Meat Consumption

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23 May 2011

One Bite At a Time
Most Americans are aware of global warming, cancer, heart disease and the fact that the earth’s supply of good water is diminishing. In an effort to conserve our planet people drive hybrid cars, recycle, and use low energy light bulbs and appliances, which is great. However, most Americans are unaware and uninformed about how meat effects global warming, our health, and how much of our planet’s water and resources meat production consumes. Meat contributes to global warming, increases risk for cancer, causes heart disease and uses a tremendous amount of resources to produce, therefore people need to be informed about what they are eating through food labeling and Surgeon General warnings, as well as cutting back to appropriate portion sizes. Farming used to do good things for our planet, where as now its causing harm due to mass production and factory farms. “Traditionally, farm animals played a useful role . . .they ate grass, crop wastes, and kitchen scraps that people could not eat and turned them into good that people could eat. Their manure provided the soil with needed nutrients . . .the animals pulled plows and provided services that enhanced human life”(Robbins 233). Things have changed drastically since the days of simple farming. Today, “With the expansion and mechanization of animal farming . . .there are now 20 billion livestock on Earth- more than triple the number of human beings”(Robbins 234). The problem with having so many livestock on earth is that the manure that used to provide soil with nutrients now releases nitrous oxide, which contributes to global warming. According to the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization “ Worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions . . .all the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13%”. However it’s more than just the manure contributing to global warming. FAO estimates that 70% of former forest covers were cut down to make room for grazing. This is a problem because “Lost forest cover heats the planet, because trees absorb CO2 while they’re alive . . .when they’re cut down or burned, the greenhouse gases are released back into the atmosphere”(Walsh). Cutting back on meat, or eliminating it all together would be a great way to help preserve our planet and much cheaper than a hybrid car. If meat production continues to grow, not only will it keep contributing to global warming, it will continue using the earth’s precious resources.

The amount of food and water needed for farming is obscene. Water is something that we take for granted. There is no replacement for water, so when there is a 3 to 1 ratio from livestock to humans, why are we wasting so much of our earth’s precious water on livestock? “ Forty-two percent of the fresh water available to us in the United States is used for agriculture” (Silverstone 25). Granted it’s not all devoted to animals, and the amount of water needed to produce meat varies in different parts of the country. In California, according to the Water Education Foundation, to produce one pound of California beef the amount of water required is 2,464 gallons; comparatively a pound of tomatoes only requires 23 gallons of water (Robbins 236-237). Think of how much water California would save if everyone cut back on meat. Then there is the other problem, how much food we use to feed the livestock. “Sixty million acres of the United States are devoted to growing hay primarily for livestock, while we only use 13 million acres to grow fruits and vegetables”(Silverstone 25). If there were less of a demand for livestock, that would enable us to use the land devoted to growing hay for growing vegetables, fruit and other plant based foods while using considerably less water. Not only is meat taking a toll on the environment, it’s taking a toll on the heath of America. Eating meat, especially the portions Americans eat, cause Heart Disease and increase a...
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