Beef production is a major contributor to climate change due to its heavy resource use and high greenhouse gas (i.e. methane) emissions. This is largely due to the fact that there are nearly one billion beef cattle on the planet. Beef cattle are slaughtered at just under 2-years-old. The dairy industry is just as guilty. Dairy cows can live for 8-12 years depending on the quality of their care. That means 8-12 years of nearly 270 million dairy cows eating, drinking, and releasing methane into the atmosphere globally.
The meat and dairy industries are thirsty businesses. It takes an estimated 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. In America alone, people are expected to consume over 200 pounds of beef and poultry each year per person. If that number continues to climb – like it is projected to – the climate crisis will only get worse.
Cows are fed with other potential sources of food, like maize and soy, which makes for a very inefficient process. This also require lots of water, fertilisers that can release greenhouse gases, and plenty of land – some of which come from cleared forests.
Cow’s milk production requires significantly more resources and produces higher emissions than any kind of plant-based milk. Even compared to almond milk, which is the most resource-heavy dairy-free option, cow’s milk still has the biggest environmental impact.
What Happens When You Eat Less Meat?
By reducing your consumption of animal protein by half, you can cut your diet’s carbon footprint by more than 40%.
You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to make a difference. Cut down gradually and become a ‘flexitarian’. Flexitarianism or ‘casual vegetarianism’ is an increasingly popular, plant-based diet that claims to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health with an eating regime that’s mostly vegetarian yet still allows for the occasional meat dish. When people do choose to eat meat, opting for good quality lean poultry meat is best, such as chicken or turkey.
By eating less meat, we can help to mitigate environmental threats while consequently reducing cruelty and improving our health.