Slaughter-Free Milk Is Great for Cows, But Not the Environment

By Josh Harkinson

If you don’t eat beef because you feel sorry for those cows in Chick-fil-A ads, then you probably shouldn’t drink milk either. The typical male calf born to a dairy cow becomes veal. The typical female is milked for five years—a quarter of her natural lifetime—then sent to the abattoir to become pet food or low-grade hamburger meat. Elsie the Cow, Borden Dairy Company’s famous cartoon logo, is smiling only because she doesn’t realize that she’s about to get euthanized with a cattle gun.

Yet if you’re an ethical vegetarian who still can’t bear to give up milk, you now have another option: slaughter-free dairy, which comes from farms where cows never get killed. Since 2011, the UK-based Ahimsa Dairy has offered slaughter free-milk and cheese to customers in London. In February, Pennsylvania’s Gita Nagari Creamery, which has supplied no-kill milk to the local Hare Krishna community for many years, began offering it to the public through subscription and mail order—for a whopping $10 a gallon. The price includes a $2.50 cow retirement fee and $1.50 for “boy calf care.” Less than half of its 60-head herd gets milked; the rest of the animals pull plows or spend their golden years lackadaisically chomping grass.

“For us, the cows or oxen or bulls are seen as extended family members,” says Pari Jata, the co-president of Gita Nagari Creamery. “It’s very important for us to protect them in their retirement. We take care of them just as one would take care of elderly parents in their old age.”

The slaughter-free milk movement takes its cues from India, where many vegetarian Hindus drink milk but consider cows sacred animals that should never be consumed for meat. Yet increasing numbers of Gita Nagari and Ahimsa customers are Westerners who eschew meat for ethical reasons. Both dairies have considered selling their milk in stores; Ahimsa is in talks with a major retailer.

As vegetarianism gains popularity, slaughter-free milk could become a bona fide food trend—but there’s a catch: It might take a toll on the environment. Cows are already the nation’s single largest source of methane, a greenhouse gas produced by oil extraction, decomposing trash, and the guts of grazing animals that’s as much as 105 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A single cow farts and belches enough methane to match the carbon equivalent of the average car. According to a 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report, the world’s 1.4 billion cows produce 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases—more than the entire transportation sector. Since the turn of the 19th century, global methane emissions have increased by more than 150 percent, and cows are largely to blame.

If all dairies became slaughter-free, we’d need three to four times as many dairy cows to produce the same amount of milk, which would mean adding at least 27 million additional cows to our herds. Those added cows would each year produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to four large coal-fired power plants. We’d also need more meat cows to keep up with the demand for products such as veal and dog food. Pasturing all of these cows would displace wildlife or agricultural crops, straining biodiversity and increasing food prices.

Jata knows there’s a potential for the slaughter-free milk trend to go bad—just like the craze for tofu and soymilk caused soybean plantations to decimate South America’s rainforests. “Where does it end?” she asks. “For us, as a community, we bring it all back to local food sources and local practices that are self-contained but shared, so it doesn’t create this mass corporation-style approach to everything.”        

Small, humane dairies can certainly find other ways to mitigate their environmental impacts. The Gita Nagari and Ahimsa dairies employ cow manure to fertilize their organic vegetables and bull power to plow their fields, avoiding carbon-intensive tractors and chemical fertilizers. And the Gita Nagari dairy uses an anaerobic digester to convert manure into a gas that residents of the dairy use for cooking—but this sort of thing would be hard to implement on a larger scale.

For Nicola Pazdzierska, the co-director of the Ahimsa Dairy Foundation, the price and environmental impact of slaughter-free milk underscores the need to rethink our relationship with dairy products. “We’re not saying more cows,” she told me. “We’re saying possibly even fewer cows, but kept in better circumstances.” She went on: “We think milk is a precious foodstuff. If you pay more for it, you value it more. You use it more thoughtfully. It should be treated with respect.”

Hmm. This is very thoughtprovoking. As someone who avoids meat for environmental and ethical reasons, the impact on males and on milking cows after their “productive life” is definitely something to keep in mind.

July 21, 2014 at 3:00AM
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Back to the Kitchen: Escaping Processed Food – Food – Utne Reader

http://www.utne.com/food/processed-foods-ze0z1406zcalt.aspx?PageId=1&utm_content=buffere938d&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#ArticleContent

I, for one, really enjoy cooking. There are quick meals that take only a little more time than microwaving something frozen. Of course, I have some frozen meals to bring for lunch at work, because sometimes that really is more convenient. But the statistics in this article are troubling.

