Posts Tagged ‘milk’
Posted by tinako on July 23, 2013
Posted by tinako on January 19, 2013
As part of a local environmental organization’s initiative to increase packaging recycling in school lunchrooms, I’ve been taking a turn going in to our school district primary school once a month and helping the kids recycle their lunch materials. These are first and second graders, so they are sweet and fun but need a good deal of assistance. In case you’re wondering about the details, there are about 200 kids eating at once, and every table gets a bin to toss their recyclables in, and in one cafeteria a student from that table brings their bin up to the sink and recycles everything with my help. In the other cafeteria, I go and collect the bins after lunch and process them myself. We recycle rinsed milk cartons, plastic cups and lids which fruits and veggies come in, plastic “silverware,” milk/juice boxes and pouches, water bottles, and chip bags. Unfortunately they still use Styrofoam trays which we can’t recycle. It is painful to watch the trash fill up with those, used for 15 minutes and lasting 400 years. Of course it would be great if the district used reusable items, but they got rid of their dishwashing (and cooking) abilities when they shrank the kitchens to make room for more students 10-15 years ago or so. So we are doing the best we can. About half the kids bring their lunches and don’t generate much trash.
I didn’t anticipate when I signed up for this just how much milk I’d be handling. Each needs to be opened up and given a quick rinse, but frequently the milk needs to be dumped first. I pour a lot of milk down the drain in my two hours. In addition to coming home smelling like it, it makes me very sad to think what the cow went through to provide what I’m dumping. She desperately wanted to give it to her calf, who wanted desperately to have it, but the USDA school lunch program forces it on children who don’t need it, want it, or drink it.
Well, most drink some of it. From memory, I estimate that about 40% of the kids get milk, 90% of the milk chosen is chocolate (even when the kids don’t open it), 30% of the cartons are completely consumed, another 40% are partly consumed, 25% opened but pretty full, and 5% are unopened.
This last time I went in, the leader told us we had the option of saving the unopened milks either for our families or the food pantry. And so here is my dilemma. Do I save milk, which I don’t think is particularly healthy, especially the 90% that is chocolate (22 grams of sugar, almost two tablespoons, in one cup of milk), to provide to hungry families, or open this junk the cows suffered for and pour it down the drain? Is this sugar-milk less wasted if it is processed through a human gut than directly down the drain? Am I a vegan promoting milk by providing it to the poor? Is it arrogant of me to presume to choose for them, or is it caring to not dump USDA surplus sugar-milk on them? What if it was candy instead? Is it my right as a volunteer to decide according to my own deepest value, compassion? If I don’t pass on this milk, will someone purchase or donate replacement milk, at the cost of further animal suffering, or will an alternative be more or less healthy, compassionate, and wasteful to the environment?
Having to make a quick decision, I thought that if I was this conflicted, either choice was probably acceptable – the choices that would best serve one and all had already been bypassed by others, and it was not my fault that I was not left with good options. I decided to collect the milk in my cooler and let people who visit the pantry decide. I delivered about a gallon and a half. I tried to remember the lesson of Torn and deliver it cheerfully.
What do you think I should do next month?
Footnote: Food Pantries Request Healthy Food Donations has milk in the yes column and sugary beverages in the no column.
Posted by tinako on February 28, 2011
Last year the U.N. did urge people to move to veganism.
Posted by tinako on October 17, 2010
I am reading Marion Nestle’s Food Politics, and on p. 131 I have found the best explanation I’ve read so far of why meat, dairy, and eggs are promoted so much more than fruits and vegetables. Those animal-based industries are rather homogenous. I mean, how many different kinds of those products are there? The dairy board is just milk producers. Then you have the beef board, which is all people with cows, a pork board, I guess a poultry board, and an egg board. So just a few boards and all of them cover everyone making basically one product.
Compare this with a veggie board. In her words, “fruit and vegetable growers view each other as competitors, a contest of peaches vs. apples or carrots vs. broccoli. Although grain producers might be expected to join alliances to promote plant-based diets, they do not; most grain is fed to animals.” So ironically, fruit and vegetable growers are politically weakened by the bounteous variety of the plant world.
In the next chapter she covers “check-offs,” where those boards lobby government to force producers to contribute to group generic advertising. This is successful for promoting those homogenous products (think the Milk Moustache campaign, Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner, or Pork: The Other White Meat). But plum growers, for instance, don’t want to contribute to a fruit promotion fund that they believe will mostly promote more popular fruits such as apples and bananas. So they sued to be released from check-offs, nobody contributes much, and very little fruit and vegetable promotion happens. More is spent to advertise Altoid Mints than fruits and vegetables combined.
