Meet the carbon foot print of your steak.
#Challengeyoplanet is a series of informative posts on climate change that aim to raise awareness among young people. Read more about the project and the other posts here.
I am going to tell you straight up, so you already know. You’re not going to like this. In fact, you won’t like reading about the real cost of the food on your plate, that you will react in two possible ways. The first one is that you might get shocked and will forever cherish the moment that you have actually opened your eyes to what you have been eating; and the second one – the most likeley to happen – is that you will grunt in desbeilief, you will ask for real facts, so that you can dig into the weak reason for you to keep eating whatever you have been eating.
Talking about food consumption and trying to challenge the habits of billions of people can only lead to one thing. Hate mail, critcisim, negative comments and a truckload of doubts.
I know that because I am Italian; I will fight and turn into The Dark Lord before I will admit that eating pasta and three other mains on top of that is probably not the best eating habit.
We are defensive about what we eat, especially if it’s meat.
Recently the World Health Organisation published that meat consumption can be a leading cause of cancer and other health problems, becoming as cancigernous as smoking cigarettes, sugar and all that stuff.
You can image the reaction. Bacon lovers, meat conoisseurs snobbed this news and called it a “pathetic” overreaction. We have been eating meat since the caveman, how is it possible that now it’s bad for us?
Well, bad news today, Nancy. This is what’s up with your steak.
Juicy steaks, greasy fried chicken, your grandma’s stuffed meatloaf, meatballs, prosciutto, lamb chops – are we obsessed with meat?
Talking about meat is a bit tricky, because worshipping and glorifying meat has been the foremost Golden Rule of our modern, capitalistic society.
Talking about any major staple of the modern diet is tricky, because people get sensitive. They get all “why are you so annoying about this” and “humans need meat to survive” and they pull out all the research they had sneakily found on Wikipedia while talking to you.
We get it, you don’t want to give up meat because it’s delicious, you grew up with it, you can’t be bothered to find plant-based alternatives and above all, you don’t want to be seen as somebody who doesn’t eat meat.
Because let’s be real. And I am mainly looking at you dude-bros. You don’t want to eat less of that steamed chicken breasts that you use for meal preps, because you don’t want to be seen as you would kindly put it ‘a weak cunt’.
Cutting meat out of your life is probably one of the biggest commitment for our generation since sticking to one tv show.
We have had the vegan documentaries telling us the horrific implications of slaughtering, torturing, raping, abusing animals only for our own dietary consumption; yet, we don’t hear another side of this story that is as equally as important, but it can reach out to a wider audience than the “Meat Is Murder” message.
Because unfortunately, telling people where their meat really comes from and showing them the clips of a graphic documentary is probably not useful, if the person watching it is completey desensitized from any connection with animals.
Some people see a steak as a steak, not part of an animal’s flesh.
So as you can’t teach people to stop hating on a specific race, or gender unless they have some sort of will to accept you teaching and a form of sensitivity deep down that rotten heart; then you’re probably not going to be able to teach them about that steak.
People need stronger motives. And a good motive is usually a question of life and death.
If we don’t care about the environment, we will end up fighting and killing like in a Hunger Games movie.
And if it wasn’t a fact, we wouldn’t be in Paris trying to come up with some sort of escape plan from the mess that rich countries have created into this world.
So let’s talk about meat not as from an ethical perspective, which is something that you should develop on your own because you can’t care about something unless you build a strong connection to it; but let’s talk about how animal product consumption has significantly and still does contribute to the changes in our climate, to our environment and see where our obsession with meat and dairy can lead us to from a society point of you.
Let’s start with the facts:
- Meat consumption is predicted to increase by 76% by mid-century, especially among the developed world, where consumption is around twice as much as the appropriate healthy amount. (US is three times as much)
- Overconsumption of meat and especially processed meat is linked to rise in obesity, heart disease and certain types of cancer.
- Food sectors are responsible for 30% of all human driven greenhouse gases. Livestock sector is responsible for 15% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases, which makes it a huge amount for that steak you’re eating.
- Production of animals and of food for animals accounts for nearly A THIRD OF GLOBAL DEFORESTATION, 27% of the global consumption and pollution of freshwater services.
