Climate Change Debate: Carnivorous vs. Vegan Diet

Food system sustainability with Robb Wolf and Greg Schwartz.

Which is more environmentally friendly: An omnivorous or vegetarian diet? In today’s podcast, I meet with Robb Wolf, Paleo diet advocate and Greg Schwartz, political ecologist and vegan to discuss. In a discussion that ranged from sustainable food systems and regenerative farming to greenhouse gases, we discovered more common ground than you might imagine.

In This Episode

Greg Schwartz’s Background … 00:04:09
Selective Citation in the Climate Change Debate … 00:04:46
Where Do Greg and Robb Agree? … 00:10:06
Sustainability of Food Systems & Regenerative Agriculture … 00:13:52
Scaling Food Systems Sustainably … 00:26:19
Greenhouse Gases Vegetarian vs. Omnivore … 00:40:55
How to Improve the Environmental Impact of Food … 00:49:51
Omnivore vs. Vegetarian Nutrition … 00:55:32
Gut Health Impacts of Vegetarian and Vegan Diet … 01:07:11

Climate Change Debate: Carnivorous vs. Vegan Diet -

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  • To improve the environmental sustainability of our food systems, we must have nuanced conversations, and ask the right questions.
  • We can agree that industrial food production, especially of animal products, is not good for the environment or human health.
  • Animal products can have a positive effect on human health.
  • For food system sustainability we should focus on:
    • Eating locally-grown food.
    • Buy from farms that honor the local ecology in their animal husbandry.
    • Eat ecologically-appropriate meat species, e.g sheep or goats in drier climates, cows in wetter climates.
    • Reducing the overall quantity of animal products consumed.
    • Encourage “aware” eating.
  • Greenhouse gases like methane are important, but we should focus on the biggest producers (transportation), not obsess about animal causes.
  • Nutrient density of diet affects health outcomes. Vegetarians may need to eat more calories, and plant foods may be harder to digest.

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Climate Change Debate: Carnivorous vs. Vegan Diet - ddi logo centered 2col 300

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➕ Resources & Links
➕ Full Podcast Transcript

Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio radio providing practical and science-based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up to date on the latest topics as well as all of our prior episodes, please make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates, DrRuscio.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking to your doctor. Now let’s head to the show.

DrMichaelRuscio:

Hi everyone. Today I spoke with Robb Wolf and Dr. Greg Schwartz, and we had kind of a point/counterpoint intellectual conversation (or debate) regarding issues in climate change, how they are, or may not be impacted by the consumption in the farming of meat and plants. This was a really enlightening discussion looking at both sides of the argument. There are quite a number of points where there is agreement between these two seemingly opposing camps. So we went through a number of the items that you would expect such as the impact on greenhouse gases, sustainability, we touched a little bit on health implications. But our main focus was looking at how can we feed more people and do so in a way that does not lead to negative environmental and climate impacts. A very interesting conversation and I’m sure you can relate to hearing a point and a counterpoint from different people at different times. It’s a whole new ball game when you allow two people who know each respective body of knowledge, fairly well, be able to make a point and counterpoint with one another. I really hope that you will enjoy this conversation. I think we need to be having many more conversations like this on issues that are seemingly charged because when you get two rational people debating a topic, it’s actually very insightful in helping you to determine what you understand, what you may have an inadequate understanding of. Also it can be very beneficial to realize that we may have more in common than we thought. Sometimes we may have an opinion that’s based upon kind of a paucity of data and we shouldn’t be clinging to that opinion too strongly. So in any case, we will head to the conversation with Robb Wolf and Dr. Greg Schwartz in just a moment. And again, if you guys are enjoying the podcast, please go over and leave us a review on iTunes. Okay, here we go with the show.

DrMichaelRuscio:

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Dr. Ruscio Radio. Today, we have a special treat. I don’t want to call it a debate because that can kind of be a “charged” term, but we’re going to have a probbing discussion on issues of animals versus plants and how they impact the environment, the human health implications, and really kind of get a good evaluation of the data and both sides of this argument from people who are expert in each side of this argument. Robb Wolf on one hand, and a good friend of mine, Dr. Greg Schwartz on the other. They will be showcasing the strong points and maybe some of the the weaker points of each one of these arguments two positions 1) we should look to responsible omnivory for a sustainable and environmentally friendly model versus 2) we should be going in more of a plant based direction. Two guys I really respect and conside both to be personal friends. So Greg and Robb, welcome to the show.

DrMR:

I think people know Robb’s background cause he’s been on the podcast, I think three times now. Greg, you’re new to our audience. Can you give us the short version of your bio and your background?

Greg Schwartz’s Background

DrGregSchwartz:

Sure. Basically I’m trained as a political ecologist, which is basically an environmental scientist, which is basically an earth scientist. I’ve taught that at the collegiate level at various schools for about 10 years, written a few books about it, done a lot of research around the globe about it. That’s definitely my passion.

Selective Citation in the Climate Change Debate

DrMR:

So clearly, you know, this body of literature well as does Robb. Robb, you just released a book Sacred Cow with Diana Rogers that went into this. When I was considering putting this conversation together, one of the things that has been challenging for me is I’ll see some kind of social media clip arguing one side. Something like “animals produce too much methane” and then I’ll see a clip on the other side that says “animals, if you use correctly, actually would reduce methane emissions or greenhouse gas emissions”. Like many things, I think one of the challenges in this conversation that I’m hoping we can try to solve for here is selective citation and looking at data points rather than looking at the totality of the data and seeing what the data trend is. Or kind of using a low quality finding to argue a case when there may be a better quality data point that refutes that position. Hopefully this is something that we agree upon in terms of one of the challenges with any kind of contentious conversation like this is confirmation bias, selective, and really selective citation. Are we in agreement that that’s one of the challenges that holds back productive discussion in this topic in particular?

DrGS:

Of course, yeah.

Robb Wolf:

I would agree with that. I guess I would even extend it a little bit further, you know, being the, the crazy guy that suggests that kind of an evolutionary biology approach might be informative for understanding not just human health, but the health of most organisms. Just even couching the question from, I don’t even know if I want to say the proper perspective, but a good perspective. Are we doing a full thermodynamic analysis of a topic or are we taking a very narrow slice of something that looks kind of compelling in isolation, but doesn’t really take the total system into consideration. When we start talking about complex systems, none of us really know the full accounting of that. So there’s a fair amount of guesswork, even when I think we’re doing really, really good science, really good work. So it’s a quagmire to even get in and start asking the right questions on this stuff oftentimes.

DrMR:

So the data here is confounded by just a number of operatory assumptions where we don’t really have good data and so we’re just drawing the best inference that we can. I think that’s important for our audience to keep in mind as we kind of weigh into this conversation, which is we should all probably be a bit open-minded and not argue any points too strongly because as you’re pointing out we don’t really have a definitive answer. Let’s use a example that our audience has heard me kind of harp on repeatedly. Probiotics for SIBO, small intestinal, bacterial overgrowth, a meta analysis of 18 clinical trials is pretty clear cut, compelling evidence. There are areas such as this where we don’t have the luxury of that quality of data. So we have to make the best educated decision that we can, but we should always keep in mind that if we don’t have fairly clear data, that we shouldn’t claim to any opinion to ardently because if the data is not that clear, then there’s always the possibility that that will be disproven or amended as further data becomes available.

