Washington, D.C. – New research has found that global meat production and consumption have increased rapidly in the last 10 years, affecting the planet and public health in a negative way.
The research, from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project, also found that meat production tripled over the last four decades and increased 20 per cent in just the last 10 years.
Worldwatch explains that meat production has grown due to the rise of factory farming. These operations pollute the environment with their heavy use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.
The organization also says that large-scale meat production means more animal waste, which releases methane and nitrous oxide. These greenhouse gases are 25 and 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, respectively.
It’s the world’s growing appetite for meat that is the biggest reason greenhouse gas emissions are still growing, says Worldwatch.
The organization suggests rethinking meat production. Properly managed and scaled meat production, such as small-scale pastoralists on dry grasslands, could sequester carbon dioxide.
Worldwatch also says a diet high in red and processed meats can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. But eaten in moderation, meat is a good source of protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins.
• Pork is the most widely consumed meat in the world, followed by poultry, beef, and mutton.
• Poultry production is the fastest growing meat sector, increasing 4.7 per cent in 2010 to 98 million tons.
• Worldwide, per capita meat consumption increased from 41.3 kilograms in 2009 to 41.9 kilograms in 2010. People in the developing world eat 32 kilograms of meat a year on average, compared to 80 kilograms per person in the industrial world.
• Of the 880 million rural poor people living on less than $1 per day, 70 per cent are partially or completely dependent on livestock for their livelihoods and food security.
• Demand for livestock products will nearly double in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, from 200 kilocalories per person per day in 2000 to some 400 kilocalories in 2050.
• Raising livestock accounts for roughly 23 per cent of all global water use in agriculture, equivalent to 1.15 litres of water per person per day.
• Livestock account for an estimated 18 per cent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, producing 40 per cent of the world’s methane and 65 per cent of the world’s nitrous oxide.
• Seventy-five per cent of the antibiotics used on livestock are not absorbed by the animals and are excreted in waste, posing a serious risk to public health.
• An estimated 11 per cent of deaths in men and 16 per cent of deaths in women could be prevented if people decreased their red meat consumption to the level of the group that ate the least.
• Eating organic, pasture-raised animals can be healthier and environmentally beneficial compared to industrial feedlot systems.