Monday, December 1, 2008

Is a Meat-Free Diet Good for the Planet?

Given that our current food production methods had a very large carbon footprint and extensive fresh water usage – especially meat production. Will vegetarianism and / or going vegan be good for our planet?

By: Ringo Bones

Current studies suggest that if Americans reduce their annual meat consumption by 10%, enough grain would be saved / freed that can provide nourishment to 60 million people. Imagine being able to help humanitarian organizations like the UN’s World Food Programme just by reducing your annual meat consumption. Plus livestock, like cattle, are significant contributors of greenhouse gasses like methane being discharged into the atmosphere. Given that methane has 20% more heat trapping capability than carbon dioxide, this does spell good news for our planet. What is good for our planet is also indeed good for our health – i.e. a reduced meat diet.

Despite the late 20th Century clarification of nomenclature, vegetarianism had been supplanted by the word vegan to mean someone who consumes only plant-derived food products. Looks like eating your vegetables with eggs, milk, and fish doesn’t make you a vegetarian anymore. Semantics aside does consuming chiefly vegetables be doing a lot of good for our planet’s environment? The legalese and rigmarole surrounding the issue could surprise you.

The good news is that it does, but given our current methods of agriculture – especially when it comes to growing food crops like grain and vegetables on an industrial scale – does not exactly pass muster as being truly Earth-friendly, especially when it comes to land and water usage. On a land area basis, it takes 8.9 square meters of arable farmland to grow 1 kilogram of corn grain. While the land area required in raising one kilogram of meat is equal to 20.9 square meters. This is due to the fact that livestock, on average, usually consume close to 10 kilograms of grain to produce 1 kilogram of meat.

Since drinkable water / freshwater has over the years slowly became a very precious indispensable natural resource due to our systemic mismanagement of it. It would be noteworthy to also mention that it takes on average 1,000 liters of water to produce a kilogram of wheat. While to produce 1 kilogram of meat consumes 10,000 liters of water. Basing on these figures alone - by consuming less meat while our assembly-line agricultural system maintains its water-wasteful practices, we can still do a lot of good to our environment by just cutting out the amount of meat that we consume. Every little bit counts.

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