DrMR:

So just a note for us all, to kind of keep in mind. As we go into this conversation, I was trying to think what are the main bullet points that we want to go through? What I came up with was waste production (greenhouse gases) as one, sustainability and resource utilization as the second, human health as the third and ethics as the fourth. That may not be an exhaustive list, but it seems like some of the really main points that people are arguing. Do you guys think there’s anything in that list that’s very important that I’ve left out, that we should include.

RobbWolf:

I think that’s very comprehensive, like in the book and film, we covered the ethical, environmental and health considerations of a meat inclusive food system. We kind of threw both the regenerative or sustainability features under that broader umbrella of environment.

DrMR:

Gotcha. Okay. Good bullet points there. Okay. So a few areas where I think we agree to start off with is that industrial animal and crop production is less than ideal. That’s probably pretty obvious.

DrMR:

Yeah. Eating meat can have health benefits, you know, to your point, Greg, I appreciate you acknowledging this. One of which you mentioned with stabilizing blood sugar. So there’s likely some benefits there and that different animals may have different impacts on the environment. So we may want to be careful not to kind of make a straw man argument against animal consumption, looking at the weakest point and may want to argue against the more efficient type of animal to raise. Greg, let me go to you here. Cause you know, these are some of your agreement points, you know, are those all fair in your mind? Fair agreement points.

Where Do Greg and Robb Agree?

DrGS:

Absolutely. I mean, you know, I’m a vegan and publicly a vegan and Robb is obviously a meat eater and a proponent of at least some level of meat eating. But when it comes down to it, we agree on, according to what I read and I’ve heard from him, we agree on so many points, which are just reasonable points about having the food system be, as you say, less chemical intensive, less industrial, less centralized and more distributed. So many points, whole foods. So, yeah, we really can zero in. For me it’s very important to keep an open mind and say, well, let’s, let’s solve the problem of feeding the world and keeping us healthy. Let’s not just lean on one side or the other. I really don’t think everyone has to be a vegan. I’m not pushing for that. I like it. I enjoy it. And I do believe that moving in that direction will help us. But yes, we can make those assumptions that I certainly agree with those basic facts. Yeah.

DrMR:

Robb, anything there you want to add?

RW:

No. Other than, you know the first point that you made about kind of the industrialized food system, it made me think about the modern economics view of that system. You can really find a lot of economists that are very kind of forclempt with the system. They think it’s great, it’s very efficient. And this is kind of where I am in an interesting spot where even though I’m advocating for an animal inclusive food system, I think that most economists are kind of being knuckleheads on this and that it looks amazing so long as you ignore all of the externalities associated with it. You know, water runoff, the the need for massive antibiotic use and a host of other factors. So it really only looks good so long as you have a very narrow view, like you’re looking at it through a straw. As soon as you look at kind of a more global picture of it’s a disaster waiting to occur. And even back in 2006, 2007, there was a congressional budget office report suggesting that the fragility of our food system could be really easily exploited via a terrorist activity, a pandemic, you know, there was an interesting list of things that went on there and all of this is largely flown under the radar of the traditional economist view. To me, it’s important point to make up front. Hopefully the show is a jumping off point for beginning to dig into this more deeply, but it’s important to know as your audience does additional research, you can find a lot of well-schooled economists that will tell you, “Oh, all of this decentralization doesn’t work. You want to centralize, you want to want to consolidate”. I would just make the case that if you really do a thorough analysis of that worldview, it ends up falling down into the middle or longer term.

DrMR:

Yeah, I think that’s a fantastic point, which is a certain type of efficiency may, may only be able to yield that efficiency secondary to other detriments. Certainly the environmental implication is one. Great point there in terms of susceptibility to external tampering or attack. That is a fantastic point and one that, unfortunately, is becoming more of a concern to me with every growing day, looking at some of the hostilities between our country and other countries. That’s a good segue maybe into sustainability.

Sustainability of Food Systems & Regenerative Agriculture

DrMR:

So I see two challenges here where we need to feed more people. At least intuitively hunter/gatherer foraging seems really appealing to me, but I wonder, you know, how does that scale? I’m assuming that we need some kind of modified version of that, but I can’t help, but think if we’re optimizing for output, maybe the system that we have is the best system, even though it creates some environmental externalities that are really suboptimal. Why don’t we start with you, Robb, and then Greg, we can get your thoughts and response in terms of the model that you’re advocating for. Robb, how does that scale? Because it seems to me that there could be some limitations there. I don’t know a lot about the rationale behind your position, but I would definitely love to be swayed. Because I love the idea of taking our kind of hunter/gatherer forging and bringing that into the modern day. But again, I, I intuitively feel like that’s not something that’s scale. So how do you reconcile that?

RW:

So legit foraging economies are not going to scale at a global level, but I think that we can take a slice out of that and think about nutrient density, nutritional diversity, locally ecologies and whatnot. And, I guess one of the, the really hot contentious topics is, and part of the reason why we named the film and the book Sacred Cow is kind of two features. One, a disproportionate amount of angst and energy is directed at large herbivores, specifically cattle. So that’s really kind of the focus of folks’ attention, you know, saying that they’re injurious to the fire environment and it steals resources that could go to towards feeding people and whatnot. So we had kind of that part, and then there was also this notion that there are some unassailable truths, that the science is settled. Like we’ve heard, all of us have heard this on a variety of topics at this point, and you know, that’s an almost horrifying notion that the science is settled. That starts sounding Orwellian in some cases. Although, flat earth belief is at an all time global high. So there’s kind of a mixed bag to all that. I can think of kind of three interesting areas just in the expansion of animal husbandry, specific to grass centric models. I’ll focus kind of first on the United States and then we could kind of talk about more of a global story. In the United States are absolutely enormous tracks of land that are government subsidized to not allow animals to be grazed on them. It’s interesting, there’s both social reasons for this, usually kind of vegan and vegetarian backed groups that advocate for limited access to public lands for grazing animals and then there’s also some economic reasons that feed into kind of the broken farm subsidies program, but there are enormous tracks of land that could arguably and should arguably be used for raising animals because these are grasslands. When we think about the ecological evolution of these areas, these places co-evolved. The grasslands, herbivores, omnivores all interact and evolve as a diversified ecology. What we find is that if you overgraze these areas or you undergraze these areas, they tend to desertify. You tend to lose the grasslands and they turn into kind of scrub brush. This is a pathological kind of “in-between” space that really shouldn’t exist. The whole area of Nevada and Arizona from like Reno out to Salt Lake City down to Las Vegas, that used to be a grassland. People can’t even believe that that used to be grassland, but it was poorly managed. It was overgrazed and part of the way that that happened is that we eradicated most of the large predators. Once you remove predators from an environment, then these large herbivores that tend to group up in large herds, they no longer have that predator prey interaction. So instead of being bunched up for protection, they will just kind of wander and eat at their leisure. That has a tendency to lead into overgrazing and the practice of holistic management by using portable electric fencing that can emulate the predator prey pressure to keep these animals more bunched up. It doesn’t look like a CAFO food line, it’s opening up a new section of pasture for these animals and they move through it and eat everything. They poop, they pee, they break up the soil, they renutrify the soil, and then they move on. This is kind of the normal kind of mild injury with recovery that occurs when any large group of animals moves over a particular area.

