Changing our diets can help not only our waistlines, but the environment as well.
Environmental Costs of Raising Livestock for Food
Raising livestock for human consumption is incredibly resource intensive — whether it’s dairy cows for milk or chickens for chicken nuggets. In fact, the number of livestock processed for meat in just the United States alone is over 10 billion. Much of that population is being raised for the specific purpose of end consumption by humans. Stop for a moment and think about the water and food resources needed to raise a population of 10 billion. Now, compare what perceptions you may have had with these statistics.
- Food: Livestock consumes over half of the grains grown in the country. That quantity adds up to approximately 323 million tons or the weight of about 81 million hippos.
- Land: Livestock uses a third of U.S. acreage which includes the land required to grow enough food and the land for grazing. This land totals over 740 million acres or the area of 560 million football fields.
- Water: It takes 43 times more water to produce 1 kg of beef compared to 1 kg of grain. It’s safe to say the cows need a lot mooooooooo-re water than the U.S. really has the ability to provide long term especially given the growing number of water shortages in the southern and western areas of the country.
- Fossil fuels: The amount of fossil fuels consumed to grow livestock feed and to raise these animals for slaughter is enough to emit 90 million tons of CO2 worldwide.
Give Peas a Chance
Movements such as Meatless Monday have sprung up in effort to limit human consumption of meat and other animal products. This specific movement encourages individuals to abstain from meat at least once a week. Doing so lessens the burden on natural resources to support livestock populations.
The documentary Forks Over Knives, chock full of great facts and studies, is a great resource on the subject. The website also includes a variety of plant-based recipes and tools to help you reduce your meat consumption.
Feature image courtesy of Carol Von Canon