Meat and Dairy Facts: Everything You Wanted to Know

Meat and Dairy Facts

Meat and Dairy Industry Officials
FACT: Milk makes your nose grow

A new website wants to educate you about "meat and dairy facts"

A FUNDAMENTAL FACT OF THE MEAT AND DAIRY INDUSTRY is that it is an industry based entirely on the brutalisation of animals: new-born calves and piglets torn away from their crying mothers and either exploited or murdered[1][2][3]; calves beaten to death with hammers[4][5]; cattle and pigs routinely beaten and abused[6][7][8]; millions of pigs made to die in live transports[6]; cattle repeatedly subjected to forced impregnation in order to maintain a viable milk yield until they finally “dry up” and are brutally slain after having lived only a small fraction of their natural life expectancy[9][10]; egg-laying hens forced to live a life of abject misery in excruciating confinement, until their torture finally ends with a violent death[11]; vast numbers of male chicks suffocated to death in plastic bags, drowned, or even macerated (shredded) while still alive[11][12][13]; pigs forced to live their lives in tiny crates, so small that they cannot move and have no opportunity to express natural behaviours[14][15]; animals subjected to unendurably painful procedures such as castration[16], debeaking[17], and dehorning[18], without the use of any kind of anaesthetic; pigs boiled and dismembered while still alive[19]; cattle skinned and dismembered while still alive[19] – and, to use a phrase coined by the Washington Post journalist Jo Warrick – made to “die piece by piece”[19]. But, perhaps worst of all, it is an industry that takes the lives of sentient beings, who want, more than anything else, to carry on living their lives, just as we do. These are all meat and dairy facts.

Another fundamental fact of the meat and dairy industry is that it is causing wholesale environmental destruction. It is a major cause of inland water pollution. It is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions[20]. It is responsible for the vast majority of global nitrogen pollution and the vast majority of soil erosion. It causes about a third of all biodiversity loss and approximately 75% of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest region[21]. In general, the environmental impact of animal agriculture is devastating in comparison with plant agriculture. These are also meat and dairy facts.

Another fundamental fact of the meat and dairy industry is that none of this would happen if consumers didn’t pay for it to happen.

However, there is a new project underway to help the public learn fundamental facts about the dairy industry. Not these kinds of facts though, because another fundamental fact of the meat and dairy industry is that it is recalcitrantly mendacious. And now, having been publicly confronted with the unconscionable practices of their industry by several high-profile awareness campaigns, and having become more conscious of the existential threat with which their industry is faced[22], the leaders of the meat and dairy industry have decided to set up an entire propaganda dissemination programme, spreading disinformation to support their cause.

DeSmog dug up the dirt on this new disinformation campaign known as “Meat and Dairy Facts”[23], and found that Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board) is the party behind it. Bord Bia set up the propaganda campaign with the help of the Dublin-based PR firm Red Flag, who, as DeSmog also uncovered, have a history of supporting both the North American Meat Association as well as British American Tobacco[24]. Additionally, they were the firm that created the fake grass roots movement known as “Freedom To Farm” in order to defend the use of the extremely harmful herbicide glyphosate, a compound that is officially classified in the same IARC carcinogen category as red meat (2A).

Some of the chestnuts that can be found on their new website are particularly risible. Below is a sample of some of the bizarre “facts” from their website’s FAQ page, which is where they have decided to concentrate much of their wisdom.

“Q: Is dairy good for me?” 

“A: Absolutely. Foods like milk, yogurt and cheese provide calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus and iodine, as well as vitamins B2, B5 and B12 that are all important for your health.”

Here, they completely ignore the fact that there are perfectly adequate plant-based sources for all of these nutrients. They also ignore the fact that a majority of adults cannot even digest cow’s milk, the prevalence of lactose intolerance in the adult population being estimated at roughly 65%, (in some groups the prevalence fluctuates from 70% right through to 100%)[25].

“Q: Should I eat less dairy?”

“A: The Department of Health recommends having three servings from the ‘milk, yogurt and cheese’ food group each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet. On average, Irish adults consume just two portions from the dairy group each day, falling short of the recommended three servings.”

This is an amusing one. Bord Bia’s website references information – including a Food Pyramid – that can be found on the website of the Irish Department of Health, which, in turn, links back to Bord Bia for recipe tips and other such trivia, in a vicious self-promotional regress. Interestingly, the Irish Food Pyramid, as one would expect, is founded on a base of fruit and veg – which is accompanied by the advice “Base your meals on these and enjoy a variety of colours. More is better…”. The DoH’s page on the Food Pyramid also states that “The Food Pyramid allows individuals the flexibility to choose foods and drinks from each shelf depending on their food preferences”, so the Department of Health does not appear to be claiming – as implied above – that we must consume more dairy.

“Q: Is red meat good for you?”

