Here, take a look.
Snow's BBQ in Lexington, Texas, was rated the best barbecue in the state by Texas Monthly in 2008.
Daniel Vaughn, BBQ editor at Texas Monthly, and the No.1 carnivore I know — this is a man who has developed white bumps on his tongue, apparently from failing to eat nonmeat food groups — helped me dissect the meal. Note the salt-and-pepper "bark" at the edge of the meat, the red tree rings where the smoke that cooks the beef, slowly, overnight, has left its artistic mark. The cloudlike strips of beef were so tender locals insist you peel them apart with your fingers, not a fork and knife.
Knowing the beef's backstory only adds to the experience.
The barbecue "pitmaster" at Snow's is 80-year-old Norma Frances Tomanetz. White hair, red apron. Everyone calls her "Tootsie." Tootsie's shift starts at 9 p.m. and ends the next day after about 600 pounds of beef have been served. Her recipe is simple: salt and pepper. And, in addition to working here — again, at age 80 — she also serves as a middle-school custodian, helps manage a cattle ranch and takes care of two sick family members. (They could use your prayers, by the way.)
Texas beef people are lovably tough.
You want to root for them.
But there's "an inconvenient truth" about beef consumption, too, as I would discover on a trip through the supply chain of that meal: Beef is awful for the climate.
Don't blame me alone for bearing the bad news. In a Facebook poll, thousands of you overwhelmingly voted for me to report on meat's contribution to climate change as part of CNN's Two° series. You commissioned this highly personal topic over more widely feared climate change bad guys such as coal, deforestation and car pollution.
Cattle and climate?
They're not often used in the same sentence.
But eating beef, as I'll explain, has come to be seen, rightly, in certain enviro circles, as the new SUV — a hopelessly selfish, American indulgence; a middle finger to the planet. It's not the main driver of global warming — that's burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation — but it does contribute significantly.
Globally, 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas pollution can be attributed to livestock, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the most reputable authority on this topic. And a huge hunk of the livestock industry's role — 65% — comes from raising beef and dairy cattle.
Take a look at how beef compares with other foods.
The world is faced with the herculean task of trying to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, measured as an increase of global temperature since the start of the Industrial Revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels. That's the point at which climate change is expected to get especially dangerous, leading to megadroughts, mass extinctions and a sea-level rise that could wipe low-lying countries off the map. That one little number — 2 degrees — is the subject of international negotiations in December in Paris, which are critical if we're to avert catastrophe.