Billionaire Announces Plans to Produce “World’s Best Beef”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced an unusual new project: raising Wagyu cattle on his sprawling estate in Hawaii to produce what he calls “the highest quality beef in the world.”
Zuckerberg says he plans to feed the cattle a diet of macadamia nuts, dried fruits, and even beer in order to obtain exceptionally marbled Wagyu beef cuts that can sell for hundreds of dollars per pound at high-end restaurants and markets. He made the announcement in an Instagram post showing one of his daughters helping care for a calf.
Environmental Groups Voice Opposition
However, Zuckerberg’s plans have already drawn criticism from environmental groups like PETA and the Sierra Club over concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from cattle ranching as well as resource usage.
“Raising cattle for human consumption is an inherently climate-unfriendly endeavor,” said Sierra Club spokesperson Katie Jones. She pointed out that beef production requires vast amounts of feed, pasture land, and water while also generating large quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
PETA has called for Zuckerberg to invest in plant-based meat alternatives instead, arguing that meat production is inefficient and cruel to animals.
Years in the Making
Zuckerberg’s cattle venture has apparently been years in the making. He purchased the sprawling $200 million estate on the island of Kauai back in 2014. Since then, he has been steadily acquiring adjacent parcels of land to expand the property.
Land Purchases by Zuckerberg on Kauai
|Total Estate Size
The estate now spans over 1,300 acres on the pristine north shore of Kauai. In 2017, Zuckerberg faced legal battles with locals over land rights before reaching private agreements.
“Off-Grid Ranching Experience”
In his Instagram post, Zuckerberg framed cattle-raising as an educational project to teach his children about sustainable food production. However, an architect’s testimony in a zoning dispute revealed that the cattle facilities are part of a secluded “off-grid ranching experience.” Other infrastructure includes equestrian facilities, a shooting range, and private hideaways.
Critics on social media have characterized the luxury ranch as a billionaire’s hobby taken to the extreme. Some branded it as further evidence of rising economic inequality and resource inequity. Kauai locals have also accused Zuckerberg’s company of using aggressive tactics to block beach access.
The environmental organizations questioning Zuckerberg’s plans point to scientific research on cattle ranching’s sustainability issues:
- Ruminants like cows and sheep produce large quantities of methane from digesting grasses and feed. Methane is over 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat.
- Studies show beef has a far higher carbon footprint per gram of protein than common alternatives like chicken, pork, or plant proteins.
- Raising beef is estimated to require 28 times more land and 11 times more water than producing equivalent calories from staple crops.
Given these impacts, PETA and the Sierra Club argue that Zuckerberg’s resources would be better spent spurring a societal shift toward more sustainable meat alternatives instead of doubling down on emissions-intensive beef.
However, Zuckerberg has not acknowledged any issues with his plans so far. Only time will tell whether the criticism causes him to reconsider elements of the project. Either way, the episode illustrates the continued tensions over sustainability that flare up around billionaire’s personal endeavors in the age of climate change.
With the announcement made, Zuckerberg will likely continue acquiring land, constructing facilities, and amassing cattle over the coming months and years. One architecture firm’s documents reference plans for a major slaughterhouse complex down the line as well.
For environmental groups, the goal will be keeping public attention and pressure focused on the issues this kind of large-scale, private cattle ranching creates in the hope of compelling some changes or mitigation. However, their leverage is limited given it occurs on Zuckerberg’s private estate. Barring an unexpected shift, the billionaire seems intent on moving forward with raising luxury beef in Hawaii as a personal project regardless of opposition.
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