We are eating more and more meat. Why? Firstly, because there are simply more of us. Secondly, because more of us are able to buy meat. This last point is obviously good news, since it means that we are eating a more balanced diet. However, it also has negative consequences.
In effect, livestock farming is expanding to satisfy the growing demand for meat. Grazing animals require space, which is often reclaimed from our forests. Animals reared intensively on factory Farms—in reduced, confined spaces— need huge quantities of fodder and cereals: it takes 15 Ib (7 kilograms) of soya or corn to produce 2 Ib (1 kilogram) of beef, as opposed to just 4 Ib (2 kilograms) to produce chicken. Much of the land used for soya crops used to be part of the Amazon rainforest. Deforestation releases large amounts of greenhouse gases. If you include the emissions directly produced by the animals and farms, livestock rearing is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Intensive livestock farming has other harmful effects on the environment. It takes between 260 and 530 gallons (1,000ñ2,000 liters) of water to produce 2.2 Ib (1 kilogram) of wheat
, which means in turn that it takes more than 2,640 gallons (10,000 liters) of water to produce 2.2 Ib of beef. Antibiotics and hormones are also added to the animals’ feed, modifying their environment. Finally, the animals are often reared and killed in terrible conditions, thus raising ethical concerns.
For people who eat meat several times a week, reducing meat consumption is therefore an easy and effective way of saving the planet. Failing this, choosing free-range rather than factory-farmed meat, preferably labeled, is better both for the environment and for the welfare of the animals. Switching from beef to meats that create less pollution, such as poultry, is another strategy. Protecting the environment also means protecting yourself: consuming too much meat can contribute to a range of health issues such as obesity, cancer, and heart disease.