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Palm Oil Home Invasion In Everything From Snack Foods to Pet Foods
by Tomas DiFiore
Saturday Apr 30th, 2016 7:58 AM
The link between livestock expansion and deforestation is not because the land that underlies tropical forests makes better pastures or produces higher crop yields. In fact, just the opposite is true. The soils of newly cleared tropical forest land are generally of poor quality, leading to low crop yields and sustaining few animals per hectare. But these lands are inexpensive or even free for the taking, usually increasing considerably in value once they are cleared. Palm oil expansion has replaced cattle ranching as the leading cause of tropical and neotropical deforestation, and palm kernel meal cakes are used as animal feed though inferior in nutrients. So it is that, at the regional level of the landscape mosaic, algorithms of averages rule in favor of sustainable production and sustainable markets. It's the economics of deforestation commodities. A year of meat consumption consumes how many trees?
Palm Oil Home Invasion In Everything From Snack Foods to Pet Foods

Five years ago research pointed out that animal feed for British cats, dogs, cows, pigs and even goldfish - helps to destroy the rainforests of south-east Asia. The study for the government found that “more than a tenth of all the world's palm kernel meal, a lucrative by-product of the production of palm oil, is fed to British animals.”

"It's not just a by-product, especially in Britain where we import five times as much kernel from Indonesia as palm oil."

According to the Animal Feed Resources Information System - The largest quantity of palm kernel meal is used to feed ruminants. “In spite of a nutritional value lower than that of other meals, it remains a source of protein and energy and its cost may make it particularly attractive when compared to more expensive ingredients such as maize grain and soybean.”

“The supplementation of low quality hay with palm kernel meal or copra meal improved the production of microbial protein in the rumen.” But then…

“Palm kernel meal is a common feed ingredient, particularly in ruminant feeding. It is the less nutritionally valuable of the major oil meals due to its low protein content (14-20% DM, lower than copra meal) and its large quantities of cell wall constituents (crude fibre 14-28%; NDF 60-80%; ADF 35-50%; lignin 10-18% DM). The proportion of lignin in the cell walls of palm kernel meal (18% of NDF) is higher than in copra meal (13% of NDF). For these reasons, its nutritive value is inferior to that of the main oil meals, notably soybean meal, groundnut meal and cottonseed meal. Unlike those products, palm kernel meal is often obtained from mechanical extraction (expeller meal) and its oil content is quite high.”

“Palm kernel meal is dry and gritty and is not readily accepted by ruminants and pigs. However, as it is mainly used in compound feeds, its lack of palatability is of less importance. Palm kernel meal contains 20-30 ppm of copper. Sheep are very sensitive to copper and levels as low as 25 ppm in the diet can be toxic to them. If palm kernel cake is fed to excess (90% of the diet) to sheep, it is known to cause chronic copper toxicity and death due to hepatic necrosis. When palm kernel cake is fed at lower levels (60% of the diet) to rams, it results in spermatogenesis problems and other reproduction deficiencies. Zinc is another antagonist to copper absorption but zinc supplementation may result in high zinc concentration in blood, liver and kidneys.”

Visit Feedipedia and learn more about oil palm processes and animal feeds. And do give consideration to why palm oil, palm kernel oil, and palm kernel meal are so cost effective. There is no accounting for the low cost of palm oil production as it is not displayed in the appendix to the profits covered in the columns and ledgers of derivatives futures. It lies hidden under the years of haze, behind the denial of human rights violations and campaigns of terror and violence, forced labor, immigration transmigration, and the forced exile of internally displaced people. The low cost of palm oil is directly linked to the toll on forests buried under burned and bulldozed landscapes and in the carcasses of wild species.

This article focuses on tropical and neotropical deforestation related to diet - specifically meat consumption. Charts often vary on the differentiation of meat, red meat, total meat, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, rabbit, etc.

“Beef production requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of edible protein than common plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas and lentils. Chicken and pork are more resource-efficient than beef, but still require three times more land and emit three times more greenhouse gas emissions than beans.”