- One-third of the calories that are produced globally and HALF of all the plant protein is fed to animals, when 5 BILLION people are predicted to be affected by water scarcity by 2050 and a 900 million tonnes rise in demand for cereal production to feed all of us.
- Animal consumptions covers 45% of the Earth’s total land. It clears lands, forests, pushes crop production and is responsible for the damage and loss of biodiversity.
Animals produce enough waste to cover SF, NYC, Tokyo, etc.
Agrilculture is responsible for 91% of the amazon destruction.
136 million rainforest acres cleared for animal agriculture.
1,100 Land activists have been killed in Brazil in the past 20 years.
(I didn’t pull out these stats out of my Carribean ass, they all come from reports that you can check out in the sources links. )
TALKING ABOUT MEATY ASS…
How can a placid animal like a cow create carbon emissions? Yeah, you can stop giggling. It’s their farts.
Cattle, sheep and some chickens, pigs and other animals, they create 14.5% EACH of total GHG’s emissions. I mean, it’s not just from farting, also known as emissions from digestive processes, but it’s also due to the production of the crops that these animals consume, the conservation to preserve these crops which requires transportations and water; not to mention the technicalities of maintaining a building that makes animal products, the slaughterhouse where they killed, and the polluting cost of transporting the products to our closets stores.
- Meat from cows, she eps, goats release more emissions in the environment than poultry and pigs. I.e Beef has 8 times more of an environmental impact than chicken. Why? Because those animals are ruminant, that means that their digestive system emits more methane (aka they fart more); and they also take a longer time to reproduce and growing, so that means that their maintenance periods are a lot longer and more intensive in terms of food, water and energy that needs to be put into their livestock.
- Producing corn and soybeans to feed our livestock leads to massive erosions, not to mention the fact that huge companies move overseas into developing countries to produce even more, since they are running out of space back home. This deeply affects rainforest, that is lost forever when we eat meat and dairy products, going into destroying the plants, animals, insects and populations that heavily depend on the forest.
- Animal waste – urine, manure and general waste – all go into polluting wage sources and the air. An excessive amount of animal waste goes to change pH of our fresh water, which then goes to affect the air and you know the rest of it. A huge dirty mess. In fact, by polluting the air with concentrated animal waste, it injects into our breathing environment dangerous gases, such as ammonia (73% of ammonia is caused by animal farming) which can consequently lead to breathing problems, smog and water acidity.
What did you say, sorry? You are going to lay off that kebab? Good on you, but what about that cheese on your nachos?
THE DAIRY PROBLEM.
So you hate meat now, but you are going to keep that daily glass of milk, your cheese and your yogurt. You have to get protein from somewhere, right?
Sorry to ruin your party, pal, but dairy has another mask too.
Cattle milk accounts for a level of greenhouse emissions that is twice as high of that of chicken meat, therefore it qualifies them to be playing the same kind of game that meat production plays, if not worse.
The level of dairy consumption has been steady in the past, making meat the bad guy that needs to be shunned, since it’s levels has been roaring up like the number iPhones Apple somehow sells us every year.
However, don’t gorge on the greek yogurt yet.
Like meat, dairy – especially milk – is a touchy subject.
Remember when your mum used to tell you to drink your glass of milk before going to bed, or in the morning with your cereals, because it would make you grow stronger. Well, your mum is a darling, but she is wrong.
After World War I a successful and groundbreaking campaign changed the rules of the diets we still follow today. After the war they had a huge surplus of dairy, so what did they do? They came up with ideas on how to turn milk into a staple of our diet; and the calcium marketing campaign started.
Drink milk because it has calcium, because it’s good for you; don’t focus on the fact that your drinking some animal’s breast milk, because you want to grow up taller and stronger, or not?
And the rest is history. The dairy industry has become one of the most lobbied sector of your society, going into influencing the government and its dietary decisions for our futures, to making convenient relationships with big multinationals so they can slip some dairy into our beloved products and collect the cash from the backdoor.
But we are here to talk about the ethical, not to make you choke on that brie cheese.
19 percent of the 2,442 billion cubic meters of water that is wasted for animal agriculture is given to dairy cattle.
Why so much water?
Well, how do you think they wash the cows, maintain an almost sanitary environment for them, washing milking equipment and feed them?
