Sunday, October 24, 2010

Missing the point.

Bobbi linked to a piece that claimed climate change would remove haggis from the menu. I found the closing paragraph especially clueless:
Actually, a bigger source of the problem is the meat itself. For those who want to eat haggis and have their planet too, vegetarian versions are easy to prepare and even available canned and ready to serve.
Mm-mmm! Canned soy haggis! Where do I get me some of that?

Look, I've got news for you: If me continuing to eat meat is going to cause the planet to hurtle into the sun, you'd best get to stocking up on the SPF 1 Million, okay?


Tango Juliet said...

I came here expecting a gunshow aar, along with the details of the after gunshow meal, and what do I get? Haggis... soy haggis.


bluesun said...

There are some things more precious to me than life. One of them is bacon.

Steve Skubinna said...

Vegetarian haggis...

How a person could link those two words deliberately and soberly is a mystery. Must be the same person who conceived of "non alcoholic beer," because it is statistically impossible that such a mutation could arise twice in human history.

Tell you what, though. I henceforth and herewith renounce forever haggis and all its pomp. Planet saved. You're welcome.

Brad K. said...

The biggest concern I have about the mindless assertion that everyone should eat grains because livestock eats too much, is one of energy.

Livestock concentrate the energy that the grains represent, in a manner similar to brewing alcoholic beverages do. Feeding grains to cows in Utah and Iowa result in much less mass to convey to New York City. One (perhaps true) account of the Great Depression was the Wyoming rancher that shot and buried 3000 head of sheep at a time when folk were going hungry. It would have cost more to truck them to the sale, than they would have brought.

Now replace 3,000 head of sheep, or a feedlot full of steers, with the grains and grasses they consume. Consider the difference in cost of moving that mass to trucks, transporting for processing and packaging, and transporting the resulting product to the store.

Farming has never been a well-paying proposition, until the advent of big agri-business. And the expected shortages in fossil fuels as oil and other energy sources become less reliably available, and the prices less consistent - transport costs are real, and will put a real bite on the ability to move grains in bulk sufficient to both support the farmer and feed the world.

There is oil underground that will last a lot of years. But we are finding new fields at a rate 1/4th the rate we use oil today. Existing fields are producing less as they approach empty, and the costs of production are going up. At a time that we use oil faster, in a given day, than can be produced, in a given day (Peak Oil), the economic impacts magnify the shortfall into recessions and rebounds, into collapses and recoveries. Into $4 gas and $2.90 - with $1.50 and $5.50 looming in the wings.

The Old West cattle drives from Texas to Kansas were an effective and cheap means of moving the cheap sunshine harvested by the grasses of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas to the railheads in Kansas, to the meat packers in Chicago and elsewhere.

While the tree-huggers' back-of-the-envelope science proves that everyone could eat grain, it fails to account for who can afford to raise that grain, and who could afford to transport and market it.

The tree huggers also fail to account for predation on those immense expanses of people-feeding grains. When the Great Plains were all grasses and grains - there were endless (though we white folk found a way to end them) herds of buffalo and other competitors for grains. Deer and feral hogs are prominent predators destroying crops of grains in some regions, and likely to expand.

Challenge the notion that it is affordable to export or import grain (Peak Oil), at the same time you remove the livestock feeder demand for grain on the grain market, and I have to wonder - do we have to brew ethanol just to keep ahead of the piles of grain we don't need to eat here, and can't afford to transport elsewhere?

I mean, how much corn likker do we need, for each household, anyway? Um. Let me ponder that point just a bit.

John Peddie (Toronto) said...

Tofu turkey in a kilt?

Robbie Burns and my ancestors are spinning in their (Scottish) graves.

Ed Rasimus said...

So, I see a future in which we don't eat beef and let the cows wander the streets elevating our society to the level of small village India. And, of course to respect our Muslim associates we won't eat pork either and accept the various corrective aspects of Sharia. Must also remember to consider the over-fished aspects of seafood and threat of toxic shellfish from oil spills.

But, how do we grow all these yummy veggies without burning millions of gallons of fossil fuel in our tractors, tillers, reapers, harvesters and delivery trucks? Not to mention the pesticides...

