HBO's MeatHooked & End Of Water: Well Known Sustainable Farmer Comments on Vice Produced Show.
From Joel Salatin, Monday, Mar. 7, 2016
Several people contacted us following Friday night's VICE segment on HBO titled Meathooked
and End of Water which portrayed the industrial slaughter house environment and the industrial
meat industry's impact on water world wide. First, thank you, folks, for alerting us to this material.
We here at Polyface rely on others to keep us informed about media goings-on. So please keep
the shout outs coming.
In case you missed it, the World Health Organization has now classified meat as a class 1 carcinogen,
equivalent to tobacco, diesel exhaust, and asbestos. In other words, that pork chop or hamburger
is just as dangerous for you as smoking a cigarette, sticking your nose in a tractor exhaust pipe, and
Leaving that damning assessment for a moment, let's go to another broadside in the piece: every
pound of meat costs 1,800 gallons of water. That statistic of course has been repeated many times
in numerous credentialed reports. I've just finished a Pitchfork Pulpit column for Mother Earth News
magazine about the documentary Cowspiracy and how it's hard to study what isn't. Watch for that
in the next month or so.
Let's look at the 1,800 gallons of water per pound of meat. We raise a lot of cattle here at Polyface
and our average beef dresses out about 500 pounds. That means that animal drank 900,000 gallons
of water. Since the average beef is 800 days old at processing, that would average 1,125 gallons
of water per day. I remember well the biggest bull we ever had, named Teddy (after Teddy Kennedy--
we often named our bulls after prominent philanderers). He weighed 2,400 pounds. One day for
some reason he was thirsty and I carried him 5-gallon buckets of water.
Since his head was too big to fit into the 5-gallon bucket, I poured the water into a rubber tub. I watched in amazement as he drank four of those buckets as fast as I could pour the water in. It struck me that he had just drunk 20 gallons of water, at 8 pounds apiece; that's 160 pounds gained in 5 minutes. Wow! That was a huge animal and he was very thirsty. No animal can drink 1,125 gallons of water in a day.
Oh, but you see, they add in the irrigation water for the corn, the water in the John Deere factory to make the tractor to harvest the corn, and on and on and on. This is how they arrive at the 1,800 gallons of water per pound. This has several flaws. First and foremost, it assumes a completely anti-ecological production model.
What if instead of using aquifer or river water for irrigation, we build dams, beaver-style and permaculture- style, to reduce flooding and impound erosive excess surface runoff to use strategically in dry times? Suddenly, the animal production incentivizes, and finances, a re-hydration of the landscape rather than a dehydration. How's that for positive?
Second, suppose the herbivores don't eat any annuals so we don't have to use the machinery, transport, and till the soil? By using mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization, the herbivores (cattle) actually stimulate biomass and grow soil. Here at Polyface, we've taken our soil organic matter (OM) from an average of 1 percent to now more than 8 percent. One pound of OM holds 4 pounds of water. That means we're now holding an additional 8 times as much water and then an additional factor of 4.
Because of this exponential increase in biomass, we enhance transpiration, cool the atmosphere, and
create all sorts of positive ecological cycling. The point is that while we can all decry the current industrial production orthodoxy, it's not the animals' fault. It's the managers of the animals--the humans. And like so many things in nature, the most efficacious destroyer--industrial animals--is also the most efficacious healer under proper management.
So here at Polyface we salute VICE for taking on the government-industrial food complex, but we encourage showcasing the systems that actually heal the planet. That's a balanced approach.
As to meat being carcinogenic, again, starting from a faulty data base skews the results. Perhaps it would be better to say "industrial meat is carcinogenic." That would be more accurate. All these scientists, unfortunately, study the worst model and assume alternatives are not credible. It's like studying education by going to the worst schools. Like studying marriage by researching the worst partnerships.
As for Polyface and our loyal friends, we understand the myopia of researchers, the duplicity of average folks (if you're reading this, you're above average--like Lake Wobegon), and the ignorance of the world at large regarding positive alternatives. Hang in there; a remnant of redemptive practitioners exists. Carry on!