Want to Save the Planet? It’s Time to Rethink the Way You Eat

We’ve all read the numerous arguments against eating red meat: the increased risk of hardened arteries leading to heart attacks, the likelihood of dying earlier, all those extra hormones you might be ingesting, the animal cruelty factor, and many more.

According to a Harvard study that Care2 previously reported on, one serving of red meat a day increases the risk of early death by 13 percent. The same single daily serving of processed meat (like bacon or hot dog) increases that risk by 20 percent. By the way, one serving means just six ounces.

National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people also found that those who ate the most red meat daily were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause during a 10-year period than were those who ate the least amount of red meat.

In addition to being harmful to our health and longevity, we are realizing more and more that eating red meat is also bad for the environment.

Despite these troubling findings, red meat is still a #1 choice for many families.

Instead of cutting out red meat altogether, a new study suggests that by cutting back to two portions of red meat a week, meat-eaters could help reduce the devastating effects of climate change caused by increased agricultural production.

Eating Red Meat Destroys The Environment

The focus of this new research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is on the fact that eating red meat doesn’t just kill people, it is also destroying our environment.

Researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Aberdeen found that population growth and the trend for Westerners eating more meat means that soon farmers will not be able to raise enough livestock.

They also warn that attempting to produce more meat could be devastating for the environment. That’s because of all the increased deforestation, fertilizer use and livestock methane emissions, which are likely to cause greenhouse gas emissions from food production to rise by almost 80 percent by 2050, the scientists warn.

If we maintain current trends in food production, by 2050 cropland will have expanded by 42 per cent and fertilizer use will have  increased by 45 percent over 2009 levels. The report also suggests that a further tenth of the world’s pristine tropical forests would disappear over the next 35 years.

Is all that destruction really worth it for a plate of steak and fries that is also hurting our health?

The report suggests that even if every other industry cut carbon emissions to zero, the food industry alone could create severe climate change, unless we make radical changes to our diets.

The Severe Damage to the Environment Caused by Livestock Production

It was this argument that made me abandon red meat several years ago. Meat impacts the environment so severely because livestock require so much more land, food, water and energy than plants to raise and transport. Producing a four-ounce (quarter pound) hamburger, for example, requires seven pounds of grain and forage, 53 gallons of drinking water and water for irrigating feed crops, and 75 square feet of land for grazing and growing feed crops.

Whereas, of course, that grain and water could be put to much better use.

Lead researcher Bojana Bajzelj, from the University of Cambridge’s department of engineering, was adamant: “It is imperative to find ways to achieve global food security without expanding crop or pastureland. Food production is a main driver of biodiversity loss and a large contributor to climate change and pollution, so our food choices matter.”

It’s not just about pursuing sustainable agriculture, although that is clearly important. We need to do more than that. As co-author Professor Pete Smith, from the University of Aberdeen, added: “As well as encouraging sustainable agriculture, we need to re-think what we eat.”

Are we ready to make some serious changes in what we eat?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

115 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

100% agree

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Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

IS Ranching, Grassland Grazing really destructive; Vegans think so. Are they biased? They demonize Red Meat when it is one of the most ecologically sound animal husbandry practices. What is more natural, than Sunshine growing Grass?

The role of grasslands in food security and ... - Annals of Botany
aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/110/6/1263.full.pdf‎
Ruminants are efficient converters of grass into humanly edible energy ... the US Geological Survey provides a global land area classifi- cation by ecosystem type ...... esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm (accessed 17 July 2011). Van Ginkel JH ...

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Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

Biased Blame Game;
Grasslands make a significant contribution to food security through providing part of the feed requirements of ruminants used for meat and milk production. Globally, this is more important in food energy terms than pig meat and poultry meat. Grasslands are considered to have the potential to play a key role in greenhouse gas mitigation, particularly in terms of global carbon storage and further carbon sequestration. Ref:

The role of grasslands in food security and climate change
aob.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/09/21/aob.mcs209.full‎
21 Sep 2012 ... Ruminants are efficient converters of grass into humanly edible energy .... In the United States and Australia, beef cattle are usually reared on pasture ...... 2011. http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm (accessed 17 July 2011). ↵.

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Erik Roth
Ernest R2 years ago

@ JC C " "Is Meat Sustainable?" Not with the unlimited increase of population. Next question. Are human beings sustainable ?

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Erik Roth
Ernest R2 years ago

Want to save the planet ? MacDonald's produces billions of burgers because billions of people eat them. Regularly. The land saved from reducing our meat consumption could be used to grow crops, and reduce wild animal habitat even further. What does it take to wake up people like Judy Molland and the Center for Biologic Diversity ? THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE ! We MUST stop calling for growth, we MUST stop telling people to "have babies instead of pets", we MUST stop immigration, especially of people who believe they have a religious duty to have huge families. Mother Nature is taking steps toward correction of the problem. One of them is called Ebola.

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