Oh, the hell with it. Give me another big greasy cheeseburger.

Vegetarian haggis?

Ancient Woodsman said...

If canned soy haggis is the solution to global warming, the vegans need to find a different planet.

John A said...

It is almost time for annual Haggis Hunt, 30Nov-25Jan

og said...

I have never had the "Real" thing, but I have had tinned haggis, you can get it in many of the specialty stores that carry marmite, or buy it online.

It's not as horrible as one might think. I grew up eating organ meats, and I'm a big fan of real sonofabitch stew when I can get it, which is rare. Not too many slunks in the midwest these days.

Brad K. said...

@ John Peddie,

Please, take a breath. If Scotland can survive the haggis and kilts in Mike Myers' "So I Married An Axe Murderer. ." I am sure they can scoff and survive the thought of tofu haggis in a kilt.

. . Has anyone compared the energy cost of turning soy into tofu, and vegetable oil, with just feeding the silly cows?

One thing that eating all that grain won't do, is fertilize the fields with cow droppings. There is a reason G*d created fields - and animals, too.

Steve Skubinna said...

Brad K., you're missing the ultimate point, which most greenies won't directly address. Their desired state is a return to the hunter-gatherer model.

Not the nasty, brutish and short one in real life, but a Disneyfied one in which we spend four or five hours per week satisfying our survival needs with grains, fruits, and vegetables, and the rest of the time socializing and writing operas and poetry and making art and handicrafts.

Don't press them on how many people such a lifestyle will support, because the ones pretending to decency don't want to go there.

And don't ask how they deal with the inevitable gangs of thugs who will ask why they should labor if they can force others to do it for them.

Nick Carter said...

I was given several cans of vegetarian haggis. It tasted like highly spiced dog food, or what I would imagine that would taste like.

BobG said...

"I'm a big fan of real sonofabitch stew when I can get it"

I agree with you there, Og. Good SOB stew is quite tasty to those of us who have grown up around it.

Mark Alger said...

If I recall correctly, haggis is made of tripe and oats. If so, the notion of a vegetarian version prompts this question: is not the compounding of soy and oats one of those "crossing the streams" level mistakes that one must not make?


Mick Havoc said...

As my Italian father used to say: The farther north you go in Europe, the better the liquor and the worse the food

Montie said...


Somehow that seems to harmonize. As in, consumption of that "better liquor" might make that "worse food" more palatable.

damaged justice said...

Grain is the tool of tyrants; it is the food of slaves.

perlhaqr said...

Brad K: Here at least, the "problem" isn't the energy cost of feeding the cows you're eating, it's that eating cows is eeeeeeeevul. Or so I presume that was the author's intent.

Brad K. said...

@ Mark Alger,

Oh, no! Not "crossing the streams" kind of mistake!

. . that would be a p*sser.

@ Steve Skubinna,

Naw, I got the point. It is just - how many hours will it take the tree huggers to braid their sandals from grain stalks (no leather from livestock), and how long would those straw sandals last?

The part that makes the all-vegetarian story even worse, now, is the expectation that oil - cheap energy - is about to get more scarce, more expensive, and especially that the price and availability will get real volatile from now on. One prediction is that we will see a spike in prices, soon, followed by a last-time period of fairly low prices as producers work to keep revenues up when much of the world's economy tanks again.

When you factor in what volatile energy prices do, then the wave-of-the-hand at transport and handling costs - and feasability - become show stoppers.

We have a couple of major railroad lines through town. A coal plant south of us gets a bunch, and we get long trains through for Texas as well. One train the other day was all grain cars. I have to wonder - how many barrels of oil did it take to transport the seed from where it was released for use, prepare the field for planting, plant the seed, apply fertilizers and herbicides, harvest, and transport that grain to an elevator company that could then load the rail cars. Train transport usually averages to low energy cost per mile. But many farms are miles from an elevator company, and not all elevator companies are on rail lines anymore - which would mean another round of loading onto trucks. Oh, and corn and soybeans, most years, are harvested before they dry enough to store without spoiling; physically moving the grain, in batches, to grain dryers, and applying heat and moving air to remove excess moisture is a part of harvest, too.

