Hey! Leggo My Beef! | A New Shade of Green | Sherry Listgarten | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

E-mail Sherry Listgarten

About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

View all posts from Sherry Listgarten

Hey! Leggo My Beef!

Uploaded: Mar 3, 2019
And now a word from our guest blogger, Sam. Thoughts?

If you don’t mind, I’d like to have a real conversation here. Because if by “A New Shade of Green” you mean this blog applies to everyone, then you can’t go around saying things like it’s easy to give up beef -- it’s not. If we are going to make real progress on reducing our emissions -- and I do tend to believe the science -- then we have to first acknowledge that it is not easy to give up. (I feel the same way with all the people saying it’s easy to bike more, but that’s another topic.) I’ll tell you why it’s hard, at least for me.

First of all, beef is an important part of my family’s “culture”, for lack of a better word. I can’t imagine a summer barbecue without burgers, Christmas without prime rib, a football game without tri-tip. It’s how I was brought up, it’s what I know, and it’s what I’m teaching my kids. I don’t want to give those up, and in fact I resent it some when people say how easy and great it is to give it up. I like beef. More than that, it’s a part of who I am.

Second, I’ve been hearing from my doctor for years that I should go easy on red meat. So if that hasn’t made enough of an impact, why would hearing something even more distant, about climate and planetary health, suddenly move me to action? It’s not that I’m lazy or dumb, or even that I don’t care. It’s just that I’m trying to eat less sugar, and exercise more, and get off my phone, and spend more quality time with family, and … It’s a lot to take in. And too much for me to “fix” all at once.

Finally, even when I do try, I don’t know if I’m a picky eater or what, but tofu is just not something I’m interested in eating. I’ve tried it, and it’s not for me. I really don’t know how to make beans, and don’t they make you, uh, gassy? I had vegetarian chili recently, and it was good, but it took forever to make. A steak, you just put it on the grill, and it’s done! I could eat more pasta, but my doctor says not to eat more pasta. Or bacon. Or eggs. Or fried chicken. And how many ways can you eat boiled chicken?

So if you (we) want Americans to make this change -- and I can see why that’s desirable -- we have to start with the presumption that it is not easy, and figure out how to make it easier. What if stores just wouldn’t sell it? That would help me for sure. I guess another idea would be to jack up the price, but I think I’d just be annoyed at “big government” telling me what to eat. Better to not see it at all. I suppose if meat made us sick -- remember mad cow disease? -- then that would certainly help me eat less, though that is a pretty dumb idea. What could we do that’s more positive? I don’t know. I’m just saying, this is the kind of thing we should be thinking about, if we really want to see a big change. And I think we do. But relying on people’s good intentions, when there are already so many, many people asking for our good intentions, isn’t going to cut it.

Comment guidelines

I hope that your contributions will be an important part of this blog. To keep the discussion productive, please adhere to these guidelines, or your comment may be moderated:
- Avoid disrespectful, disparaging, snide, angry, or ad hominem comments.
- Stay fact-based, and provide references (esp links) as helpful.
- Stay on topic.
- In general, maintain this as a welcoming space for all readers.
We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.

Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 3, 2019 at 7:57 am

It would make a lot more sense to me if instead of telling people to stop eating meat, it would be to get meat produced more humanely.

I came across this BBC article recently. Web Link It seems European meat producing standards are much higher than here. The worst part is that now it seems that America wants other countries to reduce their standards so that American meat can compete.

In a wise world, it would be that American producers should raise their standards to what is the norm elsewhere.

Perhaps we should and can agree to eat less red meat, whatever less means to each individual. Perhaps then the meat producers would start raising their standards to keep the animals more humanely and clean, and the slaughterhouses washed between flocks/herds.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 3, 2019 at 11:13 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Resident -- thanks for the comment, and the link! Keep in mind that some agricultural methods that are more humane, like pasture-raised cattle, result in higher emissions. Check out this writeup. I'm also not sure how humane methods help with the issue that Sam is raising. Do you have something in mind for reducing emissions at scale, including for people like him?

One idea might be to require humane standards across the industry, effectively forcing the closure of feedlots and greatly decreasing the supply of beef (since we don't have enough land for humanely-raised cattle). This would push up prices and reduce consumption. It seems like an indirect way to reduce emissions, but could work if we thought more people cared about making sure our animals are humanely raised than making sure we lower our emissions. I'm doubtful about that, though.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Mar 3, 2019 at 4:36 pm

Neal is a registered user.

