Why You Should Cut Back On Meat
Part 1- Meat Production
Our love for food binds us together, whether spending quality time with family at the dinner table having a nice homely meal or catching up with old friends in a restaurant. A lot of our food memories are attached to that delicious steak or a juicy hamburger, meat protein that we cannot get enough of. But while enjoying these succulent goodies, we are oblivious to the fact that they are industrially produced.
Most widely consumed are pork (38%), poultry (30%), and beef (25%)
Global land allocated to livestock, either in the form of grazing land or cropland used for animal feed is equivalent to the area of the Americas (North, Central and South America combined!)
Animal rearing for meat requires a large amount of land, food, and water in which causes a high amount of Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG), making it unsustainable.
A great majority of the meat that makes it to our plate is produced in factory farms, that require a large amount of land to sustain intensive processing. This comes at the cost of forest habitats through cutting and burning, to provide land for grazing and growing fodder.
a) Image by Amber Kipp On Unsplash. b) Image by Peter Kleinau on Unsplash. c) Image by Joanne Mcarthur on Unsplash.
Case in point is the destruction of the South American Amazon Forest. Often referred to as “Lungs of the Earth”, this massive ecosystem, through deforestation, is now on the brink of collapse. This has also put to risk the entire climate pattern of the region, causing a decrease in annual rainfall and an increase in carbon dioxide due to the burning of forests.
In fact meat production comes second to none in taking up major proportion of land. As per Greenpeace, "just 1kg of chicken meat takes 3.2kg of crops to produce".
As indicated in the table below, it takes less land to grow food directly for people, than it does to feed cattle.
In addition to forest destruction and land consumption, industrial meat production also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, majorly through manure excretion from cattle and the use of chemical fertilizers.
Chemical fertilizers and manures also pose threat to soil and underground water sources through a phenomenon known as Eutrophication. This causes the seeping of excess nitrogen and nutrients into soils and waterways, polluting our ecosystem.
Image Source: Noun Project. Licensed under CC-BY by the author Hannah Ritchie Our World in Data.
Twice as many emissions result from land use for livestock, 16%, as crops, 8%, for human consumption
GHG emission from livestock is greater than all emissions from transport means put together!
Meat processing and waste generation:
Waste in the food industry is characterized by a high ratio of product-specific waste. In the meat industry, most of the waste product is produced during slaughtering (parts that did not fit for human consumption-skin, tendon), and during washing carcasses, processing offal (consumable internal organs), and cleaning equipment.
What Can Be Done?
Strengthening policies and repercussion measures on clearing ecosystems for grazing
Environmental expert consultation and involvement in nutrient optimization plan to prevent excess fertilization application for fast crop growth, and improve soil health
Conservation tillage construction and implementation to reduce run-off and seepage into underground sources
Processing facilities with strict hygienic control to process manure and slaughterhouse waste
The single most important way for individuals to combat the environmental effects of meat production is switching to a plant-based diet