Absolutely no one is shocked by new research that concludes beef is the worst thing to eat. If we’re going to feed billions of people on the planet while also having a livable planet for billions then we all ought to consume less meat. Raising cattle only to slaughter is a wasteful use of land that can otherwise feed way more people and cause a lot less damage to the environment.
The production of food makes up a third of greenhouse gas emissions so just by making a small change to your diet you can make it easier on future generations to survive. Eat less meat, eat more vegetables.
The researchers built a database that provided a consistent emissions profile of 171 crops and 16 animal products, drawing data from more than 200 countries. They found that South America is the region with the largest share of animal-based food emissions, followed by south and south-east Asia and then China. Food-related emissions have grown rapidly in China and India as increasing wealth and cultural changes have led more younger people in these countries to adopt meat-based diets.
The paper’s calculations of the climate impact of meat is higher than previous estimates – the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organizationhas saidabout 14% of all emissions come from meat and diary production. The climate crisis is also itself a cause of hunger,with a recent study findingthat a third of global food production will be at risk by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current rate.
Food price volatility and production due to climate change is upon us already, and you’ve probably noticed it at your local grocer through increase costs. Farmers are grappling with climate change’s impact on predictable weather, meaning crops are have a harder time growing and farmers have a hard time planning.
Historians provide a solution. By looking into how agrarian societies survived (and failed) in the past we can better see what our future holds. There are techniques, policies, and trading routes that we may need to revive from hundreds of years ago to ensure we can feed all on Earth.
Such policies and community projects, some of which I have had the privilege to be involved with, deal mostly with the present and the future. Yet for decades, climate historians have also looked to the past to more fully understand the relationship between human history and the Earth’s climate systems. Agriculture has been at the center of many of these studies, as many pre-industrial societies relied largely on arable crop outputs whose success was contingent on specific meteorological and ecological conditions. All methods of food production, from farming to hunting, fishing, and foraging, were intimately linked to seasonal, annual, and decadal variations in weather and climate. For agrarian societies who relied on arable staple crops such as wheat or rice, the success or failure of a harvest had multifold ramifications for individuals, communities, and economic systems.
We are what we eat, and what we eat can change the world. All of us can make tiny changes in the kitchen to help reduce the harm modern food consumption does on the planet. Over at Eater they explore some ideas that people can try in their kitchen to improve their diet while also improving the planet. The really neat thing in this article is that it promotes us to learn from lockdowns during the pandemic when we all ended up making more home cooked meals.
Do what you can keep doing
Since the pandemic began, many of us have adopted efficient shopping and cooking practices out of necessity, but maintaining those habits post-pandemic could help make our lifestyles greener (and easier) in the long run. Look for stores reintroducing self-serve bulk sections and invest in quality food containers to continue saving money on ingredients in bulk, cut down on packaging, and reduce the number of trips to the store. Even if you return to the office, continue prepping meals on weekends and remain flexible with how you use ingredients to ensure you always have a decent meal after work. Clean the kitchen faster by integrating composting into your cooking routine, and reorganize your fridge to keep perishable ingredients visible to avoid food waste in the back. And pass down all these good habits to your kids, along with family recipes, to make them great helpers in the future.
The new alternatives to meat like the Beyond Burger are remarkably better for the environment than processed animals. This is found by a research team at the University of Michigan who looked into the carbon footprint of different processed hamburger patties (veggie and meat). They found that one Beyond Burger patty has a carbon footprint of 400g, whereas the same sized beef patty has a footprint of 3,700g. Reducing your carbon footprint by making tiny changes to your diet is getting easier every year.
Production of the dominant ingredients – pea protein, canola oil, coconut oil – represent important contributions to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), energy use and land use. Packaging also is an important contributor across all impact categories: the polypropylene tray is the largest contributor to packaging’s share of GHGE, energy use, and water use, whereas fiber production for cardboard and pallets make notable contributions to land use. We estimate that switching to a polypropylene tray made of 100% postconsumer recycled content could reduce the overall GHGE of the BB life cycle by 2% and reduce energy use by 10%.
Zoonotic diseases are nothing new and are often the cause of large outbreaks which cause great harm to humans and other animals. It’s speculated that the recent COVID-19 coronavirus popped into existence due to close animal – human contact in Chinese wet markets. History as shown us that wherever there is frequent, close contact between animals and humans there is an increase in the likelihood of new diseases. This has led to scientists calling for reduced meat conniption with the thinking that if eat less meat than the potential for human-animal transmission is reduced in markets and processing facilities.
It is clear that the origins of these pandemics are not restricted to certain countries or certain practices, such as “wet-markets.” For some researchers, including Swedish chief physician and infectious diseases professor Björn Olsen, stemming rising demand for meat and dairy is a necessary part of reducing our risk for pandemics.