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Meat Consumption and Its Input to Global Warming Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 28th, 2020


Research shows that the environment can be safe if meat consumption is reduced in the United States and other parts of the world. This is mainly because of the greenhouse gases that are emitted during the processing of meat. Moreover, animals consume too much feeds before they can produce the desired quantities of meat. Some scholars argue that people should stop eating meat, mainly because it is harmful to human health. The issue of animal welfare has always been put in question, even though environmental conservation is the major concern of many. It is noted that individuals in various parts of the world are unwilling to give up meat consumption. However, reduction, shift to other sources of protein, and consumption of organically manufactured proteins, are some of the alternatives that environmentalists suggest to save the environment and reduce global warming. Many individuals ask themselves which type of meat would be friendly to the environment because such information is not within the public domain.

A statement released by the United Nations Environmental Program established that domestic animals are the second main contributors to ecological deprivation, which results in climatic transformation. This is mainly because of air and water contamination (Steinfeld 23). The livestock sector contributes approximately eighteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is even more than the transport sector. A combination of agricultural by-products, waste disposal, and treatment constitute a larger percentage of greenhouse emission. This is directly related to meat consumption. I am in support of a recent report released by one of the environmental lobby group, which concluded that lamb meat is the worst in terms of environmental degradation. The beef was ranked second according to the report while cheese came in third place. Pork and farmed salmon were the least polluters of the environment. Chicken is the best animal meat to consume because it does not contribute to global warming. This article aims at evaluating the role of meat consumption in environmental degradation and global warming.

Meat Production

In my opinion, meat production processes, particularly concentrated animal feeding operations, have tremendous effects on the environment, which implies that they contribute to climatic change through the emission of dangerous gases. Animals are no longer given special care as they used to be in the traditional society, but instead, they are crammed into tiny stalls without vegetation. Such animals are provided with feeds, which are produced in different places and transported through roads. Some are simply injected with hormones and antibiotics on a regular basis to increase their rates of growth. In my view, farmers are simply driven with the desire to make a profit, meaning that animals should mature as fast as possible to provide meat products. Animals kept under such settings are regarded as part of nature since they constitute a natural cycle.

Their by-products get in contact with the environment, which poses a great threat to human life. This is because their waste products are exposed to the fields and could be swept into rivers, which may perhaps result in the formation of dead zones. By-products from pigs contain high quantities of hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and cyanide, which infiltrate the air. People’s meat processing areas have always suffered from complications, such as nose bleeding, ear problems, diarrhea, and lung infections (Foer 32). Just as Foer observed that waste products from pigs and chicken have the possibility of contaminating water bodies beyond thirty-five miles, I am also in support of a similar view since this occurs in major rivers in over twenty-two states in the United States. A recent study conducted in the United States affirmed that antibiotics utilized in treating animals could be causing drug resistance.

Studies suggest that meat is not an option for a hungry population since it needs more input as compared to other sources of food. Fruits and vegetables do not need too much input, as well as energy. Foer approximated that farmed animals produce more wastes. In terms of water usage, Steinfeld was of the view that livestock consumes approximately eight percent of global water usage. In the United States, people consume too much animal protein, which is contrary to the recommendations of the health practitioner. This is the major cause of obesity in the country. People in the United States consume over two-eighty eight pounds of proteins, which is the highest in any developed country. Bosshardt was of the view that this eating rate is sixty percent more as compared to the rate at which people from Europe use meat stuff. In the United States, meat consumption has always been viewed as a sign of status, apart from being the staple food (56). However, many individuals have never considered its effects on the environment since cows’ products are known to produce methane gas, which contains a considerable amount of carbon dioxide gas. Studies suggest that one cow could perhaps produce over five hundred liters of methane in any single day. Hamerschlag (26) was of the view that one kilogram of beef generates over twenty-seven kilograms of carbon dioxide gas. Apart from producing a dangerous gas to the environment, cows and other grazers are not good manufacturers of food since they consume over seven kilograms of grain for each kilogram of beef produced.