Although she didn’t specifically make this connection, she does mention that while check-off money is not supposed to be used for lobbying but for “education” and “research,” the groups that do the two different functions are essentially or actually one organization. It follows that if fruits and vegetable growers are not well-organized for check-off activities, they are also not well-organized for lobbying, which does seem to be the case. And which explains a lot about the USDA.
Posted by tinako on July 20, 2010
I read this accessible paper, “How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human
Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture” (by Leo Horrigan, Robert S. Lawrence, and Polly Walker
Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore), which delivers a crushingly broad indictment of the effects of our industrial diet.
It concisely discusses the unsustainable and often irreversible effects on the environment of intensive use of water, energy, pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, and genetic manipulations, and modern agriculture’s astonishing increases in topsoil loss, water pollution, animal waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. The paper also makes the point very clearly that eating meat intensifies all these industrial uses and effects by its inefficiencies. Ruining the environment doesn’t just mean messing up our nest, it also means messing up our food supply – if we don’t take care of the land and water, inevitably there will come a day when we can’t grow enough food – in the past farmers just moved on to new land, but what happens when even the marginal land is useless?
Then the paper moves on to the effect of all these chemicals and the foods themselves on our bodies.
They sum up:
These phenomena are due, in part, to production and processing methods that emphasize economic efficiency but do not give sufficient priority to public health or the environment.
Some things that surprised me:
The average U.S. farm uses 3 kcal of fossil energy in producing 1 kcal of food energy (in feedlot beef production, this ratio is 35:1), and this does not include the energy used to process and transport the food.
Thirty-five calories of fossil fuel to make one calorie of food energy!
Barnard et al. estimated that meat consumption costs the United States roughly $30–60 billion a year in medical costs. The authors made this calculation (which they considered a conservative one) on the basis of the estimated contribution that eating meat makes to the diseases discussed above, plus other chronic diseases common in affluent countries and foodborne illnesses linked to meat consumption.
The United Nations has estimated that about 2 million poisonings and 10,000 deaths occur each year from pesticides.
One meta-analysis found that in nine comparison studies, vegans had an average cholesterol level of 158 mg/dL, vegetarians 182 mg/dL, and omnivores 193 mg/dL…. Whereas the average cholesterol level among heart attack victims is 244 mg/dL of blood serum, heart attack risk falls to virtually zero when the cholesterol level is less than 150 mg/dL.
The authors make the point that unsustainable farming is nothing new – many civilizations have collapsed because of their farming methods. Sustainable methods will consider long-term effects on topsoil, biodiversity, and rural communities, instead of just short-term profit. Sustainable agriculture will change from place to place and over time. Sustainable methods might include crop rotation and soil conservation, among others.
So why don’t we do this? Because farm input required by modern agriculture methods (think fertilizer, pesticides, and the kind of seeds farmers can’t save and replant) is a huge, powerful business that influences government subsidization of large-scale unsustainable farming.
One thing that would help, they say, is to convince farmers that sustainable farming can be just as profitable, and they give a large-scale example in Gallo Wine. Urban agriculture is good, and this is about the fourth paper I’ve read that says that farm markets and CSAs are a really important way consumers can make an impact.
Coupled with energy- and resource intensive food production methods, rising population and rising per capita consumption are bringing us closer to the limits of the planet’s ability to produce food and fiber for everyone.
These problems are complex and have no single solution, which leaves many people feeling powerless to affect them. One personal act that can have a profound impact on these issues is reducing meat consumption.
The Center’s book “Putting Meat on the Table” is available for free download. Lawrence and Walker offered a course, “Food Production, Public Health, and the Environment” through John’s Hopkins which sounds similar to the Yale course I’m auditing (and from the same semester). Although JH’s course is less user-friendly (you have to synchronize MP3 audio lectures with PDF slides), it does have a list links of readings which seemed different than those required by Yale.
Posted by tinako on June 3, 2010
I’ve heard of this but this blog gives a first person account of encountering mourning mothers.
via Living Nicely
Posted by tinako on May 31, 2010
In case you haven’t heard, there is a very violent video making the rounds of the internet showing undercover footage on an Ohio dairy farm. I have chosen not to watch it, since I already chose not to support this industry. You may be interested to read a few thoughtful comments about the video that I’ve come across.
- Here’s is a letter from Farm Sanctuary’s Gene Bauer, in which he reports that Farm Sanctuary has offered to take the cows and wants to help support prosecution, but that laws in Ohio are very lenient.
