Real meat may become a thing of the past. Its production is quickly becoming unsustainable.

Raising meat for food takes up 40 percent of the land on earth. It takes 150 gallons of water to produce one hamburger. Factory farms overuse antibiotics, are often inhumane, and contribute to air, water, and carbon pollution.

Now another study adds to this information. According to TIME magazine:

“Livestock production — which includes meat, milk and eggs — contributes 40% of global agricultural gross domestic product, provides income for more than 1.3 billion people and uses one-third of the world’s fresh water. There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock.”

And more research points to meat production impacting our climate. According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of “CO2-equivalent” greenhouse gases the world produces every year.”

Beef cattle in barn
Image courtesy of Compassion in World’s Farming

So how will we feed 9 million people in 2050 when meat consumption will have doubled? 

Enter alternatives such as Beyond Meat.

A plant-based protein designed to look and taste like meat Beyond Meat is a more environmentally responsible and sustainable alternative. Bill Gates and Huffington Post blogger Jennifer Grayson seemed to like the taste, mostly. Michael Pollan, not so much. So, there is much room for improvement and innovation.

Full disclosure: I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years. I don’t miss eating meat, but I miss some of the characteristics of meat foods like crispy coatings and smoky flavors. One of my favorite dishes is called Buddha Beef — made from Seitan, and it is out of this world. So reading this gives me hope that everyone, vegetarians, and carnivores alike, will soon have a tasty meat alternative that is both healthy and sustainable. I worry a bit that it will be too highly processed– but our current path of consumption, pollution, antibiotic use, and carbon footprint of meat production is not a path we can continue on forever.

Interested in learning more about food production practices? Check out Check Please! The 20 Best Food Documentaries Worth Digesting.

Feature image courtesy of AgriLife Today

By Katy Farber

Katy Farber is a teacher, author, blogger from Vermont. She’s currently a teacher in Central Vermont and writes about education, parenting, the environment and sustainability for various websites and publications. Farber is the author of several books including 'Eat Non-Toxic: A Manual For Busy Parents'.