A little while ago I shared an article on The Impact of Eating on Our Planet. It basically said that meat is not great for the environment because it takes lots of land to produce, but going vegetarian is not quite the answer either because clearing land for farming removes forest and peatland that sequester carbon for us.
I ended by asking for other articles and thoughts on eating, and I got some.
Let’s start with this article Sebastiaan pointed me towards. One point I found particularly interesting was the land used for meat production vs farming.
The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.
So according to this study we’d use less land if we went with more vegetable and cereal growing. Also that article agrees with the podcast I cited in my previous post that you can do so much more for the environment by cutting meat instead of purchasing a Tesla or flying less.
This article also talks about protein in meat vs other options and the use of resources to produce a gram of protein.
The analysis also revealed a huge variability between different ways of producing the same food. For example, beef cattle raised on deforested land result in 12 times more greenhouse gases and use 50 times more land than those grazing rich natural pasture. But the comparison of beef with plant protein such as peas is stark, with even the lowest impact beef responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and 36 times more land.
So, it takes a lot of land to produce meat.
Sebastiaan also pointed me towards the Peak Human podcast and the only episode I’ve had a chance to listen to is this one that talked about nutrients and diet options. The takeaway was, eat everything in moderation, but trend towards lots of colourful fruits and vegetables. They specifically said that you should be eating some meat, purely from a body health and nutrient perspective. They didn’t address any environmental issues at all.
They did say that they’ve never met a lifelong vegan, and even when they found a society that was ‘vegan’ it turned out they actually hunted the meat eating people at the bottom of the mountain for their livers.
There are other interesting episodes pertaining to this topic that I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet.
- Dr. Sara Place on The Real Impact of Beef on the Environment
- Fredrik the Sami Reindeer Herder Live From the Arctic Circle
- The Great Meat Debate
- Alyse Parker (Raw Alignment) on Going from a Vegan Celebrity to an Animal Based Diet
There are more, but those titles jumped out to me and made it on my long term listening queue.
Now onto other things I’ve found like this great video Kottke shared a while ago.
- 83% of available farmland is used for livestock
- 27% of fresh water is used to keep this livestock in water
- For all that resource use, most of the nutrients aren’t passed on to us in the meat
- We could feed another 3.5 billion people if we ate the stuff we fed to animals
- 80% of the antibiotics used in the US are used on cattle to keep them healthy
- Opt-out of meat more often and try to purchase producers that do a decent job
Kottke also shared this interesting map about how America uses it’s land. The huge area used for meat based food production, and the plants to feed them overwhelm the map.
So Where Does that Leave Us?
As far as I can see for health we need to eat across food types aiming for stuff that’s not food factory produced as much as we can afford it. Eat multiple colours of vegetables and fruit.
From the environmental perspective, eat less meat. Eat no beef.
Around this house, we’re getting recipes from a vegan friend for a few nights a week. We rarely eat beef anyway because one of my kids is allergic.
I 100% see the argument to eat no meat based on the environment impact. I feel unsure how to continue to get what I need to run/climb/spend hours in the mountains and have all the nutrients we all need.