Written by: Grace Girzadas
The worldwide meat industry is a huge contributor to global climate change and environmental deterioration due to the vast amount of resources it takes to raise livestock for consumption. In 2017, it was estimated that 52 billions pounds of meat were produced in the United States. This large-scale production of animal products and meat account for around 54 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing food. Specifically, beef production is the most-resource intensive and is responsible for the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions of any animal product.
The high production of greenhouse gasses are a direct result of the resources that it takes to produce animal products for human consumption. For example, the meat production industry is extremely water-intensive. It takes approximately 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat, whereas it only takes 25 gallons of water to grow a pound of wheat. With limited freshwater resources on our planet, these high levels of water usage are detrimental to the environment.
Additionally, global meat production creates land and water pollution at a huge scale. Pollutants such as animal waste, hormones, and fertilizers end up in waterways and damage natural habitats and ecosystems. The meat industry also requires large tracts of land to raise their livestock. In order to provide the land needed for industrial meat production, natural ecosystems and habitats are destroyed. Believe it or not, the amount of land used for livestock production is around 80 percent of all land used for agriculture.
So what is the solution? If the global population would be willing to reduce the amount of meat and animal products we consume, we would likely start to see an immediate drop in the amount of methane produced. Why? Because a drop in demand for the meat production industry would result in a reduction in the amount of livestock raised, and therefore the amount of resources consumed. Of all ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses produced, lowering the amount of animal product cultivation globally would have the most rapid impact on the environment.
If we all do our part to rethink the amount of animal products we consume - whether that be transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian diet or simply increasing the amount of meatless meals in our diets - we can create a positive impact in our environment. Let us know your favorite vegetarian meal to cook in the comments below!