One Less Bite of the Earth: Meat Alternatives
The first wealth is health. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our lives are being impacted by a conglomerate of global crises: climate, covid-19, extinctions, economic inequality, hunger, poverty, drought, fires, Brood X cicadas and so many more. We can easily feel overwhelmed by the scale of these doom-bringers. The impact of having so many simultaneous crisis can leave all of us feeling powerless and disheartened. But there are steps you can take. Let’s look at one today — meat consumption and healthy alternatives.
I am not a vegetarian. I believe humans are omnivores. But recently, for health reasons, I began eating less meat. Let’s start with some statistics. The world produces three times more meat than fifty years ago. In 2018 for example, the world produced around 340 million tons of meat. That represents around 80 billion animals. The average meat consumption per person was around 43 kilograms. Australia and the US lead with over 100 kg per person/year, while in India meat consumption averaged around 5 kg. The increase in global prosperity over the past 50 years greatly contributes to the enormous increase in meat consumption. But what are some of the environmental impacts of meat consumption?
Data is a compilation of facts and statistics. And there is a lot of data available on meat production and consumption. But that data is just numbers unless you understand the impact of those numbers. Understanding turns data into information and information is empowering. As I have said many times, we are fortunate to be living in the Information Age. Take a look at the counter for current global meat consumption: yearly, monthly, daily (today).
Just watching the numbers increasing at such an alarming rate gives something to think about. It can lead us to ask what can I do? How can I reduce my contribution to the problem? As a university environmental educator, (my former impressive job title was Assistant Support Scientist) I firmly believe information should lead to action. I think this ongoing pandemic shows us we cannot always wait for governments to guide us. We have to take control of some aspects of our lives to start bending the future in the direction we want it to go.
One 3 ounce serving of chicken a day has the following monthly environmental impacts: 2,998 gallons of water consumed; 57 lbs CO₂eq produced; 14 trees are need to absorb those emissions and requires 19 pounds of feed and 38.5 square yards of land, which could grow 25 pounds of rice or maize.
Alternatively: One serving of Beef a day/month requires: 10,737 gallons of water. Produces: 495.7 lbs CO₂eq; 121 trees are needed to absorb those emissions, and requires 145.4 lbs and 1029.5 square yards of land which could grow 666 lbs. Of rice or maize.
Calculate your own Meat Footprint
The photos I used in this article are all meat alternatives that I have tried. They are readily available in supermarkets around the world. You just have to spend the a little less time in the Meat Department and a little more time in the vegetable section. Check the frozen foods area for “Meat Alternatives”. Soy products are tasty because they take on the flavor of the spices and vegetables. I love the Quorn products. The are made from mycoprotein meat substitute called mycoprotein, derived from a natural fungus.
For the past few months, I’ve been eating a lot more vegetables. At the same time, I have increased my use of legumes (various beans in particular). Scientists who study longevity have found there are several places with a higher concentration of long-lived people — Blue Zones. Beans are one food that is common to the diets of all Five Blue Zones. These folks eat around half a cup of beans a day. Beans are a superfood. They are around 20% protein and 77% complex carbohydrates which gives you slow steady energy. There full of fiber and are cheap. I use them in the healthy soups I make two or three times a week. So you can start today to help Mother Earth and improve your health. All you have to do is Take One Less Bite.