Commentary: All vegetarian by 2050? Not so fast

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Editor's note: The following commentary was written Gene Hall, Public Relations Director for the Texas Farm Bureau, and published on the Texas Agriculture Talks website.

Bad news, meat lovers: We’ll all be vegetarians by the year 2050 because we’ll run out of water to produce livestock. That’s the theory in this article on Yahoo.

These sweeping and absolute statements can be a lot more about someone’s agenda than futuristic forecasting. When you see something like this, you should ask, “Who doesn’t want anyone eating meat?” Or, “Who wants a grant to study livestock and water supplies?”

Without knowing how much rainfall there will be in the next 40 years, and where, this is a pretty tough call. It’s true that cows drink a lot of water, but water shortages have as much to do with distribution as with total supply. For example, does a cow drinking out of a stream in Montana or from a windmill pump in Mills County, Texas have anything to do with available water in Australia or sub-Saharan Africa? Yeah, I know, I don’t believe it either!

The environment, according to those that advocate for it, is and always will be on the edge of disaster. The same is true of animal rights causes. It’s very hard to raise funds without a disaster. “Everything is great” just doesn’t raise much money.

Looking back over the history of environmental extremism, you can find some pretty outrageous predictions. One had it that human life expectancy would be only 42 years by 1980. We should be in the throes of another ice age or altogether extinct by now, according to the disaster prediction industry.

The thing is people like meat, especially beef. It’s good for us, too. Some who have tried vegetarian diets don’t do well on them.  Just for the record, I am 100 percent in favor of vegetarian diets for any and all who want to eat that way.

All cattle consume grass for the majority of their lives and there are places where nothing but grass will grow. We need livestock to harvest that for human consumption. There is no doubt that water supplies will impact agricultural production in the future, but I’d bet on some kind of livestock production so that we can, in effect, eat grass.

In the year 2050, I would be 96 years old. I don’t expect to be around, though my beef-devouring grandfather made it to 101. If I am, and if I have enough teeth to do so, I expect to bite into a hamburger at my 96th birthday party.

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Ithaca, MI  |  August, 31, 2012 at 02:31 PM

Excuse me but I really think you've written this article using very little fact. Claiming that all cattle consume grass for the majority of their lives is one of the most ignorant things I've ever heard. Do you realize how little grass the majority of cattle in this country eat?! Sure they get some hay but the vast majority of their diet is grain based. To sustain the level of consumption of beef in this country in 50 years will be incredibly difficult considering 1. Increased population 2. the acreage being used for feed inputs and 3. the inefficiency of cattle converting that biomass into beef. Not to mention the exorbitant amounts of water (1800 -2500 gallons PER POUND) that are required for beef production... It is undeniable that eating plant based foods is a much more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. I am not suggesting that everyone will be eating only plants in 50 years but at some point we need to reevaluate the sustainability of our food system and I am afraid it will be a catastrophe. The status quo will not do in the future to feed 9 billion people.

VT  |  August, 31, 2012 at 02:44 PM

453 gals of water /boneless pound of meat.. It will get down to what people can afford. Remember the Arab spring is/was as much to do about food as anything else. I like mine medium rare..

August, 31, 2012 at 06:54 PM

"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?" "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency." UN Food and Agricultural Organization's report "Livestock's Long Shadow" “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund Why would someone choose to be vegan? To slow global warming for one! Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: and "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." ~ Albert Einstein

August, 31, 2012 at 06:55 PM

Grass fed beef emits 400% more methane than grain fed beef!

Joe Dairyman    
USA  |  August, 31, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Sarah the livestock industry does use some grain. But do you know that a large portion of what is consumed in the livetock industry is by products. These by products like corn gluten, corn bran, cotten seed meal, soybean meal, DDG, rice bran, corn germ, soy hulls, citrus pulp, bakery wast, corn stalks, vegetables, almond hulls, corn hominy, just about anything you can think off are the left overs that humans don't eat and the livestock industry consumes. By products are what is left after the part of the food we consume or whatever else is taken out. What are you going to do with all of these byproducts bring it to a land fill? People need to stop making emotional accusations about things they have no knowledge of.

September, 02, 2012 at 04:43 PM

Well Sarah seeing how a majority of the cattle put into the food chain are dairy animals. I would say that yes they are fed a heavy grass or forage diet. Furthermore we did not climb to the top of the food chain to eat carrots

Batavia, NY  |  September, 04, 2012 at 11:33 AM

As long as we can keep the environmental kooks under control and stop mass immigration to this country from crap holes like Africa, Middle East and South of our border, Americans will always have plenty of meat to eat. As for the rest of the world, they can eat grass for all I care. That should make PETA happy.

pa  |  September, 07, 2012 at 04:46 PM

Love all these research studies and articles speculating on what needs to be done in the future to deal with food supplies. Find it incredibly interesting how everyone gets in a tizzy about the pro's and con's of livestock, yet not one person wants to deal with the real issue of there simply being too darn many people for the planet to support!!You can get rid of every animal there is and I'm sure it will still reach a point at some time where it is almost impossible to feed everyone if we keep breeding like rabbits. No one wants to deal with that subject since it's a political lamdmine and it is so much easier to blame somebody's cows for causing all the problems which a number of the comments below suggest.

Mary Finelli    
Md.  |  September, 08, 2012 at 12:28 AM

Nate, please, get your facts straight: "Dairy cows represent about 8 percent to 10 percent of the beef produced in the United States annually."

Mary Finelli    
Md.  |  September, 08, 2012 at 12:36 AM

Joe, not only does meat production consume a vast percentage of the grain harvest - including an immense amount grown specifically as feed grain- cattle grazing has also largely decimated the western states. see: and

MA  |  September, 08, 2012 at 05:13 AM

Sarah, glad to see you are thinking in the future...those in the EPA who, conceived the ethanol brainchild obviously didn't know what you do. Two hundred years ago Thomas Malthus recognized our current predicament ....too many people competing for for the limited resources for human needs. Still there are too many in denial. Your last line says it all...

Missouri  |  September, 08, 2012 at 11:43 AM

True Sarah, and her Ilk think they will feed the world with With all Organic, what fools

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