RW:

So you’ve got that governmentally controlled area. You have areas that have been legitimately already desertified. We have some great examples, both out of Africa and South and Central America pretty large tracks of land. In the film, we detail a rancher down in the Chihuahuan desert who has reclaimed a million acres ofdesertified land and turned it back into grassland. The folks that live in this region, five, six, eight, eight generations. They didn’t know that these perennial grasses even grew in the area, but by using this holistic management process, they’re reclaiming this desert. When you get these grasslands, it’s such an incredible thing that occurs. In the Chihuahuan desert, they only get about 10 inches of rainfall per year and if you have a desertified area, you tend to get massive erosion, massive amounts of runoff, no replenishment of the local groundwater systems. Whereas the root beds of some of these perennial grasses can be 20 or 30 feet deep, and you have this really remarkable soil, micro biological interaction that mines minerals out of the soil, it sequesters carbon, it holds huge amounts of water. So we have an opportunity to reclaim huge tracks of the earth surface and turn it back into grassland, which would be both a net carbon sink, and also would provide more opportunity for food. And then arguably from kind of a climate change perspective, you’re really altering the kind of solar radiation interaction with the surface of the earth. It’s a very different story having a grassland versus open land that is absorbing and re-reflecting infrared radiation in the form of heat. Finally, when we look at lands that have been managed under this holistic management process, and it depends on the location. Like Joel Salitan lives in a very moist environment in Virginia. He has consistent rain or precipitation all through the year that feeds into this system that he has, but he’s able to produce about 400 to 500% more on that land than the folks around him. So like his number of cow days per year are 4 – 5x what it is around them. In some places that are more desertified, the increase in production may be more modest, more along 30 to 50%. But when we add all of those features together, the fact that we have large tracks of land that are being unused today for animal husbandry, because of governmental regulations and the notion that there are huge tracks of desertified land that can and should be rehabilitated and turned into grasslands and then ostensibly, we would have some sort of a diversified ranching program within that. Then finally with the notion that with this regenerative agriculture approach, we have a low number of 50% increase in production and a high number of up to a 500% increase in production. Then we have something that could be incredibly powerful and I would just add an additional caveat to that. In the United States, we’re very beef, chicken, and pork centric. Both in the United States and globally, there are lots of places where goats or sheep or camels or guinea pigs would be the more ecologically appropriate organism. Cattle are originally indigenous to more of a wet Asiatic area. So like in the Americas and North America, we should really be focusing more on sheep, goats and bison for the most part, because they are much more ecologically appropriate for those areas. Then we may get further improvements in the efficiency of that whole system.

DrMR:

A lot there to speak to. Some really fantastic points. I think maybe to summate that, honoring the traditional ecosystem in a sense, or at least some semblance of that to preserve the land. Alsoa great point about how we may need to, as meat eating consumers, be okay with not just going down to the local grocery store or farmer’s market, and always getting the same kind of beef that we’re accustomed to. Ostensibly, there could be a lot of, I’m assuming, nutrient benefit there by eating different animals and hopefully eating more kind of nose to tail. So that all seems to make sense. I still do wonder how that scales, and this is, I’m assuming, one of the areas where maybe these experiments haven’t been fully run yet. So there could be a paucity of data there, but I think those are some fantastic points. And Greg, I’m kind of curious to get your response to those.

DrGS:

Yeah. You know Robb has a lot of great ideas that I absolutely agree with and I’ve, of course, just read Sacred Cow and it’s a great book with a lot of important ideas. Of course, some of them I would argue and I will argue a couple, but just to sort of posit myself as a centrist, I have a book coming out in a few months and there is a chapter where my coauthor and I absolutely praise regenerative ranching and its benefits, and we make the same points. It’s good for the soil. So that point is solid. There are some assumptions that I’ll go into in a second. Also, my family on my mom’s side is at a cattle farm in Nebraska for five generations. So even though I’m a card carrying vegan, it’s in my blood, the meat and potatoes and stuff. I just spoke to my uncle yesterday. He still oversees the farm. And so we talk a lot. So I have a lot of “on the ground” truths. My research from my doctorate was at the interface, in the tropical rainforest of ranching and forest, and some of the actual everyday realities of what happens, not theory. Absolutely Robb has a lot of everyday realities as well. I’m not saying he doesn’t. I’ll also say that regenerative agriculture with animals, with grazing animals, it’s proven very effective. There’s also an option without animals, which is “no till” which is very, very prominent as well and growing. It has the same idea and that is generally left out of Robb’s approach. You can correct me if I’m wrong. But it’s the same general idea. Regenerate the land and not deplete it. So that that’s also an option.

RW:

Just really quickly. I guess the one thing I would throw in with that is when we look at like total earth/land mass, what is available for cropping versus unavailable for cropping, there’s not an enormous amount that is left for cropping. Unfortunately a lot of the good areas were also nice places to live. So we paved over it and made strip malls and, you know, it’s stuff like that.

Scaling Food Systems Sustainably

DrGS:

True, and it’s a valid point. And I will address that. I guess my main response to what Robb said was the word that’s been coming up is scale. How can we scale this? The current food system. You know, we’ve never fed so many animals to so many people in the history of the world. We haven’t had this many people in the Western world eat so much meat and it’s increasing as other nations move through their socioeconomic improvements. As you make more money, you eat more meat. So if we are going to eat meat sustainably, eat meat in general, it has to be scaled down and done in a different way. CAFOs are incredibly efficient, but as Robb pointed out, not really when you take it all into perspective.

DrMR:

Just to define CAFO for people in case they haven’t heard that term.

DrGS:

A CAFO is a concentrated animal feeding operation. So basically a giant feedlot or chickens and pigs packed together. Which is, again a perfect vector for all of these pandemics, but spread out on a ranch it’s much better. So with this scale, if we distribute it and have, let’s just say, grazing animals that are consumed more locally, and slaughtered more locally, that’s a much more reasonable model. But we will have to scale down dramatically because CAFOs are so darn efficient at producing meat. The sort of trophic perspective is when you have the sun that gives energy to plants, which of course convert that into food. And then if humans eat that food, that’s a very efficient system. If you add another trophic level, an animal in between that eats those plants, you lose, I think the common rate is somwhere around 90% of the energy into the animal. Then you eat that animal. You’ve lost a lot of energy there. That is just a basic food hierarchy. So generally that’s why we can’t add that extra trophic level and expect to feed the world in that way. We can certainly eat some meat, but not at the scale we are now. Also I’ve heard the word nutrient density. Meat is very nutrient dense, but there are, of course, many nutrient dense plant foods. Again, I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t eat any meat. Certainly if we remove the morality, it can be a good part of our diets as far as sustainability, if it’s on a much smaller scale. But nutrient density per acre, vegetable products are just astronomically more efficient and more productive. You know, one cow per an acre and a half or two acres. That’s an unbelievable waste of space. I know that Robb would argue, well, if that space weren’t used for crops and if it can’t be used for crops, then it’s a good use of space. So that’s a good counterargument, which I’ll address in a second.

