When you think of major causes of pollution what do you think of? Most people think of industrial plants or cars, but few of us think of the food industry as having an important role in the environment. However, agriculture is up there with the main causes of pollution and CO2 emissions.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture and electricity/heat production are tied for first with approximately 25% each. This is surprising because we tend to focus a lot of our energy on transportation and industry when it comes to environmental preservation. This is because we see food production as a necessary cost when in reality this is a number we could greatly reduce. For example meat is has the greatest effect because raising an animal for slaughter takes the most energy. They eat the most, drink the most, create waste, and take up the most space. The simplest change would be not eating as much meat or buy meat from smaller farms where they have the ability to be more sustainable in their meat production.

Another issue is how the agriculture industry creates a cycle. By creating more CO2 and greenhouse gases the food industry is causing temperatures to rise and rain levels to decrease. These create poor conditions to be growing plants and raising animals. The food industry could be hurting itself by making an environment that is not conducive for them to work with.

The agriculture industry also affects our usage of water. Obviously to grow living things there must be water usage but it is surprising to learn how much they differ by food and even within the same food group. The foods that use the least water to grow are fruits, vegetables, and other plants. Not surprisingly meat uses the most water. For reference, apples take about 77 gallons of water per pound, tofu uses about 302 gallons/lb, and beef requires about 1,847 gallons/lb. Beef uses six times the amount of water as tofu. This is another reason eating less meat can be beneficial for the environment and humans as a whole. There are a lot of places in the world that do not have enough water and by using more of this water for people and less in meat, it would help this problem. If you do not feel you can give up meat try to eat chicken because it uses about 518 gallons/lb, a third of the water that beef uses. The good rule of thumb is the larger the animal the more water it needs to produce a pound of food.

Similar to water, meat uses a lot of wheat to feed and create a pound of product. In the same way that it takes more water to yield a pound of beef than chicken, it takes more wheat to yield beef than chicken. It takes about 8 lbs of wheat per lb of beef, but only about 2.5 lbs/lb of chicken. Instead of using this wheat for raising animals it could be used to feed people.





One thought on “Meat Industry

  1. This is such a cool topic! I was aware that agriculture and the meat industry as a whole did contribute to pollution but I was not aware that it is equivalent to the amount of CO2 emissions produced by electricity and heat production. I definitely agree with the cycle you pointed out that the detrimental effects of agriculture and specifically the meat industry only makes the cycle worse. However, I do not quite agree with your solution to get rid of the meat industry. I think the meat industry is a bit out of hand currently and needs reform, but I think completely eradicating the industry would lead to unintended results. One thing I think that could happen is that without the need for cows in the meat and dairy industry, they might go extinct. Cows are not really found in the wild and without being ranched or farmed, they would not really have a habitat. I know this seems like a bit probable but I do it could be a possible outcome. I only point this out to raise discussion on what solution would be best to address the problem of the meat industry. I think overall, agriculture should be careful about the resources it uses and what is being farmed where. My uncle lives in California and he once told me about an agricultural issue of trying to grow plants in areas that take so much investment of money and water because it is not a natural habitat. The almond is a perfect example of this because in California, almonds use up more total water than any other plant and in a state that frequently has droughts, this does not seem logical. Overall, I think the agriculture industry needs to become more sustainable by reforming both the meat and crop industry. Great job!


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