3 Ways Meat affects Climate
Meat production is a major contributor to climate change. It is estimated that livestock production accounts for 70 per cent of all agricultural land use and occupies 30 per cent of the land surface of the planet. Because of their sheer numbers, livestock produce a much volume of greenhouse gases (such as methane and nitrous oxide) that contribute to climate change. In fact, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases.
The growing of livestock and other animals for food is also an extremely inefficient process. For example, it takes about five to seven kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of beef. Each of those kilograms of grain takes much energy and water to produce, process, and transport.
As meat consumption has grown around the world, so has its climate impact.
Furthermore, it has been noticed that agriculture has played a great impact by coming with its own problems
Other agricultural practices can impact the climate. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are widely used in agriculture, and are often made from fossil fuels. Manufacturing and transporting these chemicals uses significant quantities of energy and produces greenhouse gases. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that chemical farming uses considerably more energy per unit of production than organic farms, which do not use these chemical inputs. In addition, the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in soils produces nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is about 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
Organic farms, on the other hand — which rely on natural manure and compost for fertilizer — store much more carbon in the soil, keeping it out of the atmosphere.
Does distance traveled affect food?
Where your food comes from is also a cause. Food grown closer to home will therefore have fewer transportation emissions associated with it, and also be fresher and support local farmers. And as the distance food travels decreases, so does the need for processing and refrigeration to cut spoilage rate.
This calls for having home-grown foods or at least nearness of farm produce to markets
Local or organic: which is better for the climate?
While it’s good to buy locally grown food for many reasons, ‘food miles’ (the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer) actually make up a relatively small percentage of the overall carbon footprint of food — approximately 11% on average, according to studies. How the food is grown makes up a larger percentage — roughly 83%.
Shipping the lamb to the UK from New Zealand for example is responsible for only 5% of the overall greenhouse gases, whereas 80% of the emissions are from farm activities.
Similar life-cycle assessments have found the same results for other foods. One assessment done for packaged orange juice found that over a third of the life -cycle emissions came from just the synthetic fertilizer used on the orange groves.
Choosing to buy food that is organically grown can be a better choice for the climate. But if possible, buy food that is organic and local.
So what can you do to reduce your impact when you eat?
Eat meat-free meals
• Try to eat at least one meat-free meal per day. If you’re already doing that, gradually increase the number of meat-free meals you eat.
• Plan ahead. If going meatless means changing your habits drastically, you’ll enjoy it more if you do some research and find really yummy recipes before you go shopping.
• Choose veggie restaurants and meatless menu alternatives when you go out — they’re sprouting up all over the place!
Buy organic and local when possible
• Let your local farmers know organic is the way to grow! In addition to being better for the climate, organic food has many other advantages. First, it is grown without genetically modified organisms. As well, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy come from animals that are not fed antibiotics or growth hormones. And because organic foods are grown in healthy soils, they are typically more nutritious, containing more vitamins and minerals. Finally, organic farms promote genetic biodiversity, create less water pollution and soil damage, and result in fewer poisonings of farm workers, and less harm to wildlife.
Other things you can do
• Don’t waste food. Close to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted after production, discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens. When people throw food out, all the resources to grow, ship, package and produce it are wasted, too, including massive amounts of water.
• Grow some of your own food. Growing vegetables at home eliminates some of the transport required to get food to your table. It also lets you grow your food without chemicals. You can grow some great vegetables in even the smallest of spaces such as a balcony or patio space. Try growing herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, and other veggies.
• Do an inventory of how you look after your garden and lawn. Get rid of toxic substances (but discard them appropriately so those poisons don’t end up in landfills).
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