Red meat’s not green!

According to a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), livestock production contributes almost 15% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the estimated 14% produced by all forms of transport combined, including air travel.

Bull butchers diagramAbout 26% of the world’s total ice free land is already being used for livestock grazing and over one third of the total cropland is used to produce food for livestock and fish. More and more rainforest is being cleared to provide land – in the Amazon about 70% of previously forested land is used as grazing and much of the rest to produce animal feed. 40% of all crops produced today are used for feeding animals.

Compassion in World Farming estimate that, by halving their consumption of meat, the average UK household could cut emissions by more than they would achieve by halving their car use.

So if you want to reduce your carbon footprint, one of the simplest and most effective things you can do is to reduce the amount of meat you eat.

It takes at least six times the amount of land to feed a meat eater than to feed a vegetarian. In the UK just 2% of the population is vegetarian, but although none of us really need to eat meat every day, most people simply aren’t prepared to give it up altogether.

Cattle grazing

Buy grass-fed beef

Having one or two meatless days a week, buying meat and dairy products from animals reared on grasslands and, if possible, buying organic produce, are easy ways to make a difference and reduce your carbon footprint.

Changing to a diet containing more beans, nuts, fruit and vegetables can also improve your health, lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

In 2009 the city of Ghent in Belgium declared Thursday a voluntary meat-free day with restaurants, canteens and schools throughout the city offering vegetarian meals. Then in the UK Paul McCartney launched the Meat-Free Monday Foundation to encourage us all to reduce our meat consumption by having at least one meat-free day a week. Now there is a global Meatless Monday campaign active in over forty countries.

If you are getting resistance from the meat-eaters in the family, there are cookbooks out there that can help, for example Pulse: Truly Modern Recipes for Beans, Chickpeas and Lentils, to Tempt Meat Eaters and Vegetarians Alike by Jenny Chandler, or Proper Healthy Food: Hearty vegan and vegetarian recipes for meat lovers by Nick Knowles.

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5 replies on “Red meat’s not green!”

  1. Allison says:

    For all those who just can’t give up on their meat, organic beef raised on grass rather than concentrated feed produces a lot less greenhouse gases and uses much less energy too. Every little helps! :mrgreen:

  2. june says:

    It’s good, but does still use a lot of land. I think in the UK the best option of all is to support our hill farmers, who work hard producing lamb on land not suitable for growing crops.

  3. Laura @ Fill Your Pants says:

    I was at a talk last night actually from the director of Viva who really went in depth about meat and the environment- the facts and figures were fascinating, and deeply troubling! As a group of vegans he was kind of preaching to the converted, and its a shame that his voice doesnt reach the ears that it really needs to more often…

    The simple fact of the matter is, we need to reduce our meat consumption DRAMATICALLY and quickly.

  4. Chuck Chamberlain says:

    When properly managed, raising animals on pasture instead of factory farms is a net benefit to the environment. On pasture, grazing animals do their own fertilizing and harvesting. The ground is covered with greens all year round, so it does an excellent job of harvesting solar energy and holding on to top soil and moisture.

    Grazed pasture removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more effectively than any land use, including forestland and ungrazed prairie, helping to slow global warming.

    On well-managed pasture-based farms, the animals spread their manure evenly over the soil where it becomes a natural source of organic fertilizer. The manure improves the quality of the grass, which increases the rate of gain of the animals. It’s a closed, sustainable system.

  5. Jasmel says:

    The real issue with livestock is the “finishing” timeframe. Animals are placed in confined areas and fed grain to gain weight and change the fat to a white fat while marbling the meat. This process is not required.

    Grass fed livestock are just as edible. Furthermore, grass fed livestock play an important role in our food chain by utilizing land that cannot grow grain or other plants we can consume and maybe more importantly by increasing soil productivity and thereby reducing CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Read “Cows save the Planet.” It is worth the read. The soil is a carbon sink, but we need ungulates and ruminants to increase carbon in soil.

    Ironic isn’t it, what we have “known” about livestock for so long may in fact be quite wrong.

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