Less Meat – More Earth

We all know that eating less meat is better for our health. Even the most ardent hardcore meat-eaters, in all honesty, know it’s better to consume less meat for our health and wellbeing. Overwhelming scientific evidence now links meat-eating with numerous serious diseases, especially cancer, as well as a host of smaller daily health complaints. Diet-related diseases in countries, cultures and spiritual systems that don’t eat meat, or eat a limited amount of meat, are markedly less, and even sometimes non-existent. But the benefits of eating less or no meat is not only healthy for us – it’s better for the planet, and will greatly help to reduce emissions and restore Earth health.

Did you know … ?

  • Agriculture (mainly meat production) is responsible for the loss, through clearing, of 13,000 square km of forests annually.
  • This includes the destruction of vital Amazon rainforests, of which 40% will be gone by 2050 if deforestation continues.
  • The biggest cause of water-pollution into rivers and streams is animal waste from massive ranches and farms. Intensive pig farms have already destroyed massive areas of grasslands and other habitats worldwide.
  • Extensive and intensive ranching of beef cattle in South America, made by massive forest clearance, has released immeasurable carbon into the atmosphere, almost solely as methane from millions of cows as well as millions of termite mounds that now infest the grasslands that were once forests.
  • The cost of producing meat compared to vegetable-based food is extreme on all fronts – economically, socially and environmentally. And - I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – feeding animals grain food disproportionate to the meat returns while 27,000 children die of starvation daily is wrong on the deepest levels.
  • A typical vegetarian meal, made from local ingredients, produces around 190g of carbon dioxide. But a meal of meat and imported ingredients produces 1,800g of carbon dioxide.

Meat Harms the Earth

Did you know …?

  • Raising livestock is responsible for around 20% of global GHG emissions – that’s more than all of the world’s transportation sources combined.
  • Animals raised for food in the US alone consume 90% of all soy crops, 80% of all corn crops and 70% of all grain grown.
  • Growing crops for farm animals requires almost half of the US water supply.
  • The meat industry accounts for 70% of the water pollution in the US.
  • An acre of edible crops can feed 20 times more people than an acre dedicated to cattle.
  • Livestock  farms are responsible for over one third of all methane emitted into the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is almost 25 times as strong as CO2.
  • Nearly 80% of the agricultural land in the US is used to raise animals for food. Not all of this land is useable for growing crops, but it’s still a very large amount.
  • Australia is not far behind US stats in this regard and increasing yearly.

Killer Meat

Eating too much meat is bad for our health, plain and simple. But what kind of meat is worse for us, how much meat is bad and does it affect men and women differently?

A US study found that men and women eating 10g or less of red meat per 1,000 calories of food intake had a:

  • 31% higher risk of overall death
  • 22% higher risk of dying from cancer
  • 27% higher risk of dying from heart disease

Men and women who ate 63g or less of red meat per 1,000 calories of food intake had a:

  • 36% higher risk of overall death
  • 20% risk of dying from cancer
  • 50% risk of dying from heart disease

Raising animals for food places a massive strain on the planet also. Convention livestock farming accounts for:

  • 55% of erosion
  • 37% of pesticide use
  • 50% of antibiotic use
  • One-third of damage from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution to water
  • 18% of GHG emissions
  • and animal food production requires 2-5 times more water necessary to produce crops of similar energy value

Meat Wars

The red meat industry’s new Nothing Beats Beef campaign is part of an annual $26 million marketing spend to encourage us to eat more red meat – which also includes Sam Kekovich’s annual Australia Day rant to drive us to eat more lamb.

But the chicken industry is fighting back. 90% of Aussies eat chicken at least once a week, and 60% of us eat chicken at two times or more each week. More than half of Aussie chook eaters rate chicken as the best value and healthiest meat meal option.

The Australian Chicken Meat Federation claims almost all chicken meat sold in Australia is locally-produced (except for some small amounts in imported canned and frozen products), no growth hormones or steroids are used in Aussie chicken farming and our chooks are not caged – a reason why chicken may also be Australia’s meat of choice.

While Australia needs to be more humane in all areas of animal farming for food production, the reality is that the cost – economically and envirnonmentally – of producing red meat compared to chicken is atronomical. Beef production in particular in Australia, from earliest times, has contributed to Australia’s topsoil degredation and to massive greenhouse gas emissions through methane. A trip to any cattle grainfed feedlot or slaughterhouse would turn even the most hardcore meat lovers off meat for life.

Part of ethical eating and Earthcare is knowing where your food comes from, how it’s produced and who was harmed in the process.

Even a small step towards less meat, for health and the planet, is a great help. For example, at home during the week, we try to maintain a vegetarian diet. Then on weekends, we plan, shop, cook and enjoy something special all together, which is usually meat-based, especially organic, free-range or ethically farmed if possible. Literally, every mouthful makes a difference.