“Global diets are shifting toward overconsumption as nations urbanize and incomes rise, their citizens diversify their diets and consume more calories and more animal-based foods such as beef, dairy, pork, chicken, eggs and fish. Demand for animal-based food is expected to rise by 80 percent between 2006 and 2050, with beef specifically increasing by 95 percent. Some of this growth in demand will support health and welfare gains, but much of it will be driven by overconsumption of food.”

Beef contributes just 4.7 percent of the world’s total protein, even though it uses a large majority of the agricultural land. Comparable figures for other sources of protein are 10.0 percent for milk, and 5.6 percent for pork. (UCS “Grade A Choice”)

A great story appeared in the New York Times in Spring 2014 about Argentina's shift away from beef.

“Argentines ate about 129 pounds of beef a person in 2013, far surpassing Americans, who mustered a mere 57.5 pounds by comparison. But Argentina’s current level is a pale shadow of its peak: 222 pounds of beef for every man, woman and child, achieved in 1956. The growth of vegetarian restaurants in Argentina’s capital has been incredible. As recently as 2007, Argentina had about 55.6 million head of cattle, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. That number fell to 48.1 million in 2011, before recovering somewhat this year to an estimated 51.2 million. (That is still more cows than people, given the country’s population of more than 40 million.)”

Per Capita Meat Consumption In The U.S. Is Down

The USDA doesn’t take into account vegetarians, who consistently represent about 5% of the population, according to Gallup polls. Charts that factor in vegetarians as being consistently 5% of the population, reflect a different higher per capita consumption statistic than that of 54 pounds of red meat and 106 pounds of poultry (as listed in 2015).

U.S. Meat Consumption Data 1965 to 2015 (Published Feb 9, 2016) can be found here:

Half the pork produced in the world is now consumed in China. South America and Africa have been or are being set up to supply markets in China and SE Asia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. While China leads the world in beef production, Brazil leads the world in beef exports and deforestation.

How to figure the number of trees per acre where rainforests continue to disappear for ranching and soybean, and the oil palm (from which palm kernel cake is derived). These three are linked directly with beef production - forests are cleared for ranching, and the feed. And now palm oil is being planted on rangelands. Palm Kernel Cakes are the lowest quality feed next to a bleak bare pasture, or maybe low quality alfalfa.

This is an image representative of the tropical and neotropical habitat loss (estimated by tree count) and felled forests - for feed, feedlots, and cattle ranches, supplying the global market. All this meat production requires refrigeration. That requires more forests felled for coal mines, or oil and gas, or dams, the electrical generation, and the infrastructure to deliver the electricity to industrial centers, seldom to rural poor. Sustainable production requires energy which may come from oil palm biomass or biofuel.

On every continent, rising incomes and changing diets are exacerbating the strain on global ecosystems. Except that is in the US, Denmark, and Argentina and a few more countries, where meat consumption is trending downward.

So how many trees are felled to provide a year of meat consumption? To define the question is necessary… One particular numerical representation comes up often enough, and that is the number of '200' square feet of ex-forest is required for 1 pound of beef. Then a few other numbers are useful, like the recorded numbers from decades of surveys in rainforest locations around the world for species type, total stems at different diameters, density per hectare, forest structure and architecture - emergent, sub-canopy. It all begins to add up!

An acre is roughly 43,000 sq ft. With small producers, after two years though, the clearing cycle must begin again because the grass won't grow and the deforestation spreads. Industrial scale operations may use soy or palm kernel cakes for which landscapes are also denuded. It's a compounded equation.

The Rainforests of the Tropics and NeoTropics

“Rainforests can be staggeringly more species-rich than temperate forests. For example, while temperate forests may be dominated by a half dozen tree species, a tropical rainforest may have more than 480 tree species in a single hectare (2.5 acres). More than 1,300 species of butterfly has been documented in a single park in Peru, while the entire European continent has less than 400 species.”

The following link goes to a Tropical Rainforest Biome Blog

The Neotropics; Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, hold the greatest amount of standing forests.

Another site with a long, long list of Rainforest facts!
All with footnotes.

“Rainforest Structure and Architecture - In Panama in 1986, Hubbell and Foster had established a 50-hectare (500,000 sq m) permanent study plot in old-growth forest at Barro Colorado Island in Panama. They surveyed approximately 238,000 woody plants with stem diameter of 1 cm (2.5 in) diameter breast height (dbh) or more and found 303 species. They classified 58 species as shrubs, 60 as understory treelets, 71 as midstory trees, and 114 as canopy and emergent trees.”