There's no doubt Americans love their beef. The only reasonable goal is to encourage eating less beef, not eliminating it. One way to do this is by making smaller hamburgers. I've always been surprised how large many hamburger patties are, both in restaurants and at home. A quarter pounder is often on the small size. Have you heard the expression "the bun makes the burger?" If one uses high quality bread and condiments, one can make an outstanding hamburger with a much smaller beef patty. Give it a try.

Because eating is one of life's greatest pleasures, changing peoples eating habits is a tough sell. Just look at our obesity problem. I'll reduce my beef consumption, but I'll always eat for pleasure and drink for my health.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by MP Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Mar 4, 2019 at 11:10 am

If we ignore political correctness and focus on data - WaPo has a good write-up of emissions per pound vs emissions per 1000 calories that should guide some reality based diet changes.

Web Link

If you just replace your 1/3lb beef burger with a 1/3lb pork burger (season it up! maybe go for some bulk italian sausage instead of plan pork), you cut your carbon footprint by more than half for your protein. Not bad for basically no work!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Treif, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Mar 4, 2019 at 12:45 pm

MP resident-- for various reasons some people cannot eat pork.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 4, 2019 at 6:13 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Neal and @MP -- I think "eat less" is a great idea -- it's not really extra work to make a smaller burger or cut a smaller piece of steak. The only thing is that I'm not sure that kind of deprivation comes naturally to people.

As an analog, look at how slowly sugar consumption is coming down, despite everything we know.

Substituting with pork is also a good idea, though harder to implement -- it may not be available at your restaurant, or you may not know how to cook it, or as Treif points out, it may not be allowed in your diet.

What are some success stories? What did it take to stop cigarette smoking? Was the danger of the disease a factor? Or was it more the increase in taxes? (On the plus side, beef is not biologically addictive...) The elimination of trans-fats is another good example, but applied mainly on the supply side. Is it possible to make big, fast change without government intervention? What kinds of government interventions are better tolerated? Maybe a beef tax coupled with a chicken/pork/bean subsidy, or something like that?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Mar 4, 2019 at 6:49 pm

^ "Maybe a beef tax." Or we could tip the scale by omitting beef's food stamp eligibility. Like liquor and tobacco. Next could be soft drinks, candy and ice cream. We can make poverty even better for your health.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 4, 2019 at 7:56 pm

Eating less red meat is good for us from a health point of view. If more of us ate less red meat it would make a difference to overall consumption.

Eating less beef would be different for each of us depending how much we eat already. For someone who eats beef twice a day, 7 days a week, they could eat less by eating once a day and/or just 4 times a week. Instead of 14 meals with red meat, then eat 10 or 7. It would then follow that the times beef are eaten could mean smaller size portions of beef. A single patty in a burger, a smaller size steak, and a larger portion of veggies on the side.

Eating less red meat could mean eating more fish, more chicken, more lamb, buffalo, moose, venison, goat, rabbit, duck, etc. In fact, American diets that don't take into account all the other meats sounds a bit boring to me.

Eating less meat overall and increasing a better variety of different proteins would make a difference to the health of the population.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 4, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@musical -- If you don't like taxes (and you are not alone), what do you recommend? Besides cynicism :)

@Resident -- But how do you make that happen? Sam is saying that relying on people's good intentions isn't going to cut it.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by MP Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Mar 4, 2019 at 10:00 pm

The obvious answer for encouraging people to do the right thing on overall carbon emissions is a carbon tax.

A ton of carbon should have a steadily increasing price. It doesn't matter if that ton is from beef, gasoline, broccoli, or jet fuel. Carbon taxation is a bit tricky (you have to hit both sources - think fossil fuel extraction - and producers such as livestock)

Despite the inevitable cries of "But the poor!" "But the farm lobby!" "But the gas station lobby!" "But the car dealer lobby!" etc - it's really the only effective long term solution - demand curves slope downward, and the important thing is to drive down total carbon emissions.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 5, 2019 at 7:11 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@MP: I used to be really bullish on a carbon tax. But they are so susceptible to lobbying that the exemptions and pricing schemes have been making them all but useless. I plan to do a blog on this in a while, but here is a great recent writeup on Vox about the ineffectiveness of cap and trade in California, with commentary from a local think-tank called Near Zero that studies these pricing schemes. (Cap and trade is not a tax, but many of the same criticisms apply.) I read a great quote from Professor Chris Rapley in London: "Nature is our life support system. If you were in the Space Station and one of the astronauts started to try and break the oxygen supply, you would try and stop them; you would not try to tax them, you would stop them.” Currently it's only policies like clean energy and emissions caps in California that are having an impact. So, anyway, carbon pricing is much harder to get right than it seems. But I tend to agree with you, if we can't get that working, it seems like a problem.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 5, 2019 at 8:25 am

@Sherry. "Make that happen"

Are you really serious? You can't "make" people change. People change if they want to change either for their own good or the good of others. You can't "make" them change. "Relying on people to change" is not the way to look at. We can only have a discussion about such things but it is up to them if they want to alter their habits. Government legislation can make some things more difficult but actually banning a behavior will only send it underground. Look at the number of people who still burn wood on spare the air days.