DrGS:

There’s another word that I’ll throw out, which is an idealization. I agree with regenerative agriculture, as far as its efficiency, if it scales down from CAFOs, the amount of meat that we eat. I just think that the arguments seem a bit idealized. For example, let’s just say 85% of grazing land is “unsuitable for agriculture”.

RW:

That’s a pretty good number. Yeah.

DrGS:

I would say that’s an exaggeration. Humans are very innovative and they’re very good farmers. Societies make wildly productive lands, which are seemingly unsuitable for that. For example, Terra Preta in Brazil. Ancient societies in the rainforest with unbelievably depleted soils, who used their food waste and even human waste and other bio char to make those soils in parts, six foot deep of dark, rich soil. Even to today is rich just by recycling their own food waste. The floating gardens of Tenochtitlan. They grew enough food for this massive city on the middle of a lake. So we can use these lands with innovation incredibly well. So it’s a bit too sweeping to put it at 85%. I would put that percentage a lot lower. But the lands that we cannot use for cropping that could be used for grazing, absolutely. Again, removing the morality of it. That’s a reasonable, sustainable idea. As long as, as Robb says that the proper grazing practices with simulating predators and clustering, yeah, that’s not a bad way to go for those smaller areas. Another point I will make is that, I believe it’s around 86% that Robb argues in his book, of cattle feed isn’t edible to humans. That’s not too far off because they mostly spend about two thirds of their life grazing on grass and then they go to a feed lot and eat corn and other things that they shouldn’t eat. But I would put that number slightly lower, talking to my uncle who is on the front lines every day, but not too much. It’s just that that is still food for native ruminants. I’m really glad to hear, Robb, that you said bison or sheep would probably be a better answer in the Americas. I agree. Native for caribou, wildebeest. The problem with replacing all of those with a controlled electric fence, mobilized herd in order to cull for food is that you do simplify that ecosystem a bit too much. So yes, that is food that we couldn’t eat directly, but herbivores could, which then have natural predators, which makes that ecosystem more complex without killing off or removing those predators just with men and with guns. So that was a little bit too idealized to me. The last point I would say is, because the slice that Robb presents is very logical and I believe he’s generally correct about regenerative agriculture, I just think it should be at a slightly smaller scale. There are some sweeping assumptions there, but in general it can be very good for the land and it can produce meat in a much more sustainable way than CAFOs. But if we idealize that and expect it to be perfectly run all the time, then we’re getting away from the “on the ground” realities. For instance, if we increase a lot of meat demand, for instance, the subtitle of Robb’s book is something like “can meat save the world?”, Sorry if that was a misquote. To me that smacks of being a bit cavalier because meat in general is not produced in a sustainable way. So if we increase meat demand by this argument, then we increase the incentive to deforest and graze cattle in the tropical rain forest or for CAFOs to spring up again. So, the market is kind of a beast that we can’t control and if demand increases then we’re back to these bad practices. So in a perfect world, yeah. Moving to regenerative agriculture with grazing is good, but it’s very, very hard to make that situation perfect all the time.

DrMR:

Okay. So let me try to summarize a few compromising points where you guys overlap and then Robb, if you want to respond to any of those comments.

Sponsored Resources:

Hi everyone. I want to thank Doctor’s Data who helped to make this podcast possible and who I’m very excited to say has now released a profile called the GI 360 which is finally a validated micRobbiota mapping measure. If you remember back, I’ve discussed numerous times the only lab that is really validating a mapping of the micRobbiota to have clinical significance is the GA map out of Norway. Well, turns out that Doctor’s Data is not only using the same methodology but also in collaboration with this group in Norway using their parameters to adjust what we call normal, abnormal or dysbiotic and normal. So great news, we finally have a validated measure. Now this test also offers, in addition to the micRobbiota dysbiosis index, a PCR assessment for bacteria, virus and pathogens, a comprehensive microscopy for a parasite, a MALDI-TOF bacteria and yeast culture. And as you would imagine, because of the rigorous validation they’ve gone through, they also have approval from the CE, which is equivalent to the European FDA. So great test, please check them out. Doctor’s Data is offering 50% off a practitioner’s first GI 360 test kit. Go to doctorsdata.com/Ruscio to claim your first kit, limit one per provider. The offer ends October 31, 2020.

DrMR:

So perhaps eating less meat would be a midway point that we could all kind of get around. Maybe some of the animals aren’t quite as big or there are different animals. So I’m just going to put that out there as a general compromise, may not be perfect, but perhaps eating less meat, eating different animals than we’re accustomed to, to Robb’s point. Then using regenerative agriculture for any type of farming, whether it’s just plants or plants and animals. Those seem to be overlapping in the Venn diagram here. Robb, anything that you want to say in response to Greg’s points

RW:

A number of things, but in the interest of time, I guess one of the main pushbacks that I’ll poke forward is in general, in these tropical regions, when we see rain forest cleared cattle are definitely moved through that area first. However, ultimately the vast majority of it ends up being soybean production. So the cattle are generally used as a transitional piece, but yet the totality of the burden is placed on that animal husbandry.

DrGS:

Well, that soy is fed to pigs usually.

RW:

Which I’m not advocating for pork production, I’m advocating for herbivore production. And to the degree I would advocate for pork production, it would be with whatever food waste that we produce. Historically this is the way that both chicken and pork existed as a secondary or at best tertiary feature of our food system up until the end of World War II, when we started industrializing the food system.

DrGS:

Yeah. I agree with you about the pigs eating food waste.

DrMR:

That’s a point I didn’t even know.

RW:

That one’s just a gimme and you can find some examples of it Las Vegas, a fair amount of the strips food leftovers go to a local pig operation there. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, there is a small, but growing operation that the local restaurants and supermarkets collect all of their food waste and send to these people. The estimates vary, but about 50% of the food that we produce now is not consumed. It’s just wasted. So there’s, there’s some really tragic inefficiencies there that are mainly kind of political in nature that would prevent a much, much smarter use of these resources.

DrGS:

If I could just piggyback on what you just said, Robb, I agree that the Re-spatialization even of trash dumps tells us something. You know, we used to have thousands and thousands, just like slaughterhouses, and now they’re sequestered far from cities. And they’re so massive. When they were more localized, a lot of pig farmers fed their pigs on these local dumps and they would eat through half of what was there. Now that’s not only illegal, but just logistically impossible for them to do that. That was a great way to get rid of waste and translate that into that animal flesh.So I agree.