That's 245 species of trees within 238,000 surveyed woody plant stems on 50 hectares.

Britannica states it thus: “In a 50-hectare area in Panama, 7,614 trees belonging to 186 species had trunk diameters greater than 20 cm (8 in).” (More than 152 per ha)

Besides flowering plants and vines, there can be 800 trees per ha.

Grazing On Deforestation

“In Brazil alone, there are an estimated 220 million head of cattle, 20 million goats, 60 million pigs, and 700 million chickens. Most of Central and Latin America's tropical and temperate rainforests have been lost to cattle operations to meet the world demand, and still the cattle operations continue to move southward into the heart of the South American rainforests. To graze one steer in Amazonia takes two full acres.”

“Brazilian government data indicates that more than 60 percent of deforested land ends up as cattle pasture. But conversion to cattle pasture isn't limited to Brazil, in the 1970s and early 1980s vast tracts of rainforest in Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador were burned and converted into cattle pasture lands to meet American demand for beef.”

“Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef. Between 1996 and 2004, the total export value of beef increased tenfold from $1.9 million to $1.9 billion, making Brazil the world’s largest beef exporter. It has the largest commercial cattle herd of approximately 180 – 190 million head. The government of Brazil offers loans of billions of dollars to support the expansion of its beef industry. Approximately 200 million pounds of beef is imported by the United States from Central America every year. While the chief importers of Brazilian beef were previously Europe and North America, nowadays Asian countries such as China and Russia consume more Brazilian beef than the European market.”

“In 2013, 26 Brazilian beef producers faced fines of nearly $300 million from government prosecutors for buying cattle raised illegally on deforested Amazon rainforest land.”

Rainforest Burgers

The SF Gate in August, 2012 published a lengthy piece on the Amazon and deforestation.

“In Brazil, the enforcement of land-use laws reduced deforestation by 76 percent in eight years, from 10,424 square miles in 2004 - when a swath bigger than Maryland was cleared of jungle - until last year, when the country's National Institute for Space Research reported that 2,471 square miles had been destroyed. But more than 40 percent of the Amazon jungle is beyond Brazil's borders, spread across eight countries in a carpet of green six times the size of California.”

Going back to 2002, it was already known that transnational meat production for causes deforestation. As shown in “Methods and Effects of Topical Rainforest Deforestation”

“Cattle grazing accounts for 72% of global deforestation. One reason for this huge amount is that the grass growing in the cleared forest is only good for an average of two years and then a new plot is destroyed to provide a new grazing area. The Costa Rican rainforests have shown the repercussions of cattle grazing when it estimated in 1983 that 83% of its rainforests had been destroyed, mainly for meat production.”

“There are two major forces that are responsible for extensive cattle grazing: the United States, indirectly, and directly, the tropic countries' governments. A majority of the cattle being grazed on the newly deforested areas provide the meat for major American fast food restaurants. Fifty-five square feet of rainforest is destroyed for every quarter pound hamburger that comes from a cleared rainforest cattle farm. This (area) or plot of land contains on average 1 giant tree, 50 smaller trees, 20-30 different tree species, over 100 species of insects, as well as the birds, mammals, and reptiles.”

And that adds up to a whopping 100 to 200 trees per pound of rainforest beef. Now, with Americans eating less red meat (in 2016), we can say 54 pounds a year, that still works out to be as many as 5,000 trees (felled, bulldozed, burned) for a year's worth of meat consumption.

The Global Landscape Of Cattle Ranching Exposed

“Under Brazilian law, such farms inside the Amazon region must retain 80% of the original forest within their legal boundary. GPS data combined with satellite images show that just 20% to 30% of the farm is forested. Cheap pasture from clearing and seeding rainforest is very attractive to farmers without easy access to the expensive agrichemicals and intensive land management techniques used in more developed countries. Within a few years, the planted pasture becomes overrun with native grass, unsuitable for cattle. Many farmers then take the cheap option and knock down adjoining forest to start again, leaving swaths of unproductive deforested land in their wake.”

