Definition Essay Assignment

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Definition Essay Assignment Sheet
Our first major assignment in Composition 1 will be a definition essay. This project will
involve creating a main thesis, or central argument, that answers these questions:
1.How do you define the phrase “Earth-Friendly Diet”?
2.What types of foods should we either eat or avoid to help stop global warming? 3.What kinds of farming practices should we support, to help the environment?
Remember, your thesis in a college essay should appear at the end of your introduction and can be more than one sentence in length.
In the body of your Definition Essay, you will defend and develop your thesis using evidence from at least TWO of the three articles listed below under “Sources.”
Assignment Overview
:
Purpose:
To persuade readers that your definition of an “Earth-Friendly Diet” is valid.
Audience:
Members of a college Environmental Studies class, including their professor.
These readers care about the environment and want to choose their diets accordingly.
Tone:
Professional; neither too casual nor overly-highbrow.
Length:
2 – 2.5 pages (not counting the Works Cited page).
Sources:
At least TWO of these articles: “An Inconvenient Food: The Connection
Between Meat and Global Warming,” “Eating Meat for the Environment,” “A World
Without Chickens,” and “What’s Cooking on Campus?.”
Format:
Your Definition essay should have an original title, be double-spaced, be typed
in Times New Roman/12-point font, and have 1″ margins on all four sides.
Documentation:
Your Definition essay should use proper MLA documentation style,
including in-text citations for any idea or information taken from your sources and a
complete and correct Works Cited pag
Article: 1
A world without chickens 
Contents
Avian lifesavers
Adieu, souffle
More than 22 billion chickens live on the planet — three for every human
Hens don’t need males to stimulate egg laying — only exposure to about 14 hours of light
Henhouse to greenhouse
Land Grab
Full Text
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We often take this humble bird for granted, but could humanity survive without it? Andrew Lawler investigates
IF THE world’s cats and dogs disappeared overnight, millions of people would mourn their furry friends. If beef cattle suddenly ceased to exist, it would create economic crises in America, Argentina and Australia. But what if all of Earth’s 22 billion chickens succumbed to a scourge like bird flu? How would humanity cope?
It’s a thought experiment whose answers show just how much human civilisation has come to rely on a single species. Without chickens, we would face “a starving world”, says Olivier Hanotte, a molecular biologist at the University of Nottingham, UK, who has studied the spread of the chicken around the globe. Close to one-third of the world’s meat supply and nearly all of its eggs would vanish. Pandemics and riots could ensue, unleashing a crisis of enormous proportions. This might seem far-fetched given how unremarkable the bird appears. But as a ubiquitous food source and more, it has pecked and scratched its way into almost every corner of human existence.
The story of the chicken-human bond is an ancient one. Some 3000 years ago, Polynesians took chickens with them on their expeditions to settle Pacific islands, using their bones to make sewing needles, tattooing implements and even musical instruments. Ancient Greeks considered the bird sacred to their god of healing, and believed its parts could cure illnesses ranging from burns to bedwetting. Roman generals kept a flock of chickens on hand before battles for military advice. If the sacred birds ate heartily before the conflict began, then the generals could expect victory; if they turned up their beaks, then best to retreat. And cockfighting is probably the oldest spectator sport after boxing.
Today, of course, the chicken is chiefly a source of food. In that role, it has become staggeringly abundant, outnumbering all the pigs and cows on the planet combined. Add in dogs and cats, and there would still be more chickens. For every person, three chickens are alive and clucking today. Humans gobble down almost 100 million tonnes of chicken meat and over 1 trillion eggs annually. On a single day this year, Super Bowl Sunday, Americans ate an estimated 1.25 billion chicken wings.
Yet this popularity is surprisingly new. As recently as 1950, Americans ate twice as much red meat as chicken. Today that situation is reversed. The chicken’s rise began after the second world war, when US poultry breeders developed a bird for mass production that grew bigger breast muscles, required less feed, took far less time to mature, and produced tender meat that could be carved almost like a steak.
