Over the past few years, the consumption of meat has been soaring to great numbers. Meat is among the most consumed foods in the world with the per capita meat consumption increasing by 20kg from 1961. But have you ever asked yourself what impact eating this meat has on the environment?
With each person across the world consuming around 43 KGs of meat per year, this means that every other year over ten million animals die. However, as much as slaughtering these animals is benefiting the environment and maintaining a balance, the demand for meat has caused the rearing of more livestock. Therefore, this has had a great impact on the environment and the atmosphere in general because meat mainly comes from animals.
The linkbetween meat and the environment
Meat comes from animals which are mostly herbivorous, meaning that they have to eat plants to grow. The product is a type of food, making it a major basic necessitythat we as human beings require to survive. It helps with the development of our body and makes certain that we have the necessary energy to live, work, play, interact and function or operate our daily routines. Without food, chances are that we would be non-existencebecause we have to eat to live.
The link between meat and the environment is mainly seen in where it is gotten from. Meat is from animals which are either taken care of by people or from the forests. However, these animals require food too and most of them eat plants that grow from the soil. Plants are responsible for the production of foods such as beans, maize, peas, vegetables, and fruits among others while animals are responsible for foods such as milk, eggs, and meat. With the growing population of the world, the demand for food has been growing significantly. Plants require soil to grow and based on the over-cultivation of most lands, there has to be additional fertilizers and chemicals to help the plants grow. Most of these chemicals, despite them being effective for plant production are impactful to the environment in regards to the soil that they are put in, the air, and also water. For instance, fertilizers contain nitrogen-basedgases which are a threat to the Ozone layer and a contributive element of the greenhouse effect. It is no doubt that the food system contributes around 20-30% of the global human-made greenhouse gas emissions that deplete the Ozone layer.
Impact of extensive meat consumption
Regions that have a lot of livestock have experienced devastating impacts on their atmosphere. In regions such as Australia, livestock rearing contributes to around 40% of the Greenhouse emission gasses hindering the sustainability of the earth. With these continuing trends, the lives of those that will come after are under threat and there will have to be other sources of food production since the ground might be too much affected. As discussed within the module, the consumption patterns DRIVE production sees mainly the use of land where it begins from the input of fertilizers, manure and pesticides to land use through farming and then later on to the transport, processing, food preparation and waste disposal. These later stages also contribute around 5-10% of the global GHG emissions while the input stages contribute to around 14.5%. With these values, farming and food production by itself is a threat to the sustainability of the earth in the long run.
The demand for meat is evidently clear to come from the rising population across the globe and this is limiting the biodiversity aspect greatly. The rise in population is causing an increase in the demand forfood more so the resource-intensive foods such as meat and this haveled to increasedbiodiversity losses. Meat comes mainly from animals such as cows, sheep, and goat among others. The animals require plant material to survive and as such, leading to the agricultural expansion in areas that were not cultivated before. The creation of new land is often used to feed livestock and also plant crops, factors that are leading to encroachment of land and fragmentation of the ecosystems (FCRN Foodsource, 2019). Over the last 40 years, forinstance, the pressures from cultivation, pasture, infrastructure, and forestry have been driving biodiversity low impacting the sustainability of the earth. Livestock also producesmethane gas which is a contributive agent to the GHG gases that impact the sustainability of the earth. This is another example of how the food system is impacting the sustainability of the earth in general.
What can be done?
Meat is a fraction of the various foods that are available to human beings. Furthermore, studies have proved that eating meat frequently can be unhealthy. Therefore, instead of having to overgraze and rear a lot of livestock that will impact sustainability, we can focus on planting more trees to counter the gasses produced by these animals. Trees are essential in removing Carbon from the air and other gases and as such, this can make certain that there arelesser GHG emissions.
Additionally, there ought to be some creation of awareness about sustainability. Adopting the sustainability intensification strategy that focuses on addressing the impact that the food system, inclusive of cattle rearing has had on climate change. With the rising global population and the demand for food, which is both, directly and indirectly, impacting climate change, sustainable intensification has been considered as being effective to some degree or angle. With sustainable intensification, the focus is mainly on “simultaneously raising yields, increasing the efficiency with which inputs are used and reducing the negative environmental effects of food production” (Foresight, 2011). The increase in yield will cover for the increase in demand forfood while the increase in efficiency and reduction in the negativeeffects of food production will cater tothe reduction in GHG emissions. It is a modern way of farming that is more directed towards the realizationof sustainability.
As a people, we owe it to our future generations to take care of the environment and that will not happen if we continue to keep more and more livestock. We have to focus on building up sustainability in any way possible because the state at which the earth is right now, it is deteriorating fast.