“In the US it takes an average of 2500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of red meat. With the amount of water it takes to produce one pound of red meat, farmers can grow up to one hundred pounds of grain. One hundred pounds of grain can feed four people for a month. One pound of beef can feed four people a dinner.”

It is estimated that for each pound of beef produced, 200 square feet of rainforest is destroyed.

It's 2016 and Hong Kong leads the world in per capita meat consumption – 123 lbs.

Ranching, Soy, And Palm

“Beef makes up about 24 percent of the world's meat consumption, yet requires 30 million square kilometers of land to produce. Poultry (34 percent of global meat consumption) and pork (40 percent) each use less than two million square kilometers of land. Beef production is an inefficient use of food resources. Chickens need to consume two kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of meat. Pigs need four kilograms. For beef cattle the ratio is 10 to 1.”

On the other hand; “The production of one kilogram of beef requires 15,414 litres of water on average. The water footprint of meat from sheep and goat (8,763 litres) is larger than that of pork (5,988 litres) or chicken (4,325 litres). The production of one kilogram of vegetables, on the contrary, requires 322 litres of water.”

“The soils of newly cleared tropical forest land are generally of poor quality, leading to low crop yields and sustaining few animals per hectare. But these lands are inexpensive or even free for the taking, usually increasing considerably in value once they are cleared.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists, in June 2012, published a 36 page hugely enlightening document titled “Grade A Choice - Solutions For Deforestation Free Meat” and every page is full of well researched graphs, images, charts, and paragraphs. It's well worth the read!
Download “Grade A Choice” (PDF 3 MB 36 pages)

“The link between livestock expansion and deforestation is not because the land that underlies tropical forests makes better pastures or produces higher crop yields. In fact, just the opposite is true. Soils of newly cleared tropical forest land are generally of poor quality, leading to low crop yields and sustaining few animals per hectare. But these lands are inexpensive or even free for the taking, usually increasing considerably in value once they are cleared.”

“Crop production, or even other kinds of livestock raising, is much more intensive: it uses less land to produce a given amount of food (whether measured in weight, energy, or protein), and produces most of what the world eats on just a small proportion of its agricultural land.”

“The ecological inefficiency is particularly high for beef, which uses about three-fifths of the world’s agricultural land yet produces less than 5 percent of its protein and less than 2 percent of its calories. Other meat sources, such as pork and especially chicken, require much
less land to produce the same amount of protein.”

“In the Latin American tropics, that new agricultural land was overwhelmingly turned into cattle pasture - about 42 million hectares, versus only about 7 million hectares of cropland. In the Amazon basin of Brazil, the largest tropical-forest country, more than 75 percent of the deforested land had been turned into pasture by 2007. Soybeans, overwhelmingly used as livestock feed, also expanded rapidly into the Amazon basin in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and at their peak they were responsible for nearly a fourth of deforestation. In Brazil, this situation has changed dramatically in the last few years, and the soy industry is now the best example of how production can expand and remain profitable without clearing forests, by increasing its yield per hectare and by expanding onto already cleared land.”

Brazilian Money Owns Bolivia For Ranching And Flex-Crops

Neighboring countries are being deforested now with Brazilian money backing the operations. Brazilian capital controls an estimated 1.2 million hectares of Bolivia’s 2.86 million total hectares of cultivated land.”

“Bolivia’s agrarian structure (since the 1952 revolution) has been shaped by several socio-political periods which have generated patterns of dispossession; changes in the global political economy are resulting in new forms of dispossession as new actors (transnational capitalists, financial investors), and mechanisms of agro-financialization, joint-ventures, and increased global demand for farmland and flex crops, combined with the rise of Brazilian capital are transforming Bolivia’s agrarian structure.”

“Over the course of the past six decades, a pattern has emerged regarding land-based social relations and Bolivia’s unequal agrarian structure. This pattern is one of land-based concentration through the ‘politics of exclusion’ carried out by successive regimes which has led to a regional hegemony of landed capitalists controlling Bolivia’s most fertile territory in the eastern lowlands.”

