Eating Less Meat
Posted by Richard Conniff on September 12, 2011
Sunday’s (UK) Guardian has an article on the environmental benefits of eating less meat. It turns out, instead, to be largely a pitch for eating a fungus-derived protein with the very ill-conceived name quorn.
It also contains this unintentionally laughable tidbit:
Meat-reducing, as the marketers have branded it, may just have acquired fresh momentum. Self-confessed king carnivore Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has switched from meat to vegetables as his latest celebrity cause.
But maybe I am just too far across The Atlantic to have experienced the cultural tsunami that is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Even so, these paragraphs in the article are of interest:
The two most pressing reasons for cutting back on meat today are climate change and global population growth. The post-war years have seen an explosion in the numbers of animals intensively reared for meat and milk. This livestock revolution, and the change in land use that has gone with it, however, now contribute nearly one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Most people could do more for the climate by cutting meat than giving up their car and plane journeys.
The UN predicts that the number of farm animals will double by 2050. Except, of course, it can’t. The livestock of Europe already require an area of vegetation seven times the size of Europe to keep them in feed. If people in emerging economies start eating as much meat as we do, there simply won’t be enough planet.
Intensive meat production is a very inefficient way of feeding the world. Farm a decent acre with cattle and you can produce about 20lbs of beef protein. Give the same acre over to wheat and you can produce 138lbs of protein for human consumption. If the grain that is currently used to feed animals were fed instead directly to people, there may be just enough food to go round when population peaks.
Replacing meat with more plant foods would also reduce diet-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and some cancers, according to reports in the Lancet.