Brother Graff called attention to the prayer in the Litany: Teach us to seek the welfare of the land where Thou hast placed us, saying that it is our duty to take a sympathetic share in the weal and in the woe of the land in which we dwell….
Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, Vol III 1145
We Americans are by selection bias a people that relish choice. People have come to these shores for centuries seeking greater opportunity and personal freedoms. As Christians we have choices about how we live our lives and use the resources God provides and entrusts to us. The parable of the talents (Matthew 25) comes to mind when we think about how God might evaluate our time and our use of those resources here on Earth.
Americans choose to eat more meat per capita than any other nation in the world, except Luxembourg. On average, each American consumes over 270 pounds of meat per year.1 blogs in this space for 2017 have focused on diet as it relates to stewardship and health: Genetically Engineered Foods and Earth Stewardship2, Balancing Environmental/Animal Concerns and Diet3, Stewardship of our Health4, Eating as an Act of Stewardship5 and The Government Food Policy6. This month we will examine the costs exacted to our planet and us, God’s Creation, by our consumption of meat and meat products.
The NPR feature, The Salt, did an interesting analysis a few years ago about what it takes to put a quarter pound of hamburger on the plate7. They found that a quarter pound of hamburger requires:
- 6.7 pounds of grain
- 52.8 gallons of water
- 74.5 square feet of arable land
- 1,036 BTUs of fossil fuel energy
If the average American always ate hamburger, they would need to multiply these figures by 1,080 to assess their annual toll on the planet. In the last half century, American per capita meat consumption has increased by over 40%.8 While meat certainly can be part of a healthy diet, have we taken that idea beyond its logical endpoint? Forty years ago a Senate Select Committee tried to institute reasonable dietary guidelines to combat the growing scourge of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers largely created by a typical American diet centered on meat. In the end the consumer appeal of meat consumption, the industry’s influence and perhaps political self-preservation quashed that common sense.9
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations studied the issue of greenhouse gas contributors and found that livestock production creates more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation.10 Land and water degradation are also major concerns of livestock production.11 Various meat types and other food products have varying environmental impacts. Overall reduction in consumption of red meat and lamb would have the biggest impact on greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate change.12
What should our response be to the facts that our eating habits are taking a heavy toll on our bodies and our home, God’s Creation? God gave us free will and we each must seek God’s Wisdom to answer that question. As Christians, we are all part of one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12) and as citizens of one planet our individual choices and actions affect all people.
If you would like to read more on this topic, here are some resources:
Submitted by Helen Bushnell Beets for the Earth Stewards Team Edited by Don Frey, Elizabeth Harris and Rick Sides