Ecocentric

When the Rains Stop

TIME's coverage of the ever-worsening drought moves from online to off.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

Dry days

As if we haven’t been writing enough about the Midwestern drought online, this week’s dead tree issue TIME also features coverage of the big dry. It’s for subscribers only, but here’s a peek:

While corn farmers smart enough to buy subsidized insurance will weather the weather, everyone else in the food chain will be worse off. First in line are livestock farmers, who will have to buy high-priced corn to feed their animals because pastures have been charred. Hog farmers, who depend on cheap corn, are hurting badly. Some ranchers are selling their cattle early out of desperation; the national cattle inventory is at its lowest level since the USDA began keeping track in 1973. The drought will actually lead to lower beef prices in the short term as a glut of cattle reach markets, but prices will rise as the industry struggles to rebuild itself after two crippling droughts in a row.

The cost of everything from hamburgers to cereals to Gatorade could go higher, since corn is the base of the U.S. food pyramid. For every 50% increase in corn prices–and corn has already jumped by more than half since the spring–retail food prices usually rise by 0.5% to 1%. It will take several months for the full effects to be felt in the processed-and-packaged-food industry, but drought will eventually deliver an unwelcome jolt to the struggling economy as it kicks inflation up a notch.

The drought’s biggest victims may be people who work in the restaurant industry, where more-expensive food will raise operating costs and might discourage potential customers from stopping in if menu prices rise as a result. There’s no subsidized insurance program for servers laid off because of the weather.

This won’t be the last mention of the drought, which seems unlikely to lift before the fall. And the damage is only getting worse—especially for those who like meat, as Larry Pope, the CEO of the major pork producer Smithfield Foods, told the Financial Times:

Beef is simply going to be too expensive to eat. Pork is not going to be too far behind. Chicken is catching up fast. Are we really going to take protein away from Americans?

I’d bet not, but get ready to pay more for your hamburger, fried chicken and hot dog. Read the rest of my piece here.

2 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
f_galton
f_galton

I wonder if this is connected to the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP).

VasuMurti
VasuMurti

"This won’t be the last mention of the drought, which seems unlikely to lift before the fall. And the damage is only getting worse—especially for those who like meat, as Larry Pope, the CEO of the major pork producer Smithfield Foods, told the Financial Times: 

"'Beef is simply going to be too expensive to eat. Pork is not going to be too far behind. Chicken is catching up fast. Are we really going to take protein away from Americans?'"  

Nearly 75% of the grain grown and 50% of the water consumed in the U.S. are used by the meat industry. (Audubon Society)

Over 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to grow grain for livestock. (Greenpeace)

It takes nearly one gallon of fossil fuel and 5,200 gallons of water to produce just one pound of conventionally fed beef. (Mother Jones)

The following points and facts are excerpted from Please Don't Eat the Animals (2007) by the mother-daughter writing team of Jennifer Horsman and Jaime Flowers:

"A reduction in beef and other meat consumption is the most potent single act you can take to halt the destruction of our environment and preserve our natural resources.  Our choices do matter:  What's healthiest for each of us personally is also healthiest for the life support system of our precious, but wounded planet."

--John Robbins, author, Diet for a New America, and President, EarthSave Foundation

Half of all fresh water worldwide is used for thirsty livestock. Producing eight ounces of beef requires an unimaginable 25,000 liters of water, or the water necessary for one pound of steak equals the water consumption of the average household for a year.

The Worldwatch Institute estimates one pound of steak from a steer raised in a feedlot costs:  five pounds of grain, a whopping 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about 34 pounds of topsoil.

Thirty-three percent of our nation's raw materials and fossil fuels go into livestock destined for slaughter.  In a vegan economy, only two percent of our resources will go to the production of food.

"The impact of countless hooves and mouths over the years has done more to alter the type of vegetation and land forms of the West than all the water projects, strip mines, power plants, freeways, and sub-division developments combined."

--Philip Fradkin, in Audubon, National Audubon Society, New York

Agricultural meat production generates air pollution.  As manure decomposes, it releases over four hundred volatile organic compounds, many of which are extremely harmful to human health.   

Nitrogen, a major by-product of animal wastes, changes to ammonia as it escapes into the air, and this is a major source of acid rain.   

Worldwide, livestock produce over thirty million tons of ammonia.  Hydrogen sulfide, another chemical released from animal waste, can cause irreversible neurological damage, even at low levels.

Livestock production affects a startling 70 to 85 percent of the land area of the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union. That includes the public and private rangeland used for grazing, as well as the land used to produce the crops that feed the animals.   

By comparison, urbanization only affects three percent of the United States land area, slightly larger for the European Union and the United Kingdom. Meat production consumes the world's land resources.

"It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second- and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the overpopulation of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat."

--Jeremy Rifkin, pro-life AND pro-animal author, Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture, and president of the Greenhouse Crisis Foundation 

"Carl Pope could probably affect the world more by being a vegetarian than through his job as president of the Sierra Club," quipped Jennifer Horsman.

According to the editors of World Watch, July/August 2004:  

"The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future -- deforestization, topsoil erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease."

Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, similarly says in the February 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future (a peace and justice periodical on the religious left):   

"...the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging--to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer." 

The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, 30 times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and 500 times larger than the number of animals killed in animal pounds.