Happy New Year! As we all bask in the wonderful holiday season, full of good cheer and slightly larger waistbands, we may begin to think about our New Year's Resolutions. As such, I felt like this article would potentially spark some revitalized or brand-new interest in trying to eat less meat this year. Or some readers may do something more dramatic — attempting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for an entire year. Regardless, I hope this article teaches you something new.
As part of a final presentation for an Economic Development in Asia course by Professor Edward Clarence Smith at Kyoto University, Jy Wu, Eduardo Mariz, and I presented about the environmental impact of the meat industry. Specifically, we focused on beef, as it is the most environmentally damaging.
Through the process of researching and teaching this information to our classmates, we learned an array of astounding facts. We wrapped up our presentation by sharing our key recommendations to create a more sustainable world. And most importantly, we did our best to answer this question:
“Why Should I Care?”
And while I am not a vegetarian, I eat only vegetarian foods in my house. As a result, I’d say that I lead a vegetarian lifestyle about 90% of the time. Regardless, this article isn’t meant to change people’s minds, make people feel bad for eating meat, etc., instead, it’s crafted with the intention of enlightening the reader. Enjoy!
Please note that we catered this presentation to an international audience. As such, all facts are listed in kilograms, not pounds, etc.
Here are 5 reasons why you should care about the environmental impact of beef.
Personally, I’ve never eaten a cricket, and most people I know haven’t either, but this graphic demonstrates the astounding inefficiency of eating cattle. Poultry and pigs can’t compare with crickets either, as we can only consume 55% of it. Still, the jump from 40% to 55% is a statistically significant increase.
So why can’t we eat the other 60%? Most likely, it’s because people aren’t comfortable with eating all parts of the cow, or they forget to eat the beef before it’s use-by date.
Another surprising fact is that if you theoretically collected the waste of 2,501 dairy cows, it would literally be more waste than a city of 411,000 people.
Can you imagine how much waste that would entail?
Actually, don’t imagine it, as it may sicken you. Regardless, this fact blew our minds.
Honestly, I cannot even fathom how much excrement we are talking about, but I know it’s an astonishing amount. To put it into perspective, in that same minute, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube — an equally astonishing number that is more pleasing to visualize.
And the list of flabbergasting facts continues…
4. A Person on a Vegan Diet for 1 Year Needs 674 M²; a Vegetarian Needs 3x that Amount; And a Meat Eater Requires 18x that Amount!
Since I’m vegetarian about 90% of the time, that means that I require approximately 2022 m² + whatever meat I eat per year. If I were to be a regular meat eater, I would require 12,132 m² of land per year…
To create a more sustainable world, it’d be wise to at least consider changing our food habits…just a tad. For example, you could replace a couple meat-consuming meals per week with a few vegetarian ones. Or, choose to eat a little less meat per week through conscientious decision-making, and you will be able to help protect the planet. It may not seem like a lot, but eating a little less meat, goes a long way.
For those who want some fantastic, vegetarian meal ideas, check out this website and this one. Want more convincing? Read this Zenhabits article. Or, if you’ve already made up your mind, and want to go bold, or go home, check out this fantastic “How to Go Vegan” guide.
While surprising, it’s not unfathomable that this fact is true. Shall I say more? No, I think the fact speaks for itself.
It’s fascinating that eating only 1 hamburger amounts to 2 months worth of showering. Of course, these are not 1-hour, luxurious showers; rather, they are quick ones, but even so, it’s still quite an interesting fact.
7. 105 Billion M² of Rainforest Cleared for Palm Oil Production Versus 550 Billion M² for Animal Agriculture
Besides everything else I have shared thus far, this final fact wraps up this article with a bang. First of all, palm oil can be found in almost all consumer goods — think ice cream, instant ramen, toothpaste, and lipstick. Second, the global demand for palm oil is expected to increase to $88 billion by 2022. And finally, it’s responsible and will continue to be responsible for an outstanding amount of rainforest destruction.
Even so, it unfortunately, doesn’t compare to the amount of rainforest that has been destroyed to produce animals. Overall, the carbon footprint of beef is the type of conversation that should be discussed at all levels of society.
Learning all of these facts to develop the presentation for school, and then revisiting them to write this article, has truly helped me make more informed and conscientious decisions in my everyday life. Of course, I won’t completely stop eating meat, but I will try to continue eating a mostly vegetarian diet. And I’d love to try new, innovative meats, such as the ones I will introduce below.
If you haven’t learned enough from reading this quick article, then watch the Cowspiracy Documentary. And try out this inventive meal planner company that makes it as easy as possible to consume a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
Finally, to wrap up this article on a positive note, here are a few of the most groundbreaking companies that are creating a more sustainable world through science and innovation.
Instead of typical vegetarian meat burgers, we decided to recommend the Impossible Burger, because it is 100% genetically engineered by scientists with wheat, potatoes, coconut oil, etc. The most important element of the burger — or its secret sauce — is the soy-based heme that the company developed and subsequently, patented.
This heme, is what makes the meat appear red and taste delicious. In fact, that’s why this burger still appeals to meat eaters, and is a potential game changer for the entire industry.
The founder of the Impossible Burger Company, Patrick Brown, is a Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at Stanford University, and he co-founded the Public Library of Science. Plus, his company has already received funding form the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and HK billionaire Li Ka-shing. And finally, the company sells its product in over 100 restaurants in the United States, 7 of which are in my hometown of San Francisco.
Watch this YouTube taste test video to learn more.
This company has set out to change the world through its innovative development of plant- and algae-based shrimp. According to New Wave Foods website, shrimp is one of the most consumed seafood items on the planet, and among the most environmentally-damaging.
While it’s not yet scalable to sell to supermarkets, the company is planning to do so in the near future. In the meantime, they are selling their products to food service operators in California and Nevada. And one final fact is, this company is based in my hometown — San Francisco.
3. Beyond Meat
One final company that sparked my interest is the Beyond Meat Company that has crafted the “world’s first plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and tastes like a fresh beef burger.” Not only does it have 20 grams of plant-based protein from pea protein isolate, but it also doesn’t contain any soy, gluten, or GMOs.
In America, you can purchase this product at any of the following major supermarkets such as Safeway or Whole Foods. All in all, it’s a fascinating company with an important mission to help create a more sustainable world.
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