This highly engineered animal now powers huge poultry industries throughout the world. Though people in Asia still eat fewer chickens than North Americans, they are catching up: chicken is poised to surpass pork — the traditional Chinese favourite — as the world’s most popular meat by 2020.
What would we do without it? Recent events suggest we could be in big trouble. Mexicans eat more eggs than anyone else — about 330 each year, on average — and when egg prices shot up in Mexico City in 2012 following the culling of millions of sick birds, demonstrators took to the streets in what was dubbed “The Great Egg Crisis”. During the 2011 uprising in Egypt, angry protesters rallied to the cry: “They are eating pigeons and chicken, but we eat beans every day!” When poultry prices tripled in Iran recently, the nation’s police chief warned television producers not to broadcast images of people eating chicken to avoid inciting violence. Across the Persian Gulf in Saudi Arabia, chicken feed is subsidised to keep meat prices low and a potentially restive population quiet.
Why has the chicken — rather than, say, the duck or yak — emerged as the single most important animal species for humanity? The answer lies partially in its remarkable adaptability.
Charles Darwin, who spent a good deal of time and money studying the bird, was one of the first to realise this. He collected chickens from all over the world, many of which he bequeathed to the Natural History Museum in London. Some are skins that were prepared using a particular technique. “You remove their innards, pop out the brains and eyes, and sew them back up,” curator Joanne Cooper explains cheerfully when I visited the collection.
Through typically patient study, Darwin deduced that all varieties of domestic chicken descended from the red jungle fowl, a shy and elusive pheasant that lives across south Asia and parts of China, and is adapted to a variety of habitats. His conclusions were confirmed in 2004, when the bird’s genome was sequenced.
The red jungle fowl, which was domesticated at least 4000 years ago, bequeathed the chicken a genome forged by a wide range of environments, from Himalayan foothills to Sumatran jungles. Along the way, the domestic chicken may have also picked up genes from other jungle fowl subspecies, including the Indian grey jungle fowl. “What is remarkable about the chicken is its genetic diversity,” says Hanotte. “It’s probably the most genetically diverse species of livestock, with the possible exception of pigs.” This has not only helped the village chicken thrive on every continent except Antarctica, but has also allowed humans to breed what American ornithologist William Beebe called “beautiful, bizarre, or monstrous races” of chickens, from fluffy silkies to leggy langshans.
The rise of the chicken is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, the bird is something of an environmental hero. To understand its impressive efficiency, let’s imagine the impact of replacing chicken with meat from other livestock animals.
Beef, which makes up about a quarter of the meat eaten in the US, would be the most disastrous replacement. Kilogram for kilogram, we would have to find over 1000 per cent more land for beef than is used to produce chicken, an area larger than China and India combined.
Cows convert food into meat far less efficiently than chickens, so even if we turned entirely to intensively raised grain-fed cattle we’d need to provide them with eight times as much feed to get the same amount of meat. Given that growing food for livestock already takes up around a third of the arable land on Earth, there might not be room.
What about pigs? We would need to at least double the number from 1 to more than 2 billion to take care of the meat shortfall, and more of the planet would need to become farmland since pigs require almost 14 per cent more feed than chickens to produce a kilogram of meat.
If we’re talking about the environment, there’s also the matter of gas. Unlike chickens, cows and sheep ferment their meals in a bacteria-rich stomach called the rumen, producing large amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane in the process. Beef is responsible for almost four times the amount of greenhouse gas (including carbon dioxide) per kilogram of meat as chicken, while lamb produces over five times as much. Switching to cheese as a source of protein would almost double greenhouse gas emissions, while turning to pork would increase them by 75 per cent. Satisfying the world’s insatiable demand for meat without chickens would slam down the gas pedal on global warming.
