Is Our Meat Consumption Even Healthy?

To get right to the point … No! And you may say “What?!? It’s just protein” but there are many factors that won’t affect you now but eventually will come back to bite us in the future.

1. Sure, certain meats like fish and chicken pack a lot of protein and omega-3 but red meats, like beef and pork, ( which is eaten a lot more in the US especially) contain stuff like extra fat, cholesterol, and have high sodium content. This, when eaten regularly, increases risk for heart attacks, clogged arteries, high BP, and in general makes you a much less healthy person. This doesn’t mean you have to go full-on vegetarian it just means you have to use your judgment when eating red meats.

2. Increased Demand for Meat=Increased Breeding of Animals=Increased Greenhouse Gases. Just look at the math! As our demand for meat increases like crazy, farmers have to speed up the breeding of animals(especially cows), which increases the amount of methane gas, primarily through enteric fermentation and fermentation of their manure(basically farts, burps, and poop). Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that, along with nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and some other compounds in the atmosphere, create a blanket around our planet.

Amount of Methane Produced by Livestock over Time
This isn’t worldwide but I really like how the diagram shows the different causes of emissions

3. It is not sustainable!! This is probably the one you have heard the most but never bothered to really think about because you were only thinking about yourself and not how you affect the system on the large scale. Here’s the thing, if we had an unlimited world, with unlimited space and resources we could totally get by with our current rate of meat consumption. But we keep eating more and more meat and producing more and more people so obviously, that's not going to happen. World meat consumption is expected to double by 2050, especially in developed countries. According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Per-capita meat consumption has more than doubled in the past half-century, even as the global population has continued to increase. As a result, the overall demand for meat has increased five-fold.” The easiest and fastest solution for people is to just eat meat fewer times a week/month consistently to help bring down the widespread rate of meat consumption. Another method that is currently being enhanced is lab-grown meat that resembles the color, texture, and flavor of actual meat.

4. To fulfill the current demand for meat we have to breed animals in highly unethical ways. If the meat demand was lower we could afford to feed the animals healthily and raise them in places and quantity that is good for the animals and the environment. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports “26 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing and 33 percent of croplands are used for livestock feed production. Livestock contributes to seven percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions through enteric fermentation and manure.”This basically means that by 2050 Earth may not be able to sustain the population of animals in both resources and land. The massive amounts of water used, the deforestation to make more space for breeding animals, and the amount of food used is crazy! So instead people feed animals unhealthy and easy to mass grow crops, place them in highly claustrophobic and dirty spaces, and force mass breeding to keep up with the demand for meat. The price of meat is now dirt cheap so companies mass-produce and sell them to suppliers to get money.

Overall the amount of meat we produce has to change otherwise the environment will face serious repercussions soon. Meat could become a highly rare and expensive product or it could be so overproduced that we would waste all of our resources just trying to keep up with the impossible demand. The widespread use and sale of lab-grown meat will take time because people still believe it is bad for you. After all, it is not natural but in actuality, it contains all the nutrients and is produced using animal stem cells. Until then, just reducing the amount of meat you eat daily could benefit the environment.

Innovate Student at TKS| Passionate about Biotech and Nanotechnology