Environmental Issues Posed by Meat-Based Diet

by kristen_mooney on Février 7, 2015 - 2:23pm

Many overlook the detrimental environmental effects their diets pose on the surrounding environment each and every day. Although one may strongly advocate for sustainability through recycling, composting, or simply producing less, many often forget the very threats their dietary practices may cause. 

When it comes to the meat industry, the excessive use of fossil fuels, waste, water, land, and other raw marerials are of great concern.  "Worldwide, an estimated 2 billion people live primarily on a meat-based diet, while an estimated 4 billion live primarily on a plant-based diet. The US food production system uses about 50% of the total US land area, 80% of the fresh water, and 17% of the fossil energy used in the country. The heavy dependence on fossil energy suggests that the US food system, whether meat-based or plant-based, is not sustainable" (Pimentel 2003). With that being said, it has been proven that practicing a vegetarian or vegan diet is much more sustainably sound than that of a meat-based diet.  

"More than 99.2% of US food is produced on land, while < 0.8% comes from oceans and other aquatic ecosystems. The continued use and productivity of the land is a growing concern because of the rapid rate of soil erosion and degradation throughout the United States and the world. Each year about 90% of US cropland loses soil at a rate 13 times above the sustainable rate of 1 ton/ha/y. About 60% of United States pasture land is being overgrazed and is subject to accelerated erosion" (Pimentel 2003). Land use is not only that of concern. Considering water, producing 1 kg of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing 1 kg of grain protein. On rangeland for forage production, more than 200 000 L of water are needed to produce 1 kg of beef (although animals vary in the amounts of water required for their production) (Pimentel 2003)

The major threat to future survival and to US natural resources is rapid population growth. The US population of 285 million is projected to double to 570 million in the next 70 years, which will place greater stress on the already-limited supply of energy, land, and water resources. These vital resources will have to be divided among ever greater numbers of people (Pimentel 2003). Where here, does the problem lie? Will it soon be necessary to impliment some sort of population control? Or will we continue to grow, eat, and expand our territory until there is virtually nothing left for us?



Pimentel, David; Pimentel, Marcia. Sustainability of Meat-Based and Plant-Based Diets and the Environment. 2003. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrution. Web Accessed February 07, 2015. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/660S.full.pdf+html'.