DrMR:

Gotcha. So what’s great about this so far is there’s definitely these points of overlap and agreement, and I hope this is really resonating with people and kind of bringing them together. It seems there’s this burning common ember of reforming the food system. If we put more of our energy toward unifying behind that message, we we’d probably get a whole heck of a lot more done than arguing over the differences that we have on this topic.

DrGS:

Yeah. You know, I’ll say also what I like about Robb’s approach. And again, I disagree on a few points, but is that he has a different approach. While he is sort of railing against, I don’t think that’s too extreme of a word, those folks who are saying “Hey, let’s, let’s demonize the cow” (and I’m one of those that 70% demonizes the cow because I believe it’s an inefficient animal). At the same time, he makes good points and he says “Hey, let’s, let’s think about this”. Should we just accept this narrative or let’s go against that and explore that. And I really like that approach, even though I’m part of that narrative that he’s going against. I like that cognitive approach. I like this twist. So I also want to just throw in that one good thing about grazing animals all the way through what they call grass finished where there was grass all the time. I don’t think, and correct me if I’m wrong, you didn’t make this argument, Robb, but I’m sort of making the argument for you, is that when cows eat corn and soy, they’re much more likely to develop E. coli. If they eat grass, it’s very, very rare that they have E. coli. So that’s another reason to give them what they’re supposed to eat, which has grown grass.

RW:

Yeah. We, we had like a one liner in the book that mentioned the increased acid load in the gut when ruminants are fed grains and that can lead to increased disease burden. But it was super tangential when we turned in the manuscript originally it was 600 pages and it got whittled down to 280, so yeah.

DrGS:

Right, right, right. Of course, because in the time of pandemic, I would definitely highlight that point becasue when E. coli breaks out everyone freaks out.

RW:

Just to further piggyback on that, most of the E. coli that ends up even on the vegetable side of this was acid resistant E. coli produced in the guts of grain fed animals. So, 50 years ago there wasn’t acid resistant E. coli and similar organisms were not nearly the food born illness burden that we we see today.

DrGS:

Right.

Greenhouse Gases Vegetarian vs. Omnivore

DrMR:

One point I would make, or the one question I would ask, because we’re kind of dancing around this a little bit is, waste. One of the wastes I’m sure people are curious about and is probably one of the most shrouded in vitriol is greenhouse gases. And Robb, you kind of hinted at this where, and I think there there’s some agreement where using regenerative agriculture, whether it be for plants or animals makes a positive impact on the greenhouse gasses, but let’s go into a little more detail here in terms of point/counterpoint. And I’m hoping what we can display for the audience is there’s a lot that we agree upon and hopefully less to argue about and more to try and unify behind. I could be wrong there, but Greg, why don’t you start off with your position and then we can let Robb respond.

DrGS:

Sure. So yes. I mean, the production of greenhouse gases by animals is, you know, of course there’s methane and then there’s the carbon footprint overall. Then there’s nitrous oxides. So there are three categories of nitrous oxide. Generally what we’re talking about is a concentration of calories, water, CO2, environmental toxins, as you go between these trophic levels. In other words, eating all of this food and has all of this stuff and it, all this water, all these chemicals, and this is not grazing. Once we eat that animal, it has eaten millions of calories over its life and all of a sudden we eat a piece of steak that has all of the water and carbon and methane and everything footprint of that food that went into it. That’s why it’s an inefficient animal in general, that grazing is most more efficient. Then the CO2 is about these levels of processing. In other words, if we grow corn, let’s just say it’s grown organically, so away from the industrial as we all agree that the industrial way is not the best. So you grow the corn and then you eat the corn. Or let’s say, you go to the grass, and the animal eats it. Then you ship the animal to the slaughter house and then you ship the animal to be processed. Then you ship that to the stores. Any level of extra processing adds carbon, which you could easily do with plants too. So there’s the mobility of it. There’s the deforestation involved and to either grow crops or to graze those animals. But of course in Robb’s argument, which makes his a much, much better argument, those are ostensively not involved.

DrGS:

Although again, what I would say is if you increase the demand for meat, those things will happen. We can’t control the whole world and economic system that those things wouldn’t happen if we increased the demand for meat. But if it is all run, as Robb said, it would be a much, much better system in my mind on a smaller scale.

DrMR:

Just to piggyback on one thing there, really quick Greg, just to kind of potentiate your point. I can see that perhaps the countries that have the most financial wherewithal could try to operate within more of a regenerative agriculture system, but those who don’t, just like some countries don’t care about pollution in general, they just want to drive commerce. You know, I could see that being a viable counter-argument that, this model may be taken the most cheaply as possible in kind of emerging countries. Maybe Robb, when we kick it over to you, there’s a counter argument to be made there, but that’s just one potential point I see as also being important to point out.

DrGS:

Ironically the biggest and most productive kind of concentrated animal feeding operations are in the West where we have the wherewithal. So we really do need to change that over because we are creating the most waste and the most methane. Most, Robb’s term, traditional, food systems are much more ecologically friendly. So we have nitrous oxides, which are involved with chemical fertilizers, which, in industrial systems then grow food to feed CAFO cows, but that’s out of this argument. Then we have CO2 which is involved in the processing of all these steps of animals. Then you have methane in a ruminants stomach. So yes, they do produce a reasonable amount of methane and then even from their waste. But when the waste is spread out over a landscape, that’s much, much better. You don’t get dead zones. So there are a lot of benefits to this. We still do get the methane production of about 95 million cows in the US alone and they’re producing a lot of methane. Now we had 200 million bison, a couple of hundred years ago producing methane, but that was before we had all of this massive, massive, massive release of burning of fossil fuels to this level. So now it’s more important to limit that. So we still do have methane from those cows. There are other sources of methane, but that that’s an issue. Generally I would say regenerative agriculture with grazing again, dramatically lowers the greenhouse gas issue, but it is still an issue.

DrMR:

Gotcha. And Robb, anything you would take issue with there?

RW:

Yeah. I guess a few points of nuance. I think the really important pieces is this notion around biogenic methane and Greg was kind of alluding to this near the near the end of his point. Biogenic methane and carbon equivalents really cannot be lumped into the same category as what we see coming out of transportation. One of the dangerous things that is occurring right now is that because we are vilifying greenhouse gases across the board, then what we’re discovering is that there are ever more numbers and varieties of greenhouse gas producing organisms. There was just a recent piece in the journal Physics looking at shellfish methane production, and it is enormous. It is just gargantuan, termites, peat bogs. So some of the assumptions or the solutions that are being put forward, like the green party in Sweden suggested that they should cull the entirety of their moose herd because these moose produce methane. There was also a article that had appeared in the journal Physics, talking about methane production from the sea floor. But then when that made it to the news cycle, it was suggested that we should try to eradicate the shellfish from the ocean floor. So where we’re headed into is this idea that we’re going to save the planet. There is actually some pushback on that. It’s hubristic and egotistic that we’re going to save the planet. The planet will be here. The question will be we remain here. So when we really start digging into that, it’s critical that we look at the biogenic sources of, of greenhouse gas equivalence, and really understand what their total life cycle is. Some of the work that was done out of the Quantis research facility, when they looked at the total life cycle analysis of the impossible burger versus the white oaks pastures burger, what we find is the white oaks, pasture meat is a net carbon sink. It removes more carbon from the system than what is produced. This is still in its infancy. We have lots of opportunity to study this and develop it and it expand it. I agree with a ton of the points that Greg made. We really shouldn’t be shipping a ton of food. It’s really insane that there was recently some suggestions that we would raise chickens in the United States, ship them to China, have them processed there and shipped back. I mean, we’re even re-evaluating this on the basic level of our industrial base in the United States. It no longer makes sense to save a few pennies on a few billion or million units of something is really not making sense on a lot of different levels.

RW:

I guess also I would push back a little bit that within this more vegan centric scene, if we are really going to tackle greenhouse gas emissions head on, then we could talk about mitigating animals. But as Greg pointed out we’ve had far more life on this planet in the past than we do now in the form of grazing animals. Why are we not wholesale tackling the real emission problem which is transportation and why is nuclear energy not at the forefront? I’m a big fan of solar. Solar will come on strong eventually, but we have a solution right now today that could within a 10 year period could transition us into a post fossil fuel economy.

How to Improve the Environmental Impact of Food

DrGS:

Well, don’t get me started on energy cause I have a lot of points for that.

DrMR:

Maybe we’ll make energy part two, as much as I want to open up that Pandora’s box. I do want to kind of continue forward with a question to pose to both of you. Because as someone who really does not have a high level of familiarity with many of these points, I’m learning a lot and going through my mind and saying, boy, I need to be more mindful of where my meat is coming from, how far it’s being transported, what I’m supporting with the dollars that I spend. I’m kind of internally chastising myself a little bit for being lazy and going to Whole Foods more than I’m going to farmer’s markets. This has been a good reminder for me, how important some steps like that can be. So it makes me want to pose the question of where do we go from here? And I’m not saying this as kind of like the traditional close question. I do want to touch on human health and ethics with the little bit of time that we have left, but before we go there, where do we go from here in the sense of what are some actions that we can all take on a day to day basis? Again, let me just air my dirty laundry here. I have been better about meat sourcing. That’s true. At least I think I am. I’m using US Wellness meats and Oak Pastures, as you mentioned, Robb, and although there is some transportation between those locations, I think I’m doing ok.

RW:

I’ll get you introduced to some Hill Country producers, then we’ll cut that down.

DrMR:

Perfect. So I’m trying to be more mindful of the things I do in my day to day because, you know, we’re all busy, but it’s also easy to drift into complacency. I think I’ve become a bit too complacent in not going to farmer’s markets or buying local. So that’s one item we can put in the board, but what else should we all be doing to steer things in a better direction?

DrGS:

You can go first, Robb, if you’d like, I don’t mind.

RW:

We really do need to have a nuanced discussion of this topic. And this is one of the big challenges that I have with this very vegan centric model is that there’s are some enormous assumptions being made that vegan diets are appropriate for humans throughout all points of the life cycle. That they’re nutritionally equivalent, that there’s actually a significant, sustainability benefit or feature. And I think all of that is really up for debate and I would actually argue that those things are not generally accurate the way that they’ve been proposed. What’s particularly perplexing for me is from a World Health Organization, United Nations level on down, there’s a very powerful push for a kind of vegan centric food system and dietary approach, which I think disproportionately is going to negatively impact developing countries, the poor, people who are already facing significant nutrient deficiencies. There are millions of women in Africa that because of societal laws and norms are not allowed to own land, but they can own livestock. So we need to be very careful in how a few white, wealthy vegan Westerners demonize the production of food globally. We’re in an environment where it’s virtually impossible to have a reasonable discussion similar to this and find our points of commonality versus not. I guess the thing that I would close with with this little piece is that when Joel Salitan was doing a public address, some folks were in the audience who were vegan and they said, well, what are you going to do for us. Where do we fit in this story? And Joel said, if you let me raise the food to feed my family, I promise you, I will raise the food to feed your family.

RW:

I do not see that reciprocity coming from the vegan centric side of the picture, I see kind of a winner take all, thumbing the nose at traditional food systems that include animal husbandry. I think that there’s a lot of good intention there. Forbes had a very fascinating piece that made the case that this shift ever more towards a row crop centric food system is beautiful for a centrally owned, multinational corporation kind of scenario of basically owning the intellectual property and the production methodology of our food. What I am proposing is that we should break that into as many fragmented pieces as possible, that we should have locally produced, locally distributed food. That the cool thing is we don’t need to dismantle the amazing distribution infrastructure that we have. Like instead of Walmart selling meat that was produced 2000 miles away, it should sell locally produced food. We can still get our mangoes and our avocados and stuff like that as make sense based around economics and carbon footprint and whatnot. But there’s a lot of economies of scale, a lot of potential benefit that could occur there. If the opportunity to even have meat inclusive diets is legislated out of existence and that happens to be the wrong course of action, then we really are going to face like an existential crisis for the species.

DrMR:

Great points. Greg, what’s your response?

Omnivore vs. Vegetarian Nutrition

DrGS:

Moving forward, what should we do? I mean, the one liner is we don’t necessarily need more vegans or more carnivores. We need more aware eaters. We need people to be aware of what they’re eating. We need people to read ingredients lists. We need people to be aware of where their food comes from. If someone says, “Hey, I’m aware. I hunt my own meat and I live in the wild”. Then I say, you know what? Fine, you’re aware. How can I tell somebody what to do? If they’re aware. If you’re unaware, that’s when problems happen in all parts of our lives. Or if we’re going on bad information, of course. So just being aware. Robb and I are from different sides of this, but really, maybe not. You know, we’re generally aware guys about food. If we all are just more aware. I will say the FAO, as Robb pointed out, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Environmental Program, all agree that going vegan, or I should say, moving into plant based direction, is better for your health and health of the planet. Those are some pretty strong global institutions. Of course that’s another conversation, but there’s just so much evidence. Even for our health, we can get into that, but those were big endorsements and the studies aren’t perfect, but they’re not perfect unilaterally. I would say this, as Robb pointed out, there are a few white, wealthy vegans who are demonizing third world pastoralism of animals. I would argue that the much larger problem is the hundreds of millions of white Western meat eaters that are degrading the planet because of the current meat system. We all agree that is degrading the planet. So that’s an ethical issue, not a few vegans who are demonizing whatever their focus is. I agree, they shouldn’t be demonized. That is not all vegans. It’s a few, but the problem, if you look at the total numbers, is these hundreds of millions of people eating from this concentrated animal feeding operation system, which is degrading the planet and our health than more naturally raised animals. So we have to step back and look at that. So we need more aware eaters who are consciously eating and eating whole foods and eating more local as Robb said, and not from an industrialized system, local meat and local, organically raised vegetables, ideally. We can’t be too much of a purist. I mean, sometimes small pesticide applications can be favorable. So those are my main points.