Just as health experts suggest that individuals should resort to consuming grass-fed and organic beef as opposed to factory-manufactured beef, I seem to agree that this contributes to environmental degradation. Factory manufactured beef has several effects on the environment because of the gases emitted during the process of feed production. Others argue that grass-fed animals are even dangerous to the environment since they produce more methane and use more feeds, given the fact that they take time to grow. I subscribe to the views Manning (53), which supported the idea that grass-fed animals are healthier since they produce meat that is less hazardous to the environment. Proponents of modern agricultural production techniques suggest that animals crammed in a few stalls need less land to offer similar products as those kept in large farms. This favors the environment because the new system prevents carbon emission, which would be released to the soil through cultivation. Rastogi observed that confinement feeding is essential in the sense that it reduces greenhouse emissions.

Consumption of Pork

Rastogi (38) conducted a study, which revealed that at least five to six pounds of feeds are needed for a pig to produce one pound of pork. This figure is far much less as compared to beef production. Hamerschlag observed that pigs produce twelve kilograms of carbon dioxide to generate one kilogram of pork, which is less than a third when compared to beef production.

In this regard, only one-third of greenhouse gas emission is attributed to pork production. Therefore, it is factual that pork farming produces fewer gases that are dangerous to the environment as compared to beef production. Advocates of animal rights, on their part, refute the claims that factory production of pigs is the only way to resolve issues related to environmental degradation. They recommended that pigs should be authorized to wallow in dirt and experience ordinary actions since this practice encourages ecological protection. Eriksen was against the idea since out-of-doors pig manufacturing leads to soil and ecological dispossession owing to nitrogen discharge.

Chicken Consumption

Chicken meat is perceived to be lean for the body. Environmentalists suggest that chicken rearing has lesser environmental effects as compared to big farm animals, such as cows and pigs. Adler (28) advised that individuals should resort to eating chicken meat, in case they are unable to control their meat-eating habits. His suggestion was that chicken consumption would yield major environmental benefits, apart from financial and health benefits. Unlike big farm animals, Hamerschlag noted that chicken release just six kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of meat produced. This amount is approximately half that of the amount produced by pork and beef. Chicken production is safe to the environment in the sense that little energy is used in burning out protein calories as compared to beef protein.

A study conducted by Rastogi established that over twenty to forty units of fossil fuels are used in burning out beef and pork proteins as compared to five units needed for burning out chicken proteins. However, this study implied that chicken production contributes to several environmental challenges. This proves that meat consumption contributes to environmental degradation and global warming, irrespective of the meat consumed. Manure produced by chicken could easily seep into the land and would have the capability of spreading bacteria, which is dangerous to the health of other organisms. Nitrogen and phosphoric acids from chicken manure are harmful to water bodies. These harmful chemicals are washed into streams, rivers, and coastal areas whereby they affect the quality of water, encourage the growth of algae and create dead zones, which are highly hazardous to the environment. The case is even serious for the factory production of chicken.

In factories specializing in chicken production, antibiotics and hormones are often employed. This affects the environment in the sense that they interfere with the natural growth of organisms. The process of cleaning up chicken and processing them for human use consume huge volumes of water as compared to any other process of preparing meat. Hamerschlag was of the view that by-products of such processes are usually dangerous since they contain harmful chemicals and other products with a high concentration of gases. Allison (63) conducted a study that proved that organic and free-range rearing of chicken is even more dangerous as compared to factory farming. The study established that the energy needed for organic production of chicken is over thirty-three percent as compared to the free-range system, which is simply twenty-five percent. The global warming percentage is expected to be forty-six percent higher for organic farming as compared to free-range farming, which would be twenty percent. Chicken takes a considerable time to mature under the free-range system, as compared to an organic farming system.

Fish Consumption

Substituting conventional sources of meat with fish seems to be the ultimate solution to the problem of global warming and environmental degradation. However, the challenge presented by fish consumption is different, which confirms that meat consumption, irrespective of the type, contributes to environmental degradation. The challenges presented by fish consumption are even serious as compared to those presented by beef, pork, and chicken consumption. Greenhouse gases are not the major problem in fish consumption, even though the use of boats in catching fish poses environmental challenges. The by-products of fish are dangerous to the environment since they pollute the air and water bodies. The major issue facing this alternative of acquiring fulfilling protein demands is overfishing. The use of radar technologies and the GPS do not favor fish varieties since they ensure that big fish are destroyed systematically. In my view, a study conducted in the United States by Clark and Clausen (91) suggesting that over seventy-five percent of major fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited, or even depleted is valid. Clark and Clausen cautioned that people have been fishing down the food chain without considering the issue of sustainability. In lakes and rivers, it is rare to come across big fish. The above scholars observed that what was previously considered trash fish, including tilapia, could not be found easily in major lakes and other water bodies in modern society.

