It is easy to overlook the impact meat production has on our environment. In order to feed an ever growing population, meat production is maximized in ways that are not beneficial to our planet.
One of the major environmental impacts of producing meat for human consumption is the amount of land that is required to raise the meat. Eating a meat diet uses seven times more land than a plant based diet. The reason for the huge difference is because of the large amount of food that livestock needs to eat. It takes on average 6.2 pounds of corn to produce a pound of beef. Pigs are worse, it takes 8.4 pounds of feed to produce a pound of pork, and chickens are better only taking 3.4 pounds of feed to produce a pound of meat. Livestock can be fed by grazing or by growing crops to feed the animals. The two methods of feeding livestock combined take up nearly seventy percent of earth’s ice free land. Much of the Amazon rain forest has been cleared out to allow for grazing land for livestock.
“The livestock sector is a major stress or on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity, while in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution.” – 2006 report Livestock’s Long Shadow
A great amount of livestock also means a great amount of greenhouse gasses. The main gasses being released include methane and nitrous oxide. A lot of pesticides and fertilizers needed for agricultural growth that feeds meat sources are made from fossil fuels. Still, there are many farmers who choose to only grow their produce organically using only natural fertilizers therefore leaving a much smaller carbon footprint. Local farmers who care about the environment will often put a lot more effort towards organic growth, which is also a lot better for the health of the animal to be consuming natural products.
In conclusion, a possible solution to the issues we have in meat production may be to eat less meat and replace meat with other things such as vegetables and foods with less negative environmental impact so long as we are finding a healthy balance and not substituting between food depravity and nutrition. When buying meat it is good to look for organic labels. It would also be beneficial to continually monitor and look for ways to improve meat production.
We can contribute to the efforts of the F.A.O. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) that make their goal ” the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.” to do our part in environmental sustainability concerning meat production.
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