How the meat industry is harming the planet

The average per capita consumption of meat and total amount of meat consumed is higher than it has ever been, according to a report published by Journal of Science.

Our taste for meat is increasing even faster than the world population. This imbalance has been a growing trend for years and is having harmful effects on both the environment and people’s health.

The rate of population growth, in turn, increases the demand for meat. This, coupled with the increase of individual average income which means more people can afford to eat meat, means that more and more of us are consuming it.


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The rate of growth in meat consumption varies across different countries. Nations with high overall incomes show a static or declining meat demand, whereas middle-income nations have a moderate to strong increase. Low-income countries have a low or stable demand for meat.

According to an article released by The Economist in 2011, the combined global total of chickens (19-billion), cows (1.5-billion), pigs (1-billion), and sheep (1-billion) in the world outnumbered humans by three to one. Read the article here.


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The livestock farming industry produces higher carbon emissions than those that grow vegetables, fruits and grains. It is accountable for 15% of all of the globe’s carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.

Mother Nature is further battered by meat production due to forests being converted into agricultural fields used to grow animal feed which affects the natural biodiversity. Water resources like rivers and lakes also take a knock and are depleted by being used for the irrigation of livestock feed.

Along with these problems, a meat-heavy diet can also have detrimental effects on people themselves, causing various health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, colorectal cancer and diabetes.

The growth in chicken meat consumption will be responsible for nearly half of the meat consumption in the next 10 years, according to OECD. Switching from red meat to chicken may be less impactful on the environment in terms of detrimental greenhouse gas emission production. However, with the growing population demanding more meat, this is not a sustainable solution to the fundamental issues livestock farming poses.

Due to these reasons, there’s a growing movement towards more planet-friendly and plant-based diets that include less meat and byproducts from chickens, cows and pigs and incorporate more vegetarian foods.

Read the full report from the Journal of Science here.


Image source: Pixabay


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