Assignment 3: Cut the Meat, Save the Earth (Jonathan Gross)

Everyday, we are inundated with meat products. A glance around the dining hall will often reveal burgers, chicken, beef stir-fry and more. To some, meat is a delicious part of a meal loaded with protein and great flavor.  While I understand its appeal, I am not a meat-eater. At most, I eat it two or three times per week. It started as a result of me not liking the taste, but another reason has recently contributed to my disdain of eating dead animals: its contribution to climate change. A few weeks ago, I watched an episode of VICE on HBO describing meat’s harmful impact on the environment. Since then, my already small intake has decreased and I implore all of you carnivores to join my endeavor and cut down on meat consumption.

Let’s start off with a surprising fact: the livestock industry releases more greenhouse gases than planes, trains, cars and ships combined, according to a recent report. That means that all forms of transportation could run entirely on renewable energies and the majority of greenhouse gases still would not be eliminated. The world’ largest consumer of meat is China, at nearly 80 million tonnes in 2011. The US is third on the list, consuming around half of China’s amount.

\(40 million tonnes\div 300 million tonnes=286 pounds\)

The above equation indicates that Americans eat roughly 300 pounds of meat per yer. Considering that the average cow produces 500 pounds of meat, each American consumes 0.6 cows per year. Each cow produces 100 kg of methane per year, so per person, 60 kg of methane are released. Methane is roughly 21 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.

If Americans cut meat consumption by simply 1/3, then the methane released per person would be reduced to 40 pounds.  That would mean eating meat only around four of seven days per week, something that is not too drastic. From personal experience, I can tell you that you will get used to it after some time. Nonetheless, livestock is extremely harmful to the environment. Something needs to be done about it and it must start with the consumer.

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