This is not the USSR, people still smoke regardless of the health risks. People still like having a fire in their fireplace on spare the air days. I would be very wary of anyone or anything that wanted to "make" people change. Scary thought.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Beef as special, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Mar 5, 2019 at 9:43 am

We eat beef as a special treat, having it only about 3 times a month. We never have given up burgers or steaks. The real, and always been true answer is so simple: Moderation. It doesn't sell books, but it works.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 5, 2019 at 10:47 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Resident -- Thanks for the comment. You are right that terminology matters. I am asking how we can make a large and fast change happen, not on an individual basis, but on a national basis. And since "make" is not a given, consider "encourage". A good analog, as you mention, would be how people were encouraged to smoke fewer cigarettes.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Mar 5, 2019 at 9:20 pm

Moderator comment: Rick advocates that Sam eat as much beef as possible so he can die young and thereby save on his life's emissions. I am moderating this comment as violating guidelines, and generally unhelpful. I'm not sure there is a respectful way to advocate for Sam's early demise.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Mar 6, 2019 at 7:06 am

@Moderator. Thank you for explaining the removal of my post. Please note that I am in no way, shape, or form advocating for Sam's early demise!! I have MS and am well aware of how quality of life can change as one progresses in age. At worst I'm lightly mocking the calculus of not eating what one desires to gain extra time on the planet. I walk the talk by having bacon almost every morning ;)

It kind of like the City's cynical "Cool Blocks" program where, like gathering scrap metal in WWII, the powers that be want to keep the citizenry feeling like they are helping the environment, when what is -really- increasing our carbon footprint is expanding the office cap.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 6, 2019 at 8:11 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Rick -- I love your reference to WWII, and have been thinking about doing a post on victory gardens and scrap drives -- "feel good" initiatives, or real impact?

Sometimes I feel like we are all playing a big game of prisoner's dilemma -- will we cooperate on this, or not?

Re development, so many interesting topics, from is denser greener to concrete alternatives. Hope you keep reading :)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 6, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Sam: Great commentary. While not eating red meat is -easy- for me, because eating other things is our family habit/culture as you say, I wouldn't claim it is "easy" for everyone. But, it is a lot easier than it used to be, when food options were limited.

For any new habit to grow and replace an old habit, you need a practical time frame to implement it. For example, you mention barbecued beef. Perhaps you will have a relaxed block of time during summer vacation. Try then. Buy some organic roasting chickens, some organic packaged parts-- and try some different barbecue options. Pre-barbecue marinating, partially cooking through pre-boiling, etc, can make the barbecue part just as simple as cooking steak. Keep at it for a month and you will forget why beef seemed so easy.

>> A steak, you just put it on the grill, and it's done!

See above.

>> I could eat more pasta, but my doctor says not to eat more pasta. Or bacon. Or eggs. Or fried chicken. And how many ways can you eat boiled chicken?

Baked, broiled, or barbecued chicken should work. I'm sure your doctor wants to cut your sugar and purified starch (pasta) intake, but, the "Explore" brand of different pastas has a number of high-fiber high-protein variations that I bet your doctor will approve of. At first, it takes some effort to change any habit, but, it you keep at it, you will get there.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 7, 2019 at 8:29 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Anon -- Thanks for the thoughtful ideas for Sam.

@Beef as special -- Re books on moderation, you speak too soon :) One reader earlier claimed to be a "reducetarian", and there is a cookbook!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by "member", a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 9, 2019 at 9:24 am

Web Link

Dear Sherry, Thanks so much for these blogs/posts/columns. I feel that there is progress being made, but it's much too slow. To paraphrase Greta Thunberg: I don't want your hope, I want your action.

The following is a list of some of the comments by our fellow Palo-Altans:

"I?m not even particularly green"

"I can't imagine a summer barbecue without burgers, Christmas without prime rib, a football game without tri-tip."

"tofu is just not something I'm interested in eating. I've tried it, and it's not for me."