How Russian Hackers Stole The Nasdaq

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One veteran U.S. official says that when it came to a digital weapon planted in a critical system inside the U.S., he’s seen it only once — in Nasdaq.

Great, and scary, article on cyber security for the piping of the economy. So much depends on trust and whisps of electrons that can be hacked.

July 17, 2014 at 6:07AM
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Kale, Garbanzo, and Tahini Salad

kale, tahini, and garbanzo salad  Here is a hearty and super simple meal salad.  As with most of my recipes, it’s all to taste and pretty flexible.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale cut or broken into bite-size pieces. Curly leaf kale generally works best, but white Russian kale is also great. I don’t really like lacinto for this one.

2 tablespoons (or so) of tahini.

1 tablespoon (or so) of honey or other sweetener.

2 teaspoons (or so) of salt.

1 large carrot, cut into discs or other bite-size pieces.

1 cup garbanzo beans. A half a can works here.

Other veggies you want.

Method:

In a big bowl mix the kale and seasonings (tahini, salt, honey).  You’ll be massaging the kale, so there’s no need to pre-blend the seasonings.

Massage the kale.  If you haven’t heard of this technique, you’ll be squooshing the kale between your hands until you break down the cell structure and it becomes pliable and loses some internal moisture.  This can be intense, and your hands may be tired by the end.

Stir in your garbanzos, carrots, and any other veggies.  You want to do this after massaging the kale so that you don’t obliterate the veggies or garbanzos (despite the tahini, you’re not making hummus).

Taste and see whether you need any more of the seasonings.

Eat!

Notes:

I really dig this salad.  The garbanzos and tahini work really well together (obviously, since they’re the main ingredients of hummus).  The honey offsets the occasional bitterness in raw kale.  Overall, it’s creamy, sweet, and totally filling.

The picture has carrots and zucchini because I had lots of those on hand.  I’ve also made this with bell pepper and it works great.  Once I used some chopped broccoli (and less kale) when I was trying to use up the broccoli and it worked just fine.

California’s Death Penalty System Unconstitutional

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1219798-carney-order.html

Whoa. This is big. A federal judge (Republican appointee no less) declared California’s death penalty system unconstitutional.

“Inordinate and unpredictable delay has resulted in a death penalty system in which very few of the hundreds of individuals sentenced to death have been, or even will be, executed by the State. It has resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed. And it has resulted in a system that serves no penological purpose. Such a system is unconstitutional.”

California could appeal and/or reform the statutory system by which death penalty cases are processed. It is unclear whether it will do either.

In light of the significant structural problems identified by the court, the consistent evidence of racial and other non-merits biases in who is sentenced to death, and cost associated with constitutionally mandated review, I for one would accept the order and divert money away from the death penalty review system to the many pressing problems facing the state.

 

EDIT: As I think about this, the impact is limited. Because the case only involved the one habeas petitioner (Ernest Jones), there is no state-wide effect. Yet anyway.

The New Face of Hunger – National Geographic

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/hunger/?utm_content=buffer86ab1

This is an amazing piece. It’s well written and definitely worth reading.  It’s also infuriating to see how government policy is unhelpful at best and more likely cynical.

The House Just Voted To Ban Internet Taxes-Forever

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With bipartisan support, the lower chamber passed a bill to keep Internet access permanently off-limits from government taxes.

This is a good start. Now for net neutrality.

July 15, 2014 at 8:02PM
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How To Unmarry Your Wife

By

After moving from a state that recognizes same-sex marriage to one that doesn’t, a couple’s marriage becomes a partnership, and they are suddenly forced into new roles.

I’m impressed by the discussion of how internalized feelings of otherness can come and go depending on the environment in which people find themselves. Intriguiging.

July 16, 2014 at 4:54AM
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How Many LGBT Americans Are There?

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the latest group to attempt to estimate just how many people identify as a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.

Interesting. This study depends a lot on the questions asked. It also shows just how remarkably gay my 94114 ZIP code is.

July 16, 2014 at 6:50AM
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Why Smartphone Breaks At Work Aren’t Such A Bad Idea

Why Smartphone Breaks At Work Aren’t Such A Bad Idea
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A recent study found that jumping on your phone for a few minutes here and there could lead to happier workers. Say, have you tried “TwoDots”?

This is interesting. Unless I’m in a flow state (happens when I ignore emails for a big writing project), I like microbreaks to check my phone.

July 16, 2014 at 7:53AM
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