The huge environmental impact of meat consumption isn’t news, but now a new study published in Environmental Research Letters warns that meat eaters in developed countries may have to cut consumption by at least 50% to help avoid drastic environmental consequences by 2050.
When dealing with climate change, food production and consumption are undoubtedly some of the most difficult and controversial aspects. While many meat eaters will always claim it’s a necessary part of the human diet, it’s also difficult for environmentalists and scientists to find efficient ways to cut emissions from food production while still producing enough to feed the 9 billion people expected to populate the globe by 2050.
Over the past few years, researchers have paid more and more attention to our diets and how it affects climate change. It’s a slippery slope, since growing enough food for the entire population is also an increasingly large issue. There are even scientists out there working to grow artificial meat and figure out how to turn insects into a consumable item in more countries.
It’s all a pretty vicious cycle. Nitrous oxide is released by fertilizers and animal waste, and feed crops for pigs and cattle produce more emissions than crops that are grown for human consumption. Eating less meat reduces the demand for fertilizer and cuts down on animal waste, thus drastically cutting emissions.
The study also laid out a few predictions, with researchers expecting meat consumption to increase to 89kg per person a year in rich countries, and 37kg a year in developing countries; that is, if we don’t get a grip and start giving more of a crap about what goes in our bodies and how it’s produced.
The researchers aren’t even asking us to give up meat entirely. Red meat can be replaced with chicken or fish, or by eating larger portions of vegetables and grains rather than making meat the big part of the meal. Small changes lead to big results when spread among millions or billions, and at this crucial point, can we really afford to do it any other way?