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20 February 2004

Low-carb injustice

Yesterday, the Times ran an article on the low-carb food revolution
sweeping the food industry.  I don’t count my carbs, and the
article gave me further reason to avoid doing so.  Here’s the
quote that shocked me the most:

“None of this was really available,” Ms. Lipson said. “The amount of
stuff that’s available now, it’s amazing,” she said, poring over
pancake mixes, pasta and chocolate bars. Asking for “something like
rice,” she was directed to a row of canned low-carb mashed potatoes in
a variety of flavors. “Garlic parmesan?” she asked her husband. “You
like garlic parmesan?”

The price: $6.99 for seven ounces.

No one is claiming that eating low-carb is cheap. Robert Hall, 30, was
buying nacho cheese and cool ranch twists by CarbFit, some baked
cheese, low-carb soft tacos made by a company called Adios Carbs, and,
for his girlfriend, low-carb brownies. He left with $122.18 in low-carb
food. “I spent 300 bucks last time,” he said. “This was just a
supplemental visit.”

So, it’s massively expensive to eat this way.  Which makes me
more likely to want to follow the general model of portion control if I
wanted to lose weight.  Or — and I will if today’s beautiful
weather holds — spend more time on my bicycle.

But there’s a social justice concern here, too.  Following a
low-carb diet leads to bad use of the earth’s resources.  Since
most Americans bulk up on their protein with meat, this means that we
require more meat.  Meat — ususally from poultry or cattle —
requires lots of resources to produce, in terms of feed, waste products
generated (effluent and methane), and slaughter anddistribution
facilities.  (I think the general ratio is about 7-10 units of
feed to produce a unit of cow and about 3.5-5 units of feed for
chicken.)  It requires many more agricultural and economic
resources to sustain a massive scale diet shift like the one that we
are seeing right now.  Meat has a greater impact on the
environment that vegetable and grain matter, and the shift from plant
production to meat production also has a disproportionate effect upon
the world’s poor, who can’t afford the indulgence of meat.  Only a
wealthy country can even consider such a diet.

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 20 February 2004 at 12:22 pm by Nate