The Devil in Disguise: Hamburgers - How Much Does Eating Meat Affect Greenhouse Gas Emissions?



For generations, people have argued about whether it is moral to kill animals for their meat. But in recent years, the threat of climate change has presented meat consumers with an extra conundrum to think about: climate experts have warned that dairy and cow farming is unsustainable, producing large quantities of greenhouse emissions at every stage of the production process. The climate aspect has given many vegetarians and vegans another compelling reason to give up meat.


Let's start with the fundamentals: Omnivores consume both plant and animal goods, whereas vegans abstain from any kind of animal abuse. People become vegans for a variety of reasons, including: ethics, environmental issues, and health issues. It is crucial to highlight at this point that all of these arguments are persuasive if they are designed with the individual's wellbeing in mind and supported by reputable scientific studies. Numerous studies have revealed that people may significantly contribute to the preservation of the environment by eating one or more vegetarian meals each week. This proposal would aid in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which account for 60% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.


The principal author of one of the studies, statistician Francesco Tubiello, claims that when people discuss food systems, they invariably picture a cow on a field. The study was published in Environmental Research Letters. It is true that methane, like other greenhouse gases, is mostly produced by cows and that this gas retains heat in the atmosphere. However, other sources throughout the food supply chain also generate methane, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases. According to a significant new study, a third of all the planet-warming gases released by human activity are caused by the world's food industry, with the production of meat from animals polluting the environment twice as much as that of plant-based diets.


17,3 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gases are produced a year by the whole food production system, including the use of farming equipment, fertilizer application, and product transportation. According to studies, this massive release of gases that contribute to the climate issue is equivalent to 35% of all worldwide emissions and more than double the US's total emissions. “To produce more meat you need to feed the animals more, which then generates more emissions. You need more biomass to feed animals in order to get the same amount of calories. It isn’t very efficient.”


There is a significant disparity in emissions between the production of meat and plants; for example, it takes 2,5 kg of greenhouse gases to produce 1 kilogram of wheat. In contrast, 1 kilogram of beef produces 70 kg of pollutants. When solving the climate crisis, society should be aware of this enormous disparity, according to the experts.


The researchers developed a database that provided a consistent emissions profile for 171 crops and 16 animal products using data from more than 200 countries. They discovered that South America, South and South-East Asia, then China are the regions that create the most emissions from animal-based meals. Food-related emissions have rapidly grown in China and India as a result of growing incomes and cultural changes that have led more young people in these two countries to embrace diets high in meat consumption.


Scientists have repeatedly emphasized the need for a significant change in agricultural and eating practices if hazardous global warming is to be avoided. There are now about three hens for every person on the earth because to the expansion of meat manufacturing.


People should think about how they may switch to diets that are "plant-forward". Plant-forward does not equate to vegan. It entails consuming less animal products while increasing the proportion of plant-based meals consumed, according to Kim, a program officer at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.


A person would save around 1,600 kg of CO2 equivalents per year if they abstained from meat one day each week. A vegan diet, which excludes all meat, dairy, and other animal products, reduces it by 87% to under 300. Going even two-thirds vegan results in a significant reduction of CO2 equivalents, down to 740 kilos.


Our food production practices have an influence on biodiversity as well as global emissions, among other environmental factors. According to Mike Barrett, executive head of research and conservation at the World Wildlife Fund, "we live on a planet where wildlife is being squeezed out... Half of all habitable land is used for agriculture, and three-quarters of that land is used to feed and raise livestock."


According to Mr. Barrett, it is considerably more effective to use land to produce crops that people can eat directly and to have a fair global strategy to ensure that regions of the globe with diets heavy in meat and dairy migrate toward more plant-based meals.

You do not have to be vegan in order to save the world. Well, cutting meat itself will not be enough to save the world, but it is a step in order to not cause any more damage.


The right thing to do is actually adapting to flexitarianism. As the name implies, it applies to being more flexible with your diet while keeping environmental considerations in mind by using animal products less frequently in your diet. Not only is it more sustainable for the great majority of people on the planet, but it has also been demonstrated to cut your greenhouse gas emissions . This diet strikes a compromise between personal objections to veganism and the preservation of nature.


Works Cited:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/food-emissions-data-diet-carbon-greenhouse-gas-climate-agriculture

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/13/meat-greenhouses-gases-food-production-study

https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-59232599

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrvetter/2020/10/05/got-beef-heres-what-your-hamburger-is-doing-to-the-climate/?sh=345c79705206

https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-59232599

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