People generally believe that animal meat is a good source of protein. And, according to the DRI (dietary reference intake), humans are required to consume a certain amount of protein a day, based on their body weight, otherwise, body composition suffers. With the two thoughts combined, we begin adding bacon to our breakfast, chicken to our lunch, and steak to our dinner, in hopes that we get enough protein, so we don’t wither away. And while that makes sense for the most part, we’ve lost sight of the fact that billions of people are now consuming animal meat three times a day, and the process to make that possible is taking a major hit on our planet.
In a Q&A with environmentalist and author, Denis Hayes, “the amount of carbon dioxide that is given off per pound of beef is, in fact, greater than burning a gallon of gasoline”. And while there are many things we can do to reduce the carbon effects on the environment, such as taking shorter showers, changing your light bulbs, carpooling to work, or remembering to bring reusable bags when leaving the house, nothing impacts our environment like the choices we make in the cold aisles of the grocery store.
In 1961, the production of meat was at nearly 18 million tons; fast forward to 2014 and North America is sitting at just under 47 million tons of meat production on a yearly basis. Maybe you’re thinking those figures aren’t that bad; Asia went from 9 million tons to 135 million tons in the same time frame. But, let’s then factor in the rest of the world. You’re probably saying: “what about the growth in population?” Well, according to a recent worldwide statistic, “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”. If we continue the rate in which we are currently consuming, it is predicted that by 2050 we will be consuming about 1.2 trillion pounds a year of meat, putting further pressure on not only our environment but our health as well.
Currently, 30% of our land is taken up by animal farming. Agricultural farms contribute to issues such as water shortages, land degradation, pollution, and climate change. Factory farming pollutes our waterways with pesticides and fertilizers, not to mention it takes a water footprint of 2400gal/1lb of beef, coming from fresh water, which approximately 884 million people today do not have access to. If those numbers aren't unnerving, according to ecologist David Pimentel of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, if all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million. Instead, we round up hundreds of thousands of cattle, keep them nested in areas small enough to make them deranged; pump them full of genetically modified grains in order to speed up the process which qualifies them for slaughter. Then, we enjoy an anxiety-riddled, chemically-contaminated steak and wonder why rates of obesity, cancer and diabetes are peaking.
It's as simple as, you are what you eat, but if you don't know what what you’re eating is eating, how do you know what you are? Denis Hayes states, "one of the most negative things in human diets is high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose is being fed to the cows to make them obese. But by putting that on our plates and into our hamburgers, we’re also making ourselves obese." And not only that, 55% of ground beef sampled by the Environmental Working Group has been found to be contaminated. In 2015, the World Health Organization placed the risk of developing cancer from asbestos or smoking cigarettes as equivalent to that of eating meats like bacon.
Often, we celebrate holidays with a roast turkey or ham. While our culture has adopted those dishes as the ‘norm’, statistics suggest that only 7% of the population in America hunt annually, whether it’s for food or leisure, which leaves reason to believe that a large portion of the remaining 93% buy their meat from supermarkets. And I get it, it’s the beauty of convenience because, if dinner were left up to our own means - to hunt and gather like they did millions of years ago - I suspect people would begin implementing a more plant-based diet. Put it this way, grow your own plants for picking, or foster a cow to slay? If the idea of slaughtering animals doesn’t set you off, I’m not bothered at all, because I am in the belief that if you can hunt your meat, you deserve to feast. What I am not for, is the demand for ready-to-go steaks or freezer boxes full of chicken breast. The fact that, in one breath we’re discussing pork chops for dinner and in the next we’re in the check out on our way to pair whatever wine will go good with your choice of spice. No hard labour of our own was involved in the procurement of such luxury. And we’ll dine over the genetically-modified production that not only harmed the animals in the making, but the very land we depend on. We... times several billion...
These statistics are alarming, and they’ve certainly done enough to make me rethink the way I consume, to the point where, after last week`s article on consumption of sea life, and this week`s on meats, that I decided to go vegan for one month. Come back next week to see how that process went and the alarming facts I found about the plant-based diet.