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Diet and sustainability go hand in hand. What people choose to put on their plates has a lasting impact on the environment. In particular, meat and dairy consumption is a significant contributor to climate change and global warming.

What Is the Impact of Meat and Dairy Consumption?

Consuming meat and dairy has serious effects on the planet. Here are some of them:

Industrial meat production requires large tracts of land to sustain. In South America, farmers deliberately set forest fires to clear space for raising cattle and growing animal feed.

When forests are cleared to raise livestock and grow animal food, habitats are destroyed and thousands of species are in danger of extinction.

85% of freshwater use is allocated to food processing and agriculture.

Why Does Meat and Dairy Consumption Lead to Higher Carbon Dioxide Emissions?

Feeding livestock and farm animals massive amounts of water and grain, killing and processing them, and transporting and storing their meat requires a lot of energy and resources.

According to Skeptical Science, an information resource on climate science, animal agriculture accounts for 13%-18% of manmade greenhouse gas emissions. This is roughly the same amount as the combined emissions from vehicles, airplanes, and ships.

What Are International Research Bodies Saying About Diet and Climate Change?

Food production is responsible for approximately a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions across the world. Scientists believe that reducing the pace and limiting the effects of global warming is impossible without considerable changes in people’s diets.

Studies from the following international research bodies show that a global shift in how people eat is necessary:

  • A study from the University of Oxford found that meat-eaters cause approximately 2.5 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as vegans and twice as many as vegetarians.

  • Researchers from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology reported that a significant reduction in dairy and meat consumption can reduce agricultural climate pollution.

  • A report from the journal Nature stated that beef consumption needs to be reduced by at least 90% to avert the serious effects of climate change


Alternatives for Meat

Plant-based foods such as soy, grains, pulses, and beans are excellent climate-friendly meat alternatives. We’ve also seen a recent influx of plant-based meat enter the market — both in stores and in restaurants — which has a much smaller carbon footprint and tastes as delicious as the real thing!

Wrapping Up

Switching to a vegan diet is better for the environment. However, a sustainable food system can still include animal agriculture. After all, livestock can be raised on land that’s not suitable for growing crops. We can also consume crop residue that would otherwise just go to waste. It’s important to note that animal agriculture also provides a livelihood for more than a billion people across the world.

However, if we want to reduce global warming, consuming less meat and dairy is crucial. There are plenty of substitutes available out there to choose from — and most of them taste just as good as meat.

Previous: Zero Waste: Sustainable Eating Habits You Wanna Know

Next: Is Climate Change a Social Issue?

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