
Abe Connally wrote:
tel jetson wrote:the only issue I see with your math, J.D., is that you're assuming "arable land" means that it will support animals at the rate you cite. and if it would, what level of inputs are required?

actually, just use the lawns, that's where I found the land in my example. So, it takes max .55 acres for a family of 4 to produce their own meat, and we have 21 million acres growing rabbit food (lawns). So, we could supply a minimum of 38 million families (152 million people, 1/2 of the US) rabbit meat without touching any other aspect of the US food system.



Everyone is making good sense with the amounts of lawn needed to feed a family of four. I like believable examples. What I want everyone to remember is that our world is not a 1 dimensional plane. Having had quite a bit of experience lately on the subject of feeding rabbits, (I know little to nothing about beef or poultry) I have found that it takes approximately 6 pounds of this type of food to make 1 pound of rabbit. 1 pound of rabbit (live weight) produces slightly over 1/2 pound of edible flesh (depending on the meat/bone ratio of the breed). So what we should be discussing is how much poundage of feed, with an acceptable amount of rough protein can be grown on this 21M acres of lawn that we are talking about. If we wish to increase the poundage, we simply need to go more vertical, and research alternatives to the popular Kentucky Blue Grass lawns. What about ornamental trees and bushes that are safe for rabbits to eat, rather than the traditional yew bushes (which are poison to a rabbit). There will be different solutions for different climates across the land. There are, fortunately, many and varied choices for us to choose from.

I think that everyone gets my point. It may be unsustainable to provide meat to 7B people the way we have always done it. I'm saying all we need to do is change how we do it in the future. That's why I spend my time with rabbits. It's my opinion that rabbits can feed the world at a much higher rate of population. I believe the days of beef and poultry making up the bulk of the meat in everyone's diet is over. Sooner, rather than later.
Adrien Lapointe
steward

Joined: Feb 23, 2012
Posts: 2478
Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
    
  75
Joel actually replied to the NY Times article:

Salatin's response

He himself agrees that the poultry portion of his farm is the least sustainable part.


Permaculture Kingston
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
The problem is with the assumptions.

Meat is sustainable when properly raised (e.g., pasture based like we do it).
Vegetables, fruits and grains are UNsustainable when improperly raised (e.g., Big Ag).

We raise meat for thousands of people on land that is not considered arable.
Our land is steep, mountainous, rocky and totally unsuitable tillage for growing crops.
Our land is perfect for raising pasture grazed animals.
We don't buy grains for our pigs so we're not part of that cycle.
We do use waste products such as waste dairy that comes from pastured pigs and goats.
Again, that isn't part of the grain cycle and is grazing on non-arable lands.

Livestock grazing our pastures is an ideal way of turning sunshine, forages and other things you can't consume into high quality proteins and lipids that are good food for you.


Meat is highly sustainable and even in high consumption levels.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4101
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  58
Just bumping this forward for another look. I'm a Walter fan. I've met too many sallow, rail thin, sunken eyed folks who have given me a negative view of both the health and social aspects of really hard core diet stuff. I've only met a few who seemed mentally stable.


QUOTES FROM MEMBERS --- In my veterinary opinion, pets should be fed the diet they are biologically designed to eat. Su Ba...The "redistribution" aspect is an "Urban Myth" as far as I know. I have only heard it uttered by those who do not have a food forest, and are unlikely to create one. John Polk ...Even as we sit here, wondering what to do, soil fungi are degrading the chemicals that were applied. John Elliott ... O.K., I originally came to Permies to talk about Rocket Mass Heaters RMHs, and now I have less and less time in my life, and more and more Good People to Help ! Al Lumley...I think with the right use of permie principles, most of Wyoming could be turned into a paradise. Miles Flansburg... Then you must do the pig's work. Sepp Holzer
Gilbert Fritz


Joined: Sep 13, 2013
Posts: 344
Location: Denver, CO
    
    3
If we have a piece of semi-desert grassland we have four choices, more or less.

Leave it alone. In which case it will become a desert, since we have removed the grazers.

