By Linda Wilson
While transitioning to a plant-based diet can bring you many health benefits, positive environmental benefits are also considered. Reducing or eliminating meat and eating a plant-based diet means that you can feel good about your impact on natural resources like our water and land as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
Tara Haddad, the Founder and CEO of Modern Meat explains why following a plant-based diet is beneficial to the environment and how people interested in switching can start.
Benefits for Land Use
If everyone in the world ditched the meat, it would be possible to reduce the amount of land used for animal agriculture by 75 percent. The large reduction in agricultural land use would be made possible by reducing the land used for grazing and growing crops.
While cutting out beef and dairy has a larger impact than eliminating chicken or fish, it is important to consider how consuming animal products affect our planet. Half of our planet’s arable land is used for agriculture. 77 percent of this land is used for the production of meat.
If more people ate plant-based diets, it would be possible to return some of the land used in agriculture to its natural state. This would have many benefits in terms of biodiversity.
It is not widely known that 1,800 gallons of water go into producing just one pound of beef. This is astronomically greater than the amount of water that is needed to produce plant-based foods. One pound of potatoes only takes 34 gallons of water to produce. Much of the water that is used in animal products is due to the need to water the crops these animals eat.
Another significant source of impact on our planet’s water due to animal farming is pollution. Factory farming produces 500 million tons of waste each year. This figure represents twice the amount of waste that is produced by the human population of the United States. While sewage treatment plants can cope with human waste, there are no treatment systems for animal waste. Manure is kept in lagoons and sprayed as fertilizer on nearby fields.
The land is unable to absorb this volume of waste. Sprayfields runoff and manure lagoons leak and fail. This can pollute both groundwater and surface waters.
Runoff from factory farming includes hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals, chemicals, and microorganisms. All of these dangerous substances end up in our groundwater and surface water. Dangerous pathogens like E. Coli and parasites can be transmitted through contaminated water.
One well-known case of environmental pollution from factory farming affecting the food supply is the rash of E. Coli contamination that plagued romaine lettuce growers in California. During this crisis, people were advised to avoid eating all romaine lettuce. This problem had a severe economic impact on many stores and restaurants that had to discard these contaminated food products
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The meat industry is responsible for 56.6 percent of the global emissions of greenhouse gases caused by agriculture. In contrast, vegetables, fruits, and grain products are only responsible for 6 percent of the global output of greenhouse gases caused by agriculture.
Eating locally-produced foods whenever possible can also have a beneficial impact on greenhouse gas emissions since there are fewer fossil fuels needed to transport these food items across the country or around the world.
Reasons to Switch
The reasons to make the move to a plant-based lifestyle are compelling. In order to have a more sustainable food system consumers need to reduce their meat consumption and look to the growing alternative protein market.
There have been phenomenal advancements in the meat alternative sector and its growing at an accelerated rate. Modern Meat is one of the leading producers of plant-based foods, offering such products as burgers a ground crumble, meatballs, ‘crab’ cakes and gyozas. The company also produces vegan sauces. These products are able to fit seamlessly into a meat-eater’s diet, providing satisfying protein as well as variety and good taste.
When switching to a plant-based diet, it is best to go gradually. This can prevent any shock to your system and help you ease yourself into this major lifestyle change. It can be challenging to give up your favorite meats and dairy products, but the wide variety of substitutes that are available today should help.
Consider Your Environmental Impact
Tara Haddad urges all meat-eaters to consider the environmental impact of their choices. While eating meat is traditional and convenient, the earth is strained by the meat industry. Land use, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions are all negatively impacted by meat production.
A plant-based diet can give people peace of mind that comes from knowing they are doing the best they can for our shared planet. Resources are finite, and they must be treated with care.