Eat less meat, save the planet

August 12, 2015 by Evelyn Perez
Credit: USDA.

To conserve the planet's ecosystems and their diverse plant and animal species, human populations should consume less meat, according to Florida International University researchers.

Producing livestock, including cattle, goats and sheep, for is the single largest driver of habitat loss and deforestation worldwide. It accounts for 75 percent of agricultural land and is a leading cause of climate change, soil loss, water pollution, and the loss of wild carnivores and herbivores.

In a recent study published in Science of the Total Environment, FIU biologists Brian Machovina and Kenneth J. Feeley argue in order to decrease the land demands and ecological footprint of agriculture people should reduce in their diets to a daily average of 10 percent or less of calories. That is a tall order when trying to balance the availability of food for people, their desire to eat meant, and the need to increase nutritional health. The recommended reduction is equivalent to a daily serving of meat that is about the size of a deck of playing cards.

"Reducing animal-based product consumption is realistic if we can offer delicious, convenient, plant-based foods that people want to eat," Machovina said. "The power of the market is what drives , and the power of the market can equally drive its reduction. Awareness about the damage of meat consumption to personal and can help change these trends through market-driven conservation."

By analyzing data sets of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Machovina found the production of meat in the most biodiverse countries in the world—including those in Asia, Africa and South America—is increasing rapidly. Some countries may require 30 to 50 percent more land beyond their current agricultural areas just to meet their needs by 2050. China is of particular concern because of its very rapid rise in human population and meat consumption, as well as the hunting and consumption of wild animal meat in Africa and Asia.

But there is hope, according to Machovina. Growing crops, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and soy protein would increase the number of food calories available for people by as much as 70 percent on the agricultural lands currently in use. Soybeans contain twice the protein of beef, pork or chicken, and 10 times more protein than whole milk. Cultivating them requires less land area than what is needed to raise livestock. This could allow an additional 4 billion people to be fed, surpassing the estimated of 2-3 billion people.

In addition to helping the planet, the researchers say decreasing the intake of animal products can benefit health. Heart disease is the leading cause of human death and is strongly associated with consuming meat and other animal products.

"I had no idea livestock production was the number one use of land by mankind, the largest driver of deforestation, or that animal product consumption is the underlying cause of most deaths via circulatory disease," Machovina said. "But when I started reading on the subject and focusing my work on how animal consumption is affecting biodiversity, the results have been profound. When people experience the positive changes plant-based foods can have on their health and the health of their loved ones, the opportunity for widespread change is powerful."

Machovina's research on ecology and food security, including the effects of meat consumption by humans on the environment, has been featured in various journals, including PNAS, Nature and Science. He has also presented his work at TEDxFIU in 2014.

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12 comments

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orti
1 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2015
Better yet, just curl up and die. Make the environmentalist happy.
jsdarkdestruction
not rated yet Aug 12, 2015
"Reducing animal-based product consumption is realistic if we can offer delicious, convenient, plant-based foods that people want to eat,"

No, you'd have to strictly ration meat to force them to change.
"The power of the market is what drives meat consumption, and the power of the market can equally drive its reduction

Yes. In this case by the market available side of the equation and not the demand side.
.Awareness about the damage of meat consumption to personal and environmental health can help change these trends through market-driven conservation."

And yet despite efforts from the soybean industry over and over the last few decades to convince people of that they've had limited success
leetennant
5 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2015
I'm afraid I have to agree. People don't care about environmental arguments. There are significant cultural status issues around meat consumption that make people highly resistant to changing their diets if they can afford it. I gave up beef and lamb for environmental reasons over a year ago but I'm a rare specimen. Most of my family and friends still rate beef and lamb as the food of prosperity. That is, they carry an ingrained bias toward these meats as indicative of high status. It's the same reason most of Asia switches to beef once their incomes rise.
rgw
2 / 5 (4) Aug 13, 2015
Large parts of Africa are right on board with this ecology fix. Not only are a hundred million native Africans eating less meat, and equal number are eating less of everything. The fanatical ecologists in Africa are eating nothing at all. Such dedication!
Sigh
5 / 5 (4) Aug 13, 2015
Better yet, just curl up and die. Make the environmentalist happy.

You missed the point. In the very long term, the environment will be fine. In 10 million years it will take a paleontologist to see that we are having a mass extinction now. The point of environmentalism is to maintain the environment that humans need to survive for the next few generations at least. If you either care only about the short-term (your life span, perhaps, if you don't care about anyone who comes after you), or only about the very long-term, environmentalism is unnecessary. If you care about the next few generations of humans, environmentalism is important.
EnricM
not rated yet Aug 17, 2015
Better yet, just curl up and die. Make the environmentalist happy.


Do not say it too loud, there are a lot of Biologists that would happily agree to that.

And oh, yes, eating a portion of meat the size of a deck of cars less will make you die immediately.
EnricM
not rated yet Aug 17, 2015
Large parts of Africa are right on board with this ecology fix. Not only are a hundred million native Africans eating less meat, and equal number are eating less of everything. The fanatical ecologists in Africa are eating nothing at all. Such dedication!


Worse. They are happily donating their arable land so that Mr. Orti and his fellows have his extra meat:
http://onlinelibr...9.x/full

But, but, if we eat one less burger we will all die :_(
Joker23
1 / 5 (1) Aug 17, 2015
A candidate for the Margaret Sanger Award. This group should combine its efforts with those of Planned parenthood in their efforts to rid "Mother Earth" of these pesky humans and the production of food needed to sustain them. Better for the world that human pests (Margaret Sanger's ''Human Weeds") to graze the fields for food and to die of starvation than to spoil ''Mother Earth" . Better, in my humble opinion, to rid the World of these ''Intellectual weeds'' that receive their sustenance at the expense of the ''Human Weeds" that support them with their taxes. ''Mother Earth'' has been around for 4 billion or so years without the control and wisdom of these self absorbed idiots that think they know more than you and me.
EnricM
5 / 5 (1) Aug 17, 2015
Better, in my humble opinion, to rid the World of these ''Intellectual weeds'' that receive their sustenance at the expense of the ''Human Weeds" that support them with their taxes. ''Mother Earth'' has been around for 4 billion or so years without the control and wisdom of these self absorbed idiots that think they know more than you and me.


Like You for instance ?
Go on, nobody is stopping you ;)
antigoracle
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 17, 2015
Eat less meat, save your clogged colon and yourself.
serge747
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2015
Eating less meat will save the planet for what? One more generation?

Exponential population growth cannot be met with anything on Earth.

Make less children, save the planet.

I know, we don't have the right to say that.
EnricM
not rated yet Sep 01, 2015
Eating less meat will save the planet for what? One more generation?

Exponential population growth cannot be met with anything on Earth.

Make less children, save the planet.

I know, we don't have the right to say that.


Well, the actual population of cattle already surpasses the biomass of humans so that decreasing it would be surely enough for a few generations not only one... and it may buy some time for a better solution. I read somewhere that population growth was already stopping but that it would take some time due to the inherent inertia.

This is what my optimist self says... but yes, I fully agree, the only and bet solution is to stop reproducing like rats.
reproduction should be a heard earned privilege not a right.

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