Modern anglers use non-standard dragnets, which do not give room to small fish, and other varieties of endangered specify a chance to survive. Some endangered species, such as seals and porpoises, are not spared since they are caught alongside other varieties of fish. I agree with Foer, who was of the view that not all animals captured are usually used as food, but instead, over eighty percent is thrown away, which is a waste. Foer suggested further that there would be no fish in the next fifty years if the current trend were allowed to go on. According to Foer, the likelihood of having a blank marine is high in subsequent years. Since a blank ocean in the next fifty years is a fact, individuals have resorted to fish agriculture, which is commonly termed as aquaculture, which is a different method of fishing in lakes and rivers. However, fish farming is not compliant to the demands of the environment. In other words, it is dangerous to the environment since it contributes to environmental degradation. In most cases, various varieties of fish are packed in confined places with no space to whirl, but instead, they merely move around their own desecrates. Fish farming encourages the use of antibiotics and hormones to avoid diseases and encourage growth, respectively. Hamerschlag performed research, which ascertained that farmed salmon has a high absorption of PCBs and other chemicals used in killing insects, even though its carbon manufacturing is reasonably low. Hamerschlag observed that greenhouse emission is approximated to be 4.14 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every one kg of fish meat produced.

I support Clark and Clausen, who was concerned with the way fish is fed. They observed that under the aquaculture system, fish is acquired through a poor system. This increases the chances of catching even small fish in the lakes, which has a tremendous effect on the marine ecosystem. The life of small fish, which is used in catching big fish, is in danger. Fish products do not have many effects on the health of individuals. They boost an individual’s health by providing the essential type of fatty acids referred to as omega-3. However, Griesbauer (44) suggested that many people forget that fish contains mercury particles, which are extremely dangerous to the human nervous system. Mercury particles affect pregnant women since they can affect the brain of children


From the studies conducted by several scholars, it is concluded that meat contributes to environmental degradation and global warming. However, many environmentalists have never paid attention to this emerging trend that is threatening the atmosphere. Most of them are keen on ensuring that land is utilized in an environmentally secure manner instead of encouraging people to reduce meat consumption. The main solution to the problem of global warming is agitating for sustainable development. This means that today’s production should take into consideration the future generation. In this case, meat production should be friendly to the environment to prevent global warming. The future generation would have nothing to produce in case the rate at which the environment is being destroyed persists. Many scholars advise that the only way to ensure sustainability would be through the formulation of laws. Scholars advancing this approach compare global warming to segregation in the United States. Segregation was a policy that had oppressed and subjugated many people in the United States. It was easy to end the policy by designing appropriate laws. Therefore, laws should be designed at the national and international levels. The government of the United States should come up with strong laws to punish those who destroy the environment. Similarly, the US should facilitate the designing of international environmental law. The only solution to pollution is the designing of laws.

Works Cited

Adler, Ben. “Are Cows Worse Than Cars?” American Prospect, 12.1(2008): 28-41. Print.

Allison, Richard. “Organic chicken production criticised for leaving a larger carbon footprint.” Poultry World, 3.1 (2007): 16-31. Print.

Bosshardt, Richard. “Eating less meat has many benefits.” Orlando Sentinel, 9.18 (2011): 18-24. Print.

Clark, Brett, and Clausen, Rebecca. “The Oceanic Crisis: Capitalism and the Degradation of Marine Ecosystems.” Monthly Review, 3.2 (2008): 91-104. Print.

Foer, Jonathan. Eating Animals. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2009. Print.

Griesbauer, Laura.“Methyl mercury Contamination in Fish and Shellfish.” Pro Quest Discovery Guides, 3.4 (2007): 35-56. Print.

Hamerschlag, Kari. A Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health: What You Eat Matters. Lifecycle Assessments: Methodology & Results. New York: Environmental Working Group, 2011. Print

Manning, Richard. “The Amazing Benefits of Grass-Fed Meat.” Mother Earth News, 4.1 (2009): 48-63. Print.

Rastogi, Nina. “The Kindest Cut: Which Meat Harms Our Planet the Least?” Slate, 4.2 (2009): 32-48. Print.

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