“A: Red meat can be part of a healthy balanced diet. Beef, lamb and pork provide large amounts of essential vitamins and minerals to help your immune systems to function. For example, beef is a rich source of zinc, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Crucially, it is also rich in protein.”

Once again, they avoid giving a direct answer – even to their own question. Also, they present red meat as a source of various nutrients, even though there are perfectly adequate plant-based sources of the same nutrients, and they ignore the significant health-risks associated with red meat consumption. No mention here of the fact that red meat was classified by the World Health Organisation as a Group 2A Carcinogen and processed meat as a Group 1 Carcinogen (the same category as tobacco smoke) in the IARC official carcinogen schedule[26][27], following the most comprehensive meta-analysis ever conducted in relation to this subject. No mention of the fact that plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes. Also, no mention of the fact that it has been demonstrated that plant-based diets reduce the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) by around 40%, and are the only diets proven to be capable of reversing CHD, currently the leading cause of death.[28]

“Q: Do you really need to consume dairy products to keep your bones healthy?”

“A: The Irish Osteoporosis Society and international organisations such as the US-based National Osteoporosis Foundation advocate the inclusion of dairy for good bone health.”

It’s amazing how they continue to duck their own questions. One would think that they could have set themselves easier questions to answer. For example, “what is the tastiest type of cheese?” or “should I fry or grill my burger?”. Anyway, they fail to acknowledge the fact that there is no evidence – as explained by Harvard University School of Public Health[29] – to support the notion that calcium must be consumed in the form of dairy products. Rather, there are reasons to think that this might not be the best way to consume calcium, such as the high prevalence of lactose intolerance amongst adults, a possible increased risk of ovarian cancer, and a probable increased risk of prostate cancer, as well as the simple fact that dairy tends to be higher in saturated fat than plant-based alternatives. Funnily enough, they don’t mention the fact that the link between dairy consumption and bone health is not so clear cut, with some research actually reporting a possible elevated risk of osteoporosis with increased dairy consumption[30]. Instead they are still pushing the old drink lots and lots of milk or else your bones will turn to sawdust message and we are expected to swallow it.

“Q: Is there as much protein in non-dairy alternatives to cow’s milk?”

A: No, there is far more protein in cow’s milk. For example, there is six times more protein in cow’s milk compared to almond, rice or coconut beverages.”

Well, at least it’s a straight answer for once. But it’s extremely misleading. After all, there are other non-dairy alternatives to cow’s milk, such as soya milk, which have about as much protein as cow’s milk (with some products having even more). Plus, there are many different viable sources of protein, not just milk, whether animal-derived or plant-based.

“Q: Do calcium supplements make up for not consuming milk?”

“A: While supplements do deliver calcium, they do not contain the range of other nutrients which are important for bone health, including protein and phosphorus.”

Well, obviously calcium supplements are supposed to deliver calcium, not a bunch of other compounds. Also, they avoid mentioning that there are a considerable number of plant milks and similar products that are fortified with calcium and other nutrients such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D. They also avoid mentioning the many other sources of phosphorus, including many nuts, beans, and seeds. Furthermore, as the Harvard School of Public Health concludes:

“We cannot be confident that high milk or calcium intake is safe”[29]

The same publication also notes that:

“There’s no good evidence that consuming more than one serving of milk per day in addition to a reasonable diet (which typically provides about 300 milligrams of calcium per day from nondairy sources) will reduce fracture risk. Because of unresolved concerns about the risk of ovarian and prostate cancer, it may be prudent to avoid higher intakes of dairy products”[29]

And it goes on to mention that:

“For individuals who are unable to digest—or who dislike—dairy products and for those who simply prefer not to consume large amounts of such foods, other options are available. Calcium can be found in dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and collard greens, as well as in dried beans and legumes. A variety of calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice, cereals, and plant-based milk (soy, rice, almond), are also available in most markets”.[29]

“Q: How does beef compare to non-meat alternatives such as soya when it comes to nutrition?”

“A: Red meat compares very well to other options. For instance, you can get as much protein from 25g of lean beef as you would get from 210g of black beans.”

This one puts quite a spin on reality. Raw soybeans are 36% protein by mass according to the USDA, whereas lean beef is only 26% by mass according to the same official source. And yes, soya is a complete protein – as many of us have known all along[31].

“Q: Does eating red meat cause cancer?”

“A: No, eating red meat products such as beef, lamb or pork in moderation does not increase the risk of cancer. There is no proven, causal link between eating moderate quantities of red meat and developing cancer.”

Do they have some beef with the World Health Organisation? Seriously, red meat is a Group 2A carcinogen[26].

“Q: Would it be better for the environment if we switched from farming animals to growing crops?”

“A: All parts of our farming sector contribute to society, including dairy, meat and tillage, and all sectors have an important role to play in guaranteeing food security and cutting down on carbon emissions. Permanent pasture land acts as a natural carbon sink, helping to absorb emissions.”

