02 April 2014

What can a meat lover do for the environment?

Jim Baek writes:*

Let’s face it. Being a vegetarian is not remotely a realistic option for some people who deeply care about the environment. Embracing vegetarians’ struggle like limited options in public restaurants on a daily basis requires considerable personal dedication and sacrifice.

Here is an alternative option for those who want to help the environment but can’t resist the juicy taste of meat: choose pork or poultry over beef, especially grain-fed one. For those who’re not aware of how much the meat production harms the environment, the livestock, which produces meat and milk, is responsible for roughly 18% of men-made greenhouse gases (GHG) according to a 2006 study from the Food and Agriculture Organization [pdf]. Besides the livestock production is one of the main factors that drive the global water shortage: it single-handedly use one-third of the fresh water globally in the process of production, which includes harvesting grain for feed.

Though what is best for the environment is reducing the meat consumption, given our increasing appetite for meat it’s unlikely that we can change our preferences in diet totally. But mere preference shift in meat from beef to pork or poultry can lessen the damage to the environment. According to studies regarding livestock conducted in Kenya, Australia, and Austria, pork and poultry are the much environmental friendly than the grain-fed beef. While pig and poultry produce 10% of total GHG emission from livestock, in terms of meat, they produce three times of what cattle produce on global level. On top of that, when it comes to feed-efficiency, pork and poultry is five times more efficient than cow in producing the same amount of protein than cow.

Bottom Line: Care about the environment, but can’t give up the meat? Choose pork or poultry over beef.

* These guest posts are from students in my resource economics class at Simon Fraser University. Please leave feedback on their logic, ideas and style and suggestions of how to improve.

2 comments:

  1. Never thought that pork and poultry are more environmental friendly than cattle, very interesting.

    If people do give up beef to protect the environment, is the 18% of men-made greenhouse gases really going to decrease? or the production of beef would still countinues at the same output(going to feed other animals,or snacks).

    The artificial eggs (with nutrients and have real taste of egg) are comming out to the markets soon, and I believe that artificial beef will become the solution to solve the environmental issues in the near future.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Switching to a vegetarian diet is not a big struggle. It is just a decision.

    ReplyDelete

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