The perfect modern diet


A diet that could reconcile the competing needs of carbon reduction, social equity, biodiversity and personal nutrition would probably consist of field-grown vegetables that have been harvested locally by well-paid labour: the diet of the £5 turnip.

32 thoughts on “The perfect modern diet”

  1. The Japanese appetite for whale meat has disgusting results

    Hmm. I thought the point was that there was no significant remaining Japanese appetite for whale meat. Hence the majority of the carcasses get dumped or used for animal food. What there is is a government supported Japanese whaling industry and a significant Japanese political and social “stop telling us what we can and cannot do” meme.

  2. “But which popularly elected government will ration meat or deliberately …”

    Oh that pescy democracy stuff getting in the way of our need to “educate” the people heh.

  3. Rationing? I think that this piece offers an increasingly troubling look at just how far peddlers of far-green ideology will go not just to claim their own right to live according to their beliefs, but to mandate that you and I do the same.


  4. He is claiming that a vegetarian diet is better for the environment, I presume on a calorie by calorie basis? Lots of land could be freed up by going from grazing to crops, but does this provide the same nutritional content for the same land area, or do we need more? Is the bottom line that he is really just proposing less calories?

    The argument about biomass would probably reveal he hasn’t done the math, it’s a well known fact that apart from exceptional circumstances, once all the harvesting, processing and transportation of biomass is taken into account it is a net CO2 producer over fossil fuel.

    The wider implications of vegetarianism (actually vegan because without livestock you don’t get diary or eggs either) need to be examined. Globalized industrial farming is vastly more efficient and significantly outweighs the transportation energy cost (as supporters of local farming have been shown to their detriment), it would seem obvious that in these days of refrigeration, because meat storage is easier, it would amplify the efficiency of production and transportation, and would reduce the energy cost per calorie.

    A typical greenie failing is not looking at the wider picture, that their so-called “green” methods are actually energy inefficient and cause more CO2 emissions. The fact you can turn on and off a gas turbine to accommodate demand makes it a better energy producer (and therefore less CO2) than a wind turbine when you look at the whole system.

    The advent of a lab grown burger indicates that livestock farming is going to undergo a significant change in the next few decades, his complaints are analogous to the worries of drowning in horse shit before the motor car came about, then again, technology has never been a strong point on most journalists, especially the “green” ones.

  5. Agristats says that total fresh vegetable production is 60% of UK use, so Mr Jack will have to cut out one meal a day if he wants to live on locally-produced vegfetables. Also he won’t get any extra to replace the meat he gives up since around two-thirds of agricultural land in Britain is only usable for grass (producing hay for winter feed) or grazing (some more is used for grass/grazing as part of crop rotation). Wheat earns vastly more than grass, so if it was possible to grow crops on it the farmers would do so. And no milk, butter or cheese.
    Perhaps Mr Jack will learn how to digest grass as part of his crusade to make himself a vegetarian while half the population starves.

  6. @ Runcie Balspune
    ” Lots of land could be freed up by going from grazing to crops,”
    No, relatively little and almost all of it in the soft south-east “stockbroker belt” inhabited by journalists and week-end farmers. Eliminate animal husbandry and all the remaining hill-farms will close and the loss of crops and vegetables that they grow will more than offset any additional crops grown in Sussex.

  7. I’m not sure how widespread vegetable growing is in terms. Of percentage volume. I worked on what might well have been the biggest farm in England, a giant vegetable farm in Pershore that supplied all four corners of the country with vegetables via the big supermarket chains who used to collect the produce direct from the packaging plant attached to the farm. So those in Worcestershire will be able to eat locally grown vegetables until they’re full, but not so sure about the residents of Cardiff.

