The United States shares the top spot with Australia as the country that consumes the most meat. Low-income countries around the world eat the least meat. The largest segment of U.S. agriculture is the meat and poultry industry, which produced 52 billion pounds of meat and 48 billion pounds of poultry in 2017.
One reason for the growth of meat production is the growing population. The industry feeds about 326 million Americans. Despite that, a survey by the Cambridge University shows two-thirds of Americans are reducing meat consumption for health and environmental reasons.
The Environmental Impact of Meat Consumption
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explains raising animals for food requires a huge amount of food, land, energy, and water. Animal agriculture generates more greenhouse gasses (GHG) globally compared to the world’s transportation systems.
A study explains animal products comprised 70 to 78 percent of the total agricultural emissions. They are a major contributor to food-related GHG emissions. The causes include:
- Low feed-conversion efficiencies
- Manure-related emissions
- Enteric fermentation in ruminants
Additionally, farmers have to use a massive amount of water to raise crops to feed animals, give them water to drink, and clean factory farms. For instance, a cow consumers up to 50 gallons of water daily, and more in hot weather. The animal also has to take in 683 gallons of water to produce a gallon of milk.
Animal fat waste is also a problem to sewers, especially if not disposed of properly. GF Commodities explains food processing plants and commercial kitchens produce a large amount of grease and fats. But they can be made into cleaner fuel.
Experts encourage people to reduce meat intake as much as possible to minimize their impact on the environment. You may also shift to a vegan diet to help minimize the effect of climate change.
Keeping Your Body and the Environment Healthy
The concept of eating less meat is becoming more popular. When you cut back or give up meat consumption, you not only help the environment but also improve your health.
Although red meat strengthens muscles and boosts calcium for healthy bones, science shows it has a correlation with causing heart disease. Studies funded by meat and dairy companies, however, counter studies linking meat consumption to negative health effects.
The human digestive system is meant for consuming a plant-based diet. Human teeth are also not for eating meat but for chopping vegetables and fruits. Eating meat, dairy, and eggs in a single meal triggers inflammation in the body. Saturated fats from animal products stress your gut lining.
A plant-based diet, like the Mediterranean diet, provides the nutrients your body needs and protect your body against various health problems. Eating more vegetables and fruits also make you more energetic and stay slim; you may even save money.
As plant-based diets become popular, you’ll find several delicious recipes you can enjoy as much as eating meat. Several stores and restaurants are also including plant-based alternatives to their menu.
Climate change is a global crisis that needs solutions immediately. Changing your diet is one way to do that. You don’t need to eliminate meat from your diet right away. Let your body adjust to the changes. And consult a nutritionist to guide you in transitioning to a meatless diet.