And regardless of the tree-huggers enamored of electricity because some *can* be generated by wind farm - most is generated by coal and oil fired power plants. The national grid we have today is set up for distribution from a relatively few large energy sources - which wind farms are *not* - to a dispersed customer network. That won't change much overnight. So, when you think "electricity!" think "burning coal, and losing 30 percent or more of the power generated, just getting it from the power plant to my iPad charger!"

Excuse me. I gots to tighten my braided grass belt and get to work. Got some grain to plant, I guess.

Stretch said...

With enough HP sauce or Tabasco haggis (or even MREs) is palatable.
And veggi-haggis has to be an evil joke by some woosie Sassenach.

theirritablearchitect said...

The architects' montly Bible (Architectural Record) has a bit on it this monthby sumdood named David Owen (Pinko-Journalist) about how Manhattan is a, get this, Green Utopia.

He goes on and on about how...efficient everything is there due to everyone living in closets and taking the subway and shit like that.

I laughed myself silly about the whole bit.

But they are DEAD serious about it.

Take your .45 with you when you goes to eat yer dead cows, for they are going to be hiring the food police soon.

Anonymous said...

Vegetarian haggis?
The mere fact these two words have ever been put together makes me weep for the future of mankind.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

well, used to have canned vegetarian haggis, but when I went to get the link they've pulled it and replaced it with canned lamb haggis.

Mark Alger said...

@ Brad K;

Naw. Not sandals made of rope. They'd remember their heroes the Vietcong, who made their sandals out of captured American tires -- the classic B.F. Goodrich Sandals of Tom Paxton's "Talking Vietnam Pot Luck Blues." They'd make their sandals out of old tires. Recycle, reuse, repurpose, right?


joe in reno said...

Vegetarian haggis...uhhh...isn't that just sheep shit?????

Tam said...


"Take your .45 with you when you goes to eat yer dead cows"

Well, I don't go to steakhouses in my pyjamas.

Dr. StrangeGun said...


I suppose that the freshly gotten sheep's stomach is already veggie haggis, and it takes a fair bit of work to turn it into a proper meat haggis...

Ed Foster said...

Irish haggis is much more civilized (sorry Dad, and all the buried generations back there in Perthshire, but I gotta' go with Mom's Paddy relatives on this one).

Various meat scrap leftovers, mixed with oatmeal, fried onions, and lots of spices, sauteed up in clarified butter, mixed in with whatever yeast it is they make their beer with, then stiched inside a bit of muslin and plopped into a bread mold to ferment for a few days. No friggin' sheeps stomach.

Enjoyed the debate on vegitarianism and other certain signs of cultural decline. The Romans got equally silly the last few centuries, so I imagine the unicorn mentality is a constant in any culture headed for the crapper.

Forgive me for sounding like an engineer, but I am. Observation: cows eat grass and turn much of it into meat, leather, and bone to be ground up and used as fertilizer for "natural" vegetables.

If the cows weren't there, wouldn't that mean that all of the grass would decay down into methane, without, as Brad K. points out, fertilizing it first with their droppings?

There is the question of tropical rain forests being converted into grazing lands. The interior of a rain forest is a lifeless desert, with virtually no sunlight reaching the surface. All the wonderous things that happen there are at the edges of the forest, where the multi-tier canopy is broken and light can penetrate.

The Brazilians are mostly checkerboarding now, meaning leaving a 100 hectare plot in jungle adjacent to 100 acres in grass, which feeds a lot of people who would otherwise starve or rot from quashiorkor and bilharzia, both caused by lack of protein in the diet.

It also increases the jungle's yield of all varieties of useful items many hundreds of times.

Go Brazil!

mariner said...

I was just wondering what haggis has to do with eating meat, anyway.

ParatrooperJJ said...

Worst comes to worst, we can always turn vegetarians themselves into hagis!

Brad K. said...


Your comment reminds me of the Monty Python skit of the shipwreck survivors in the life raft. "How long is it, Captain? That's rather a personal question! I mean, how long has it been that we've been adrift?"

Dr. Demento aired a comedy skit regarding whether to "bake" grandma. "Well, I do feel a might peckish . .".

Seriously - keep these kinds of contingencies under your hat, please, or leave it to the professional . . comedians. Please.