“Drive less and turn down your thermostat.” That’s good advice for reducing fossil fuel consumption and protecting our environment, but you may be surprised to learn that your food choices can make a bigger impact on our environment and our climate than your driving habits, your home’s climate control, or the length of your shower.
Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other “human” activity. Worldwide, animal agriculture creates 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation, which is responsible for 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture has a long list of other harmful effects on the environment, so if we all eat more plant foods, we’ll have a much healthier planet. Here are some facts about the production of meat, milk, and eggs:
In the United States, most of our amber waves of grain become animal food. Eighty percent of the agricultural land in the United States is used to raise animals for food and to grow grain to feed them. That 80% figure represents almost half of the total land mass of the lower 48 states, and nearly half of all the water used in the U.S. goes to raising animals for food.
The primary cause of the destruction of the Amazon and forests around the world is to clear land for animals to graze and to grow crops to feed the animals.
Animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34 to 76 trillion gallons annually. Only 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes, while 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture.
130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the USA. A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
If a business teacher were to give his class the assignment of coming up with the least efficient business model possible, any students who would submit Animal Agriculture would probably ace the course. As this chart shows, meat production is staggeringly inefficient in comparison to the production of rice and beans. Consider these intriguing facts:
1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food.
1.5 acres can produce 375 pounds of meat.
Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, and 80% of antibiotics used in the US are for livestock. The primary reason for using antibiotics in animal operations is that the drugs promote weight gain in animals. The result of using so many antibiotics in animals is that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness because germs that encounter them develop a resistance to the drugs. Many studies have also linked meat consumption to heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses.
Going meatless even one day a week is a positive step for the environment, and you can find information and support from an organization known as Meatless Monday.
In case you think that you need the protein from meat to be strong and healthy, it’s worth noting that the man who did more than anyone else to popularize bodybuilding now eats only plant foods.
Driving less is good for the environment, and so is keeping the thermostat down. If you want to do even more for the environment, one very powerful step is to shift your diet more towards plant foods and to encourage your friends to do the same.
This article appeared in OTE’s February 2017 newsletter. Go here to sign up for our newsletter.