February 21 2012

What Do Shrimp Cocktail And SUVs Have In Common? Nothing!

Julie Gunlock

The cross pollination of environmentalists and food activists is creating an interesting new breed of nanny statist, the enviro-foodie.  This new foodie kill-joy is particularly talented at blaming food for both environmental catastrophes and health problems associated with pollutants.  Their answer to these problems is simple: stop eating! 

  • Environmental activists and vegetarians have long claimed that meat eating--which requires extensive corn production to feed livestock--is a major source of harmful greenhouse gases.  Of course, these activists fail to mention a British study that found the production of meat-substitutes such as plant-based tofu products (to make up for the loss of meat in the human diet) would significantly increase the amount of land needed to be cultivated--far beyond that which is currently used to grow the commodities fed to animals.
  • Environmentalists and food activists have also claimed that pollution leads to high-levels of murcury in tuna fish--making it a dangerous for human consumption.  Of course, facts (like the fact that tuna is commercially fished from oceans – not rivers and lakes susceptible to industrial pollutants) don't really matter when you're trying to scare the holy heck out of people.  
  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG) clearly needs a new focus now that the jig is up on the melting ice caps.  Late last year, they released a report attacking the sugar content in cereals.  Wow...proud moment, EWG.  One day you're warning of global catastophe, the next, you're beating up Tony the Tiger and Count Chocula. 
  • The Breast Cancer Fund (another environmental watchdog group) is also switching it's focus to food. Last year, they released at truely laughable report on "toxic" chemicals found in canned food.  I wrote about that report here.

And now, everyone's favorite appetizer--shrimp cocktail--is in the enviro-foodies' cross-hairs.  According to everyone's favorite dinner guest, biologist J. Boone Kauffmann, a 3.5 oz serving of shrimp has an ecosystem carbon footprint of 198 kilograms (436 lbs) of CO2 which is more than ten times the amount produced by the same portion of beef raised on cleared rainforest land (yet is much, much smaller than the carbon footprint left by Dr. Kauffman's many plane trips to Indonesia where he did his research!).  Well, I guess the answer is to eat more beef...wait, what?  I'm confused.

And it appears that Dr. Kauffman might be troubled by the same mathematics errors from which other environmentalists have long suffered.  The Daily Mail, reporting on his work says that Dr. Kauffman claims that "shrimp farms produce just one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of shrimp for 13.4 square meters (five square miles) of land." 

Ummmm, when did 13.4 square meters of land become five square miles? It seemed wrong to me (as it did to many of the commenters to the Daily Mail article) but to do the conversion, I had to call my math-wiz dad.  After he stopped laughing at Dr. Kauffman's...ahem...math talents, my dad explained that 13.4 square meters is the size of a small bedroom--not a 5 mile swath of rainforest.  To be exact, 13.4 square meters equals 144 square feet or .000005 square miles.

Nice try, Dr. Kauffman.  I look forward to more of your flawed math to drive home your point that shrimp cocktail is killing mother earth.

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