- Here is a blog posting from Rae Sikora.
- And here is a blog posting from Tim Gier, stating why he thinks it is a mistake to suggest this video to non-vegans.
Posted by tinako on May 15, 2009
Many people tell me that they can understand my problem with eating meat, but why do I object to milk and its products? Milking cows doesn’t hurt them, right? This is something they make, and they actually need someone to take it. And dairy farmers love their cows.
I suspect that milking machines or milking by hand is probably not all that uncomfortable to a cow. But we need to take a look at the bigger picture, because that cow’s life is not summed up by grazing in sunny pastures and twice-daily trips to the milking machine, though that is what we think, because that is the image that has been promoted to us. Here are the facts about U.S. dairy cows. While other countries and smaller farms may have different customs, most of these facts, from simple biology, will apply anywhere.
I was shocked to learn, a little over a year ago, that cows cannot give milk unless they are pretty much continually pregnant. Since I heard that, I have verified it at agriculture website after website, and I have yet to see any contradiction. These are not anti-dairy sites, but governments or universities advising dairy farmers how to manage their stock. Now that I know what to look for, I find confirmation of all these facts all over the place. My Dad flat-out refused to believe it when I told him, so he asked a dairy farmer friend who confirmed all the facts in this posting. I encourage you to verify what I say as well.
Here we go. The optimum pregnancy cycle for milk production has been determined to be about 3 months rest before the next one, and with an approximately 9 month gestation it works out that that is about one calf every year. Whether or not the farmer cares about his/her cows, this is not something they can change very much if they want to earn a living. I’ve had moms respond that they were able to nurse for years after pregnancy. I don’t have a confirmed answer for this, but I suspect that while dairy cows could nurse their babies longer than a few months, they can’t keep up the overproduction demanded on today’s dairy farms, or that the machines are not as effective as a real baby at keeping up even normal production. In any case, they are in fact reimpregnated.
The calves are taken from their mothers at one day old. The only reason they aren’t taken immediately is that without that dose of colostrum they would all die, which wastes money. I have read accounts of this removal process from vegan sources and the cows fight for their calves, but of course they always lose. I am a mother and this is the part that gets to me; I know about a lot of horrific things we routinely do to farm animals, and have seen lots of abuse, but I don’t think there’s anything that anyone could do to me that would be worse than taking my baby from me and killing it. Except doing it every year. Some may say it is anthropomorphic to suggest that cows love their babies – I say it would be arrogant for us to assume only we can feel love.
As you would expect, about half the calves born are male and half female. Farmers have no use for the males, who are not bred big for meat, so they are sent to auction. Sometimes they are sent straight to slaughter, often still with their umbilical cords attached. Usually, though, they are raised in tiny crates, chained tightly by the neck to restrict their movement, and sent to slaughter at up to 16 weeks old. Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry. Again, this happens whether the farmer is kind or not – they cannot afford to keep and feed the males.
The female calves are raised to replace their mothers, who don’t live very long. Dairy cows, which would usually live to over 20 years of age, are no longer profitable after about 4 years, at which point they are sold at auction to slaughter for hamburger. Farmers cannot afford to keep cows that are not producing – even farmers who say they love their cows say goodbye and load them on the truck.
Organic or not, rBGH or not, “Happy Cows” advertising or not, this is the life of a dairy cow – taken from her mother at one day old, artificially impregnated, hooked up to machines, having her calves taken every year until she is driven onto a truck and faces the stunner at a slaughterhouse.
I can totally relate to feeling there is a moral difference between meat and milk or eggs. I felt that way for 15 years and did not ever intend to become vegan. A year ago, I realized that I don’t abstain from meat because it is a dead body – I abstain because it causes suffering. When I found out how much suffering is in milk and eggs, I knew what I had to do.
The next time you see dairy cows standing serenely in a field, ask yourself which of them had her calf torn from her today, and which of them are scheduled for the truck tomorrow. Because it would be just as correct to call that dairy farm a veal and hamburger farm.
If you would like to hear about dairy cows, including the facts I’ve related but also some lovely stories about rescued cows, this is a wonderful podcast on the issue.
Afternote: In case you are still under the illusion that dairy is a magical pastoral occupation, as I was Googling this morning to find any new contradictions of my facts (I couldn’t), I came across this document from the University of Florida. It gives dairy farmers a model for culling decisions; that is, how to decide when to kill their dairy cows. It’s a Powerpoint type document and highlights a computer program into which you can enter things like how much milk the cow is giving, how many calves, how big your herd is, how much feed costs, and it will output whether she should live or die.