"Perhaps we should and can agree to eat less red meat, whatever less means to each individual."

"I'll reduce my beef consumption, but I'll always eat for pleasure and drink for my health."

"The only thing is that I'm not sure that kind of deprivation comes naturally to people."

"We can make poverty even better for your health."

"American diets that don't take into account all the other meats sounds a bit boring to me."

"People still like having a fire in their fireplace on spare the air days"

"Moderation. It doesn't sell books, but it works."

"what is -really- increasing our carbon footprint is expanding the office cap."


@Anon -- Thanks for the thoughtful ideas for Sam.

I wish I felt more calm and compassionate like the anon writer of that last post [thoughtful ideas], but in my anger I want to scream: people are already dying! So here's one suggestion, stop calling it "climate change"; call it "genocide by human pollution" instead.

For more info, please see: Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 9, 2019 at 9:55 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@member -- Great article, thanks for forwarding! My favorite part is #9, where it explains that individual actions scale because they influence other people. It is so important to begin talking about this, and trying things out, and discussing with friends/neighbors. Examples the article gives:

Patrons at a US cafe who were told that 30% of Americans had started eating less meat were twice as likely to order a meatless lunch.

and

An online survey showed that of the respondents who know someone who had given up flying because of climate change, half of them said they flew less as a result.

and

In California, households were more likely to install solar panels in neighborhoods that already have them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 9, 2019 at 4:53 pm

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,, 6 hours ago

>> An online survey showed that of the respondents who know someone who had given up flying because of climate change, half of them said they flew less as a result.

I don't want to split hairs, but, giving up flying and driving to the same location is probably a losing proposition. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since jets got 14 passenger miles/gallon. I would expect most full flights to get at least 70 passenger miles/gallon average. Some newer planes get upwards of 100 seat miles/gallon. e.g. Boeing 737-Max-8/9, Boeing-787-8/9, and some others depending on plane/flight combination (regional/short/medium/long).** So, unless you are driving an electric car, which, you probably aren't for a long trip, you likely need at least three people in the car to beat flying. Just saying. Just remember to eat chicken at the airport rather than beef. ;-) Naturally, staying nearby home and bicycling is much better, but, "giving up flying" not so much.

**Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by redplanet, a resident of University South,
on Mar 9, 2019 at 5:20 pm

Ok, so you need more help to stop eating dead animals? Spend some time in a slaughterhouse. Watch, listen. It is a horror. As Paul McCartney said, "If slaughterhouses were made of glass we'd all be vegetarians."

Learn that cows can recognize people, make friends with both people and other cows. They are conscious, sentient, intelligent beings we use as economic units to kill for profit. I can't imagine not being able to not eat meat because it reminds you of eating it as a kid. Also, think about how much cancer is related to eating meat and what that costs in terms of medical care and we have to pay for the consequences of your actions. I'd rather not pay for the med care of anyone eating at a McD - I watch sodas and fries shoved into kids along with the dead cows and chickens and see the future of obesity, diabetes, stroke and cancer. And the dollar signs attached that fall on all of society. For the good of the planet, the cows, the cost and the climate, stop eating dead animals. Please.

I gave up all that in a heartbeat as a single parent while at Stanford in grad school and was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis. My kids needed me, healthy. I refused drugs, changed my diet and the RA left, over time. Meat is inflammatory - and having spent a lot of time researching in the med school library I connected the dots of systemic inflammation to diet and RA and decided to change, immediately. It was enormously rewarding and the role model for my kids to see how you can control your health with diet was astounding. BTW, I hate tofu. Never touch the stuff and can't imagine people think veg = tofu eater. It certainly does not, for me. study on cows making friends Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Mar 9, 2019 at 6:57 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Anon -- Great comment, and yes! Driving (on average) instead of flying (on average) is not a win. As you say, carpooling helps, and efficient vehicles help. Here is a little bit of data on that. Buses are a lower-emission option, if you can find one, plus you avoid the long drive. Here is some interesting info on that.

@redplanet -- Absolutely, there are other messages that can be even more compelling than emissions. Great comment, thanks.



Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.

Email:

SUBMIT

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Downtown Palo Alto gets new Vietnamese eatery
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 5,027 views

More Stupid Plastic Food Things
By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 2,561 views

Operation Varsity Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 8 comments | 1,771 views

State Legislature on Housing: Getting the Demos out of Democracy & with it, Accountability
By Douglas Moran | 6 comments | 1,571 views

Environmentalists will soon be fighting housing advocates over what to do with the SF Bay locally
By Diana Diamond | 19 comments | 912 views

 

Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details