A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…..wait that’s another story; but it seems almost that long since I took chemistry in high school. That’s where I first learned all about calories. Not the calories in chocolate, but as a unit of measurement. A calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one cubic centimeter of liquid, in the lab it’s usually water, one degree centigrade. That energy is stored in the fuel you’re using and a calorie is a calorie whether it’s stored in chocolate or oil.
If the calorie you’re interested in happens to come from a steak it may have taken up to fifty four fossil fuel calories to create the one calorie in the steak that you can actually benefit from. That fossil fuel was used to plant, harvest, process and ship the grain used as cattle feed, usually a feedlot. The fancy term is CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operation. Then more fossil fuel was used to transport the critters to the feed lots, process them and ship them to market. Then we drove to the store and bought the beautifully shrink wrapped cuts of beef, but that fuel almost looks like a drop in the bucket.
One pound of conventionally raised feed lot beef may have used up to forty five thousand fossil fuel calories by the time it reaches your plate. At approximately thirty one thousand calories in a gallon of gasoline, do the math. And that’s just one pound of beef. According to one source on the internet Americans consumed more than twenty seven BILLION pounds of beef in 2005. While the calorie counts for beef may vary by the cut, that’s still a hell of a lot of fuel just to put a piece of prime rib on my dinner menu. And that’s just the beef. I haven’t added chicken, turkey or pork to the mix. And I love good beef. It's just that the steak looks awfully small next to all those barrels of oil.
Cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys were designed to eat grass, bugs, weeds, acorns etc. I have this sinking feeling that switching everybody to the one hundred mile a gallon Chevy Volt (if it ever gets to production but that’s another story) won’t help much as long as we keep raising grain to feed to the critters that feed us.
Information obtained on the net and from Frances Lappe’s Hope’s Edge