What about other birds? Ducks and turkeys might seem like sensible replacements, but they have several drawbacks. You can’t put turkeys and geese into small enclosures, and ducks need water. “You don’t find ducks in semi-desert subsisting on vermin,” says Hanotte. “Ducks are adaptable, but they’re not as adaptable as chickens.” Turkeys are not as efficient egg producers, and neither species produces as much meat as chickens do on the same feed. “Ducks and turkeys have their niche, but they are not going to be competitors,” says Hanotte. He thinks that, in terms of protein, insects rather than ducks would be the most likely replacement.
Avian lifesavers
The nascent insect protein market might well expand, but in the meantime demand for seafood would surge, potentially pushing many of the world’s fisheries — which currently produce some 80 million tonnes per year — to collapse. Aquaculture would ramp up, but it would take time to increase production (now about 60 million tonnes a year) to make up for all that chicken.
Some countries might be able to keep their populations in meat — the US, for example, could halt all beef and pork exports and return to something resembling its pre-1950 meateating habits. And for those Westerners willing to explore plant-based meat substitutes, foods such as textured wheat protein (already used in “chicken-less nuggets”) would likely become more widespread. Such a switch could make a difference to the environment: if we all swapped chicken for beans, for example, greenhouse gas emissions would be much lower. Chicken is responsible for 6.9 kg of greenhouse gases per kg of meat, compared with 2 kg for bean protein (see diagram, left).
Other places might not fare so well. In parts of Africa and Asia, where chicken is common street food and even the poorest can keep a fowl or two in their backyard, the bird’s demise would lead to skyrocketing malnutrition rates. Chicken meat and eggs are particularly rich in the essential amino acids lysine and threonine, which our bodies cannot manufacture. “It is impossible for the world to exist as it does today without the animal protein via chicken eggs and meat,” says Jianlin Han, a biologist at Beijing’s Institute of Animal Science in China.
So much for nutrition. The chicken plays another, more hidden role in society: its eggs are crucial for making flu vaccine. To produce the world’s 400 million annual doses, cultured flu strains are injected into fertilised eggs, a nutrient-rich and otherwise sterile environment in which the virus quickly multiplies. The virus-laden fluid is harvested, and the virus killed or weakened, with one egg equalling approximately one vaccine.
“It’s just amazing how well influenza virus grows in eggs,” says Doris Bucher, a microbiologist whose lab at New York Medical College is one of just three in the world that grow flu strains for the annual vaccine. “It’s the cheapest way to produce it.”
The US in particular has funded a hunt for alternatives to the egg-based vaccine, in part because of fears over what might happen if chickens disappeared. “There was a concern that if you had H5N1, that it could wipe out every chicken on the planet,” says Bucher.
Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has developed an alternative called Flucelvax grown in the kidney cell line of a cocker spaniel, which was approved in Europe in 2007 (under the name Optaflu), and in the US in 2012. The drug is only approved for people aged 18 and older, however, and it would take time to scale up to meet worldwide demand. “Things could change, but we’re certainly not there yet,” says Bucher.
If the chicken were to disappear, one flu season could kill 50,000 people in the US alone, Bucher estimates. And if a new swine flu or similar pandemic broke out, humanity would have little defence against its ravages.
Adieu, souffle
Of course, amid the riots and malnutrition and illness, our sweet tooth would suffer too. The disappearance of eggs would change pastry as we know it, says Ludwig Hely, executive pastry chef at The Savoy hotel in London. “It would be terrible. It is by far the hardest ingredient to replace,” he says. “Flour is easy, but if we didn’t have eggs, we would lose the structure and lightness.” Eggs from ducks or even quails might provide a substitute, but their relative rarity would make pastry an expensive treat. Meanwhile, egg replacements would become more common, with ingredients like silken tofu, baking powder and flaxseed meal being used to bind and leaven dough. Such ingenuity will be familiar to those who experienced rationing during the second world war. Some are already working on a modern-day version of this resourcefulness: Jason Sellers, head chef at Plant, one of the US’s top vegan restaurants, says that he has figured out how to make an eggless meringue. Yet even he admits that sometimes eggs are impossible to replace. “There are some things that you just can’t do without eggs, such as souffle,” he says.
