Each American consumes about 1 million kilocalories or diet calories per year. A significant fraction is due to our consumption of 92 pounds of beef/person a year versus a global average of 22 pounds a year. (Argentina has the highest consumption of beef per person at 120 pounds/year while Moldova in Eastern Europe is at one pound/year.)

Why focus on beef? Well, to produce one pound of beef requires 5,000 gallons of water (needed for producing the food cows eat). In general it takes 10 times as much water to produce a pound of animal protein as one pound of grain protein.

When one considers the greenhouse gases generated by producing a pound of beef, it matches the greenhouse gases produced by a gasoline powered car (at 27 miles per gallon) driven for 19.6 miles!

For comparison, the figures for one pound of pork are .5 miles, one pound of chicken 1.5 miles, one pound of asparagus .54 miles, one pound of apples .4 miles and one pound of potatoes .34 miles. All these numbers are based on the manufacture of fertilizer (using fossil fuels), the irrigation, the spreading of fertilizer, harvesting and processing of these food items, their packaging and transportation to your grocery store.

According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the world wide livestock production of beef, chicken and pork produces 18 percent of human emitted greenhouse gases. Only energy production at 21 percent is higher. (Reference, February 2009, Scientific American)

If global climate change is something you are in denial about, consider the waste of U.S. livestock. Each year, livestock on our U.S. farms produce five tons per person. This is more than 100 times as much waste as U.S. humans produce.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the factory farm runoff into the environment amounts to 3 trillion pounds per year. This runoff often contaminates local water supplies, triggering high rates of spontaneous abortions and even “blue baby”syndrome. This runoff is a greater source of pollution to our lakes and streams than all the industrial sources combined.

The large amount of antibiotics used in concentrated animal feedlot operations is largely unmetabolized in animal wastes. Tufts University concludes that these substances can lead to increases in breast cancer, ovarian cancer, testicular cancer and lowered sperm count in men. (Reference, “The Face On Your Plate,” Chapter One, by Jeffrey M. Masson)

If one insists that humans by nature are natural meat eaters, consider our bodies, relative to carnivores (flesh eaters) such as big cats, hyenas or wolves.

The human mouth is relatively small in comparison to our head size in contrast to the carnivores whose mouths open widely, don't chew and gorge on their kills. (If we tried to eat like a hungry dog, we would likely choke!) Human saliva contains amylase, designed to start the dissolving of carbohydrates (plant matter).

Human teeth have incisors that are flat and spade like, suited for biting into soft foods. Our stomachs are comparable in size to those of herbivores, unlike the larger stomachs of carnivores. Humans have long intestines, leading to long transit time of our wastes.

When researchers in zoos feed a diet rich in animal protein and fats to captive primates, these animals develop the same maladies as humans on meat rich eating (cardiovascular disease).

Recent anthropology studies suggest that women hunter-gatherers obtained most of the food (vegetables and fruits) for their families while the hunting of the males contributed a lesser amount. In fact, humans with their delicate skin are better regarded as prey of large carnivores rather than hunters.

The last objection to our current meat rich eating habits is the horrible carnage and treatment of the animals that we eat. To keep prices down, (Americans currently spend less than 10 percent of their income on food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture), most of our food is produced on factory farms where many animals have little space to turn around, are injected with antibiotics and killed quite early in their natural life span, compared to animals in zoos or in the wild). These facilities are called Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations or CAFOs).

Baby male chickens are usually killed within a day of birth. Cows are separated from their calves soon after birth, with the males either being killed or used for veal. To maintain their milk output, cows are artificially inseminated and kept pregnant all through their service years (usually 4) and then it’s the slaughterhouse.

The treatment for pigs is not much better with the pigs’ tails cut off to prevent damage to other pigs as they turn around in their small confined lots. As pigs gain weight rather rapidly, their time in their small confined areas is less than a year before they become bacon or pork. Do animals deserve some consideration?

The European Union is starting to ban the more barbaric practices in farms while only a few American farms have eliminated the cages, indoor animals who never see the sky, etc. It is ironic that people who consider themselves pro-life ignore the thousands of animals/person who are killed so they can eat meat during their lifetimes.

American farms to provide us with fast food, restaurant food and food for our grocery stores, killing more than 7 billion animals a year.) I am not a vegetarian but I eat meat and fish sparingly.

This morning the crescent moon appeared above the planet Mars. On Wednesday, a very slender crescent moon appears to the right of the planet Venus in the 6:15 a.m. dawn. The moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun on Friday. This triggers Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) on Friday just after sunset when three stars can be seen.

Ffeatured at the Frostburg State Planetarium is “White-Blue Ball and Pale Grey Dot,” the Earth and moon as seen from other planets.

Our free presentations start at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. each Sunday in September. Afterwards, any interested are invited to go on a tour of the Science Discovery Center in Compton (across the street from the Tawes Hall Planetarium). Call (301) 687-4270 for road directions or visit the FSU Web site at www.frostburg.edu and search for Planetarium.

Reader comments and questions are invited; phone (301) 687-7799 or email rdoyle@frostburg.edu .

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