  8. @john77
    He’s not just talking UK here. He’s talking global.
    He’s also got a profound misunderstanding about how biology works.
    Animals, all animals, have similar bacteria in the gut, help digest food.
    So let’s say we stop raising live stock. Not all grazing land is suitable for agriculture. But there’ll still be stuff growing on it. If it isn’t grazed by cows, something will eat it. Biology doesn’t care whether it’s a ton of cow or a ton of caterpillar. It’s the same digestive process, similar bacteria, the same amount of greenhouse gas emission.
    Everyone becomes vegetarian? Again, the biology doesn’t care whether a cow eats it or a countess. (Except, of course, both can process beet but even the largest countesses haven’t enough stomachs to handle grass). But you still have the world’s vegetative production being passed through animal guts & producing greenhouse gasses as a byproduct. it really doesn’t matter which particular route it takes. Caterpillars, cows or countesses. And all of these in due course die (only countesses make the deaths column in the Times) & get eaten. (barring cremations) by something & are returned to the cycle.
    At no point can you reduce the production of greenhouse gasses.

  9. bis: I understand your point, but grass grows a lot faster if cows are grazing it. I’m pretty sure more grass grows and gets converted to methane if cows are grazing a field than if it’s left to turn to hay and it rots. Cutting or grazing grass is a bit like pruning a bush to make it thicker, or trimming a beard and it grows back thicker.

  10. @Tim
    What’s the by-product of the rotting process? Come on. You’re in the fossil fuels business.
    The amount of vegetation grows is the amount of Co2 can be converted by plant chlorophyll using sunlight. Biology doesn’t particularly care which plant owns the chlorophyll. S’pose you could put a crimp in the cycle by salting the earth or turning the sun off.

  11. And it occurs. The amount of grass grown is dependent on the amount of grass leaf doing the photosynthesizing trick. (Grass grows from the root, unlike most plants. Adaptation to grazing) So grazing reduces photosynthesizing by grass & reduces grass growth.
    Do beards really thicken because of shaving? Wish it worked on head hair.

  12. @ bis
    “vegetables that have been harvested locally ”
    Some of the time he’s talking globally, some of the time UK – he doesn’t want imports; but basically I don’t have access to global data so I can only quote UK data.
    His so-called data is wrong. According to Wiki all methane including marsh gas and coal-bed methane makes up 4-9% of greenhouse gas effects (which implies that is a fraction of 1% by mass) and it is impossible for a *part* of it to amount to 11.6% – more than 10 times the whole,

  13. bis, are you saying that on the same area of grass on which a ton of cow grazes, in the absence of cow there would be a ton of caterpillars (or whatever), digesting grass and producing ‘greenhouse gases’ at the same rate?

    I don’t agree or disagree, just seeking to understand.

  14. @john77
    “Some of the time he’s talking globally, some of the time UK – he doesn’t want imports; ”
    I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about. Every single Brit going veggie isn’t going to make the slightest measurable difference to world GHG levels. That’s if you accept his erroneous hypothesis. But let’s look where he talks globally. Plowing up the Argentinian pampas & planting crops rather than herding cattle is going to produce a whole lot more vegetables than needed by Argentinians. If he’s against imports he must be against exports. What are they going to do with it all?

  15. ‘UK Lib
    If you think about it, it’s self evident. Grass grows. If something wasn’t eating it you’d have piles of vegetation miles thick. Or atmospheric CO2 at zero. When you get right down to it, all animal life uses much the same digestive processes. They’re all transport mechanisms for carting their bacterial farms around in. The bacteria themselves are all pretty similar. including those one’s doing TimN’s rotting. So it really doesn’t matter which particular ton of digestive system does the digesting.
    There may be some marginal efficiency differences between different lifeforms but apart from the energy input it’s a closed cycle. Has to be or it’d be all vegetation or none.

  16. Grass grows up to a point. My garden is grass, in summer 2 foot tall, in winter a lot lower. Doesn’t get cut, I’m not eating it – it doesn’t grow to cover the house and we end up with some lovely small wildlife.
    We don’t have a cow to eat it, may look at a pygmy goat.

