Humans love meat. Fast food: Steak, fried chicken, bacon, pork belly, and sausages are just the best things! Eating meat has become so trivial that many people don’t consider something a proper meal if there’s no animal involved. Since only a few decades ago meat was a luxury product. Today, you can get a cheeseburger for a dollar. Paradoxically, meat is pretty much the most inefficient way of feeding humans. If we look at it on a global scale, our meaty diet is literally eating up the planet. Why is that, and what can we do about it, without giving up steak? Let’s go and find out why meat has become unhealthy for the human body? Here are some facts about meat.
1. Human keeps a lot of animals for food
Currently about 23 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cattle, and roughly 1 billion pigs and sheep. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, so we’ve transformed the earth into a giant feeding ground. 83% of its farmland is used for livestock. For example, as pasture, and to farm fodder crops; like corn and soy. That’s 26% of the earth’s total land area. If we include the water we need for these plants, meat and dairy production accounts for 27% of global freshwater consumption. Unfortunately; meat production is like a black hole for resources. Since animals are living things, most of their food is used to keep them alive, while they grow their tasty parts.
2. Only a fraction of the nutrients from fodder crops end up in the meat we buy in the end
Cows, for example, convert only about 4% of the proteins and 3% of the calories of the plants we feed to them into beef. More than 97% of the calories are lost to us. To create one kilogram of steak, a cow needs to eat up to 25 kilos of grain and uses up to 15,000 liters of water. Animal products are guzzling up tons of food, but they only make up 18% of the calories humans eat. According to projections, we could nourish an additional 3.5 billion people if we just ate the stuff we feed to animals.
3. Greenhouse gas emission
To make our favorite food group even more unsustainable, about 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, are created by the meat industry; as much as by all ships, planes, trucks, and cars combined. And… there’s another aspect to meat: It comes from actual living beings. Pigs, cattle, and chickens are not the ones writing the history books, but if they were, humans would appear as rampant genocidal maniacs, that thrive on suffering.
4. 200 million animals are killed every day
Globally, we kill about 200 million animals every day, about 74 billion a year. This means that every one and a half years, we kill more animals than people have lived in the entire 200,000-year history of humanity. One could argue that we’re doing them a favor: after all, they wouldn’t exist without us. We might eat them in the end, but we also provide food and shelter, and the gift of existence to them.
Unfortunately, we’re not very nice. A lot of our meat comes from factory farms: huge industrial systems that house thousands of animals. Engineered to be as efficient as possible, they have little regard for things like quality of life. Most pigs are raised in gigantic windowless sheds, and never get to see the sun. Sows are kept in pens too small to turn around, where they give birth to one litter of piglets after another until it’s their turn to be turned into bacon.
Dairy cows are forced to breed continually to ensure their milk supply but are separated from their calves hours after birth. To fatten up beef cattle for slaughter, they’re put in feedlots: Confined pens where they can’t roam and put on weight more quickly.
5. Use of antibiotics
To make it possible to keep them so tightly together without dying of diseases, the majority of antibiotics we use are for livestock: up to 80% in the US. Which helps in the short term, but also fuels antibiotic resistance. But the ones that may have got the worst deal are chickens. In factory farms, they’re kept in such vast numbers and so close to each other, that they can’t form the social structures they have in nature, so they start attacking each other. To stop that we cut their beaks and claws.
6. Male chickens are deemed worthless
Since they can’t lay eggs and are not suitable for meat production. So within minutes after birth, they’re usually gassed and shredded in grinders. Several hundred million baby chickens are killed this way each year. Even if you had a personal score to settle with chickens, how we treat them is beyond broken.
7. Organic meat
So, better buy organic meat where animals are treated nicely? Organic farming regulations are designed to grant animals a minimum of comfort. The problem is that “organic” is an elastic term. According to EU regulations, an organic hen still might share one square meter of space with five others. That’s a long way off from happy farmyard chickens. Farms that sincerely do their best do exist of course, but meat is still a business.
An organic label is a way to charge more money, and countless scandals have revealed producers looking for ways to cheat the system. And while organic meat might be less cruel, it needs even more resources than conventional meat production.
So, buying organic is still preferable, but does not grant you moral absolution. The truth is if suffering were a resource: we would create billions of tons of it per year. The way we treat animals will probably be one of the things future generations will look down on in disgust.
Well, these are some of the facts about meat. We hope that this post has given you the answer that why meat has become unhealthy for the human body in today’s world.