‘Meat consumption boosts harmful greenhouse gases’
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Every bite of meat boosts harmful greenhouse gases as meat production is known to be a major contributor to climate change and environmental destruction, the United Nations environment agency said.

In a statement, the United Nations Environment Programme said, “Even though meat production is known to be a major contributor to climate change and environmental destruction, worldwide demand for meat continues to rise.”

According to the World Economic Forum, the beef and dairy industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s biggest oil companies, with the combined emissions of the top meat and dairy companies exceeding those of highly industrialized nations such as Germany or the UK.

Despite this, the global meat industry continues to grow, with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicting a 76 percent rise in global meat consumption by 2050: more meat will be eaten than ever before in human history.

The Yale School of Forestry said beef bonanza is bringing about a wide range of negative consequences for the planet, with meat production contributing to the depletion of precious water resources – around 1,695 liters are needed to produce just one quarter-pounder burger.

It noted that cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon nation, accounting for 80 percent of total clearance. Raising animals takes up about 80 percent of agricultural land, but only contributes to 18 percent of the world’s calories.

While admitting that it is unrealistic to expect the world population to cut meat from its diet overnight, James Lomax, Sustainable Food Systems and Agriculture Programme Management Officer at UN Environment, called for an ecological balance to be struck.

“Reducing intensively farmed meat consumption is good for people and the planet. That means eating a sustainably reared or alternative burger or steak now and then, rather than an intensively farmed mass-produced version three times a week,” Lomax said.

There is also a known cost to human health, especially when it comes to eating processed meat. Antibiotics used to rear livestock and keep animals disease-free often end up in food of humans, particularly products sold by fast-food chains, contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans.

However, alternatives are slowly but surely becoming more popular with research reportedly predicting that plant-based food diets will become more commonplace, including a small but growing trend for meat-free “meat.”

Two companies making headlines, and money, in this space are US-based Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, both of which have received the UN’s highest environmental honor, the Champions of The Earth award.

These innovators, described by UNEP as “plant-based revolutionaries,” invested in research to strip the basic building blocks of meat down to protein, fat, water and trace minerals, recreating meat entirely from plants at a fraction of the cost to the environment.

According to a study by Beyond Meat and the University of Michigan, Americans who eat an average of three burgers per week could save the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by 12 million cars, simply by swapping one of those weekly meals with a plant-based alternative.  

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