Build it into Permaculture gardens, full of lush growth. Possible, but impractical immediately on a vast scale. Will take time.

Farm it conventionally. We end up with a desert.

Graze it intensively. In which case we get a yield and restore the land.

A combination of B and D, (zone one and zone four) above are a good fit for grasslands. Instead, we are using A and C. So we get deserts.

I think the work of Allan Savory and Mark Sheppard have shown this. Mark Sheppard has also shown that D can include trees. So does the book "Tree Crops", which started this whole Permaculture thing.




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Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3004
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
Gilbert Fritz wrote:...So does the book "Tree Crops", which started this whole Permaculture thing.


Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture
John Saltveit
volunteer

Joined: May 09, 2010
Posts: 811
    
  23
I think this discussion is very valuable. The basic idea I get from this discussion is that we can't continue to feed people the way we are. If we stack our food functions, we can feed a lot more than we currently are, and create useful, rather than damaging waste streams. Many different types of plants: trees, bushes, forbs, but also many types of animals: we can eat worms, insects, guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, cows, wildlife. Also other kingdoms-mushrooms, yeasts, molds, worms. Rudolf Steiner talked about this concept as a natural idea about 100 years ago. Someone can be a vegan or a vegetarian and still have animals living on the farm. Those who eat meat or animal products can adjust what they are eating to what happens to balance the ecological yield at that time, such as eating sardines instead of farmed fish or Mediterranean tuna currently. I also think that the possibility of limiting human populations in the long run is a morally valuable choice, in line with humans being one of a number of species on the planet. I think that we already have started to move onto a more positive discussion about the future of food and nature and that we will continue to find more solutions in these directions in the future.
John S
PDX OR
J.D. Ray


Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 44
Unfortunately, I'm of the firm belief that most humans will continue their consumerist ways; robbing the Earth of her wealth faster that she can replenish herself. A few of us will make choices to reduce our impact, and that will help, but probably not enough to make a systemic impact.

I am interested in tree crops, though, specifically filberts. And livestock, specifically pigs and chickens. Pigs can run in the orchard after nut harvest, cleaning up the scraps, rooting out mice, and depositing some extra nutrient while tilling in leaf fall. At least that's the theory. We'll see how it goes.
Michael Cox


Joined: Jun 09, 2013
Posts: 955
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
    
  25
Thanks for bumping this - I missed it first time round.

I've been having quite a few ruminations on similar lines recently. My personal take is that the big modern industrial ag may not be sustainable ( I say "may" because scientists and engineers are very adepts at coming up with novel solutions when under pressure) but some ag systems may be, and may produce enough meat to satisfy people needs.

Looking at dates, it appears as though this thread started before Allan Savory's TED talk - I wonder how much of the early discussion about the sustainability of beef might have been impacted had people been aware of his methods? He suggests using mob grazing in brittle environments to restore grasslands, while to tone of the discussion in this thread was that you need the to establish the grasslands first. There was also talk about raising cattle is short 3 month growing seasons and then importing feed; I've read a lot recently about leaving the grass standing and letting the cattle mob graze the grass through the dry season.

Fewer input in terms of energy, crop lands etc... although the carrying capacity of the land now needs to be based on the fodder it can grow through a full year, rather than the short flush in the wet season.

Personally I'd like to take more control over the meat I eat - I want to raise chickens for both eggs and meat, as well as eat more of the readily available wild rabbit population. Current circumstances prevent me, but longer term plans are afoot.
John Saltveit
volunteer

Joined: May 09, 2010
Posts: 811
    
  23
The idea just came to me that one reason Allan Savory is right, and livestock help revive desertifying areas, is that the cattle are an irrigation system. The cattle draw water from a stream and distribute that water, mixed with nitrogen, to the other areas of the land. They are a movable irrigation tube/device. They also, of course, distribute fertilizer to that land.
John S
PDX OR
 
permaculture playing cards
 
subject: The "Myth" of Sustainable Meat?
 
cast iron skillet 49er

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