I swear this must be some kind of strange compulsion. They ask themselves difficult questions and then they avoid answering them. Ignoring the fact that animal agriculture’s naturalness is highly debatable, there is a grain of truth in pasture being a carbon sink. This, however, is only realized if the pasture and the cattle are treated as one entity, and if the latter are maintained in a sufficiently sparse population, which of course is unworkable on any typical farm. Furthermore, animal agriculture and associated feed cropping accounts for the vast majority of agricultural land use, and so if it were not for animal agriculture it might be possible to replace the grazing land with a far superior carbon sink, like mixed or deciduous woodland for instance[32]. Nonetheless, they completely ignore the fact that net emissions from animal agriculture are some of the worst of any industrial sector, far outweighing any potential carbon sinkage[33], this includes methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, and one which is also ozone-depletive.

“Q: Do Irish farmers take animal welfare seriously?”

“A: Yes they do, becase [sic] they care about their animals. In addition, Ireland’s sustainability schemes for beef, lamb and dairy (SBLAS and SDAS) help to ensure that our farmers apply best practice animal welfare at all times. Uptake of these schemes has been incredibly positive. 90% of our beef exports are covered by SBLAS and over 90% of dairy farmers are part of SDAS.”

Very little needs to be said here[5]. They take the welfare of their animals so seriously that they send them to the factories-of-death known as abattoirs in order that they can be violently slain en masse. Apparently, they think that murdering animals is “best practice animal welfare”.

Perhaps they should take a B12 supplement – I hear it’s good for nervous system function.

References

  1. Marchant-Forde et al, 2002, Responses of dairy cows and calves to each other’s vocalisations after early separation, Applied Animal Behaviour Science
  2. VIVA, Calves – Unwanted Byproducts
  3. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Colostrum Feeding and Management on U.S. Dairy Operations 1991-2007, United States Department of Agriculture, 2008
  4. PETA Asia, Calves killed with Hammers and Cows Dragged on Australian Dairy Farm
  5. Independent Ireland, Calves Killed with Hammers and Plastic Bags 
  6. PETA, The Horrors of Pig Transport and Slaughter
  7. Kinder World, Abuse of Pigs in the Food Production System
  8. Sky News, Horrific Abuse of Pigs on British Farms
  9. Mercy For Animals, Irrefutable Facts About Dairy
  10. Nowak, R. 1997, 1999, Walker’s Mammals of the World, Johns Hopkins University Press
  11. PETA, Egg Industry Cruelty
  12. AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals, 2020, AMVA (American Medical Veterinary Assocation)
  13. PETA, Chicks Treated Like Garbage – Burned, Drowned, Walked on
  14. Zhang, M.Y. et al, 2017, Effects of confinement duration and parity on stereotypic behavioral and physiological responses of pregnant sows, Journal of Physiology and Behaviour, International Behavioral Neuroscience Society
  15. Deborah Braconnier, 2012, Wallowing in Mud is More than Just Temperature Control, Phys dot Org
  16. Fredriksen, B., 2009, Practice on castration of piglets in Europe, Animal
  17. Duncan. I.J.H., Slee. G.S., Seawright. E., and Breward. J., 1989. Behavioural consequences of partial beak amputation (beak trimming) in poultry. British Poultry Science. 30: 479-88
  18. PETA, Dehorning Revealed
  19. Jo Warrick, 2001, They Die Piece by Piece, Washington Post
  20. Tackling Climate Change through Livestock, Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations
  21. Brian Machovina, Kenneth J. Feeley, William J. Ripple, 2015, Biodiversity conservation: The key is reducing meat consumption, Science of the Total Environment
  22. Weary, D. M., von Keyserling, M. A. G., 2017, Public concerns about dairy-cow welfare: how should the industry respond?, Animal Production Science
  23. DeSmog, 2019, Ireland’s Meat and Dairy Farmers Bring in Tobacco PR Farm to Tackle Image Problem
  24. EU Transparency Register
  25. Genetics Home Reference, Lactose Intolerance, U.S. National Library of Medicine
  26. WHO (World Health Organization), The Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat
  27. Cancer dot org, World Health Organization Says Processed Meat Causes Cancer
  28. Kahleova, H., Levin, S., Barnard, N.D., 2018, Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Cardiovascular Disease, Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, Volume 61, Issue 1, May–June 2018, Pages 54-61
  29. HSPH (Harvard School of Public Health), Calcium: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health?, Harvard University
  30. Michaëlsson, K. et al, 2014, Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men, BMJ
  31. Michelfelder, A.J., 2009, Soy: a complete source of protein, American Family Physician, American Academy of Family Physicians, Jan 1;79(1):43-7
  32. Pugh, A. M. et al, 2019, Role of forest regrowth in global carbon sink dynamics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS March 5, 2019 116
  33. Garnett, T., Godde, C., 2017, FCRN (Food Climate Research Network), Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford