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The Mac Weekly - February 27, 2009
The Green Beat: To Beef or Not to Beef?
By Emily Pancoast
Over the years, Café Mac has cut back on the amount of beef it orders to decrease its carbon footprint, said head chef Andrew Lehrke. Beef production generates 13 times more greenhouse gases than chicken, making beef a disproportionate contributor to global warming.
Many rainforests, especially the Amazon in Brazil, are burned down to create grazing room for cattle. This destroys plants that would have removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while the increased number of cow raises the level of methane, a greenhouse gas released from cows. Producing enough beef for the average American per year is equivalent to driving your car 1,800 miles according to gristmill.org.
Much of the beef Americans consume comes from countries that are clearing their forests. However, American produced beef is not as carbon intensive, and can be beneficial in some aspects. The beef purchased by Café Mac is from Thousand Hills Cattle Company, in Cannon Falls, MN. Their cattle come from multiple states in the Midwest, no further than eight hours away. All the cattle are grass fed free range. Thousand Hills' website claims that grazing cattle helps prevent erosion and groundwater contamination, though it is also true that cattle beat down the land, preventing certain native plant species from growing. Grass fed beef also boasts certain health benefits, including higher good fat content, omega 3 fatty acids, and no growth hormones. Their meat is "source verified," meaning each cow can be traced to its place of birth, which is nearly impossible to do in a large meat packing facility.
Café Mac places the largest orders for chicken, which are from Sysco, a meat packing facility in Chicago. Lehrke said that he tries to order locally and sustainably whenever possible, but that cost is a large factor in purchasing decisions.