Wanna water burger?

John Taylor: February 01, 20080 Comments

A lean, carefully seasoned dollop of beef cooked with a masseuse's touch, a Vidalia onion thinly sliced, organic ketchup evenly spread and a lightly toasted whole-wheat bun.

Doc, I know there's some bad stuff in a good burger, but occasional indulgence isn't full immersion in low-density lipoproteins (LDL -- the "lethal" cholesterol).

A good burger (even a bad burger at a good baseball game) is a few stanzas short of "Ode to Joy." 

But not if you've read a couple of January newspaper stories (New York Times, Jan. 27; Wall Street Journal, Jan. 11). Depending on who you believe, it takes something around 100 gallons of water -- or 616 gallons -- to create a quarter-pound of beef on your plate.

Which leads to comments that it takes a swimming pool to produce fries and a burger. That 30% of the Earth's ice-free surface is involved in livestock production. That agriculture, and its servicing the demand for meat, accounts for 75% of water pollution problems in the United States. And then there's global warming, world poverty and hunger, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

And when the Times throws in the mandatory photo of cattle at Harris Ranch Beef Co. in Coalinga, well, you can almost visualize the well-marbled protein movie version of "There Will Be Blood."

Yes, our dietary habits are out of whack -- but way better than when they were wrapped around a pack of Chesterfields. Yes, we've harmed the Earth, but some are working on remedies. And, yes, it is "Soylent Green"-kind of scary when a scientist suggests that we're not far-removed from the days of "meat without feet" -- animal cells grown in a nutrient environment and massaged into burgers and fillet mignons. (Ugh, argh, uck.)

Gasp for air (and grasp for a chicken cutlet). I've worked on a dairy farm. I've helped deliver a calf. I've shoveled, well, you get it. Whether it's the perfume of a barbecue or radiant heat of an Italian oven sizzling a meatball hero, I'm very careful about my beef. 'Cause I don't want to overdo or do without (individually or as a Planet Earthian).