  17. If only articles like this could be reprinted in the Mirror and the Sun. The Guardian would make a bit of extra cash and the ‘working classes’ would understand just how crazy the intellectual kernel of the Left really is.

  18. @ bis
    How do you know that ploughing up the pampas will provide more food than grazing it? I can’t prove that It won’t because I’ve never been there to look but I can see that no farmer can grow crops on the, frequently-flooded, meadows a stone’s throw away (on which cattle graze when it’s safe for them to do so), so I say it’s up to the guy who says the pampas can grow crops to provide proof.

  19. bis: grass grows to a point, and then stops (making hay). It doesn’t keep growing indefinitely, and I know this because we used to let the grass go to hay in our fields at home. So uncut, a blade of grass might reach say 1m and then stop. If grazed, it will grow to 10cm or so, then get trimmed, then grow again, and so on. That’s why I think that over a period, a grazed field would produce more cm of grass than a field left to go to hay.

  20. “And yes, obviously methane is produced when grass rots…i just didn’t bother spelling it out.”

    So you answer your own question. The organism grazing your field is the rotting bacteria.

  21. Yes, I know…it makes no difference in terms of emissions if grass rots or cows fart it out, I get that. Only I think, rather unscientifically, that the volume of grass being converted to methane is more in a field that is grazed than one left to turn to hay and rot.

  22. I’d hazzard grazing; reducing the amount of photosynthesising grass can do due to less leaf area available, the net effect would be less grass hence less grass digested – less methane.
    But you can’t just asses the amount of animal living off that grass by the cow you can see. The area of grazing needed to feed a cow will also be supporting several cow weights of worms, for a start.

  23. Guys
    Methane is alleged to be 72 times as effective as a “greenhouse gas” as CO2 so that complicates all your calculations.

  24. I’d hazzard grazing; reducing the amount of photosynthesising grass can do due to less leaf area available, the net effect would be less grass hence less grass digested – less methane.

    That make sense insofar as photosynthesis is concerned, but doesn’t marry up with what I’ve unscientifically observed (maybe because grass stops photosynthesising when it turns to hay). You can get 3 cuts of silage from a field in a year, and 1 of hay. I’d guess that by volume, there is more silage in the clamp than hay in the stack. And grazing with cattle, then left to grow, and grazed again? I think you’d get more grass still.

  25. Tim
    Looking at where the goats graze. (But not for too long, Buggers’ll strip the ground bare if they’re left*) the grass is sparse enough, you can see the soil through it. Back where it’s fenced, so they don’t practice free-fall down to the next terrace any more, it’s been allowed to grow. It’s so dense you can’t get your fingers through it. A lot of it gone to seed & died back with the new shoots poking through thanks to winter rain.
    * Proves a point, no? There’d be no photosynthasising & the goats would starve. No methane.

    To add. The fenced area, the grass is already being replaced by saplings. Not sure what they are. Maybe orange from slung rotted ones. And cactus. Just like you keep in those pots on the windowsill. The one at the end of the land’s the size of a house. Eventually it’ll be all hedge, no grass. Subtracted the grazers. Changed the ecology

  26. Occurs. How many cattle can you feed off of the silage/hay crop? Does it match the grazing, carrying capacity? Don’t know the feed requirements of cattle. Goats you have to factor in plastic & old tyres.

  27. Not sure, tbh. Silage gets put in a clamp, compressed by a tractor and plastic sheeting put over the top, where it ferments. So it’s kind of concentrated grass feed. But no idea how many head of cattle it’ll feed, I was too young to know this sort of stuff back then. My job was to sling tyres around on the clamp IIRC.

  28. “Silage gets put in a clamp,…, where it ferments”
    If it’s truly “fermenting” the organisms involved in the fermentation will likely be excreting methane..So the “concentration” of the grass feed may be a portion of the mass is is turned to bacteria. To a cow, having the first part of the digestion process done for it’s a plus. (Human poo is up to 40% bacteria. Food we’ve finished with but the cuisine of choice for bluebottles).

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