The All- International Burger?
‘There aint no such thing as a free lunch’ has been used to describe a lot of things in life, but literally speaking it means that all things have a price and nothing is truly free. That half pound Angus burger you just ordered came with a price far greater than the $17.99 you’ll have paid for it. Livestock farming doesn’t only cost the consumer, but it also costs the environment. The environment pays a greater price than any human ever will. Livestock farming is a lot demanding than vegetable and grain farming because of the strain it puts on land, water supplies, and energy. This issue is alarming because of the increasingly high demand placed on meat.
Globally, 308.2 million tons of meat are consumed yearly!
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an average American will eat 71.2 pounds of red meat yearly and 54.1 pounds of poultry. The livestock industry employs 1.3 billion people globally, which is approximately 1/7th of the Earth’s population. There are 525 million farms globally, and 85% of them are owned by small farmers. 87% of all farms are located in Asia.
Industrialized countries consume more meat than developing countries. An average person dwelling in an industrialized country would consume 168 pounds of meat, whereas an average person dwelling in a developing country would consume 74 pounds of meat per year. That’s a lot of meat! Globally the choicest meat is pork (36%), chicken (33%), beef (24%), lamb (5%), and other meats (2%).
‘This Land is my Land, This Land is Your Land’… but is it Really?
So this livestock farming must definitely take a toll on our land resources! With our global population increasing steadily, land is becoming one of the most coveted resources. The livestock industry utilizes more land than any human industry. Livestock require grounds to graze, and the crops they eat require land to grow as well. So let’s look at numbers… 30% of Earth’s non- glacial land is set aside for livestock production. 26% of all land is used for grazing purposes, and 33% of cultivable land is used for feed crop production.
Approximately 795 million people in the world are hungry, and about 13% of the Earth’s population is undernourished. That’s almost 1/7th of the Earth’s population! A study finds that the total supply of crops fed to livestock can possibly feed 4 billion people yearly! We could end world hunger immediately.
The Real Price of ‘Farming’ Land for Livestock
The livestock farming industry has taken a toll on our planet tremendously. It has destroyed natural ecosystems, degraded rangeland, contaminated suburban environments, degraded soil, and created immense pollution. This leads to desertification in arid environments, and 70% of the land in arid areas is degraded because of livestock farming. This also leads to deforestation in humid areas, and 70% of previously forested areas of the Amazon are now used for grazing. Livestock farming has increased the rate of soil erosion dramatically! Soil erosion is a natural process, but it’s being lost 10-40 times faster than the natural rate of soil renewal. Livestock farming acts as a catalyst in degrading rangelands and pastures. This destroys the land for future food production, and could possibly put food security at risk. As the population increases, the arable land per capita decreases.
The Expense of Fresh Water Resources
Livestock farming has put a huge demand on water resources as well. The water foot print of a dairy cow would be about 73,000 cubic feet of water per year. The water footprint of a cow used for meat would be about 22,000 cubic feet of water per year. In contrast, crop farming does not have a very large water footprint. Farming 250 grams of lentils require 62 cubic feet of water per year. The United States’ livestock industry consumes 2,140 million gallons of water per day according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Carbon Dioxide & Methane Pollution
The livestock industry is responsible for 18% of all global greenhouse gas emission. Lamb produces about 85 pounds of carbon dioxide emission globally. Production emissions are a lot higher than post- farm gate emissions. Cheese produces the third highest carbon dioxide emissions because of methane produced by animals. Methane gas is 25 times worse for the environment than carbon dioxide is. Soft cheese has a low level of carbon dioxide emissions because its produced by less milk content. We all know that greenhouse gas damages our environment, climate change, and global warming.
Vegetarians for the Win
According to a study conducted by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the pasture usage for grazing livestock would decrease by 80%! The 8% of water used to water grazing crops could decrease the strain on our already limited fresh water supply. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions would decrease significantly by 17%! Methane production would be reduced by 24%, and nitrous oxide levels would reduce by 21%. This means that we can slow the rate of climate change and global warming.
A Small Note From Us:
The industrialized livestock farming is the biggest culprit of pollution and health problems in comparison to the vegetable and grain industry. So next time you’re at a burger place, maybe opt for a tofu or soy burger instead? The livestock industry isn’t going to change overnight, but we hope you make informed choices as a consumer. Your demand decrease can help improve sustainability and the quality of life. That Angus burger is worth way more than the $17.99 you’ll pay. Educate yourself about your food, and make healthy and ‘green’ choices.