The consequences of a chicken exodus would not be all bad. Fewer people would contract salmonella. The bacterium, which is most often found on raw chicken, kills about 115,000 people worldwide every year, and sickens tens of millions.
Anyone concerned about animal welfare would surely cheer the fact that billions of chickens, which under the laws of most governments have no protection and lead short and brutal lives, would finally be freed from servitude, even at the cost of extinction. Anthropologist Steve Striffler, whose book Chicken explores the history of the bird’s industrialisation, says that while the chicken is a crucial source of protein to the world’s rural poor, its disappearance in developed economies might not be a bad thing. “About 75 per cent of chickens are produced industrially in the First World,” he says. “They are raised under extremely bad circumstances and essentially have no lives. And all this for food that is often produced in ways that are bad for workers, consumers, and the environment.”
How likely is Chicken Armageddon? The bird is increasingly concentrated by the million in enormous farms, and therefore is more susceptible to the spread of disease than most village birds. Avian flu a decade ago resulted in the culling of over 100 million birds across Asia, and has reared its head again this year. Yet the chicken is nothing if not a survivor. It has spent the last several thousand years alongside humans. And every year, it becomes more inexorably bound up with our well-being. The sky might not fall, but a chicken-less planet would be nothing to crow about.
More than 22 billion chickens live on the planet — three for every human
Hens don’t need males to stimulate egg laying — only exposure to about 14 hours of light
Henhouse to greenhouse
Chickens produce protein quite efficiently. The same amount of food from other sources would generally raise greenhouse gas emissions, though tofu and beans are an exception
Land Grab
If other animal products replaced chicken as a source of food, a lot more land would be needed
By Andrew Lawler
Andrew Lawler’s book Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? will be published in the UK on 7 May
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ECOLOGY
Article: 2 The Connection Between Meat and Global Warming
BY MARISA MILLER WOLFSON
“How about an environmental tax on meat like the one recommended on gasoline, or shifting farm subsidies to privilege plant agriculture over animal agriculture? Perhaps that would prompt Al Gore to overcome his own inconvenient love of burgers and produce [a sequel to his ill-informed documentary].”
USA TODAY • SEPTEMBER 2007
OVER THE PAST several months.
Al Gore’s Oscar-winning docu
mentary. “An Inconvenient Truth,” garnered a windstonn of media at tention that likely sent peopie scurrying for fluoreseent light bulbs to eurb their carbon dioxide emissions, but .some scientists have ar gued that the film does not paint a complete picture of the real cause.s of climate change, and it leaves out the most inconvenient truth of all: the connection between global warming and the ste;ik knife.
Just four months before former Vice Pn;s. Gore gave his Academy Award acceptance speech, the United Nations Food and Agricul ture Organization published a report that identi fied the number-one contributor to global wanning. It was not triinsportation or power plants; it was livestock. Entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” the report barely made a blip on the media’s radar, perliaps because it uncov ered a iniih that was too inconvenient for most Aineric;ins. even Gore, to swallow. As a result. the American public missed out on one very effective strategy to combat climate change.
The livestock-global warming connection is nothing new to the scientific community. As “An Inconvenient Truth” was nearing its the atrical release in the spring of 2006, an issue of the journal Earth inicractUms published a piece by Gidon Eschel ;ind Pamela A. Martin from the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago. The assistant professors had conducted a study of the ener gy consumption and greenhouse gas emis sions associated with food production. In their report, they point out that production of food in the U.S. requires increa.singly more energy. In 2002. for example, 17% of all the fossil ftiel
used in the U.S. went into food production, and that percentage rises by an average of one percent per year. Buming these fossil fuels emits mon; than three-quarters of a ton of car bon dioxide per person.