FEED THEM. These cows are hungry, how else do you think they are going to pop that milk for your cereals?
It takes a lot for a cow to produce milk and because of the stress and the energy of producing milk all day long, they need a lot of food and water. How much?
Well a cow can produce seven gallons of milk a DAY, which means that it needs 4,781 gallons of water for their dietary needs.
Yes, your cow is one hungry mamacita.
If you are still confused and in disbelief that your milkshake can drive greenhouse emissions, here are more facts:
- The production of four ounces of yogurt makes the same emissions of driving your car for over a mile
- If it’s your cheese, it’s three and a half miles.
- Cheese is the third in place for being a GHG bad guy, just after beef and lamb.
- A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
So you got the idea. Dairy is not as innocent as it sounds, even if just parmesan cheese on your pasta. (I am crying on the inside too, but so is our planet and the people who are starving).
WHAT ABOUT FISH?
It’s funny, some people don’t really consider fish to be an animal, let alone meat. But I got bad news for your sushi order. Fish is a big greenhouse emission guy too.
The problem with fish is the overfishing. Fish is a staple in the diets of one of five people in the planet, being their main source of protein, so that means that it requires a huge amount of supply.
Overfishing creates huge problems in particular in the loss of marine biodiversity, I mean, 70% of the world’s fish spices have been either fully exploited or depleted.
We have consumed 29% of the seafood species that we can consume and if we don’t stop, there won’t be any fish to catch in 30 years.
You don’t have to like fish to be disappointed. The problem is in the fact that if we overfish, we mess up with the food chain, which consequently affects the biodiversity of the ocean.
This means that we go to affect the quality of our ocean, we create ocean dead zones, coastal flooding and ocean acidity. A huge disaster, like you could read in the previous post on climate change and water.
If you are still not convinced to lay off that disgusting Fish burger at McDonalds, here are the facts:
- 90-100 million tons of fish are pulled from the oceans each year
- For every pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded, which accounts to 40% of fish caught globally every year.
- 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year in fishing vessels, 40 millions are sharks.
I would like to cancel that California roll, please.
IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S US.
I know this is about the environment, but as WE are part of the environment and our excessive consumption of meat an dairy is not leaving us healthy and fit, we should probably address this too.
We think that meat is healthy for us, but what is really on your plate?
Because of our marketing-induced minds and a lack of information and educational programs, we have become accustomed to think that an animal product is a healthy staple of our diet.
Is it though? Or is it that we have reached a point where we have to face the fact that 80% of starving children live in countries where they make the food for the animals that will be on our privileged homes?
I mean, after reading the actual facts and implications of leading a diet heavy on animal products, you are a walking carbon footprint.
I know it’s hard to give up meat and the lovely products that come with it, but it comes to a point where you have to think about something that is outside of our own likes and woulda and shoulda.
There’s that quote that always goes around on vegan communities, which is “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, nobody would eat meat”.
It’s true, but let’s also be realistic by focusing on the fact that certain people would still eat what’s produced in the transparent slaughterhouse either way, because they have no clue on the long-lasting impact that it has on the environment.
It makes us sick, it makes us poor, it makes us hungry and it pollutes the environment. I am not trying to tell you to stop eating meat altogether, because it’s not realistically possible to ask that from everybody else, but be conscious of it.
Start with eating less. Tell your friends to eat less. Find more alternatives. You will slowly feel so much healthier, fitter that you will probably forget about that bacon.
Buy local, ask where your food comes from, because it’s YOUR responsiblity; it’s YOUR health.
Information is the key. Spreading the knowledge is the key to change the consciousness of everybody who is out there. Don’t attack people for their dietary choices if they are not aware of the impact of their consumption; talk to them in a human way.
I know it’s hard from a vegetarian or a vegan to talk to someone who enjoys eating the flesh of dead animals, but we have to make this conversation work in a certain way, so it’s kind of like talking to your wasted friend out of calling their ex-partner. You remain calm, collected and make them reason as much as possible.
If you are interested in more of this topic, I will gladly create a guide on that, but for the mean time check out these links, as they are enjoyable reads and videos on the impact that animal product consumption has on our environment.
Let’s be hungry for change.