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Getting to Know Your Bacon

To explore this further, I did a very simple, back-of-the envelope calculation* for how many people could be supported in the Cleveland area with farms similar to our co-op.

The answer was surprising: Nearly 2.8 million people—almost the size of the greater Cleveland metropolitan areacould get much of their meat and dairy from local, low-input farms.

The numbers are approximate but serious. And while small family farms alone likely can’t meet all future food demands, this example shows the potential for relatively low-impact agriculture to provide food for many people. Beyond small farms, all forms of agriculture can work to improve their practices and reduce impacts, and The Nature Conservancy is working with a broad range of agricultural interests to find these solutions.

So I’ll bite into some crisp, local bacon and feel a hug that’s not just luxuriously sustainable, but realistically sustainable.

Jeff Opperman is The Nature Conservancy’s senior advisor for sustainable hydropower. He works to promote ecologically sustainable water management in river basins with hydropower infrastructure. Through this work, Jeff has provided strategic and scientific assistance to environmental flow assessments for several rivers in the United States and for the Yangtze River and the Patuca River (Honduras).

Our co-op farm is 130 acres of which 70 is pasture and the farmer leases another 100 acres of hayfields for a total of 230 acres. Even though approximately 25 percent of this total is forest (see photo above), I’ll use it as the total acreage because my overall point is about farms that have this patchwork of natural and agricultural land. Approximately 500 people are supported from this 230 acres (not all their calories, obviously, but a high proportion of their meat and dairy). I estimated the agricultural acres of Wayne and six other predominantly rural counties that form a ring around greater Cleveland (Portage, Erie, Huron, Ashland, Geauga and Lake). Collectively these counties are over 1.8 million acres. To account for towns, cities, parks, etc., I assumed 70 percent of that acreage could be in farms leaving just under 1.3 million acres. With the ratio provided by my farmer (500 people for 233 acres) this acreage of similarly managed farms could provide meat, dairy and other products to almost 2.8 million people. Green City Blue Lake points out that a surprising amount of production could also come from urban farms, an innovative use for abandoned acres in urban cores that have lost population.

(Image: Happy pig in Wayne County, Ohio. Image credit: Jeff Opperman.)

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6:26AM PST on Dec 24, 2011

Dep You are so right when you say: 'It's not likely anyone could make the claim that the rest of the world should or could go without eating meat. That is a profoundly dangerous thing to imply.'

I know many people who got very sick on the vegan diet and many of us have permanent damage to our body systems.
I don't recommend it to anyone. Some people can manage to thrive on it, but many are either obese or have eating disorders and are not optimally healthy.
The vegetarian diet is much safer and more nutritionally balanced, but the Mediterranean diet seems to keep proving itself to be the most healthy diet.

8:02PM PST on Dec 23, 2011

Dep P, speaking for myself and every vegan I have ever met I will attest
to the fact that since we omitted animals from our diets we eat more of
a variety of tasty, nutritious foods than we ever did when we ate meat.
I have happily learned to become more creative in the kitchen and am
always learning new food/recipe ideas. One thing I have observed is that
most meat eaters tend to stick to the same foods and rarely try anything
different, whereas most vegans are constantly seeking new and exciting
foods to try. We NEVER get tired of the foods we eat.

Also, our bodies are not exactly designed to eat animal corpses. They are
better designed to eat plants. Check out The Comparative Anatomy of Eating:

The fact that heart disease is the NUMBER ONE cause of death in the U.S.
and meat and animal products are causing heart disease, speaks volumes.
Meat consumption is linked to SEVERAL serious diseases. A well balanced, whole foods, organic, non GMO plant based diet isn't linked to ANY serious diseases.

10:57AM PST on Dec 23, 2011


11:51PM PST on Dec 22, 2011

It's not likely anyone could make the claim that the rest of the world should or could go without eating meat. That is a profoundly dangerous thing to imply.
Peoples chemistries are different and go beyond the foolish ideas of the length of our intestines as though we're not made to eat meat. We are. We are because we have got the hydrochloric acid to break down whole proteins and the enzymes to tag each amino acid.
In order to eat otherwise would mean eating and or gazing all day long on veggies and nuts that you will get sick of.
It requires creativity all right. All the time. I don't know about any of you, but, I don't have that desire or time eating nuts and what ever other of anything to get my protein out of.
I can only imagine getting tired of food completely.

5:57PM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Hard issue...

9:53AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

I'm NOT preaching, but you know why both Judaism and Islam ban the consumption of pigs? Now that was thousands of years ago when man had no real science, nothing, but guess what modern science proved? That no matter how well you cook this animal's parts, they still contain this tape worm that its' born with.
Again, not preaching, and I believe people who say it tastes great, but its not exactly a "clean" animal, you know? :/

7:51AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Getting to Know Your Bacon? Hmmmm...

6:19AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Great article. I eat very little meat and do not mind if others do and love the humane living. Pork is last on the list but I am definitely having Cuban sandwiches for the holidays this year but clean living kind of pork.

6:03AM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Mmmm I love bacon!!!!!

6:19PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

I only eat happy animals...

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