Who doesn’t enjoy a good hamburger or a nice juicy steak? Meat has been a staple food for a lot of cultures around the world. It also serves as a symbol of power and status thanks to its costly price, and those who see themselves as having lower socio-economic status prefer meat, and eat more meat, due to this perception, according to new research from Monash University and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). However, there are a lot of dark sides to meat industry that a lot of people don’t know or choose to ignore.
1. Meat industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation globally
The industrial meat system requires a huge amount of land to sustain itself. Forests, particularly in South America, are deliberately slashed and burned every year to graze cattle and grow enough crops to feed billions of farmed animals. In Brazil, farmers are deliberately setting forest fires – like the Amazon rainforest fires you may have seen in the news – to clear space for cattle ranching and to grow industrial animal feed, like soya, for farms back in the UK.
The climate impact of meat is enormous – roughly equivalent to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world. 1 serving of beef produces 3.3kg of CO2 compared to carrots that only produce 0.035kg of CO2 per serving.
When forests are destroyed to produce industrial meat, billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. The fallen trees are often left to rot on the forest floor or are burned, creating further emissions.
Healthy trees are essential for absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. If we cut them down, they can no longer help us in the fight against climate change.
3. It’s killing wildlife
By clearing forests, destroying habitats and using toxic pesticides to grow animal food, the industrial meat industry is contributing to the extinction of thousands of species, many of which haven’t even been discovered yet.
We depend on a healthy environment for our own survival. The huge abundance and variety of the natural world (sometimes called biodiversity) is essential for food, clean water and medicines. The rapid loss of biodiversity, largely driven by industrial farming, could be as big a threat to our existence as climate change.
4. It’s an inefficient way to eat
Companies sometimes argue that industrial meat is an efficient way to produce food, but this ignores its true costs. Real price of one hamburger is actually USD 200 if we take social and environment costs into account. Over a quarter of the world’s entire land area is used to graze or grow food for farm animals – food that could have been eaten by people in the first place. Just 1kg of chicken meat takes 3.2kg of crops to produce.
If everyone ate a plant-based diet, we’d need 75% less farmland than we use today. That’s an area equivalent to the US, China, Europe and Australia combined. That’s because it takes less land to grow food directly for humans, than to feed animals, which humans then eat.
In countries like the UK, we need to be eating 70% less meat and dairy by 2030 to prevent climate breakdown. By eating mostly plant-based food, we could feed more people – with all the calories and nutrition needed for a healthy diet – without destroying forests.
After knowing the massive impact meat industry has on environment, are you still craving for that piece of meat? We sure do hope you’ll be more inspired to reduce meat consumption and switch to plant based alternatives instead. We are lucky because we live in Indonesia where fruits and vegetables are always abundant. A lot of local Indonesian dishes are vegan too! Like gado-gado, karedok, tempe orek, any tofu dishes, vegetable soup, rujak, and even traditional snacks like kolak, kue putu, klepon and getuk are also vegan. Many restaurants in big cities like Jakarta, Bandung and Bali now provide vegan options in their menu, a lot of vegan eateries are opening around town as well. There’s really no better time to go plant based but now. So what are you waiting for?