Too Much Meat

13 08 2009
From: North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, 2009

From: North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, 2009

These days it is increasingly difficult to go through life without being exposed to vegetarianism in some way. Sure it all sounds great, but there are many of us who hold our steaks or strips of bacon too dear to give up. What few people know though, is how enormous the environmental impact of our meat consumption is. Consider these things:

  1. A meat-based diet requires 7 times as much land as a plant-based diet.
  2. Think about how much cropland we use to feed animals instead of people?
  3. Forests worldwide are continuously being converted to pastures for farm animals – which obviously contributes to deforestation.
  4. Animal food requires 10 to 20 times more energy per edible tone than grain.
  5. Fish farms often spawn disease which spreads to the natural ocean through escaped fish
  6. Over-fishing of wild species has resulted in serious decline of many populations as well as full exploitations of species like Atlantic Cod in the Maritimes.
  7. The quantity of waste produced by farm animal in the U.S. is 130 times greater than that produced by humans. Most of this runs off the land into water systems killing fish and other wildlife.

 By no means am I encouraging everyone to go vegetarian (I certainly don’t intend to do so), but we need to consider how much meat we actually consume and look at how much is actually necessary. As it stands, Canadians annually consume about 98 Kilograms of Pork, Poultry, and Beef per person. The Canadian Food Guide suggests we need about 82 Kg annually, and that’s if we never eat any fish, peanut butter, or beans, all of which can be substituted for meat. If we simply cut back on consumption we can do a great deal of good. And even better, look for organic meats, or buy some venison off of a friend during hunting season.  

Meat consumption in 1999: http://www.allcountries.org/uscensus/1370_per_capita_consumption_of_meat_and.html

Environmental impacts of meat production: http://www.pnas.org/content/96/11/5995.abstract

The Canadian Food Guide: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/choose-choix/meat-viande/serving-portion-eng.php

Some more environmental impacts of meat consumption: http://veg.ca/content/view/133/111/

A pretty disturbing slide show on factory farming: http://www.treehugger.com/galleries/2009/05/what-does-inside-factory-farm-look-like.php?page=1

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7 responses

13 08 2009
Steve

Excellent piece! My wife has recently chosen to become vegetarian, but I enjoy meat too much to do so. At the same time, aware of the issues you point out so clearly and succinctly, I have drastically cut back on my meat intake.

Thanks!

13 08 2009
Sustainability II « everyday theology

[…] Jump to Comments Just found this great post by Tyler Bradt at We Are Informed on sustainability and the meat industry.  Notice that neither […]

13 08 2009
Neal

As a cattle producer I can tell you that while animals do require more acreage, much of the land on which they graze (in the western half of the US at least) is either abandoned from crop farming or unfit for crop farming to begin with.

I believe in balanced diets, and in the saying “If God didn’t intend for us to eat animals, He would not have made them out of meat.”

13 08 2009
Tyler Bradt

I don’t doubt that Neal. But not all of our meat comes from North America. For instance, upwards of 10 million hectares of rainforest have been deforested for livestock grazing in Brazil. I believe in a balanced diet as well, the problem is, our diets aren’t balanced. They are quite heavy on the protien, especially when it comes from cows, pigs, and chickens.

18 08 2009
wolfshowl

People are made out of meat too, Neal. Do you eat them?

18 08 2009
Ashwini

You are so right in highlighting the environmental detriment of meat production. Since the UN published the report last September revealing the instrumental role of meat production in global warming, there has been a renewed effort to reduce regular meat consumption. A non-profit initiative that I intern with to encourages a reduction in meat consumption for this reason as well as to improve reduce the risk of preventable diseases is Meatless Monday, a project of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The website has a wealth of information, from recipes to nutrition news: http://www.meatlessmonday.com.
For more on the campaign, check out the Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpnKeYmR1NM.

25 08 2009
nestlines

This issue is very severe in most sub-saharan countries where the grazing of cattle is wiping our ecosystem and increasing desertification. It is not about encouraging people to be vegetarians but this is a situation that needs to be checked. These ethnic groups are so culturally inclined to cattle raring as such that no one is left back to replace an eaten up forest with just a tree. I believe that if information from your site can be channel down to such masses much will be done to our enviroment.

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