It takes more resources to grow a calorie of vegetable matter then it does to grow a calorie of animal flesh. When you raise animals you have to feed them and the energy conversion from plant to animal is inefficient. You need agricultural land to grow the animal feed and then another area to raise the animals. Why not just use the one parcel of land and grow human grade food? Going veggie saves water and other energy inputs and it is always healthier to eat more fruits and veggies.
Reducing the amount of meat in ones diet or eliminating it entirely can reduce greenhouse gas emissions tremendously, help promote animal welfare, clean up water supplies, reduce algal blooms in the ocean which cause dead zones and make people healthier. Excluding wild game, most meat travels over long distances to one’s table in gas guzzling trucks. Animals are consumers like humans. This means that they have to be fed. Plants get their energy for growth from the sun and the soil. Animals get if from the food they assimilate. The assimilation efficiency for consumers in a food chain is approximately 10%. This means that only 10% of what consumers eat becomes part of them. The rest is lost in heat and metabolic processes. This means that it takes much more energy to produce 1 calorie of meat than it does to produce 1 calorie of a plant food. This is directly reflected in food prices. Beef is more expensive than black beans for a reason. There are many, many more reasons that eating meat the way it is currently produced in the US is harmful to the environment as well.
The high demand for meat results in a lot of environmentally harmful practices. One is using land to raise animals that could be used to grow crops that would feed more people. The animals require lots of energy to feed them, house them, etc. More animals means other crops have to be used to feed them, instead of once again going to humans, and again this requires a lot of energy to grow the food for all of the animals. Plus it’s obviously inefficient. Another problem is that cows, which are always in high demand, release methane, which is a greenhouse gas, amazingly enough. This wasn’t a problem decades ago because humans were emitting fewer greenhouse gases and there were fewer cows being raised. Additionally, cow grazing hurts endangered species. Chooseveg.com says that cow grazing is responsible for the extinction of 26% of endangered and threatened species (this coming from the USDA originally). According to Goveg.com, the meat, egg and dairy industries also are responsible for heavy nitrous oxide emissions, another dangerous greenhouse gas.
Fisheries are being depleted and fish farms are unhealthy. Dairy farms that milk cows mechanically all day long are inhumane and big energy users. Huge animal farms that pile them up in small confined spaces use a lot of energy and pollute the environment with all of the waste, chemicals and byproducts.
More statistics and more information can be found on the websites, but this is a short version. I’m thinking I should go vegetarian…
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