Meat consumption consumes a lot of Natural Resources. Should we do without animal products altogether and opt for the vegan diet to save the planet? Not so simple, as these data show.
It is generally accepted that meat production has a considerable impact on the environment. According to the WWF, out of 1.5 billion hectares of crops worldwide, one third is used for animal feed production. And an additional 3.4 billion hectares are used for grazing these animals. According to Climate Focus, cattle, pig and chicken farming is responsible for the destruction of 2.8 million hectares of forest each year, and according to the FAO, it contributes 14.5 % of greenhouse gas emissions due to human activity.
Producing one kg of beef requires 30 times more surface area and 75% more water than producing one kg of chicken
Beef is by far the most resource-intensive. While it takes 214 m2 of land and 550 liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef, pig farming requires only 12 m2 and 459 liters of water; chicken requires 7 m2 of land and 313 liters of water. By comparison, producing one kilogram of soybeans requires 3 m2 of soil and 70 liters of water. Similarly, the production of one kilogram of beef generates 15 times more greenhouse gases than the same weight of soybean.
According to a study published in Climatic Change, switching from a diet rich in meat (more than 100 g per day) to a vegetarian diet reduces its carbon footprint by 1.198 kg CO2e (kg carbon dioxide equivalent) per year and converts to the vegan diet saves 1,570 k CO2 per year, which corresponds to about three Paris-New York flights by plane. Another study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre shows that if every Frenchman switched to a vegetarian diet, up to 2,770 liters per person per day could be saved every year or more than one million liters per year. These figures are all the more worrisome as meat consumption in the world continues to increase as people in developed countries convert to the ” Western “diet. The average amount of meat consumed per person worldwide has almost doubled over the past 50 years, from 23 kg in 1961 to 43 kg in 2014. If the current trend continues, it will be necessary to increase agricultural production by 70 % by 2050 to cover the needs, Climate Focus alert.
Grasslands absorb more CO2 than cultivated fields
But it’s not that simple. Many vegan foods such as coconut oil and almonds are imported, and their transport generates greenhouse gases. Also, emissions vary depending on the type of farming. A grass-fed cow, rich in omega-3, emits 18% less methane than a cow fed on soybeans and soybeans. On the other hand, open-air farming contributes to the development of grasslands, which absorb more CO2 than cultivated fields. Livestock manure also enriches soils with carbon, making them richer and offsetting a share of animal emissions, according to Australian researchers.
Another Harvard University study published in Elementary argues that if everyone in the United States were to adopt a plant-only diet, it would not be possible to feed everyone. The vegan diet thus feeds 735 million people, while an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet (allowing eggs and dairy products) feeds 787 million people and a lactovegetarian diet (allowing dairy products) 807 million. Researchers explain that with a vegan diet, some land that is not adapted to plant crops such as grasslands is ” wasted “.
What is important to note is that a reduction in meat consumption can only be beneficial to the planet. Overeating meat is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and cancer. But banning meat altogether is not an obligation for the survival of the planet.