*Originally posted January 20, 2011.
It’s not often that when we order a hamburger we think about its implications on the planet. If we analyze a hamburger and traced its origins and production, we would see that by far the most environmentally hazardous ingredient is the meat patty.
Meat production leads to the clearing of rain forests destroying biodiversity, animal habits and trees that help remove carbon dioxide from the air. In the last 20 years, Costa Rica burned over 80 percent of its tropical forests for cattle grazing.
Much of the land became desertified due to overgrazing, devoiding the country of soil that was once rich and fertile. Examples of this happen all over the world. According to the Smithsonian Institution, a land area equivalent to seven football fields is bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed cattle.
Furthermore, a UN report published in 2006 shows that meat production is one of the most polluting industries when it comes to green house gases. Every year, the world meat industry is responsible for more green house gas emissions than all of the cars on earth combined!
The green house gases that are produced by the meat industry contribute to the process of global warming leading to devastating ecological consequences such as:
- The extinction of plant and animal species
- Flooding of coastal cities due to rising sea levels
- Food shortages as a result of drought and drier soils
- Increase in extreme climate events
Even a basic analysis of our food system shows us all ways meat consumption contributes to global warming. Green house gases from the meat industry are produced from:
- Growing crop to feed animals
- Methane from livestock and manure
- Powering machinery
- Transport to retail store
- Operating retail stores
- Consumers driving to shops
- Landfill gases from rotting food
- Landfill gases from rotting packing
Every meat product produced helps to warm the earth at every part of its journey – from the farm to the table.
It is estimated that the world’s population will reach 9 billion people by 2050. With this in mind, how can manage to eat the way do now and expect to sustain the earth for future generations? Changes need to be made.
One of the most effective changes is eating less meat, which decreases the demand for large-scale factory farms and relieves some of the pressure that is put on the food system to provide us a quick and consistent supply.
Buying from a small, local farmer helps too. This way you can ask about their production methods and have more input into your food choices. Buying local also means less travel distance (less emissions!) and usually less packaging. Less electricity is used because small, local farmers don’t usually sell their stock at large, power-guzzling grocery stores.
After your meal, make sure to compost all food waste instead of trashing it, especially meats. Meat wastes that fill our landfills release green house gases as they rot and breakdown. Composting diverts food waste from landfills and helps create healthy, nutrient-rich soils that can go back to the earth to be used for agriculture