DrMR:

Greg, just one quick kind of follow up. Doesn’t the same criticism that American meat eaters are endorsing a fallacious, wasteful system, doesn’t that same thing apply to those who are eating plants in the industrial plant system itself.

DrGS:

It does. Yes.

DrMR:

Okay. So, then we come back to that common agreement. You want to make sure that I didn’t miss something there.

DrGS:

Yeah. I would say not equally, but they’re both contributing. Just one point on that. In Robb’s book and he can certainly respond to this. He creates this dichotomy between, well, let’s see grass fed beef or your other alternative is eating industrial row crop plants, but that’s a false dichotomy. You could also eat healthily, raised plants, organic, no till you can eat plants in obviously in a healthy way as well.

Robb Wolf:

I don’t remember making that distinction, but maybe. I don’t remember couching it in those terms.

Speaker 4:

Well, as I read the book that polarization is presented fairly often. I don’t want to streamline it too much. That is not my intention.

Speaker 2:

Anything there that you want to clarify Robb? About how you want to represent that point.

Speaker 3:

You know, so I’m super nervous and this may be paints me as a conspiracy theorist, but as somebody that’s been in lipid metabolism research for 20 years, and we were told unequivocally that saturated fat causes cardiovascular disease and there’s a one to one correlation between LDL cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease. And none of that has panned out. The science was settled and there was a consensus and we continued to explore and kind muck around this area but information that we had in the 1950s suggested that the connection between say saturated fat and cardiovascular disease was dubious, but we made an assumption and it came from a politicized moment that was inspired, ironically, from a vegetarian who had been working on a governmental committee.

DrGS:

You mean the McGovern report?

RW:

Yes, the McGovern report. There was a statement that was “senators do not have the luxury to wait for the science to be in”. “We must act now”. And so we acted. We were wrong and this is the reason why we have hydrogenated vegetable oils. Our food system was trying to get away from traditional oils, including things like coconut oil and whatnot. So when I hear an appeal to authority that FAO, the World Health Organization, it perks my ears up a little bit, particularly when we look at the analysis of the FAO suggestion. It basically said that if the United States shifted dramatically towards a more vegan centric diet, a removal of animal products, that there would be a health improvement, that there would be an improvement in the environmental footprint and whatnot. When that was analyzed, if we 100% removed all animal products out of the US food system, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 2.8% of what we’re producing right now. In my other point about biogenic being considered differently from others. That’s kind of another feature to this, but then also the point was made that if you remove the nutrient density of animal products from the human diet, then we will get more obesity and overweight because within the protein leverage hypothesis, which all organisms eat to a protein minimum, protein, rich foods tend to be disproportionately satiating. Three ounce piece of beef is 200 calories and provides the same amount of protein, not even the same amino acids, but just the total net protein as 800 calories of beans and rice.

DrGS:

or 300 calories of soy. That’s again, a straw man. Soy is very nutrient dense, buckwheat groats, hemp seeds.

RW:

I guess we could get in and then look at what is in the nutrient itself and how much actually passes through the gut and gets absorbed, which is a really critical feature.

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RW:

This is where, when we hold up an example of say beef versus spinach, and we’re talking about iron or protein, the absorption of plant based products are really paultry. And this is something that we dug into in the health section. When you look at vegan and vegetarian populations, the nutrient deficiencies are virtually endemic in these folks. They look largely indistinguishable from people who are in developing countries that have a very kind of monotonous, simplistic diet that is largely devoid of animal products.

DrGS:

All that I would say to that is number one, where do cows get the iron that goes into their beef. And number two, I would say our hospitals are not filled with deficient vegans. They’re filled with people that are on the standard American diet, which is mostly because of processed food. It’s certainly not because they’re vegan.

RW:

Absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly. I guess the main point that I’m making there is that, and I guess this starts going around in circles to some degree. If the government were to completely gut farm subsidies and grains legumes, et cetera, were not artificially inexpensive. If sugar were not artificially inexpensive, even dairy and whatnot. In my opinion, a lot of this would get sorted out. I’m kind of a big fan of the market determining what can we bear? What can we sustain? You’ve made the case that my suggestions about the land available for cropping versus livestock may be off. Maybe it is. I think that those numbers are pretty solid, but either way. What I really think is important is that we allow market centric processes to really ferret out what that ultimate story is. And when we start getting into these scenarios of central planning, then it’s kind of more of a whim based process then kind of this evolutionary process that occurs when we’ve got the market signaling that helps fashion what productivity really looks like.

DrGS:

Yeah, I agree that market forces should play a big role. I don’t agree with total freedom. For instance, right now the subsidies are in favor of meat and vegetables that feed meat, like GMO corn, and also in favor of fossil fuels. So it’s weighted in favor of these things, which, in general, as they operate now, are ruining the planet. So if we at least remove those, yes, then it would, it would really fluctuate. We’d find that it’s much better to eat organic vegetables and eat grazed meat and go solar. But yeah, it’s weighted in favor of these things, unfortunately, that are hurting the planet. So yeah, in that way it would be great. We need more of a free market. I guess it’s a question of degree, but yeah, in general, I agree.

Gut Health Impacts of Vegetarian and Vegan Diet

DrMR:

Greg, I want to pose a question to you kind of from the gut health perspective, this gets a little bit on a different track than arguing over macronutrients and satiation, but you know, in your camp of existence, it’s more vegetarian, vegan. Are you seeing that people are having a hard time with digestion of plant materials? Certainly as a clinician who helps people with these things on a daily basis, there does seem to be a trend. It’s not an absolute, but the more compromised someone’s gut health becomes the harder it is to digest many types of vegetables, fruits, obviously for some people, grains are a problem. Although I do think that’s been overstated, especially the danger of gluten. While it has been documented, I think it’s been way overstated. But what are you seeing there? Because one of the things that I have a bit of concern about in the vegetarian and vegan community, although it also runs in both ways and the low carb community is that there’s this confirmation bias where people who do well on that diet, aggregate into those camps and you just see a collection of all the people who do well and you don’t see all the people on my side who really have a hard time digesting plants. This is not to vilify plants. I’m just generally curious, is this something that’s being discussed? Is it an issue that comes up? Is this not something that people are even aware of? So what are you seeing?

