Thursday, November 4, 2010

Science OR Fiction

This post is an idea I have taken from the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast, which has a weekly segment by the same name. Science or fiction will work slightly differently on Vegan Skeptic. I will find three claims made within the vegan community, two based in truth and one entirely fictitious. I will give you a quote where the claim was made and its original source. Your goal is to read through the claims and decide for yourself which one is the fiction. I will then give the answers at the bottom of the post and cite first hand sources affirming or contradicting each of the claims.

Item 1: “Aurora Dairy/Horizon Organic (owned by Dean Foods) is one large, organic-certified farm that got caught violating 14 organic dairy laws, including confining their animals and denying them grazing.” Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Life.

Item 2: “Beef would cost $30 a pound if it weren't subsidized.” Best answer to this question.
“If beef weren't subsidized, it would cost about 30 dollars a pound for the consumer.” Blog post for a Vegan Restaurant

Item 3: “one medium egg contains a massive 213 mg of cholesterol. Considering that the recommended daily intake of cholesterol is 300 mg maximum daily, the consumption of even one egg per day closes in on recommended maximum dosages.” Vegan Animal Blog

Here is an image to prevent you from cheating ahead to the answers while you make up your mind:
Bizarro Catch and Release Comic

Item 1: Science
Read the Notice of Proposed Revocation filed with the USDA for yourself. There are 14 violations listed, several of which seem to involve confinement and denial of grazing.

Item 2: Fiction
US beef production in 2009 was 26.07 billion pounds according to the USDA and has remained in the high 20-billions for the past several years.

All farm subsidies paid by the US government in 2009 amounted to $15.4 billion dollars (Typical years may be anywhere from 10-25 billion)

Even if all of these subsidies went solely to reducing the cost of beef, ignoring all other meats and all other agricultural products, this would still amount to only a 59 cent subsidy per pound of beef in 2009 and a similar amount in other recent years. It is difficult to see the price of beef jumping to $30 a pound simply by removing these subsidies.

Item 3: Science
When we go to the supermarket to find eggs, virtually all the eggs we see available for sale are advertised as large or extra-large, so we have become fairly accustomed to these as being an ordinary size for the eggs we buy and would likely call an egg advertised as being large as being fairly medium in our own experience. In actuality other egg sizes are sold. In the United States, medium eggs range from 50-57 grams while large eggs range from 57-64 grams (other nations have different standards). According to Wolfram Alpha, a medium egg contains between 123 and 159 milligrams of cholesterol while a large egg contains between 184 and 239 milligrams of cholesterol. The estimate of 213 milligrams seems pretty reasonable for what is classified as a large egg in the United States; although, it would be entirely reasonable to refer to this as “medium” in standard parlance.


  1. Great post once again. I guessed correctly too!

  2. Thanks. I actually looked through your blog for possible science items to use for this post, but you cite all your sources well enough that it doesn't leave much for me to add to.

  3. awe, Im flattered, BTW sorry for biting on your blog name, didnt know about it at first
    Now I gotta get to posting more before you scoop any of the good stories. (Im mummifying a veggie burger like those old mcdonalds meals, so dont touch that one)
    You are currently #1 on my list of blogs, keep up the good work.

  4. @Item 2. According to sierraclub, the "true cost" of a lb of factory farmed beef is $815s- - and some people have tried saying that without subsidize beef would be $815 a lb (~16tril in subsidies for the US). But they ignored that the video said plantation non-organic tomatoes would also be in the 100s of dollars.

    $30 a pound would be less than the true cost though if you use the true cost of a gallon of oil/gas as being $30 (I think that number is in this video