The Meat Industry

Nov 19th, 2010 | By | Category: Youth Blog

While researching new developments in sustainability, I came across the meat industry. As a self-turned vegetarian, I am not a fan of the meat industry. Inhumane, a source of industrial pollution, and carrying  both health and environmental consequences, the meat industry is growing at a rapid rate. In fact, scientists predict that the industry will effectively double by 2020. Through the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford, scientists were able to look at how to reduce the negative effects while enhancing the positive attributes. Free-roaming livestock farms are dwindling as the majority of meat production is moving to meatpacking industrial centers. This concentration of meat has many negative environmental effects from runoff to how the animals are treated. According to the scientists working on this project, “The global livestock industry uses dwindling supplies of freshwater, destroys forests and grasslands, and causes soil erosion, while pollution and the runoff of fertilizer and animal waste create dead zones in coastal areas and smother coral reefs.” According to the LEAD (livestock environment and development) initiative, livestock production accounts for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, including 9 percent of carbon dioxide and 37 percent of methane gas emissions worldwide. More than two-thirds of all agricultural land is devoted to growing feed for livestock, while only 8 percent is used to grow food for direct human consumption. These statistics are startling-more time and energy are spent cultivating meat than basic grains, fruits, and vegetables.

As these scientists attempted to calculate the cost of meat, they came across many problems. Accounting for all the different factors needed is a daunting task. Harold Mooney, a senior professor at Stanford, explained it simply, “Consider the piece of ham on your breakfast plate, and where it came from before landing on your grocery store shelf. First, take into account the amount of land used to rear the pig. Then factor in all of the land, water and fertilizer used to grow the grain to feed the pig and the associated pollution that results. Finally, consider that while a small percentage of the ham may have come from Denmark, where there are twice as many pigs as people, the grain to feed the animal was likely grown in Brazil, where rainforests are constantly being cleared to grow more soybeans, a major source of pig feed.” There is so much interconnection that plays into the meat industry. Meat consumption in one country may affect another nation, a thousand miles away.

It is impossible to expect the world to stop eating meat. Meat has been a staple food source for thousands of years. However, to battle this problem, people simply need to make better choices. Better management techniques could be used to deal with water and land conservation. And buying locally grown produce makes an immense difference on the environment as well. Hopefully, our need for meat won’t destroy our environment and our planet.

To learn more, visit http://woods.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/evp.php?name=livestock

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