New Speaker:

Yeah, that’s a good question. And you and I have talked about this a few times. When I was younger, I ate a ton of meat and I did fine on it. And I am a believer that our blood type matters. It’s not predetermining, but I’m O blood type, which is classic meat eater. And I know you’re A, which is the classic vegetarian, which is funny. I did find with meat, cause I guess O has a higher stomach acidity. Maybe I’m just making a broat assumption, but generally it’s dealt with in the vegan community as jokes. Like “Hey, when you become vegan you pass gas a lot”. Which would be an indication of a lack of complete digestion. What I’ll say is in general, what moves things through the digestive system is water and fiber. Obviously now I’m not talking about chemically, I’m talking about mechanically and that’s what plants have. Meat, any animal products have no fiber and they have low water. So we absolutely need a lot of plants to push everything through. Everybody’s very unique in how they digest those plants or meat. A lot of people don’t digest meat well. It’s very heavy in our system, but yeah, I mean, it’s quite individualized. I would say, it just depends. There’s an evolution. I would say that meat, long term, doesn’t look as good for our digestive systems. There haven’t been many studies done long time. For instance, the longest paleo study is like two years. Short term I think it could be very good for blood sugar levels and perhaps digestion. You have a lot of evidence of that so I won’t refute that. But every vegan you talk to, they poop twice a day. So it’s like that system is moving and that’s the elimination of toxins. I mean, that’s the main thing that your body is doing. So I would just say that it certainly helps with streamlining that process and eliminating toxins. On a chemical level, I’m not qualified. I don’t have a sample, you know, just friends and anecdotes who say they feel better. There could be confirmation bias there, but generally people feel better, they feel lighter, they poop often. But on the chemical level and the probiotics level, I mean, I guess they can buy your supplements it’d be all right.

DrMR:

Gotcha. Okay. Well, this has been a great discussion. We’ve gone kind of all over the map. Obviously there’s a lot more that we could dig into here, but I think we’ve hopefully done our audience, a service in kind of going through a point/counterpoint and, you know, to both your points, it’s been nice to be able to have a nuanced discussion. It revealed that there’s a lot more commonality here than I think perhaps many of us are acknowledging and understanding. It certainly motivated me to be a bit more cognizant, or to use your term Greg, aware, of where my food’s coming from, how far it’s traveling, what type of agriculture I’m supporting with the money that I do spend. So, for me, I selfishly wanted to learn more about these nuances through this conversation. And I have. Would each one of you kind of leave us with any closing thoughts and also please do tell us where people can find you on the internet or track you down or learn more. Robb, why don’t you kick us off here?

RW:

I guess….closing thoughts….these are always tough for me, but you know, in this soundbite age and what are they calling it now? The attention economy? Like it doesn’t even matter if people click because you have to get their attention for it to ultimately matter. I think one of the big challenges that we face in this topic and similar topics is that almost a type of asymmetric warfare occurs. Folks can just blob the equivalent, the intellectual equivalent of a hand grenade over the fence. Meat causes cancer, meat destroys the environment, meat causes type two diabetes. It sounds great, and there’s often times some, some peer reviewed literature that goes along with it. Then on the backside of that, it’s a mini PhD dissertation to unpack all of that. Most folks don’t have the time nor the interest. Getting people abs and getting them in their skinny jeans is usually a lot better for the bottom line, which is part of the reason why I’m not entirely sure why Diana and I devoted four years to putting this book together, but it seemed like an important topic. But we do need to get beyond soundbites. If there’s a claim that animal husbandry is disproportionately negatively impactful on greenhouse gas emissions. That needs to be both very thoroughly vetted and also profoundly well-documented for us to take that at face value. And even with that, I would then further add, and I don’t think Greg fully agrees, but to whatever degree life produces greenhouse gases, it’s because there’s life and that’s arguably a good thing. So we need to be really careful, even when we gather up some decent information, what is the lens that we’re using to interpret that information? Because we could struggle to even get the right facts, then get the right facts, use an incorrect model, and then we could really be in pretty dire straits, but that’s assuming that we’re even able to get any discussions like this beyond that kind of soundbite level and the asymmetric war.

DrMR:

Do you want to refer people to your website? It’s a great point, but let’s get your plug in there too so you get your money’s worth.

RW:

RobbWolf.com

DrMR:

Gotcha, cool. Greg?

DrGS:

I would say, I guess in closing that you can pick apart some studies. Absolutely. And we should, we always should. That’s what vetting information is about. That said, there is a deluge of information and studies that show that eating meat, longterm, a lot of meat, longterm is not good, or has many negatives on our health. Some positives, of course, but many negatives and overwhelming evidence that it is harmful to the planet, the way that we raise meat now, which is 99% of our meat. It’s just absolutely a deluge. If we just have to just put our head in the sand to ignore that those are generally true. It’s not good for our health in big doses, longterm. It’s not good for the planet in big doses longterm, but if we modify it, put it in a certain position and we graze over it and we control that completely, yes, it’s better, but that’s hard to do. My last point is that what I noticed is we didn’t get to the ethics. And I find that too often. I do a lot of vegan podcasts, you know, where we preach to the choir and the ethics is 70% of it. It’s just not an issue. That’s part of what we call speciesism. Like hey, we have sovereignty, we have dominion. We don’t really think about the animals experience. I liked the fact that Robb addressed that grazing outside is a much better experience than being crammed into a lot. But even the notion of just looking at this from a moral perspective, a notion of just deciding in our offices what we should eat based on statistics and numbers and resources removes this idea of whether we should. Robb makes the point, it’s not the cow, it’s the how. And I agree a hundred percent with that, but it’s also the why. Why are we eating these animals when we can easily survive without them. We can have them grazing and pooping and making those ecosystems good, but we don’t have to kill them and eat them.

RW:

Something needs to kill and eat them, or they overpopulate.

DrGS:

Yes, that’s a natural system. For instance, when the bison had their predators, we don’t need to move them around and electric fences and shoot any predators. So that’s not a natural system. So I just think ethics should be a bigger part of the discussion. I mean this is kind of a joke, but it makes a point. We have overpopulation of humans. If we just ate the overpopulation, we could feed people and kill humans and eat them. That would solve that. It’s a great numbers game like, wow, we just eat the humans and then we feed the hungry, but we wouldn’t do that because that’s absurd. Then we all realize, wow, that’s morally terrible, but vegans just draw that moral line earlier. We say, well, let’s not do that to animals either. We just draw the moral line at different points. That’s all I wanted to say about the morality. It deserves a mention. Anyway, my book coming out in a few months is called Bright Green Future. We talk about energy, food cities and industry and people that are pushing those forward in a more sustainable way. And as I said, we talk about regenerative agriculture. So I’m in that camp. You can find me at theplanetdoctor.com and on Instagram @theplanetdoctor.

DrMR:

Awesome. And I’m remiss, we weren’t able to get to ethics. But if we were to do a part two ethics, the health implications, and then maybe a bonus feature of energy production and nuclear versus solar are things that we would put on the list. Even with those topics untouched, I’m really appreciative for both of you guys taking the time. I learned a lot. I’m sure our audience did too. So I just want to thank you guys both again for taking the time, sharing your knowledge, and also just being rational enough to be able to have a conversation when you disagree, yet no one flipped over a table and got into an argument. Nothing crazy that happened.

DrGS:

Oh, I did flip over my table, I just muted it.

RW:

I had a Molotov cocktail that went into the neighbors yard.

DrMR:

Thanks again. And I hope you guys are doing really well where you are. I’m now in Texas with Robb. So I’m getting the gut punch of the heat and I just left California, which is much more a temperate where Greg is. Thanks guys again. I really appreciate it.

RW:

Thanks doc. Take care now.

DrGS:

Thanks Robb. Thanks Mike.

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