Saturday, February 18, 2012


USA (Scientific American) - Our meat consumption habits take a serious toll on the environment. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the production, processing and distribution of meat requires huge outlays of pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, feed and water while releasing greenhouse gases, manure and a range of toxic chemicals into our air and water. Livestock are typically fed corn, soybean meal and other grains which have to first be grown using large amounts of fertilizer, fuel, pesticides, water and land. EWG estimates that growing livestock feed in the U.S. alone requires 167 million pounds of pesticides and 17 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer each year across some 149 million acres of cropland. The process generates copious amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, while the output of methane - another potent greenhouse gas - from cattle is estimated to generate some 20 percent of overall U.S. methane emissions.

Ecologist David Pimentel of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences says the seven billion livestock in the U.S. consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire U.S. population. Our meat consumption habits also cause other environmental problems. Four-fifths of the deforestation across the Amazon rainforest can be linked to cattle ranching. And the water pollution from factory farms can produce as much sewage waste as a small city, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Further, the widespread use of antibiotics to keep livestock healthy on those overcrowded CAFOs has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that threaten human health and the environment in their own right.  Eating too much meat is no good for our health, with overindulgence linked to increasing rates of heart disease, cancer and obesity. Worldwide, between 1971 and 2010, production of meat tripled to around 600 billion pounds while global population grew by 81 percent, meaning that we are eating a lot more meat than our grandparents.

A lifecycle analysis conducted by EWG that took into account the production and distribution of 20 common agricultural products found that red meat such as beef and lamb is responsible for 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as common vegetables and grains.  The grain currently fed to some seven billion livestock in the United States could feed nearly 800 million people directly.  Lets use agriculture products to feed humans instead of feeding bred animals.

You have to feed 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to a cow to produce one pound of edible beef. In other words, to produce 500 pounds of meat on a 700 pound cow requires that the cow consume 8,000 pounds of grains and soybeans. And you can feed many, many more people with 8,000 pounds of grains and beans than with the 500 pounds of beef. ... Any beef producer will admit that he buys (or grows) far more pounds of feed for his cattle than what he sells as meat. Meat production is horribly wasteful. Meat feeds a few at the expense of many. Futurists predict that, as the population of the world grows, vegetarian diets will be the norm, since the limited resources of the planet will be unable to supply the demands required to produce meat. ... And then consider the ethical argument: it is estimated that 20,000,000 people per year die of malnutrition throughout the world.

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