(The information in this section was taken from “The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices” by Michael Brower and Warren Leon from the Union of Concerned Scientists)
When most people consider reducing their environmental impact, eating less meat is not one of the first lifestyle changes that springs to mind. Food production, though, and especially livestock cultivation, puts this category of energy expenditure at a level comparable to the energy expenditure of the transportation industry. Livestock cultivation contributes to both global warming and water pollution.
Worldwide, agriculture is responsible for 70% of all global methane emissions. After carbon dioxide, methane is ranked as the second largest cause of global warming.
Animal livestock, and especially cattle, produce large quantities of methane through belching, flatulence, and dried animal waste. This is a significant issue because methane has a 21% more potent warming effect in the atmosphere than does carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Animal waste production is also a significant cause of water pollution. Cattle alone produce more than 2 billion wet tons of manure each year. Runoff of this waste causes 20% of the total common water pollution in the country. It contaminates both drinking and irrigation water. This problem has widespread effects because 40% of American land is dedicated to grazing livestock.
Eating less meat will greatly reduce your negative impact on the environment.
If you do want to eat meat, you can make several choices that will lessen your environmental impact:
Chose poultry and avoid red meat! The environmental impact of poultry is much smaller! Poultry is also healthier than red meat.
Buy organic meat products! These are produced using sustainable agriculture practices, and the animals are treated much more humanely during the production process.