Every so often my husband and I play this game where we choose which of two foods wed rather live without ice cream or potatoes, bread or butter, onions or carrots, etc. The most recent debate was melted cheese or lettuce, and at a friends kind of boring dinner party over the holidays he put it to the group. Not exactly the Algonquin round table, but it filled a silence and even prompted one guy who hadnt said a word all night to tell us: Every meal I eat has melted cheese in it.
But I noticed something interesting about everyone elses response and that was that they were divided almost entirely according to gender the men would give up lettuce, the women cheese.
When someone posed a meat vs. cheese follow up there was the same gender divide: men, cheese; women meat.
And this made me realize two things:
When New York Times food columnist (and king of the roast chicken) Mark Bittman recently published How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and talked about giving up eating so much meat, I knew something was up.
So I did a little research and turns out theres a pretty good case to be made against meat. According to the sustainable living website Lighter Footstep a meat-rich diet uses up more than three times the resources than a vegetable-based one: Meat production is humankind's least-efficient means of feeding itself. For every pound of meat that goes to the plate, it took sixteen pounds of grain and soybean feed to put it there ... each calorie of meat protein requires approximately 78 calories of fossil fuels to produce.
No Impact Man highlights the ways eating less meat helps the environment with the UN Food and Agricultural Organizations November 2006 report, Livestocks Long Shadow Environmental Issues and Options.
8% of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock (more than from transportation).
70% of previously forested land in the Amazon was cleared to pasture cattle.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems, come from cattle.
The livestock sector accounts for over 8% of global human water use, while 64% of the worlds population will live in water-stressed areas by 2025.
The worlds largest source of water pollution is believed to be the livestock sector.
In the United States, livestock are responsible for a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources.
Livestock account for about 20% of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the 30% of the earths land surface that they now preempt was once habitat for wildlife, in an era of unprecedented threats to biodiversity.
These problems will only get worse as meat production is expected to double by 2050.
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