To find out which types of fotxLs require the most fossil fuels and. as a resuit, release the most CO:, they considered five different diets. Each equaled 3,774 calories a day, and riuiged from the average American diet to red meat. fish, poultry, and vegetarian diets. It came as no surprise to the researchers that the vegetiiri iin diet nuiked niuuber one as the most energy efficient, followed by poultry and the average American diet. It did come as a surprise, how ever, that fish almost was on a par with red meat as the least efficient—a large lunount of fossil fuel is necessary for long-distance voy ages to catch Uu;ge predatory fishes such as tu na and swordfish. Moreover, salmon fanning is not energy efficient.
To translate these results into everyday ac tion, it would mean that, in order to curb the use of fossil fuels and the subsequent emission of COj that results from their combustion, one need only adopt a vegan diet.
“Livestock’s Long Shadow.” meanwhile, outlines livestock’s “enormous” contribution to climate change. Most people who have read the report were shocked to lejim that 18% of the current global warming effect can be at tributed to livestock—an even larger contribu tion than the transportation sector worldwide. Only nine percent of total carbon dioxide emissions are generated by livest(x:k, but 37% of methane emissions and 65% of nitraus ox ide—two powerful greenhouse gases-—come from livestock. Moreover, some scientists would argue that it actually is the more potent
21
ECOLOGY
non-carbon dioxide greenhouse ga.ses that are responsible for most of the global warming the world has experienced thus far.
In his report, “A New Global Warming Strategy” published by Earth Save Intemation al, physicist Noam Mohr refers to data by James Hansen. the “grandfather of the global wanning theory.” As director of NASA’s God dard Institute for Space Studies, Hansen has been quoted by Gore as well as other environ mentalists, and is known as a man of sound science by global wanning gurus such as James McCarthy, co-chair of the Intemational Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II. Han sen’s data suggests that many CO2 emissions actually cool the atmosphere as well as warm it. To be specific, when cars and power plants —the primary sources of carbon dioxide emis sions—-release the gas. they simultaneously emit aerosols, which have a temporary cooling effect. These cancel out the warming of COi, at least for the short term. For that reason. Mohr claims, most of the global wanning we have seen up until now—and that we will wit ness in the near future—might not. in fact, be from the carbon dioxide emitted by cars and power plants.
You probably will not hear this infonnadon ikim environmental activists, though, because they would not want to give industries any ex cuse to lower regulations on CO2 emissions. Furthermore, because the aerosols’ cooling ef fect merely is temporary, CO: must be ad dressed for the long term. However, if predic tions are true that we have only a few decades before the melting polar ice caps submerge Florida into the sea. then this issue should be addressed from all angles.
Much ofthe mass misconception about car bon dioxide has to do with numbers: humans produce more CO: than all <if the greenhouse gases combined. However, what people might not realize is that, when it comes to global warming, it is not just about quantity of green house gases, it also is about quality. For in stance, methane is 23 times stronger than CO2 in its warming effects; nitrous oxide, 296 times. Even though methane is weaker than nitrous oxide, the sheer amount of it in the at mosphere makes it a devastating greenhouse gas.
Animal agriculture plays the leading role in methane emissions, according to the United Nations report. It is responsible for 35-40% of all methane generated by human activity. Ani mal agriculture produces more than 100.000,- 000 tons of methane a year, and the figure is rising. As global demand for meat increases, so does the supply. From 1950-2002. world meat production went from 44,000.000 to 242.000.000 tons a year. Not only is the higher population driving the demand, people are consuming more meat individually. In the past 50 years alone, per capita consumption of meat has increased from 17 to 39 kilograms per person. As countries such as China and In dia adopt a more Western diet, demand for meat is rising rapidly, driving predictions that
giobal meat consumption will double again by 2020.
To compare which animal foods are the worst offenders, Eschel and Martin estimated that 56% of all non-CO; greenhouse gas emis sions come from beef, 29% from dairy, and 15% from pork. This includes enteric fermen tation, manure management, and nitrous oxide manure management. Most of the methane that is produced in animal agriculture comes from the digestive process of livestock, and most of that does not originate from the rear end of the animal, as one might expect, but rather from the front end during the benign act of exhalation. The amount of methane ema nating from one cow may seem negligible, but when you consider that a single cow can ex hale 634 quarts of methane per day and then multiply that by the 1,300,0(X),000 cows that are in die world today, it is not hard to see why this matter should be taken seriously.