“Bolivia’s development, simply put, has been characterized by export-oriented, foreign-controlled natural resource exploitation. Failing to develop vertical and horizontal linkages with complementary secondary and tertiary industries, natural resource exploitation has benefited a small capitalist class of domestic and foreign elites at the expense of the majority through multiple forms of 'Accumulation By Dispossession'. The majority of people are dispossessed from their current and future access to assets (land and its productive resources) largely due to the expansion and concentration of access/control by an economically powerful and well-connected class of landed elites.”

“This class of landed elites, the majority of whom are using land for large-scale soy production destined for export markets, has successfully entrenched their regional hegemony throughout the course of successive regimes of dispossession. ‘Regimes’ in this context do not refer to a single government, but a socio-political period with a distinct pattern of agrarian change via dispossession.”

From the presentation: “New Dynamics and Trajectories of Agrarian Change in Bolivia: Regimes of Dispossession and the Rise of Brazil”
“Land, Land-Grabbing, Resistance And Agrarian Struggles II” at the FLACSO-ISA Joint International Conference “Global and Regional Powers in a Changing World”, University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina 23-25 July 2014.

So it is that, at the regional level of the landscape mosaic, the algorithms of averages rule in favor of sustainable production and sustainable markets. It's the economics of deforestation commodities.

Beef and Veal - “Exports by major traders are forecast 1 percent higher to 9.6 million tons as growth to Asia offsets soft demand in other regions. Shipments from India and Brazil are expected to rebound, with India overtaking Australia as the top exporter. China is expected to become the second largest beef importer after the United States due to steady growth in consumption and new market access for Brazil and Argentina. Global production is forecast at 59.0 million tons, up modestly from the previous year. Herd expansion in the United States, India, and Brazil will offset lower production in Australia, Argentina, and Russia.”

“Pork - Global production is forecast down 1 percent to 109.3 million tons as declines in China and the EU more than offset gains by the United States, Brazil, and Russia. Chinese production will continue to contract due to the slowing economy and continuing repercussions of environmental regulations. EU production will decline as low prices spur herd contraction.”
Foreign Agricultural Service/USDA April 2016
Office of Global Analysis

Poultry - HPAI-Related Trade Restrictions Impeded U.S. Shipments

“The United States shrank while Brazil grew in several markets that placed HPAI-related trade restrictions on U.S. products in 2015. The December 2014 outbreak of HPAI prompted a number of trading partners to place regional (zone, county, or state) or U.S.-wide restrictions on poultry products. China and South Korea were the two largest importers that placed U.S.-wide restrictions on the United States. While U.S. exports fell to virtually zero to these markets, Brazilian exports increased significantly, growing over 100,000 MT to both markets combined.”

“Export growth in 2016 is expected in a number of markets that removed HPAI-related restrictions as regions in the U.S. were declared disease-free. Kazakhstan and Iraq, South Africa… additionally, the recent agreement on a bone-in chicken quota between U.S. and South African governments will lead to expanded exports.”

“The United States will continue to face HPAI-related restrictions by China and South Korea and the continuing Russian ban.”

In March/April of 2015 “in the U.S. following confirmation of a second outbreak of H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), the state of Nebraska has declared a State of Emergency. Four new outbreaks - all in turkeys - are included in the latest official nationwide report, bringing the total to 162 outbreaks affecting more than 33.52 million poultry. A further four HPAI outbreaks were added to the official count from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on May 13, 2015. Also included were Iowa and South Dakota.

“Since mid-December 2014, there have been several ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 incidents along the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways. Cases in wild birds, captive wild birds, backyard poultry or commercial poultry have been reported in Arkansas, California, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.” (pub April 2015)

It's bad out there folks. Try fasting, it's good for the body and the planet.

Join The Global Food Movement To 'Say No To Palm Oil'

Be sure to read product labels, and boycott palm oil. Visit 'Saying No To Palm Oil' on Facebook and learn how to avoid palm oil in products. 'Saying No To Palm Oil' lists palm oil free soaps, palm oil free foods, palm oil free health foods, several mobile apps with large databases to discern palm oil in products by scanning barcodes, and links to global groups opposed to conflict palm oil. There are palm oil free shopping guides and petitions and updates, recipes and stories!

'Saying No To Palm Oil' is based in Northern California.

There's also the 'Saying No To Palm Oil Blog' publishing news a couple times a month!

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Tomas DiFiore

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