Cess-pits of animal waste
The initial production of methane that comes from digestion (85%) is followed by an additional emission (15%) from massive “la goons,” a euphemism for cess-pits of untreat ed farm animal waste. To get a sen.se of exact ly how much waste we are talking about, con sider that farm animals produce 500.000.000 tons of manure annually. That is three times more raw waste than is made by U.S. citizens, according to USDA figures. Waste disposal becomes problematic when the manure in the lagoons leaches into ground and surface water or spills directly into lakes, streams, and rivers.
In fact the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that chicken, hog, and cattle excre ment has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.
Moreover, the amount of methane in the at mosphere has doubled since pre-industrial times. It does not help that human-produced methane stimulates the naturally produced va riety. Microbial decay of organic matter in wetlands is the number-one souree of natural methane. When temperatures in wedands rise due to human-induced global warming, the or ganic matter in wetlands decays more, releas ing even more natural methane. If we want to halt global wanning in its tracks, why not re duce or eliminate the primary source of meth ane, the potent greenhouse gas that is causing much (if not most) of the global warming we are seeing today? Simply switching from a meat-based lifestyle to a pure vegetarian—or vegan—one is the easiest, most efifecdve way to do this.
Not many people know that methane cycles out of the atmosphere iifter approximately 10 years, while CO2 takes at least 100 years to do so. Given that the average methane-producing animal is only allowed to live for one or two years, if everyone went vegetarian today, it should take about 10 years for animal agricul ture-induced methane emissions to disappear.
In contrast, even if affordable, zero-emissions cars and power plants were available today, it would take much longer for them to be built and then replace the older models. Meanwhile, you can walk into any supermarket and find vegetarian food.
It is too bad that those who are looking for ways to reduce their climate change footprint usually are not informed about the animal food-global warming connection. Environ mental organizations should consider vegetari anism advocacy as a core part of their agenda and frame it in a way that people can relate to, as did Eschel and Martin in explaining that the food [jeople eat is just as important as the type ofcars they drive.
According to their data, even if you nor mally eat about eight percent fewer animal products than the average American, by going vegan you still can decrease your greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount as switch ing from a normal sedan to a hybrid—and if you eat about eight pereent more animal prod ucts than the average American, by going veg an you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount as switching from an SUV to a normal sedan. If more Americans heard the argument framed in this way, they might feel less inclined to bring their normal sedan into the drive-through at the local fast food restaurant.
Finally, govemment policy should encourage vegetarian diets. Every five years, the USDA tells us what is best to eat in its “Dietary Guide for Americans.” Since 1995. when vegetarian ism was mentioned for the first dme by name, the guidelines have pushed people more and more towards plant foods. In 2()00, the guide urged, “Use plant foods as the foundation of your meals.” Then, from 2000-05, the quandty of fruits and vegetables a person should eat every day increased from 2’A to 4’A cups. The
daily intake of cholesterol (found only in ani mal foods), on the other hand, should not ex ceed 300 milligrams. That is the equivalent of just two small eggs. Try telling the average American that, afrer consuming two eggs sun nyside up for breakfast, he or she will be cut off from animal products for the rest of the day.
It seems that the USDA already knows that plants are good for our health, so putdng more vegetarian-friendly policies into place will benefit the planet’s health, too. How about an environmental tax on meat like the one recom
mended on gasoline, or shifting farm subsidies to privilege plant agriculture over animal agri culture? Perhaps that would prompt Al Gore to overcome his own inconvenient love of burgers and produce the sequel. “Meat: An In convenient Food.” *
Marisa MUler Wolfson. outreach coordinator for Global Green Foundation. Santa Monica. Calif, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching people about healthy, eco-friendly, humane living, is the producer of the feature length documentary, “Glass Walls.”

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